The visual drag of Marco Bellocchio’s feature film debut, Fists in the Pocket, is its style. Prefiguring Lucrecia Martel’s La Cienaga by 35 years, this Italian gothic is immediately engrossed by the stagnant air that enshrines its milieu. Belloccio puts tracks on his story’s exposed nerves, affecting a slow-moving fun house ride through a provincial Italian house and the world outside. The gears are perpetually set to abstraction: It’s a disconcerting thing in a black-and-white film when a woman points to a line of prostitutes and says, “The one in red.” Shot impeccably by Alberto Marrama and dipped in hushed Ennio Morricone lullabies, the film’s visual intensity presents the iconography of a world in transition. Through a haze of simmering sexual tensions, suicide threats, seizure attacks, and slaps across the face emerges Alesandro (Lou Castel), a young man with the face of Doogie Howser and the imploding-exploding personality of Stanley Kowalski. Implicit in his pathological behavior is not so much a gross disconnect from the world but a mad desperation to transcend his forced provincialism. Undesirables here are his mother, a blind coot with perpetual circles around her eyes, and a mentally retarded brother who gets the most lucid declaration in the film: “What torture, living in this house.” When Augusto (Marino Masé) reads Alesandro’s note, a promise of suicide, shock settles into what could be considered relief when his girlfriend comes over to play. Alesandro’s behavior may suggest the mania of a caged animal, but often his crazed tricks reveal the animal in others. The graphic intensity of the film begins to lose its luster by film’s end, but if Alesandro’s behavior at a party is any indication, perhaps Bellocchio is attempting to spoof Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte and, by extension, to reveal his main character’s misguided sense of privilege. The film comes on strong—no Linda Blair-style pisser in the living room to foreshow its fireworks—and, perhaps appropriately, ends with something close to an exorcism.
- 108 min
- Marco Bellocchio
- Marco Bellocchio
- Lou Castel, Paola Pitagora, Marino Masé, Liliana Gerace, Jeannie McNeill, Gianni Schicchi, Mauro Martini, Stefania Troglio, Pier Luigi Troglio, Irene Agnelli
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