In episode 17, Kat and Samm kick off an ongoing retrospective of Italian director Elio Petri, which will cover all the feature length films of his career. Known for his leftist politics, uniquely stylized films, and bold interpretations of genre, there’s no one quite like Petri and it’s a mystery why he’s so neglected compared to contemporaries like Antonioni, Pasolini, and Bertolucci. This first episode is an in depth discussion of some of his least seen films, three black and white titles he made in the early ‘60s at the beginning of his career: L’assassino (The Assassin, 1961), I giorni contati (His Days are Numbered, 1962), and Il maestro di Vigevano (The Teacher from Vigevano, 1963).
Though generally marketed as a murder mystery or existential crime thriller, L’assassino follows a egotistical dandy (played by the great Marcello Mastroianni), who is picked up by the police after one of his lovers is found dead. While the lead detective (Petri regular Salvo Randone) seems determined to find him guilty regardless of the truth, he experiences something of an identity crisis. Randone returned to start in I giorni contati, a tragi-comedy about a plumber who witnesses a man die of a heart attack and decides to quit his job so that he can finally embrace life to the fullest, though things don’t go quite as planned. And finally, Petri’s only genuine comedy is Il maestro di Vigevano, an equally hilarious and grim look at the dark side of the Italian economic miracle, which follows a clueless teacher (Alberto Sordi) whose wife (Claire Bloom) decides to become a factory worker and then opens one of her own.
Also check out this week’s episode of The Projection Booth, on early film noir The Stranger on the Third Floor (1940), which features Samm as a guest host.