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aka - Grim Reaper, The
Italy 1962
Directed by
Bernardo Bertolucci
90 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Commare Secca, La

Bernardo Bertolucci's debut feature is uneven, albeit with much that impresses particularly as he was only 21 years old at the time and had never made a film before.

Co-written by Bertolucci with Sergio Citti and based on a 5 page treatment by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the film tells of a murder of a prostitute. It is not so much as a crime thriller however as an existential commentary on a particular stratum of Roman society with that event as the focal point (the film's backers wanted something in a similar vein to Pasolini's 1961 hit, Accattone, on which Bertolucci had worked as a production assistant).The film is divided into a segments based on the characters who were close to the scene at the time and tells their stories as separate but simultaneous events, with that of the prostitute's providing the central thread.

Whilst the content - world of pimps, thieves, punks, cruising homosexuals and so on - is very much Pasolini's, Bertolucci's style, greatly aided by Giovanni Narzisi's black-and-white photography, variously recalls both Italian Neo-Realism and French New Wave. Overall the film tends to suffer from an over-indulgence in mere reportage (particularly so for the segments involving the two teenage boys) that perhaps was more eye-opening in its day but which now dissipates interest in its core themes . Originally released at 100 mins the film is available in varying run times.

DVD Extras: Good quality transfer from a newly-restored print; 55 min Italian television documentary on Bertolucci; insert essay film academic, Rolando Caputo.

Available from: Madman




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