Anna wants to improve her marriage to sculptor Marco but ends up having an affair with her new teacher Antonio as well. While performing a careful balancing act alternating between her two ... See full summary »
Enrico Maria Salerno
As I'd written in previous reviews for other Jancso' films, I had missed out on an opportunity to watch this one on late-night Italian TV; given that the first edition of the Italian DVD itself is out-of-print and also in view of the fact that I've recently acquired a number of the director's works on disc, I opted to add it to my DVD collection now rather than wait for another broadcast of the film (which, for all I know, might never happen!).
Typically for Jancso', very little was available to me on the printed page except for a succinct entry on Marco Giusti's "Starcult" guide wherein he describes the film as being, " frightfully enjoyable ridiculous exasperating sincere (it was) totally rejected at the time". In any case, having now made a fair idea of what the Hungarian director's style is all about (albeit this being his first of four films made in Italy) plus the fact that I've watched a few of the "Political Revolution" films made in the wake of the famous May 1968 events (of which THE PACIFIST is an example) I knew more or less what to expect from it. Thankfully, the film is short enough at 83 minutes (and sparked by occasional humor) not to become overly oppressive since, needless to say, it's rather hard-tack as entertainment: obviously didactic in nature to begin with but also considering Jancso''s customary (i.e. curiously aloof) approach to things!
For marquee value, it features two popular names and faces of the era Monica Vitti and Pierre Clementi; the latter's characteristic mix of arrogance and earthiness is ideal for this environment (in fact, he had already appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci's similar but even more opaque PARTNER ) but Vitti seems ill-at-ease with the demands of the leading role. She plays a TV reporter who becomes involved with revolutionary-bum Clementi: at first, he seems to be stalking her and, being afraid, reports him to the police; however, when he's caught and brought before her for identification, she claims it was somebody else! After this, she invites him to live with her but, before long, his companions turn up, admonishing him for having balked from doing his duty (among them is Daniel Olbrychski who, curiously enough, goes uncredited here: for the record, the Polish actor appeared in two other Jancso' films AGNUS DEI , which I haven't watched, and ROME WANTS ANOTHER CAESAR ). Clementi was supposed to kill a man as a sure sign of his devotion to the 'cause' and, for failing to deliver on his promise, his former friends offer him a way out by playing at Russian roulette! Vitti leaves intent on setting the law after them but, on arriving at Police Headquarters, the Commissioner takes her for a neurotic!; by then, Clementi has been executed regardless and, noticing that Olbrychski has followed her there, Vitti shoots him (thus causing a commotion).
I have to say, though, that one of the reasons Vitti's performance feels artificial is due to the fact that her distinctively plaintive voice is inexplicably dubbed on the Alan Young R2 DVD edition I watched! I know that the custom in Italian cinema at the time was to shoot without sound and then recreate the dialogue track later in the studio but, ironically, Vitti can still be heard on the trailer!! Considering that the print was reportedly culled from the original negative, I wonder whether the 're-dubbing' was done prior to the film's original release rather than newly re-recorded specifically for the digital format (as had been the case with, say, the Italian DVD I rented not too long ago of Mario Bava's HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON ).
For what it's worth, THE PACIFIST is notable for a few inventively-deployed sets (Vitti's home is enveloped by windows as if it were a glass showroom, ditto for a derelict church turned into an impromptu display for the newest fashion in cars) and a score by Giorgio Gaslini which even includes a couple of pop songs one of these (translating to "Stop Raining"), incidentally, was adopted on its home ground as a subtitle to the film itself.
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