24 January 2010 | Bunuel1976
SLAP THE MONSTER ON PAGE ONE (Marco Bellocchio, 1972) ***
Considering the sheer amount of (vaguely boring) movies flaunting their individual creator's extreme left-wing politics to emerge from Europe throughout the 1960s and 1970s, it is hard in hindsight to believe just how many talented film-makers were 'duped' into upholding such naïve ideals; that said, the other side of the coin – basically equating Fascism – was even less comforting and that more dangerous
but it does make for rather intriguing (and ultimately more rewarding) cinema! Bellocchio's film, then, was one of a handful of titles to look at this alternative 'option': perhaps the most famous such example was Elio Petri's Oscar-winning INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION (1970), which shares with the picture under review its leading man – Gian Maria Volonte'; like that one and Dino Risi's similarly excellent IN NOME DEL POPOLO ITALIANO (1971), the film takes the form of a thriller – both this and the latter, in fact, involve the investigation into the rape and murder of a teenager emanating from high society: here, a radical is accused of the crime – and hounded by Volonte''s opportunistic newspaper for it – but the guilty party turns out to be somebody else, ferreted by a reporter not taken in by his superior's wiles, who is pursued in turn (and even blackmailed!) by the unscrupulous editor. The movie paints a most cynical image of the press, beginning with Volonte' 'embellishing' – and directing his underlings to shoot – a fire that broke out at the office during a riot (he is seen making intermittent contact throughout with the politically-affiliated young owner of the paper, played by "Euro-Cult" stalwart John Steiner); later on, while viewing the TV broadcast of a talk-show he was involved in, the man even takes it upon his wife – for her passivity and intellectual limitations!; however, the worst victim of his dishonesty is the uncouth schoolteacher (Laura Betti) he befriended in order to exploit for her affair with the murder suspect – one of the film's best sequences is the one where she is made to confront her lover's fellow activists in the police station. The film features a good Morricone-esquire score by Nicola Piovani and ends on a shot depicting the rampant pollution at the city limits – a metaphor for the so-called "yellow press" and remarkably similar to the finale of yet another newspaper movie, the classic FIVE STAR FINAL (1931).