Cadaveri Eccellenti (1976)

“The truth is not always revolutionary.”

‘Cadaveri Eccellenti’, directed by Francesco Rosi in 1976, is an Italian conspiracy thriller set in the world of politics and the judiciary. Someone is murdering judges and a seasoned police detective, Rogas, played by Lino Ventura, is assigned to the case. He uncovers a conspiracy that leads to the top of government and, in doing so, he finds his job threatened. It’s a stylish, meticulously shot thriller along the lines of Sydney Pollack’s 1975 movie ‘Three Days of the Condor’ or Alan J. Pakula’s 1974 ‘The Parallax View’. Like those Watergate era American movies, ‘Cadaveri Eccellenti’ includes elements of surveillance and that blurring of the lines between authority and criminality, but where the Italian movie departs from its American cousins is with the inclusion of religious themes and imagery. The film opens with a soon-to-be dead judge contemplating mummified bodies on display in a vault. Rosi explicitly contrasts the textures and lines on the faces of the corpses with those on the face of the elderly judge, the shots acting as a memento mori. Later, the president of the Supreme Court, played by Max von Sydow, questions the concept of miscarriages of justice by comparing judges to the Pope. He argues that the law is infallible, like God, so miscarriages of justice are impossible – by definition if a person is found guilty, then they are guilty. This mixture of the religious with the political gives the movie an unexpectedly metaphysical edge, and as such a greater depth than the standard conspiracy genre entries.

Would I recommend it? Yes – watch in a double bill with ‘Three Days of the Condor’ or perhaps ‘All the President’s Men’ for a trans-Atlantic contrast.

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