Imagine a movie about the CEO of a Big Oil company that is thrilling, political, intimate, gritty and passionate, full of ideas yet propelled by a what-happens-next urgency? Hard to believe cinema like this even exists, and yet Francesco Rosi pulled it off when he directed Il Caso Mattei in 1972 starring Gian Maria Volonte in the true story of Enrico Mattei, an Italian oil executive who died under mysterious circumstances when his plane blew up in mid-air on a flight back from Sicily.
Il Caso Mattei was one of the two best films I caught at the recent Venice International Film Festival. Both were part of a series of restorations of Venice Classics that the festival is promoting. The other couldn't have been further afield from Rosi's documentary-styled Agitprop approach.
La Decima Vittima is Pure Pop, unlike any other Italian movie of that era I have seen. The plot is a cross between The Hunger Games and Austin Powers, a super-stylized '60's variation of the classic The Most Dangerous Game trope of humans hunting other humans in a worldwide game of cat and mouse between victim and aggressor. In this case Ursula Andress has been assigned a hit on Marcello Mastroianni, a wily survivor of many such attempts, whose innate spidey-sense that has served him well in the past gets overcome by Andress' formidable powers of temptation. Directed by Elio Petri, whose much more sober and realistic Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion won the Academy Award for foreign language feature in 1971.
Much more interesting than the much-hyped The Master, or the disappointing premiere of a new film by another Master, Terrence Malick, these two jolts of creative and innovative storytelling made my filmgoing experience for those six days on the Lido truly "restorative"!