Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion Criterion Blu-ray Review
Powerful people can get away with a lot more than most. And that’s just what the Police Inspector (as he’s credited) plans to do. His purpose, though, has nothing to do with pulling a fast one. Instead, he wants to prove that such a person as himself would never be considered a suspect and that he is indeed above suspicion.
So he goes to meet his mistress, Augusta (Florinda Bolkan, who starred in Lucio Fulci’s DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING), who is into the same sort of kinky sex games he is. “How are you going to kill me this time?” she asks, in reference to the roleplay. He tells her: “I’m going to slash your throat.” The two have gone through these motions countless times before (as flashbacks show)—but this time he means it. After the murder, the Police Inspector (Gian Maria Volonté, who many will recognize as the villain in both A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) plants clues around the apartment and then sits down to report the crime.
It should be an open-and-shut case for his colleagues down at the station, but really it’s just the start of the game. There’s even a bit of a trick that the film plays on the viewer: it convinces us that we don’t want to see the murderer brought to justice—not because of his status in the community, but because we want to know if his theory is correct. (It’s within the first third—when an underling immediately dismisses a clue that puts the Police Inspector at the scene—that we realize it very well could be.)
INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION (1970) is a tremendously effective film. It sets up the crime and works both backward and forward to show how a high-ranking individual can operate by his say and also feel compelled to use others as pawns.
The film is the first in director Elio Petri’s so-called “social schizophrenia” trilogy, which also included 1971’s THE WORKING CLASS GOES TO HEAVEN (also with Volonté) and 1973’s PROPERTY IS NO LONGER THEFT. While Petri may have been motivated to make this film based on the characteristics of dictators (there are political overtones throughout), it works for modern audiences just as well.
There are a number of well-tuned aspects to INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION that make it such a terrific and expertly crafted work. There is the cinematography by Luigi Kuveiller (who would later collaborate with the likes of Dario Argento and Billy Wilder), which ranges from intimate to distant, depending on what the scene calls for; the score by Ennio Morricone, which is disturbingly (and yet appropriately) playful, particularly following the murder; the screenplay by Petri and Ugo Pirro, which also dances around the idea that the Police Inspector’s game may also have to do with his sexual repression; and of course the performance by Volonté, who is so convincing that it may make you look at some authority figures and even their staff with a distrustful eye (if you don’t already).
INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film; it was the only Italian film to do so until CINEMA PARADISO two decades later.
INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. “This new 4K digital restoration was completed at Sony Pictures’ Colorworks, in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna and L’Immagine Ritrovata, with funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Film Foundation, and Sony Pictures Entertainment. For the restoration, the 35 mm original camera negative was scanned at 4K resolutation at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy. Digital image restoration to correct for dirt, debris, and scratches were performed at L’Immagine Ritrovata and Colorworks in Culver City, California…Color correction, a 4K DCP, a 4K master file for Blu-ray, and 35 mm preservation negatives were completed at Colorworks.”
This high-definition transfer of INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION is a stellar one, boasting remarkable clarity and details for the duration, as well as natural colors and tones. Further, the picture has been cleaned up to perfection while maintaining a filmic look that will please purists.
Audio: Italian Mono. Subtitles in English. “Audio restoration was performed at Chace Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, California…a 4K DCP, a 4K master file for Blu-ray, and 35 mm preservation negatives were completed at Colorworks.”
The audio transfer is also without fault, as it features clean Italian dialogue and a clear Ennio Morricone score.
Elio Petri (14:32): In this excerpt from a 1970 episode of the French television series La journal du cinéma, Petri discusses INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION.
ON INVESTIGATION (24:33): Film scholar Camilla Zamboni sits down to discuss, in part, the political goings-on around the time INVESTIGATION was in production.
ELIO PETRI: NOTES ABOUT A FILMMAKER (1:19:51): This 2005 feature-length documentary explores the life and career of filmmaker Petri. Topics include his filmography, his trips to Cannes, his approaches to cinema, and much more. Interviewees include directors Robert Altman, Bernardo Bertolucci and Gillo Pontecorvo, as well as collaborators such as Ennio Morricone.
INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN NAMED VOLONTE (54:46): This 2008 documentary looks at the career of actor Gian Maria Volonté, who starred in four of Petri’s films. While not as in-depth as the previous doc, this is still an excellent look into the work of an underappreciated Italian actor.
MUSIC IN HIS BLOOD (19:20): This piece features composer Ennio Morricone reminiscing about his score for INVESTIGATION and working with Petri.
Also included with this Criterion Collection release is a 32-page booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Evan Calder Williams and excerpts from a 2001 book by screenwriter Ugo Pirro.