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aka - Cadaveri Eccellenti
Italy 1976
Directed by
Francesco Rossi
120 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Illustrious Corpses

Although not as well-known as contemporary conspiracy films such as Costas-Gavras’s Z (1969) or Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist (1970), Francesco Rosi's film is a solid family member. The story concerns a detective, Inspector Rogas (Lino Venturi), who is assigned to investigate the murder of a judge. As a second, then a third, judge is killed he believes the killer is motivated by revenge for his false imprisonment. But as he pursues matters further he realizes that the Right wing powers-that-be, including his own superiors, are exploiting the initial murder to discredit the Communist Party and impose their totalitarian will on the country,

Made at a time of great social and political upheaval in a country in which political assassination was no rarity, Illustrious Corpses is an acerbic allegory of Italian Realpolitik. In this respect, Rosi’s film resembles those already mentioned but it differs in an Antonioni-like use of setting to imbue proceedings with a fatalistic sense of  oppression and manipulation, rather than foregrounding the political aspect. The result is more noir-ish in feel with Rogas the classic trench-coated hero pitted against the crooked politicians of City Hall. Ventura, a French actor best known for playing tough guys in low rent crime thrillers such as Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Deuxième Souffle (1966) is well cast in this respect as he steadfastly follows the trail of corruption,

FYI: Aside from referring to the social standing of the murderer’s victims the film’s title refers to the Surrealist game, Cadavre Exquis, in which the players draw consecutive sections of a figure without seeing what the previous person has drawn, leading to unpredictable results.




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