Wednesday, October 28, 2009

367) The 10th Victim (1965)

367) The 10th Victim (1965) Dir: Elio Petri Date Released: December 1965 Date Seen: October 28, 2009 Rating: 3.75/5

Elio Petri's The 10th Victim saunters from one point to the next in its mad, mod social critique of tv, commercialism, sexual conquest and ritualized violence by schizophrenically changing mid-dance from a quick-step to a tango then a foxtrot. That boundless energy is what makes it, a science fiction story about a world where men and women can hunt each other for sport, a uniquely funny vision of the future. The goal of "The Big Hunt" is to survive ten "hunts," five times as a hunter, five as a victim. For her tenth "hunt," Caroline (Ursula Andress) stalks Marcello (Marcello Mastroanni, of course). She will bag him but according to another game's rules.

What's striking then is that despite the unkempt zeal of its protagonists' various different feints and wonderful quips--"Live dangerously but within the law"-- Petri fancies his film a warped descendant of Fellini. Though its busy aesthetic and sense of humor can be more closely attributed to Marcello's avowed love of comic books, Petri also dabbles in playful, Fellini-esque decadence, as in a scene where Marcello leads a group of sun-worshippers in their evening mass. The flowing maroon robes costumes and the beach-side location recall a collision of La Dolce Vita and Roma, while Piero Piccioni's carnivalesque soundtrack could easily be mistaken for un-used tracks from Nino Rota's score to Toby Dammit.

Still, The 10th Victim is too energetic to be truly Fellini-esque: once, while Caroline has Marcello under surveillance, a comically violent crowd of kung fu fighters suddenly gathers around him and begins to attack each other, leaving him unconcerned and unharmed. We're told that they're just art students by a curiously blase narrator, who makes it seem as if it were just an everyday occurrence. In the Fellini-verse, fits of violent energy stop and start just as regularly but are only witnessed by soul-sick outsiders. In Petri's film, they're what you see when you're channel-surfing. Similarly, Marcello's lust for money, which he declares to be better than any aphrodisiac, isn't a sign that he's at the end of his tether but a sign that he's got a lust for life. In this way, the film's metaphor of marriage being synonymous with a televised game of death only extends so far but that's kind of the point. "Those wicked neo-realists almost ruined everything!"

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