Wednesday, March 16, 2016

NO, THE CASE IS HAPPILY RESOLVED - BLU-RAY REVIEW

Italian genre specialists Camera Obscura have truly outdone themselves with their latest Blu-ray, the first HD release of Vittorio Salerno’s rarely seen NO, THE CASE IS HAPPILY RESOLVED (1973), a remarkably tense and entertaining thriller, which treads much the same territory as Elio Petri’s Oscar-winning INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION (1970).  But, unlike Petri’s still-prescient commentary on power and the differing socio-economical divisions within society, Salerno focuses primarily on the powerless: a ‘lower-class’ citizen, who, through no fault of his own, gets caught up in a murder investigation.  

While out fishing just north of Rome at Lake Bracciano, Fabio Santamaria (Enzo Cerusico) just happens to witness the brutal murder of a woman and, in an incredibly nerve-wracking moment, merely stands there as he and the murderer make eye-contact for what seems like an eternity.  Following an equally intense drive back to Rome, the murderer in question turns out to be Eduardo Ranieri (Riccardo Cucciolla), a well-respected schoolteacher.  Understandably anxious and flustered, unwitting eyewitness Santamaria chooses not to go directly to the police, but, unfortunately for him, actual culprit Ranieri beats him to it, implicating him as the murderer; which, over the next few days, reduces Santamaria to a state of utter panic as he tries to cover up his tracks and stay out of reach of the long arm of the law.   

Right from the get-go, this is an absolutely riveting thriller, which not only takes elements from many of Alfred Hitchcock’s films (i.e., The WRONG MAN [1956] or NORTH BY NORTHWEST [1959]), but also incorporates fundamental aspects of both the giallo and poliziesco films, which were popular at the time.  Even though it does feature a hair-raising car chase from Rome’s Termini Station as Santamaria tries in vain to catch a bus through the windy streets of Rome, director Salerno is more concerned with exploring the flawed and equally corrupt justice system with its societal profiling and unwavering commitment to simply having the case “happily resolved” and getting the stats.  During this time, a seasoned and highly influential reporter referred to as don Peppi’ (Enrico Maria Salerno), is also conducting his own investigation after a few questionable meetings with Ranieri, and he is convinced that everything isn’t as it may appear to be.  Granted, Santamaria, in his panic-stricken state, commits a number of rather confounding errors – including shaving off his moustache to change his appearance and repainting his car to disguise it – in hopes of avoiding the mess he has gotten himself into. However, these desperate evasive actions only seemingly confirm his guilt and, quite naturally, further implicate him as the perpetrator.  In the end, it all comes down to a matter of words, and this is stunningly conveyed by both Cerusico and Cucciolla during a climactic meeting at Ranieri’s posh apartment overlooking the Piazza Novona.

Despite the star-status of Riccardo Cucciolla, who won numerous accolades and awards for his role as Nicola Sacco in Giuliano Montaldo’s SACCO & VANZETTI (1971), popular actor Enzo Cerusico carries the entire present film on his shoulders, delivering an affecting performance of a depth and believability that just about outshines his fellow highly-regarded cast members.  Usually relegated to playing ‘good guy’ roles, Cucciolla is also topnotch in his portrayal as the morally conflicted and guilt-ridden murderer, who not only knows full-well that he has the upper hand, but is also continuously tempted by his affliction to murder again; it’s a wonderfully nuanced performance filled with regret, sorrow and even all-out malevolence. Aside from the two central performances, which dominate the bulk of the film, Vittorio’s brother Enrico Maria also adds immeasurably to the film as the “seen-it-all” ornery reporter, who, after all his years of experience at ferreting out the truth, knows when something’s amiss; in what would typically be a stereotypical throwaway part, even French-born female lead Martine Brochard as Santamaria’s distraught wife contributes a great deal of pathos, further accentuating her husband’s torment, confusion and frustration.

Expertly lensed by veteran DP Marcello Masciocchi, the film looks absolutely stunning on this newest Blu-ray from Camera Obscura (who have also made it available on DVD).  Not only is this the long-unseen director’s cut of the film with its original – and far more effective – ending, which continues to resonate long after the end-credits roll, but CO’s transfer is immaculate, boasting excellent detail and bold, naturalistic colours.  Presented in either German or Italian DTS-HD Mono Audio, English or German subtitles are included both for the main feature and the entertaining and detailed commentary from Marcus Stiglegger and Kai Naumann.  The biggest extra is a 40-minute featurette entitled “Mother Justice” (also with English subtitles), which contains interviews with director Salerno and actress Martine Brochard, who talk candidly about all sorts of facts related to the film’s origins and production.  An original Italian trailer, the alternate ending and a booklet with liner notes from film historian Christian Kessler round out the extras.  Do yourself a favour and order this amazing Blu-ray from DiabolikDVD here. 

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