For Italian New Wave Social Resonance, Pick Pocket


A long-overdue screamer from the semi-forgotten, underscreened New Wave archives, Marco Bellocchio’s 1965 debut “started something” in Italian cinema, according to DVD talking head Bernardo Bertolucci—and the attack on everything old-world Catholic, provincial, late baroque, aristocratic, and traditional remains fierce and disconcerting. A family bell jar of sociopathy and funeral rites, Fists centers on a decaying, villa-occupying family that could be characterized as Milanese Gothic—brawls are common, homicide always threatens, and epilepsy, impressionistically observed as a metaphor for psychosexual entropy, is rampant. It’s one of those films that mysteriously make every image—a bonfire of bedroom furniture, a caged chinchilla, a family dinner on the verge of explosion—resonate with social disquiet. As the family’s middle son and primary agent of manic- depressive chaos, first-time star Lou Castel is an unforgettable figure, a dissolve between Brando and Matthew Perry, simultaneously affectless and hyperactive, as if the hot wire connecting feeling and expression were cut and giving off sparks. (Just as hypnotizing is Paola Pitagora as the young, sexy sister, weirdly creepy in her misanthropic prettiness—that is, until a line is crossed in the clan’s degeneration, sending her into a spiral.) In addition to Bertolucci’s intro, the DVD comes with a new interview doc memorializing the film’s production, and the original trailer.

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