Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970): Italy’s Oscar Winner, Starring Ralf Valone

Made one year after Costa-Gavras  Z, which won the Best Foreign Language Gilm Oscar, “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” is a terrific Italian political thriller, which won the same award in that category in 1970.

Tautly directed by Elio Petri, “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion,” which was a huge success internationally, is credited for launching (some say) or revitalizing (others say) Italian political cinema of the 1970s.  It may not be a coincidence that it was released in the same year as Bertolucci’s masterpiece, “The Conformist.”

The great Italian actor Ralf Valone plays the nameless head of the Rome homicide police division, who murder his wife and the arrogantly plants various clues that would (and would) lead investigators directly to him.

His ideology is that a man of his caliber is above suspicion by virtue of his status and power.  Knowing the corrupt and decadent system, he holds that the investigators likely would focus their search on leftist members.

Quite remarkably, the movie was also nominated for Original Screenplay, penned by Elgi Petri, who began his career as a film critic for the Communist daily L’Unità, and Ugo Pirro.  The winner, however, was the American Paddy Chayefsky for the satire, “The Hospital.”

The film is dominated by the charismatic performance of Gian Maria Volonté as the chief, an actor most viewers at the time knew from his spaghetti Westerns (“A Fistful of Dollars”).

Edgy, offbeat, and suspenseful, the film raises many provocative issues, not to mention its strong production values, especially the score by the brilliant Ennio Morricone.

Oscar Context:

The five nominees in the Foreign Language Film Oscar category were: First Love from Switzerland, Hoa-Binh from France,  Paix sur les  Champs from Belgium, and Tristana from Spain.

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