Call this Petri's "Weekend." Every cityscape is full of trash. Every dog, though leashed, is out of control. Strange things happen in odd corners of the screen. Or call it a film for our times: terrorism, assassination, strikes, blackouts, mental illness, monitored constantly yet constantly accepted. Or if not accepted, then subjugated to more immediate concerns: It's also an intensely erotic film, in a mental sort of way, if failure can be erotic, as if Lina Wertmuller's Giancarlo Giannini found education, shiny suits, and philosophy. Like "Pierrot le fou"'s Ferdinand, he's always reading, though I don't think we ever see what.
A few images: Each time a bomb scare empties Giannini's building, the staff flow, only slightly rushed, to a seemingly boundless park that just happens to be nearby. They bring soccer balls, books, snacks. A gelato cart turns up. Also vicious dogs, menacing archers, groping lovers, homeless squatters, but the totality is pastoral. The film opens with Giannini hanging a painting, chatting about his inner terrors with "Fedora." Behind him an apparently headless woman on a hypermodern exercycle spins hard. This is (no ref to Oliver Sacks) Fedora, his wife, facing down, head, hanging way below her shoulders, completely hidden by long hair. Only, if I recall, after a blackout deprives us of this image, do we realize who Fedora is. Perhaps an hour later, we see her again like this, again faceless, yet unbearably present. It's an image Dante might have placed who knows where. It's as if Rodin had tried to do one of Poe's fictional women. Beauteous and horrifying, it's a pose Petri has to have worked to create, no lucky accident. You can almost see him on the set, with a hair brush, making certain no trace of Fedora's face is unhidden.
I'm afraid I've made "Le Buone notizie" sound bleak. It's a joy to watch, as hilarious as Wertmuller's Giannini films. Somehow its title is apt, but I'd have to ramble a few more pages to work out exactly how. Some of it's the friendly chattiness of Giannini's controlled insanity, reassuring us by example just how much room there is this side of the asylum. Some of it, a reach for Petri but as always had it been Godard, is the never boring syncopation of the edits, even toward the end when traditional plot elements threaten to take over. Petri plays Virgil, plus maybe a little Beatrice in the bargain, and pulls us through.
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