blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970, Elio Petri)

Gian Maria Volonte stars in INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION, directed by Elio Petri for Vera Films.

I can’t remember–if I ever have–seeing a film where the main character goes through more changes than in Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. Actually, he doesn’t change, but the truth keeps getting more and more revealed to the viewer, making him more and more different. First he’s a smart bad guy, then he’s a dumb bad guy, then he’s a sad guy, then he’s a scared guy, then he’s a bad guy. Or something along those lines. Gian Maria Volontè handles the role well (except the scared guy parts) because he’s playing it for laughs.

The movie opens with him and Ennio Morricone music and the music’s goofy and immediately sets up Investigation as something not to be taken too seriously. As something not to be taken seriously, it’d work too, but that approach doesn’t last long. Pretty soon, it becomes clear this bad guy–he’s a tyrannical, fascist police captain going after political demonstrators (sort of)–is supposed to be representative of that sort of mindset. He’s got a great speech in the movie, railing against freedom, but it’s also the scene where I realized he’s a cartoon. Except… then he becomes sad guy, emotionally stunted and hurt by a unfeeling woman.

Stylistically, the movie’s all over the place. There are constant flashbacks and fantasies and some of these scenes don’t have the most graceful transitions (or sensical). The director’s got an annoying abridging of scenes method, which occasionally makes it hard to discern what’s going on–like when the woman, who kicks off the titular investigation, dies. It’s never clear what happened because the director really liked that goofy Morricone music.

Movielens gave Investigation an incredibly high prediction so I went into it expecting something really good. Instead, it was a goofy, forgettable film. But never boring, which was nice.



Directed by Elio Petri; written by Ugo Pirro and Petri; director of photography, Luigi Kuveiller; edited by Ruggero Mastroianni; music by Ennio Morricone; production designer, Romano Cardarelli; produced by Daniele Senatore and Marina Cicogna; released by Vera Films.

Starring Gian Maria Volonte (The Police Inspector), Florinda Bolkan (Augusta Terzi), Salvo Randone (The Plumber), Gianni Santuccio (The Police Commissioner), Arturo Dominici (Mangani), Orazio Oriando (Biglia), Sergio Tramonti (Antonio Pace), Massimo Foschi (Augusta’s Husband) and Aldo Rendine (Homicide Functionary).


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