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Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

by Jake Mulligan
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Thursday Dec 5, 2013
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"Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" is a strange film-watching experience. The story concerns a murderous police chief, who finds himself assigned to solve the mystery left in the wake of his own secret passion for killing. Yet this is not a thriller, or an action film, or a procedural, or a comedy. Framing the picture and playing the tone as if it were a standard drama, director Ello Petri creates a cinematic world of apathy, where would-be satire is drowned out by our own sadness.

He leaves the emotions to you: there are no punchlines, the camera watches ominously but quietly, and there are no "twists" and "turns." Though hardly surreal, Petri’s approach recalls Bunuel: the underlying sinister energy comes not from what’s happening on screen - although that’s often sinister too - but from the coldness with which the camera watches what is happening. It’s a film from a society that has reached peak cynicism levels; a cry for help that knows no help is coming.

Criterion’s Blu-ray of the film, sourced from an immaculate 4K restoration, is full of special features that illuminate the mindset of the filmmakers at work here. There’s a feature-length documentary about Petri, from 2005, which is mainly focused around interviews with his co-workers. There’s also a separate, lengthy interview with a film scholar about Petri’s work, as well as archival interviews with Petri that help showcase his frame of mind at the time the film was released.

Additionally, there’s a nearly-hour-long documentary about lead actor Gian Maria Volonte, an extensive interview with legendary composer Ennio Morricone, and even trailers for the film. Yet the Blu-ray extras, comprehensive though they are, aren’t what’s stunning here. Instead, that’s Petri’s picture, full of contradictions; alternatively devastating and blackly funny; culturally specific and surprisingly prescient. It’s a major film, and has been afforded a major release.

"Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion"
Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Release
$39.95
Criterion.com

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