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Elio Petri’s dazzling first feature stars Marcello Mastroianni as dandyish antiques dealer arrested for murder by a Kafkaesque police force.
Director: Elio Petri
Released within months of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Antonioni’s La Notte, Elio Petri’s dazzling first feature also stars Marcello Mastroianni, this time as dandyish thirtysomething antiques dealer Alfredo Martelli, arrested on suspicion of murdering his older, far wealthier lover Adalgisa (Micheline Presle). But as the increasingly Kafkaesque police investigation proceeds, it becomes less and less important whether Martelli actually committed the crime as his entire lifestyle is effectively put on trial.
Best known for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and The Tenth Victim, Petri was one of the finest and yet most underrated Italian directors of the 1960s and 70s. Highly acclaimed on its original UK release but unjustly neglected since, L’Assassino is a remarkably assured debut from one of the cinema’s sharpest chroniclers of Italian social and political realities. Petri said that he wanted to reflect the changes wrought by the early sixties, and to examine “a new generation of upstarts who lacked any kind of moral scruple”.