Elio Petri is a name that any self-respecting film fan should know. Between 1961 and 1979 he directed 11 remarkable films, earning international acclaim and a much-deserved Academy Award for his 1970 masterpiece Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.
The black-humoured satire tells a Kafkaesque tale of a Roman police inspector (Gian Maria Volontè) investigating the murder of his mistress – a crime that he, a vain and cocksure sociopath, himself committed. As he plants clues to steer officers towards other suspects, he begins to realise that he might be “above suspicion”…and can get away with anything. Winning both the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Grand Prize at Cannes, the film is widely considered one of the finest international films of the 1970s. The film is, at its core, a rather troubling parable about corruption and is as troubling now as it presumably was on release, back when it was a social commentary on the draconian government in Italy in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Fronted by a flawless performance from celebrated actor Gian Maria Volonté (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More) who portrays the sly and wicked ‘villain’ of the piece and titular citizen, the provocative film is a fully-fledged and timeless satire assault on corruption that holds a mirror up to society – in particular high-end political figures, government employees and law enforcement. As the titular citizen begins leaving obvious clues of his guilt and his subordinate officers ignore them, it creates a rather biting tale of turning a blind eye. With pitch-black humour and genuine thrills, it is a shocking film that holds up remarkably well today – especially in the current political landscape.
The Blu-ray from Criterion is an absolute treat, boasting a gorgeous 4K restoration of the film with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack that brings the late Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score to life. Also featuring two feature-length documentaries and interviews, this is a truly flawless release for one of the finest international films of the 1970s. The masterful Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion remains a darkly humorous and thought-provoking satire that reminds us how far corruption can go.