|Bernardo Bertolucci: Italian director, writer.|
La commare secca (1962)
d. Bernardo Bertolucci
Criterion Collection #272
Bernardo Bertolucci is an Italian film maker better known for this work within the Hollywood system. His best known films are the multiple Academy Award winning epic, The Last Emperor (1987) and the racy Last Tango in Paris (1972). He's also had a host of box office duds: Stealing Beauty, Little Buddha, The Dreamers (from 2012?) His later success and foreign citizenship makes him a virtual lock for the early, lesser known films, of major directors category within The Criterion Collection, at La commare secca is especially worthy because the story is by another giant of Italian cinema, Pier Pasolini.
What stands out about La commare secca compared to other Italian films of the same time is the vivaciousness of the camera work. Unlike other early 60s directors from Italy, the viewer is not bored to tears sitting through tedious, carefully framed scenes of existentialist dialogue. Although Bertolucci and Pasolini denied ever seeing it, you can't watch La commare secca and not thing of Rashomon, by Akira Kurosawa.
In Rashomon, the story of a murder is told through the varying viewpoints of several witnesses, all of whom tell a different story about the same sequence of events. So to in La commare secca, the strangulation murder of a prostitute is told from the varying viewpoints of several witnesses, all of whom, it seems, have something to hide or a reason not to be forthcoming. Unlike Rashomon, La commare secca ends with the audience seeing what really happened and the apprehension of the murderer, putting this movie more in the category of police procedural.