Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pose Reviews A Movie. #41: Dillinger È Morto (Dillinger Is Dead) (1969)

Marco Ferreri's 1969 feature, Dillinger Is Dead is an exemplary instance of minimalism done properly.

Frankly, I loved it. But I could definitely see how some people might hate it. After all, "exemplary minimalism" to some is probably "frightfully boring" to others. So I will do my best to present a fair and honest description of the film, and what I saw in it.

Dillinger Is Dead takes place over the course of one evening, and exclusively takes the perspective of Glauco (Michel Piccoli), a middle-aged industrial designer of protective masks.

The film begins with a short glimpse of Glauco's work-life, then moves swiftly toward documenting his evening at home. His wife is in bed with a headache (though we get the impression that she's probably on drugs), and he is left to eat dinner alone in the dining room.

Glauco's dinner has gotten cold, however, and he decides to take to the kitchen and cook himself a stunningly elaborate, multi-course meal.

When going through a cupboard looking for ingredients, however, he stumbles upon something unusual. An old, rusted revolver, wrapped in the front page of a newspaper from the day John Dillinger was killed in 1934.

Stay with me.

What makes this symbol fascinating (to me, anyway) is its ambiguity. Surely, we are meant to believe that this was indeed, at one point, John Dillinger's gun. But how did it get into Glauco's home? Has he owned it for years, and merely forgotten about it? Did someone plant it there? Was it left by a previous owner of the house? And what does it mean that Glauco spends the rest of his night repairing it?

Because he does.

With a running time of 95 minutes, the vast majority of Dillinger is Dead consists of Glauco cooking, occasionally interacting with his wife and their maid, watching some strange reels of film (including a weirdly awesome hand-dance on a sort of mirror, the entirety of which would probably be life-altering to someone who had taken powerful hallucinogens) and meticulously restoring what may or may not be John Dillinger's gun.

That's it.

But the entire time, you get the feeling that the film is building up to something profound. No matter how uneventful the majority of the picture is, you can't help but shake the sense that something big is going to happen.

And that's all I'm going to say.

(About the plot, anyway).

There is very little dialogue in the film, which makes the soundtrack feature quite prominently. And it's a cool soundtrack to boot! The film's music seems to flow in waves of genre--everything from Italian pop to American rock n' roll to salsa--and there's so much of it that you're bound to find something in there that you like.

But aside from the music, I think what I loved most about Dillinger is Dead is its commentary on modern social isolation. Because Glauco himself is a very powerful personification of isolation.

After all, he is a man who makes a living constructing masks which allow human beings to survive on their own in conditions we aren't meant to endure. We almost don't need to watch him spend an entire night in his home to know he must know a thing or two about isolation.

But to watch Glauco is to watch a modern man--alone amongst people, and obsessed with deconstructing and rebuilding an artifact from a previous age.

And I think that the point of the film is to have the audience determine what this means.

Or, at the very least, why Dillinger's gun?

This is the kind of movie with endless potential for post-film discussion.

So find your closest film-nerd friend (and I'll bet if you're reading this blog, you have at least one!) and give Dillinger is Dead a shot.

No pun intended.

1 comment:

MLClark said...

Rockin' review, Pose! I'm adding this to my List!