Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dillinger Is Dead

Criterion has released an impressive DVD of Marco Ferreri's "masterpiece" of 1969, Dillinger Is Dead.

A mind-boggling essay by Michael Joshua Rowin is included in a very slick booklet; there are interviews, too, with Ferreri and those who knew him, and a trailer also.

Michel Piccoli plays a designer of gas masks who lives with two attractive but excruciatingly dull (and inert) women. When he gets home from work, he makes dinner, screens some home movies, cleans a gun, and putters about in real time. Inevitably, he uses the gun on one of the women and avoids the consequences by becoming a ship's cook.

If the above synopsis sounds interesting, it is. But in the hands of Ferreri, the film is terribly slow, academic, and symbolic. Ultimately, it's boring. I tried hard to get into it, but I couldn't.

The above-mentioned essay by Mr. Rowin is one of those lengthy academic pieces in which every aspect of an artist's work is examined and over-interpreted to the point of tedium. Such analysis starts with the writer believing that the artist is a complete genius. Therefore, ninety minutes of Ferreri taking a shit on a coffee table would be praised as an incredible act of political defiance. There's no right or wrong way to analyze anything, so Rowin's opinion on this film is no more dubious than mine.

Dillinger Is Dead is certainly not a stupid movie, and I'm sure it is making salient statements about the banal lives most of us lead. I get that. As something to watch for ninety minutes, it didn't resonate with me. It bored me. I felt myself nodding off on several occasions.

Ferreri considered himself 50% misogynist/50% feminist. I'm not sure how those percentages are distributed throughout Dillinger because both states of being are unreliable barometers signifying very little.

Ferreri's films are primarily about characters breaking taboos; the director got off on doing that. In Dillinger..., he must break a taboo in order to move up to a better way of life. Nobody can blame the guy for doing that. In real and reel life, we're usually forced to upset someone's apple cart in order to move forward.

An interesting film, but a rather dull one.

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