Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I pugni in tasca / Fists in the Pocket

IT 1965. D: Marco Bellocchio. Print: 108 min. A Cineteca Nazionale print with e-subtitles in English viewed at Cinema Lapinsuu, Sodankylä (Midnight Sun Film Festival), 12 June 2013

The official opening screening of the Festival, presented by Marco Bellocchio and Marino Masé introduced by Peter von Bagh.

The Festival Catalogue: "Marco Bellocchio's Fists in the Pocket is still an amazing debut that strikes mercilessly into the core of bourgeois family values and Catholic moralism. A family living in the isolation of Northern Italian mountains is thoroughly decadent. One of the children - young, rebellious and epileptic Alessandro as played by Lou Castel - decides to clean up the mess and gradually starts eliminating the other family members, so that his big brother, who is the only sane person in the group, could have a normal life."
   "The built-in cold provinciality of the director's own childhood landscape (the Emilia-Romagna region) created the canvas for the themes of incest, suffocation, madness and death that the director paints with harsh strokes: brother Leone is feebleminded, Ale and his mentally fragile sister Giulia flirt incestuously, the whole scheme is getting out of hand…"
    "Common family dinners are the focal point of the satirical attack, and the family's cold and insensitive mother - a character that appears also in many subsequent Bellocchio films - is blind (in this case also concretely, not forgetting the power of the allegory)."
   "Despite its small budget, Fists in the Pocket received some of the best reviews of the year of its release, being a success also at the box office. Tellingly, the film's original working title was “Igiene familiar” (“Family Hygiene”). Its candid touch carries a rebellion against institutions and authorities, a trait that was strong with so many other coeval 60s filmmakers (Bertolucci, Ferreri, Godard, etc.)"
(Lauri Timonen)

I saw for the first time Marco Bellocchio's explosive and anarchic debut film about the mad son Alessandro set to destroying his own family, starting with murdering his blind mother and then killing his little brother suffering from epilepsy (like Alessandro) and mental retardation. Meanwhile, Alessandro cultivates an incestuous affair with his mentally unbalanced sister Giulia. This movie is like a spell, an incantation, an act of exorcism. Evil spirits run rampant. The Dostoyevsky connection would be Demons (Besy); its Swedish title is Onda andar (Evil Spirits); the Finnish title is Riivaajat (Tormenting Spirits). Bellocchio stages his horrible tragedy with great psychological power yet without exaggeration. In fact, the characters suffer from lethargy. The post-synchronization provides a perhaps unintentional distancing effect. Ennio Morricone's music brings a haunting special dimension, and the climax is dominated by Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata.

In the history of Italian cinema Bellocchio's film stands out as an extremely harsh attack towards conventional, pretty, and idealized views of family life. Bellocchio is a contemporary of Bertolucci and Pasolini, but there is more fury in Bellocchio's cinema. There is an affinity with the contemporary movies of Nagisa Oshima.

The print is complete and clean but with a duped and low contrast look. I hesitate to say this, but the Criterion Collection dvd looks superior.

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