Faithfully restored by Cineteca di Bologna L’Assassino is a ground-breaking murder mystery with scores of political and social undertones skilfully directed by the unique and inspirational mind of Elio Petri who brought us Investigation of a Citizen Under Suspicion (1970) and The Tenth Victim (1965).
The film opens when we meet our protagonist Alfredo Martelli (Marcello Mastroianni) living a lavish lifestyle and planning his latest business trip before he is locked up on no charges where he is accused of murdering his benefactor and mistress, harassed, bartered with and constantly interrogated . Throughout the interrogation and revealed by a series of flashbacks we see his life come under the microscope as Commissioner Palumbo (Salvo Randone) tries to prove his guilt .
With a background in political journalism it’s no surprise his first foray into cinema and his first true compromise between his strict Marxist beliefs and a need to reach a wider audience focuses on a character whose moral compass has been irreparably damaged after seeing his anti-fascist grandfather persecuted by the Italian authorities facing suspicion in light of his new and modern lifestyle. So devoid of traditional conservative beliefs wrought with adultery, fraud and Martelli is now under suspicion of murder, albeit with seemingly little question over his guilt. But what is surprising is the skill Petri displays on his directorial debut. The artistry is inspiring. Supported by famed cinematographer Carlo Di Palma there are some magical scenes and Petri’s incorporation of flashbacks into the story was at the time a new concept and L’Assassino works it so well.
Often with political commentary the film can get lost in the message, so we have to ask…is L’Assassino an entertaining film and will it translate to a modern audience?
It is, and yes!
I was truly surprised to enjoy this film so much. I don’t normally enjoy classic films. I found Casablanca hard to finish, and Psycho felt so dated. L’Assassino on the other hand had pace, intrigue, mystery, excellent performances from Mastroianni and Randone and remarkably it felt fresh and alive.
This is a thrilling film with an ending that leaves you wanting. Though perhaps not at the heights of Petri’s other films, this is a good example of classic European cinema that translates well to the modern audience and the modern format. I’d recommend this as a stepping stone for anyone looking to pile into the classics. It’s no wonder Marlon Brando has the poster on his wall.
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