30th Jul2014

‘L’Assassino’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Michelle Presle, Salvo Randone, Cristina Gaioni, Andrea Checchi, Francesco Grandjacquet, Marco Mariani, Franco Ressel | Written by Elio Petri, Tonino Guerra | Directed by Elio Petri


When I think of the Italian film industry I often think of horror and the so-called Spaghetti Westerns but in fact the industry is bigger and far more impressive than that.  In the sixties there was a golden era of film making, true to form Arrow Films under its Arrow Academy banner have released one of the most noteworthy movies of that time withL’Assassino.

L’Assassino is the tale of Alfredo Martelli (Mastroianni) a playboy antiques dealer arrested under suspicion of murder of his older lover Adalgisa (Presle).  Protesting his innocence to the police his please fall on deaf ears as they increase the pressure on him to confess, convinced without a shadow of a doubt that he is the killer.

Even before the story is delved into it’s easy to fall for L’Assassino, the focus of the camera and the wide angles to take in the beauty of the city show Martelli as a man of the city, in total control.  As the police arrest him though things become more claustrophobic as most of the scenes take place in interrogation rooms and their cells where a game of chess is being played with the unwitting suspect.  Some of the best scenes though do come from where Commissario Palumbo (Randone) takes Martelli to the scene of the crime where extended scenes and the full use of the scenery impressively create a scenario where the audience can’t be sure just what the truth is.  Most of Martelli’s story is told with flashbacks, in which we must assume the truth, though some of the facts he state often raise the question of just how good his memories we witness are.

L’Assassino is a movie that shows the art of film at its finest, the choreographed scenes that are planned out in exquisite detail at times almost hit a comical edge with Martelli playing the clownish suspect trying to prove his innocence and always failing.  Palumbo is played by Randone with a cynical edge which almost made me question if a future Peter Falk based his performance of Columbo on him, I doubt this to be the case though.

The many scenes between Marcello Mastroianni and Salvo Randone as Martelli and Palumbo show how good these actors are, with the characters almost playing a game of chess, though if this was the case Martelli has lost most of his pieces.  It’s obvious in the police station as we see the camera panning over the characters in the halls and even in the prison cell that nothing is as it seems and there is a game of oppression being smartly played, though Martelli is too smart to be taken in by it.  It’s interesting though as this is an Italian film it does touch upon the fascist history that would still be felt in the sixties from the time of World War II.  Palumbo even hints at this by proclaiming that most of the police in the station are old style from fifty years ago, that as soon as you step foot in the building you are seen as the murderer.  The more you think about it in the movie, the more important that statement is to the plot.

As much as the police are often oppressive in L’Assassino they are doing their job even if their tactics feel wrong they are still trying to find a murderer.  As with movies of this style, the end makes us wonder if the conclusions were right, and if we ourselves even know the truth. We are spoon fed the notion that Martelli has undergone a transformation in his life, but with one line he completely snaps us back to reality, just what version of reality has this man given us? L’Assassino is a classic that has been given an excellent restoration and is another good release under the Arrow Academy label, if it teaches you anything it shows just how good classic Italian cinema can be.

***** 5/5

L’Assassino is out now on dual format Blu-ray/DVD combo from Arrow Academy.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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