Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

(Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto, Italy)

This is humor just about as black a humor gets. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people would not see it as being funny at all, and I couldn’t really blame them. We see a man, played by Gian Maria Volontè arrive at the apartment of a beautiful woman, Florinda Bolkan, and she asks “How are you going to kill me today?” Looks like a kinky sex game. Then he slices her throat with a razor blade. He takes his time leaving, moving around the apartment, seeming to clean up his fingerprints and remove other clues, but he also seems to be pretty careless, and sometimes even seems to be planting clues. When he leaves the building he allows a young man to get a good, long look at him. What’s the deal here, huh?

What he is, is the director of the homicide bureau of the police. (He is never named.) He is now moving up to the political division. The Italian police are portrayed as being just about a millimeter away from being flat-out fascists, and fond of beating confessions out of suspects. (Both the director, Elio Petri, and Volontè were communists.) So soon he is in the apartment, investigating his own bloody footprints and other clues.

The investigators keep getting closer and closer to him, in the meantime accusing one suspect after another, including her gay husband (in one scene they list all the homosexuals they are aware of in the unnamed city—about 600—and it’s clear that it is a crime) and the young man who saw him leaving the building. In each case, he makes sure the suspect is cleared of wrongdoing. Still the investigators get closer, and still they refuse to even consider him as a suspect.

I was not quite clear if he was playing a game with them from the beginning, finding out just how far they would go to exonerate him, or if he killed for the thrill, or what. In flashbacks we see that he and the woman had played some pretty freaky games, such as posing her as some of the homicide victims he has seen and taking pictures. She is very turned on by it.

Whatever his motivation was, he finally breaks down and gives an emotional confession in front of all the police brass … and they refuse to accept it! Not only that, but they basically force him to retract his confession. It looks like he won’t even lose his job. Do you think that is funny? I found it hilarious.

Bit of trivia: Ruggero Mastroianni, brother of Marcello, edited the film, and I discovered that he was regarded as the best editor in Italy.