Directed by: Marco Bellocchio (Vincere)
Starring: Lou Castel, Paola Pitagora, Marino Mase, Liliana Gerace, Jeannie McNeil, Pier Luigi Troglio
I’d never heard of Marco Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pocket (1965) when it came my way for this review. (I am constantly surprised by the things that find their way into the Criterion Collection — and frequently baffled by the rationale behind their inclusion.) It didn’t take me long to understand why I hadn’t encountered it because — when all is said and done — it’s really more a gothic horror movie than anything else. Oh, sure, you can find it plays as a condemnation of the Italian middle class that is sinking into decadence, but you find similar themes in Robert Aldrich’s unabashed horror thriller Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte from the previous year. That’s not to say that Bellochio’s film is without interest or merit — just that it’s a little odd for standard art-house fare. Its strange blend of French New Wave affectations, British kitchen-sink realism and Hammer horror basic makes for a strikingly unusual film. The movie follows the sinking fortunes of an upper middle-class family that’s a virtual microcosm of decline. The matriarch (Liliana Gerace) is blind and ineffectual. Her eldest — and most normal — child (Marino Mase) would like nothing better than to escape the responsibility of the rest — including an oversexed (and maybe incestuous) sister (Paola Pitagora), a seriously unbalanced (and maybe incestuous) brother (Lou Castel) and the youngest child (Pier Luigi Troglio), who is mentally-challenged (yet sometimes the most perceptive). It’s that unbalanced brother who is at the center of the story as the degree of his imbalance tips over into matricide, fratricide and who knows what else. It’s unsettling, finally a little shocking, and also a little unpleasant.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Fists in the Pocket Friday, April 12 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
In Brief: Marco Bellocchio’s Fists in the Pocket — an intimate look at the inner workings of a dysfunctional, decadent middle-class family — is something of an oddity. It’s definitely not Italian neo-realism. It kind of feels like an offshoot of the French New Wave, but it’s that by way of something in the nature of one of those black-and-white Hammer psychological horror movies. And while the film is definitely a commentary on the Italian middle class, it really is a horror movie at heart.