Brilliant film noir from The Working Class director goes to heaven
Alfredo Martelli, a Roman antique dealer, is arrested at his home and taken to the police station. While waiting to be questioned, he wonders what the police want from him and remembers, in episodes, his unscrupulous attitude at various times in his life. Finally received by the commissioner, Martelli learns that his former mistress has been found dead. The authorities are convinced that he is the assassin. Overwhelmed by the evidence, the antique dealer feels the weight of guilt weigh on him...
Worn in a disturbing way by Marcello Mastroianni, The Assassin recounts the psychological torments of an individual cornered by a “presumption of guilt”. Through a conventional police plot, Elio Petri depicts an Italy suffocated by the cogs of bureaucracy and police power, caught in a climate of latent paranoia. The filmmaker himself had to face the censors, embarrassed that the authorities were presented in this way and who asked him to make nearly 90 changes to the film! But beyond the theme, this protest work makes a striking and resolutely modern cinematographic proposal. The atmosphere impregnated with soft surrealism, the dazzling plastic composition of the shots and the complex construction of the narrative in flashbacks evoke two great films shot the same year: La Notte by Michelangelo Antonioni and Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard. First feature film by Elio Petri, The Assassin already has the panache of the most famous masterpieces of the visionary director of Investigation of a citizen above all suspicion.
THE MURDERER (1961 – B&W – 100 mins) SUPPLEMENTS * . PETRI BY PAOLA (16mn) Paola Pegoraro Petri, wife of Elio Petri, and Jean A. Gili, Italian cinema historian, tell the story of the production of L'Assassin , from the genesis to the confrontation with censorship.
. GUILTY INNOCENCE (16mn) Jean A. Gili explains why Elio Petri's first film embodies post-war Italian society and already contains the essence of his cinema.