The Italian crime drama and satire Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is very much a product of its era, but it’s not entirely without contemporary relevance. When a police inspector (Gian Maria Volonté) brutally murders his mistress, Alexandra (Florinda Bolkan), he leaves plenty of clues to hang himself. But as the investigation progresses, the questions arise: will the police ever charge him, and does he even have any intention of getting away with it?
With its vibrant color palette and playfully sinister Ennio Morricone soundtrack, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is an audio-visual feast, probably best watched today as a why-done-it; the fun is in figuring out what the inspector is up to, and what specifically drove him to his crime. I particularly enjoyed the meticulous, silent opening sequence, which is pure visual story-telling that sets up the mystery well. But past the quirky plot, it’s also a penetrating character study about a disturbed individual, and a political allegory critiquing the psychology of an authoritarian police state. While the commentary is surely specific to Italy in 1970, it certainly still resonates today in a broader context. It does drag on a bit toward the end, and the gender and sexual politics are, uh, unfortunate by today’s standards. But overall it’s a rewarding film: disturbing, darkly funny, and politically scathing.