English Title: The Grim Reaper
Original Title: La commare secca
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Writers: Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sergio Citti, Bernardo Bertolucci
Based on story by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Music: Piero Piccioni, Carlo Rustichelli
Cinematography: Giovanni Narzisi
Giancarlo De Rosa
Bertolucci’s feature debut is presented with a quite distinctive streak of Neo-Italian modus operandi, utilizing a multi-narrative structure of portraying different groups of people’s idle life, who have been involved into a prostitute murder case. The raw-texture of the film is magnificently preserved and the primitive settings are bold enough to impose an intimate analysis upon various Italian people’s mind-state at that particular time. At the age of 22, it was a great opportunity for Bertolucci to be granted the permission to work on his master Pasolini’s script for his own career inception. Also it’s a gutsy maneuver for Pasolini to trust his young disciple to fully excavate his talent, which is regretfully a rare case now in the cinema business.
During the park scenes, the film has a distinctively poignant tableaux scenery, but elsewhere the nonchalant idleness of each segmental piece is astonishingly fragmentary and unable to relate it to the core murder case in any rate, the film sacrifices its more audience arresting detective fodder to pursue a random characterization of Bertolucci’s own mark although may at odds with his later more prestigious work.
The film’s semblance of Akira Kurosawa’s Rasho-Mon (1950) is just a bluff, apart from structure-wise design, the film seldom emits a certain commitment of story-telling, nevertheless it has its own charm once it suits to some specific cinema devotees’ appetites, but with a horizontal parallel comparison with other 1960s elite peers, Bertolucci is still in his rookie mode and no one should demand too much for a 22-year-old novice to create a groundbreaking director debut, so after all, it is a thin-on-the-ground treasure and deserves a great thumb-up.