Monday, 20 March 2017

Property Is No Longer A Theft

Cast: Ugo Tognazzi, Flavio Bucci, Daria Nicolodi, Salvo Randone, and Mario Scaccia

Director: Elio Petri

126 minutes (15) 1973
Widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Arrow Academy Blu-ray regions A+B

Rating: 7/10
Review by Steven Hampton

The 19th century’s protest by a French anarchist aside, the notion that possessions only belong to a few by right is tested and restated in this Italian comedy of ill-manners, new to 2K hi-def in the UK since its 2013 restoration and re-mastering from the production’s original negatives.

Property Is No Longer A Theft concerns the misadventures of a small cast of fairly symbolic characters. Suffering from acute social and philosophical envy in a European class war, a bank accountant named Total (Flavio Bucci) suddenly resigns and starts a brand new life of crime in Rome. Targeting a local butcher (Ugo Tognazzi), Total steals a knife, a hat, and then quickly escalates to burglary. Overnight, he graduates from cars to kidnapping.

Total prefers his women passive for a kinky fetish, and says “lie down... like a steak.” His captive, Anita (Daria Nicolodi), remains chatty while naked but seems willing to play dead for him. Total’s spree of reckless defiance of convention and order continues with a series of increasingly farcical episodes inciting a serious risk that “thieves become revolutionaries.” But, the underdog’s rebellion aside, “What’s there to laugh about?”

There is a lot of talking to the camera, in scenes that reveal and revel in characteristic foibles. The movie looks askew at the differences between the haves and the have-nots, and spends time (that most precious human commodity!) conjugating the Italian verbs of   possession and possessiveness. In a vividly surrealistic sequence about home defences, director Elio Petri concocts a display of hardware that’s like a cross between a modern art exhibit and security trade show.

“Arresting people is a wonderful thing,” enthuses the police brigadier put in charge of the investigation into Total’s misdeeds. Having introduced the police, the narrative expands to focus upon career crook Albertone (Mario Scaccia), who leads a gang on a heist which Total interrupts, but he’s only there to help complete the robbery while his own capacity for violence and self-destruction increases - along with twitchy habits of scratching every annoying itch.

Soon, raucous cries of “Stop thief!” wake up the wealthy residents of a block of swanky flats, from where a twisted love-triangle develops. Yet there’s no honour among thieves. Betrayal is inevitable when corruption spreads over every side of the law. Total remains quite stubbornly resistant to exploitation by his betters and would rather steal a gold pen than accept a blank cheque specially written just for him. Underworld crowds gather to mourn a dead master-thief and, after one amusingly forthright speech, the really brutal antagonist wrings the scrawny neck of this political satire.

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