Dillinger Is Dead

It's a puzzle that Marco Ferreri's seminal work of modern cinema never appears on critics' “best films” lists and that it has been so difficult to see. The action is confined in space and time: a small bourgeois house, one night, a few players, dominated by Michel Piccoli's brilliantly nuanced, almost wordless performance. In Ferreri's precisely articulated mise-en-scène, everything we see and hear holds meaning: the TV, the songs, décor, even cinema itself. The objects and people (Anita Pallenberg, Annie Girardot) serve as props for Piccoli's inhabitation of a bored industrial designer. In seemingly casual yet ritualistic behavior, Piccoli amuses himself and the viewer with comic, gradually unsettling gestures. Perhaps the often censored, cynical social satirist Ferreri had read a line of dialogue in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's 1951 mystery The Suspicion: “Freedom is the courage of crime, because freedom itself is a crime.”

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