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With Viktor, Gérard Depardieu Gets His Own Taken

Philippe Martinez’s Viktor — basically a tighter, Moscow-set, Gérard Depardieu–starring version of The Equalizer — opens with a ballet rehearsal led by choreographer Souliman (Eli Danker).

This sets up an aura of refinement that runs throughout the film: Souliman is the right-hand man to protagonist Viktor (Depardieu, as of recently a Russian citizen), whose just-completed seven-year prison term was awarded for the relatively elegant charge of art-thievery. Moreover, the movie’s underworld figures are less concerned with drugs than with peddling diamonds. But make no mistake: Once Viktor gets wind of his son’s recent murder, his sense of culture doesn’t mean he’s against a surge of violence.

A typical example: Before tearing chunks of skin out of the thigh of a corrupt Italian lawyer (Marcello Mazzarella), he enjoys a steak and a glass of red wine in his victim’s company. Many scenes go like this, with Viktor pushing people — his late son’s pregnant girlfriend (Polina Kuzminskaya), a ruthless diamond kingpin (Denis Karasev) — just far enough that they give him the next name or clue he needs to understand his son’s death. Alongside Souliman, Viktor’s chief partner in crime is nightclub owner Alexandra Ivanov (played with extra glamour by Elizabeth Hurley).

As Viktor, Depardieu — whose default expression these days is pissed-off — plows through enemies in a cakewalk; from the first glimpse of him, a low-angle shot of Viktor standing on a luxury boat, he’s a force that can’t be stopped. But aside from some inspired uses of chiaroscuro lighting, the movie around Depardieu is mostly derivative, its membership in the post-Taken lineage confirmed when Viktor murmurs into the phone, “I just wanted you to hear the voice of the man who’s going to kill you.”

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NYFF: Ferrara’s Tender Pasolini Achieves Sublimity

Earlier this year, the director Abel Ferrara premiered his Welcome to New York, a lacerating study of an appalling man for whom Ferrara has, to put it mildly, conflicting feelings. The subject: Devereaux, a lightly fictionalized Dominique Strauss-Kahn surrogate, played by Gérard Depardieu (himself no stranger to controversy). Still unreleased in the U.S., Welcome to New York captures Devereaux’s carnivorous sexuality in stark terms: The exhaustive 30-minute orgy that opens the film would have been stimulating in Martin Scorsese’s rowdy The Wolf of Wall Street, but under Ferrara’s disciplined, disturbing gaze (dim lighting and fearless long takes abound), this monstrous chunk of a human being is rendered rather pathetic.

Contrast this attitude with the reverence of Ferrara’s latest movie, Pasolini, another compressed-time investigation of a figure with real-world origins. Where Welcome to New York clearly (though not moralistically) condemns Devereaux’s base impulses, Ferrara cherishes his subject here, the Italian multi-hyphenate Pier Paolo Pasolini. That means the Ferrara die-hards who have been anticipating the director’s Pasolini movie for so long — the ones who have grown accustomed to the limitless rage and intensity of movies like Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant, and Dangerous Game — are the people likeliest to be caught off-guard by the sensitive, even-tempered, almost peaceful tones of Pasolini. (Ferrara and DP Stefano Falivene’s palette favors warm blacks, golds, and browns.) Though Ferrara gets in a gut-punch with his unflinching depiction of Pasolini’s violent death — after getting beaten to a pulp on a beach at night, his body is run over by a car — the film mostly occupies a softer, more contemplative plane.

The great image in Pasolini is a close-up on Dafoe, his eyes tucked behind shaded lenses, his hand touching his forehead, rubbing the creases as he thinks. The movie centers on the final days of Pasolini’s life (a tight structure reminiscent of Ferrara and Dafoe’s 4:44 Last Day on Earth); a more predictable director might have stressed the resignation of the image, showing Pasolini vexed and frustrated with the world around him (“The tragedy is there are no more human beings,” he states). But Ferrara peers beyond the surface and finds that this man is not fatigued, but rather gently invigorated with every aspect of his life: He probes the nighttime streets of Rome, buying spaghetti and beer for male prostitutes to seduce in his Alfa Romeo. He buries himself in newspaper headlines, which Ferrara displays in montage. He toils away on his typewriter, and Ferrara himself, with the help of Pasolini regular Ninetto Davoli, envisions the novels (Petrolio) and films (Porno-Teo-Kolossal, with gays and lesbians coming together to procreate) that Pasolini was working on at the time of his death.

Ferrara often unfolds this cascade of mental and emotional activity through delicate dissolves that create an overlapping landscape of images — visions within visions within visions. In this context, Ferrara’s choice for the movie’s final shot is sublime and even wrenchingly poignant — a short, perfect elegy for the interviews and poems, novels and screenplays, articles and images that died along with Pasolini on that beach in 1975.

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Gerard Depardieu Rides Motorcycle, Makes Pit-Stops, in Mammuth

During his final day on the job before retirement, slaughterhouse worker Serge (Gérard Depardieu) takes off his hairnet to reveal a mane last seen on Ted Nugent in 1977. Dumb sight gags like this typify Mammuth, a yokel-roasting road adventure that, much like Depardieu’s other recently released vehicle, My Afternoons With Margueritte, asks little more of the actor than to play a lumbering naïf. The demands made of viewers’ eyeballs are greater: Shot on reversible super 16mm, Mammuth looks as if it were made on a first-generation smart phone. We watch Serge, exhorted by wife Catherine (Yolande Moreau), travel from one dour hamlet to another in western France on his motorbike, on a mission to gather the paperwork needed from former employers to secure his pension benefits. Pit stops include a visit to a cousin-with-benefits, inviting Serge in for a two-man circle jerk, a favorite teenage pastime. A mouth-breathing niece introduces him to the pleasures of poetry and wearing caftans. Too limp and scattershot to warrant anything stronger than indifference, Mammuth is guilty of one unforgivable act of cruelty: using poor Isabelle Adjani, who appears to have been told she was starring an Ibsen adaptation, as the bloodied specter of Serge’s first love.

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Life Lessons with Gerard Depardieu in My Afternoons with Margueritte

Celebrity airplane wizzer Gérard Depardieu, playing massive dimwit Germain in this syrupy tale of intergenerational friendship, looks aghast when a bar buddy, in a state of pickled despair, takes a leak on his own front steps. No p.r. materials I’ve received for My Afternoons With Margueritte, based on a novel by Marie-Sabine Roger, have highlighted this unintentionally timely scene, though it proves to be the only selling point in a film otherwise clogged with life-affirming hooey. Lumbering around town in overalls and flannel shirts, Germain, a vegetable vendor and handyman, meets 95-year-old bibliophile Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus) on a park bench. The saintly old woman’s belief in her new acquaintance’s innate intelligence gives him the esteem boost he needs: Germain, his IQ at least a few points higher than Forrest Gump’s, still hurts from the insults Mom hurled at him while growing up, shown in frequent flashback. That so many of the colossal yokel’s mental states are literalized, as when the screen fills with thousands of rats while Margueritte reads Camus’s The Plague aloud to her new pal, typifies the movie’s antipathy to nuance. Fortunately, we are not shown what “I love being inside you,” Germain’s post-coital admission to his much younger, prettier, and tinier girlfriend, would look like.

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Catherine Deneuve, Liberated, in 1977-set Potiche

The opening title card of François Ozon’s 1977-set Potiche seems to take design inspiration from the exploitation films of that period—a sneaky-smart way of nodding to one of this pastel-colored political farce’s key topics, if not its stylistic mode. As Suzanne, Catherine Deneuve plays the title role, which translates as “trophy wife”; she is married to the smarmy, unfaithful Robert (Fabrice Luchini), whose primary attraction to Suzanne appears to have been motivated by the umbrella factory she inherited from her father, which Robert now controls with cold capitalist efficiency. Still lovely at sixtysomething, Suzanne is cheerfully resigned to serving her husband and living passively in his shadow (“Your job is to share my opinion,” he condescends). When Robert has a heart attack precipitated by a workers’ strike, he presumes his wife will be a better-coifed mouthpiece for his own managerial ideology and allows her to take over the factory while he convalesces. Seeking counsel from Babin (Gérard Depardieu), a local lefty pol and her long-ago lover, Suzanne puts her womanly wiles to work, making broad improvements to the business, while gradually, casually revealing that she never really let her marriage hold her back at all. Like its heroine, Potiche is deceptively lightweight, its camp screwball fizziness giving way to a surprisingly cogent feminist parable, in which the personal proves again and again to be the most volatile variable in the political.

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Peter Weir, Master and Commander of His Own Strange Trip

Am I waking or am I dreaming? Is this an unsettling gaze at some mystical Other, or fresh Oscar bait on the barbie? The soft dilemmas of the Peter Weir oeuvre get a fresh airing at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s partial retrospective of the Australian New Waver turned designated Academy outsider turned missing person. Weir’s Siberian escape epic The Way Back—his first release since 2003’s would-be-but-wasn’t franchise-maker Master and Commander—marks the occasion for pondering the curious man who once followed Green Card (1990) sham couple Andie MacDowell and Gérard Depardieu with the passenger’s-view plane crash of Fearless (1993).

Weir’s Oz-incubated ’70s genre experiments and ’80s studio pictures form the meat of the series. Bitten by the showbiz bug after throwing together sketches for a cruise ship’s closed-circuit network, he worked in television but switched to full-on filmmaking after deciding he couldn’t top Monty Python. His 1974 debut feature, The Cars That Ate Paris, follows a stranded accident victim, another in the decade’s hostages stuck in grotesque hinterlands—here, a bush town that puts the “cult” in car culture. The stock-car bang-ups, village infighting, and mousy protagonist (who in his passivity is as creepy as his ruddy townie oppressors) make for above-average drive-in kicks.

Weir’s sense of foreboding, stroked by languidly offbeat editing, bloomed with his 1975 critical breakout, Picnic at Hanging Rock. The filmmaker’s precarious mix of irony and dippiness reaches a sweet spot of the sort often missed in the vague follow-throughs that plague his work. Fortunately, mood is all there is in Weir’s hothouse fusion of Victorian ghost story and outback omen, as he renders the tale of white-clad schoolgirls who vanish while clambering up a magnetic mountain. Synth whooshes, distorted earthquake samples, and pan flute swirl around the serene and shrill femininity on display (vistas by DP Russell Boyd). Indeterminacy also marks The Last Wave (1977, Weir’s first U.S. release), in which Richard Chamberlain’s Sydney lawyer defends urban Aboriginals charged with murder and grapples with visions—a signature Weir feature.

In the ’80s, Weir’s comfort with the visionary and with self-consciously exotic locales lent itself well to the self-memorializing quality of the decade’s prestige pictures. He first proved his mettle in his World War I sacrifice saga, Gallipoli, in which robust Australian youth (Mel Gibson and Mark Lee, as hot sprinting soldiers) are cut down in their prime on far-off sandy battlefields. Then The Year of Living Dangerously joined the vogue for expats in war-torn-from-the-pages-of-Newsweek hotspots (dateline Jakarta, 1965) and garnered an Oscar for Linda Hunt as an Asian photog—utterly convincing except when she opens her mouth. I, too, remember liking Witness (1985), but now the Harrison-Ford-meets-the-Amish close encounter (featuring Kelly McGillis, as hot Amish widow) feels both overblown and underexplored, fresh corn bracketed by cop-show potboiler, despite promisingly nasty touches in a bathroom and a silo. Ford’s trance-like Intense Look is in full force; he followed up with hard-to-endure Eccentric Crank drag in Weir’s patchy adaptation of Theroux’s The Mosquito Coast.

Fearless, the sole ’90s entry in the series, would be a tough sell in any era. The trauma-taboo film stars Jeff Bridges—survivor of a plane and a movie that both fly apart at the seams. It’s by turns ridiculous (Bridges to video-gaming son: “When you die, you don’t get another life!”) and riveting (Bridges’s schizoid-mensch high-wire act). But it’s also one great example of the strange explorations that might be missed if Weir didn’t wander.

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Milestones for the Masters of Suspense: Psycho’s 50th, Inspector Bellamy

Inspector Bellamy, the last movie Claude Chabrol finished before his death last month at 80, may only occupy a high middling position in the prolific director’s 80-film oeuvre, but it’s loaded with the virtues that characterized his remarkable career. A serious entertainment that opens with the sound of someone whistling in the graveyard, it’s an ostensive crime film at once symmetrical, surprising, and knowingly cinephilic. Like the thrillers of Chabrol’s idol, Alfred Hitchcock, Bellamy would likely improve on a second viewing—not that I plan to give the ending away.

Paris’s celebrated police chief Paul Bellamy (Gérard Depardieu, in his only picture for Chabrol) is introduced rusticating with wife Françoise (Marie Bunel) at their comfortably bourgeois country home in the Provençal town of Nîmes. But can a born sleuth ever truly take a vacation? The inspector is attempting to solve a crossword puzzle when he’s interrupted by the presence of an agitated mystery man (Jacques Gamblin) lurking about the garden. Françoise vainly tries to protect her husband’s privacy, but, once the mysterious stranger makes the unlikely confession that a recent car-crash fatality was in reality “a sort of murder” that he contrived in the service of a murky insurance scam, the game is afoot.

Chabrol said that he conceived Inspector Bellamy as a portrait of Depardieu and—embodying the bluff, hearty Bellamy in every sense—the iconic actor has the confidence of his bulk; he’s a walking, if perpetually winded, Rock of Gibraltar, and his reassuring presence provides the movie its ballast. Not unlike his obvious model, Georges Simenon’s Chief Inspector Maigret, Bellamy is a domestic cop whose professional nosiness is exceeded only by his fondness for life’s little pleasures—eating, smoking, and patting Françoise on the rump. He drinks, too, especially after his ne’er-do-well kid brother, Jacques (Clovis Cornillac), shows up—a dark, little cloud on the Mediterranean horizon.

Bellamy methodically addresses the mystery man’s mysteries—interviewing the guy’s middle-aged wife and young mistress, among other relevant parties, and empathizing with them all. In one of the movie’s running gags, Bellamy completely ignores Nîmes’s oft-referred-to-but-never-seen top cop; in another, the vacationing inspector is treated by the villagers as if he were . . . Gérard Depardieu. (“It’s a pleasure to be questioned by a star,” one suspicious cutie purrs, while another young woman simply exclaims, “You’re famous!”) Bellamy, however, does not fool around. He entertains his wife with the particulars of the continuously evolving case, which, as in Hitchcock, involves transference of guilt—it’s about “a guy who wants to kill a guy who wants to die.” Still, the movie’s real dramatic tension arises from Bellamy’s fraught, increasingly complicated relationship with Jacques.

For much of its 110 minutes, Inspector Bellamy is a pleasant, deceptively light divertissement in which the mutually resentful brothers spend considerable time arguing over nothing. The alert viewer may note, however, that Chabrol is carefully dropping clues that have less to do with the mystery man’s plot than with the personality of the self-described Good Samaritan; perhaps because of his acknowledged “soft spot for murderers,” Bellamy decides to help the man out of his jam.

Though there’s a massive joke that’s casually tossed off as the movie builds to its ending, this is hardly Chabrol’s most overt comedy. Nor does Inspector Bellamy appear, at first glance, to be one of the filmmaker’s characteristically mordant assaults on bourgeois pretension. Of course, appearances can be deceptive. It’s not for nothing that Chabrol ends with a quote from W.H. Auden’s “At Last the Secret Is Out”: There is always another story—there’s more than meets the eye.

It was Chabrol, with fellow Cahiers du cinéma critic Eric Rohmer, who wrote the first serious book on Hitchcock, ending with the assertion that “in Hitchcock’s work, form does not embellish content, it creates it.” Nowhere is this mastery of cinematic language more apparent than in Psycho, revived this week at Film Forum on the occasion of its golden anniversary.

This low-budget shocker would be Hitchcock’s greatest hit, as well as the most innovative and influential Hollywood movie in the near 20 years since Citizen Kane (also scored by Bernard Herrman). However volcanic its effect on the media landscape, Psycho was an idea whose time had come. Two equally visceral (and poetic) horror films—Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom—were also produced in 1960. Meanwhile, accepted motion-picture protocol was violated by a cluster of movies appearing around the same time as Psycho: Underground movies like Stan Brakhage’s Window Water Baby Moving and Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures pulverized existing taboos regarding the representation of the body; Godard’s Breathless and Kurosawa’s Yojimbo reveled in new attitudes toward crime and violence; Antonioni’s L’Avventura, which confounded Cannes the same month Psycho upset the U.S., practiced a similar disorientation in doing away with its leading lady mid-movie.

Actually, nothing prepared anyone for the spectacle of a psychotic momma’s boy living in a haunted mansion with the preserved cadaver of the woman he murdered 12 years before. Relocating horror to the heart of the American family, Psycho was blatantly ironic from beginning to end. Psycho epitomized Hitchcock’s notion of directing audiences (rather than actors), and early viewers responded with screams and laughter; the mayhem caused one New York theater to call the cops and others to call for censorship. Yet, just as with Charlie Chaplin and The Godfather, the movie’s greatness was soon recognized—and not only by Cahiers du cinéma, Andrew Sarris, and the teenagers who, years before The Rocky Horror Picture Show, turned Psycho’s showings into rituals. Even Bosley Crowther, the ineffably square New York Times critic remembered mainly for his doomed campaign against Bonnie and Clyde, praised Psycho, put it on his 10 best list, and defended the movie against irate letter-writers—not just as entertainment, but as art.

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“Marguerite Duras on Film” at Anthology

It’s not quite Tab Hunter’s fantasy arthouse drive-in in Polyester, advertising “Dusk to Dawn: Three Marguerite Duras Hits,” but Anthology Film Archives’ seven-feature-plus-shorts retro is the best way to experience the cinematic side of Madame Duras’s multimedia life.

A name novelist since just after WWII, Duras became a bonafide intellectual celebrity with her Academy Award-nominated script for Alain Resnais’s 1959 Hiroshima, mon amour (starring Duras’s later close collaborator, Delphine Seyrig). Her work was adapted for the screen before and after—often by mismatched temperaments, as when gushy Jules Dassin handled this most arid of stylists in 10:30 P.M. Summer (1966). The next year, Duras, 53, with full confidence in her sensibility and the hypnotic draw of her voice, began to shoot her increasingly screenplay-terse stories for the screen.

Movies were the medium of the moment, and everyone wanted a shot. Duras’s son had turned 18: “[He] never talks about my books. What he loves is the cinema. It’s maybe because of him I’m getting involved. He can join the crew.” She was no one-off dabbler. Over the next two decades, the doyenne of French letters created her own industry of trance-y movies, enthralled with themselves (mirrors are ubiquitous) and entirely inseparable from their author’s engulfing personality.

The early features are minimal narratives, distinguished by barbiturate-paced line readings and an air of society about to either implode or go comatose. Destroy, She Said (1969), Duras’s second film (from a novel of the same year, published with staging directions), has a trio of lovers at a resort hotel closing in on neurasthenic Catherine Sellers—the film’s key scene is a long card game that’s something like an interrogation, during which Sellers’s entire spectrum of reactions is run through in seemingly random order. Nathalie Granger (1972) is a pre-Jeanne Dielman study in housewife lassitude, with a very young Gerard Depardieu’s washing machine salesman unnerved and unmanned by the blasé stonewalling of Lucia Bosè and Jeanne Moreau—who would play Duras in 2001’s Cet amour-là, based on the memoir of Duras’s late-in-life secretary/ companion/ untouchable homosexual love object, Yann Andréa, who himself appears in Duras’s Agatha et les lectures illimitées (1981).

Through her fecund 1960s and ’70s, Duras scavenged and repurposed the same memories, scenarios, and characters in successive novels, plays, and films. (Edmund White suggests a non-theoretical motive for Duras’s reiterations: an alcoholic’s attempt to restore an ever-eroding memory. “Since Duras drank in order to write she seldom recognized her own writings when she reread them.”) India Song (1975) plays out a scenario that Duras had been reworking since novels The Ravishing of Lol Stein (1964) and The Vice-Consul (1966). The crucial scene is a scandal at a reception ball in the colonies (the film is ostensibly set in Calcutta, though Duras spent her first seventeen years in French Indochina). India Song’s Embassy setting looks abandoned from the outside, but characters in swank evening dress still go their appointed rounds within, silent and almost incorporeal amid purling cigarette and incense smoke. There is no on-screen dialogue; the story comes from the layered soundtrack of non-diegetic conversation and unseen narrators gossiping about the adulteries of Anne-Marie Stretter (Seyrig), seen drifting between dance partners as the lugubrious blues of Carlos d’Alessio title tune plays over and over again, different but the same. Only Michael Lonsdale’s disgraced vice-consul—gone mad because he cannot reconcile himself to his environment, a type who recurs in Duras’s work—fails to behave, but his wounded-animal roar of protest barely registers over the ceremony.

The Truck (1977) is protest in itself, a mesmerizing, rueful film made of stalled preliminaries. Depardieu and Duras—small, bunched, hermetic—sit alone in a deep-shadowed room that re-arranges itself between shots. They read from and discuss her new script for a film about a truck driver who picks up a hitchhiking woman “of a certain age.” Their conversation is periodically interrupted by traveling passenger’s-eye images of the industrial sprawl west of Paris, construction sites and roundabouts in damp dusk, set to Beethoven. The movie they’re describing never actually begins, but its discussion builds a nest of strange associations; Depardieu and Duras, melding with the proposed characters, enter into an unlikely flirtation and a confessional, as doomsayer Duras dredges up her bottomless disappointment.

After an unlikely resurrection through detox, Duras won the Prix Goncourt for her most popular book, The Lover, but ever-worsening health finished her as a director. The comic premise of her last film, 1985’s Les Enfants, sinks into the drudgery of a dropout manifesto, with 40-ish Axel Bogousslavsky playing a nonconformist seven-year old. As the filmmaker’s mouthpiece, Bogousslavsky never touches Duras’s singularly droll, oracular gravity in The Truck. Who has tried since?

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Nathalie Granger

Dir. Marguerite Duras (1973).
A meditative study somewhere between a literary text and a filmic narrative, this early Duras feature gains a good deal of atmosphere from the house where it was shot, the author’s home outside Paris where she wrote Hiroshima, Mon Amour. An allegory of the imagination, it requires patience. One reward is an amusing turn by Gerard Depardieu in the unlikely role of a washing machine salesman.

Fri., March 12, 9:15 p.m.; Tue., March 16, 7 p.m., 2010

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Ferreri’s Dillinger Is Dead Still Packs Heat

Even the gas mask designed by Glauco (Michel Piccoli), the central figure in Marco Ferreri’s 1969 Dillinger Is Dead, offers little protection against the toxicity of materialism and bourgeois living that hangs thick in the movie’s petrified ’60s air. A signature love-it-or-hate-it provocation from the Italian ringmaster best known for giving us the gorging gastronomes of La Grande bouffe and the self-castrating Gérard Depardieu of The Last Woman, the rarely screened Dillinger (which plays at BAM this week in a new 35mm print) unfolds almost entirely within the confines of Glauco’s mod apartment, where consumerist clutter is the abiding principle: One room’s sleek, modular furniture abuts another’s Navajo chic. In the kitchen, where the majority of the action takes place, a garish floral tablecloth stands out against rustic brick walls like a fuchsia raincoat in a blizzard.

Working at the height of his powers, Ferreri turns this domestic prison into a centrifuge of ideas about the loss of self in an age when movies, TV, and commercial advertising had come to promise us the ability to be whomever we wanted. Returning home late one night, Glauco sets about fixing himself a gourmet dinner while his migraine-afflicted wife (Keith Richards paramour Anita Pallenberg) rests in a pharmaceutical slumber and Wall of Sound pop blares from a radio. Rifling through a cupboard stacked with sundries and old magazines, he chances upon a six-shooter wrapped in old newspaper headlines about the death of John Dillinger. As he fillets and sautées, Glauco likewise cleans and polishes the firearm, at one point stirring it in a bowl of olive oil, as if it, too, were on the menu. No wonder Jean-Luc Godard (whose influence on Ferreri looms large) was said to be a fan: Taking his master’s immortal words about the high body count of Pierrot le fou—”not blood, but red”—one step further, Ferreri gives us a movie in which a revolver is no different from ravioli.

Dinner is followed by a movie, as Piccoli’s post-industrial Little Tramp reflects and refracts 8mm vacation films off his living room’s gleaming white walls. Glauco stands so close to the makeshift screen that he blends right into the image, becoming a bullfighter, an ocean swimmer, and, finally, a shadow puppet, brandishing his pistol—reborn as a red-and-white polka-dotted objet d’art—the way Dillinger (who was said to have copied his own best moves from watching Douglas Fairbanks movies) might have. Thus the reel becomes real, or at least a primitive MRPG, and, 40 years later, the final moments of Dillinger Is Dead can still send an audience startled and scintillated into the night.