Francesco Maselli – Il sospetto AKA The Suspect (1975)

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Following his passionate involvement in the 1968 demonstrations (Maselli was one of the supporters of the protest at the 1969 Venice Biennial), he made two explicitly “political” films, Lettera aperta ad un giornale della sera (1970) and Il sospetto di Francesco Maselli (1975). In Lettera ad un giornale della sera, which prompted fierce discussion about the idea of “political commitment” amongst left-wing intellectuals, Maselli played one of the characters, thereby openly involving himself in the debate, together with Nanni Loy and other politically active colleagues and friends.
For this film, Maselli used a style which in many ways was similar to certain paradigms of “cinema-verité”: the film was shot in 16 mm with heavy use of the zoom, the hand-held camera and out-of-sync sound.
Maselli returned to a more relaxed cinematic language and a more concise structure with Il sospetto. Dubbed “one of the best political films of all time”, it was set in the year of the “turning-point” (1934), one of the most important moments in the evolution of the Communist party.
Gian Maria Volonté gave a splendid performance in the role of Emilio, the protagonist, a militant Communist who has emigrated to France, embroiled in an affair so fraught that it turns into a thriller. Continue reading

Robert Montgomery – Lady in the Lake (1947)

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. More than a few of Hollywood’s leading men have had a chance to play Raymond Chandler’s archetypal hard-boiled detective, Philip Marlowe: Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, Robert Mitchum, Elliott Gould, James Caan, even James Garner. So why not you? In Lady in the Lake, you are Marlowe — or at least the camera is, with director Robert Montgomery providing the voice and face in the mirror. You uncover the clues, you get socked, flirted with, grilled, kissed, and stared at an awful lot. And if Marlowe comes off as a little petulant and sulky along the way, it’s probably your fault. This may not be the best Chandler adaptation (it’s hard to beat The Big Sleep for Bogart-Bacall sizzle alone), but it’s a shoo-in for the weirdest, and not just because it’s the only flick ever shot in Marlowe-vision. The performances alone should have made this one a camp classic: the delightfully witchy Audrey Totter as a pulp-magazine editor who comes off as a sick panther trying to act kittenish; a hearty Dick Simmons as dime-store smoothie Chris Lavery; understated and oddly likable Lloyd Nolan as a no-good copper; and scene-stealer Jayne Meadows talking a mile a minute as a landlady in the right place at the wrong time. Toss in a few funny drunks, a boisterous coroner, a blustery softie of a police captain, a blond bombshell receptionist who the camera keeps following no matter who’s talking, and the usual few mysterious murders, and you’ll probably need a private dick to make sense of it all. (The expositions fly by pretty fast when there’s a room full of tough guys staring at you.) This is one of those rare films that is actually better on video; the smaller screen tames Montgomery’s hand-held camera (which can be rough on the stomach during the car chase and fisticuffs). Strangest of all: It’s a Christmas movie. Continue reading