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Fists in the Pocket: The Criterion Collection

Rough edged, combative, and honest, Marco Bellocchio's 1965 I Pugni in tasca ("Fists in the Pocket") has the jangly assault of a punk-rock album and gleefully uses murder and incest as plot-points. Lou Castel stars as Alesandro, one of three brothers in a bourgeois family that's gone to seed after the death of the father. His older brother Augusto (Marino Mase) has become the provider for them all, which is partly because — like his mentally challenged brother Leone (Pierluigi Troglio) — Alesandro is an epileptic, but also feckless. Their sister Giulia (Paola Pitagora) opens the film by sending Augusto's girlfriend an anonymous letter suggesting she's pregnant, and she spends most of her time taunting Alesandro in ways that are familial and sexual. Their mother (Liliana Gerace) is blind and seems a bit daft, and when the whole family is in a room together the brood is reduced to a state of childishness. The focus is on Alesandro, who is partly suicidal and reluctant to communicate with women, but he seems to find purpose in his life when he decides to kill off everyone in his family except Augusto — whom he wants to free from their burden. Ale blanches in his first attempt, but his homicidal thoughts linger, and he eventually finds himself in a position to remove his mother. Though it took until the end of the decade for American cinema to catch up, it's interesting to note the global climate of filmmakers who emerged during the tumultuous 1960s. These directors — be it France's Jean-Luc Godard, Czechoslovakia's Jiri Menzel, America's Arthur Penn, or Japan's Kinji Fukasaku — challenged the way films were made and their predecessors. Fists in the Pocket is one of the most nakedly contemptuous of its sort — shot in black and white with borrowed money, and framed with an eye towards tight close-ups on the faces of the actors, the picture has a sense of great liberation in its primal yelp. Bellocchio takes the sort of youthful rebellion personified by people like Marlon Brando (whose photograph shows up in Giulia's room) and James Dean — to which Castel's performance is indebted — and roots in a truly diseased home, something that can easily be seen as a commentary on the state of Italy, or the world at large, at the time. Perhaps a younger generation might have seen this as marching orders, but like reading Catcher in the Rye as an adult, one also senses the auto-critique, to which no one is left unscathed. The Criterion Collection presents Fists in the Pocket in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with the original Italian audio on a DD 1.0 track with optional English subtitles. The film comes with an "Afterword by Bernardo Bertolucci," who praises the picture and recognizes the difference in technique between himself and his contemporary Bellocchio (10 min.), and "A Need for Change," with interviews of Marco Bellocchio, stars Lou Castel and Paola Pitagora, editor Silvano Agosti, and film critic Tulio Kezich (33 min.). Theatrical trailer, keep-case.

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