01 May 2006

Family Life

Fists in the Pocket (I pugni in tasca) - dir. Marco Bellocchio - 1965 - Italy

As I wasn't nearly as impressed with Fists in the Pocket as I might have hoped, I was going to dedicate this post to talking about what a twat I think Bernardo Bertolucci is. The Criterion disc features an "afterthought" by Bellocchio's contemporary Bertolucci, in which he takes any and every oppertunity to bring up his own films. "Well, Fists in the Pocket is a lot different than MY Before the Revolution..." you get the point. I understand that being a successful filmmaker like Bertolucci gives you certain bragging rights, but where does this extreme vanity come from? I imagined the interviewer saying afterwards, "Um, Bernardo, thanks for your thoughts, but this was supposed to be about Fists in the Pocket, not Before the Revolution." And plus, I think Bertolucci's bragging rights were officially revoked after The Dreamers (they should have been taken away after The Sheltering Sky, but I think we all still had hope for him then). So, in fear of doing the exact same thing that wanker Bertolucci does, I am going to save a rant about him when I'm talking about one of his films. On to, Fists in the Pocket...

Bellocchio probably ranks somewhere on the second tier of the great Italian directors. His most successful film, Devil in the Flesh (Il Diavolo in corpo), is probably only remembered because of the controversial shot of an erect penis and "unsimulated sex." So, I should have expected not to be as enthralled as I expected to with this Criterion release, even though they've more than pleasantly surprised me with their releases of forgotten classics like Kaneto Shindo's Onibaba and Georges Franju's Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage). Fists in the Pocket introduces us to a dysfunctional family, in which the successful eldest brother Augusto (Marino Masé) carries the rest of the family financially. Augusto is handsome and expressionless. He has desires to marry his girlfriend Lucia, but the responsibility of his family is too much to add on a marriage. Alessandro (Lou Castel), the second eldest, realizes the burden he, his sister, retarded brother, and blinde mother cause for Augusto and plots to kill the family to relinquish his brother's burden.

Though he's making a comparison to his own film, Bertolucci accurately describes Fists in the Pocket as a non-political film. Instead of attacking bourgeois society as many of his contemporaries do, Bellocchio attacks the family structure to a not-so-starling effect. Sandro is essentially a nut-job, but a very typically 1960s idealistic one (truly aided by the Brando-esque performance by Castel). His plans to run the entire family off the cliff sound abhorrent, but through Bellocchio's camera, Sandro is a savior of sorts, not that we're meant to sympathize with the boring Augusto. The film also plays around with, surprise, Catholicism and the destruction of religious ceremonies, but never to the point of blasphemy. While this film may have been shocking at the time, it's not sharp enough to hold up today.

Instead, perhaps it is us, standing from a distance that realizes the faults in Sandro. While bursting with energy unlike his statuesque brother, Sandro is hardly different than Augusto. There's a very Through a Glass Darkly-ish relationship between Sandro and his sister Giulia (the astoundingly beautiful Paola Pitagora). When her playful crush turns cold, she explains her disinterest in Sandro with "you don't love me." Sandro's relationship with Giulia is as loveless as the relationship Augusto has with Lucia. While Augusto is looking for sexual relief, Sandro looks for a coconspirator in Giulia. As he cannot relate to the outside world, she's a far better aid than the retarded youngest brother and blind mother. Fists in the Pocket remains, however, a solid film, but as it's never clear as to its own attack nor sharp enough in its potentially blind assault, it's instead a reminder of why Bellocchio remains in that second tier of the great Italian filmmakers.

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