Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Would it have made a difference if the police had attended Via del Tempio immediately that the call had been made rather than celebrating the promotion of the Chief of Homicide to the Political Division? With scant regard for forensics, the apartment of the beautiful, glamourous and wealthy Mrs Augusta Terzi is awash with footprints and fingerprints, some of them no doubt those of the murderer but many of them belonging to the police including the former Chief, on the telephone, in the shower, on a coffee cup.

Her neighbour above is a surgeon, respected, regarded as a citizen above suspicion, so attention turns to her estranged husband or the student who lives below, Antonio Pace, known to be a radical, a subversive, a dissident, but with salacious stories of the circumstances of the killing fed to the gutter press from someone with knowledge of the case and the preposterous statements of inconstant witnesses the countless clues do not add up.

Released in Italy in early 1970, director Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto) won both the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, a stylish satire of corruption filmed in the sunshine of Rome, though like A Fistful of Dollars‘ Gian Maria Volonté as the former Chief of Homicide, neither he nor the city are named, Petri’s implication being that such abuse of power and position is endemic and faceless, the state above the law it imposes.

Given broad latitude in his actions, the Chief has access to the surveillance network of the police, phone lines tapped and conversations recorded without oversight, his own admitted connection to Augusta Terzi (Don’t Torture a Duckling‘s Florinda Bolkan) who had sought him out as a lover, playing taunting games in which she would pose for recreations of crime scene photos, disregarded by the police commissioner, he himself another citizen above suspicion given his high moral character.

Released in a new 4K restoration as part of the Criterion Collection, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is supported by a wealth of supplements, a feature length documentary on Petri, a fifty minute documentary on Volonté, archive interviews with Petri and composer Ennio Morricone whose title track was covered on Fantômas on their album of iconic movie themes The Director’s Cut and a discussion of the film by scholar Camilla Zamboni.

Explaining the circumstances of the filming and release, Italy having been attacked by terrorist bombings initially blamed on left-wing radicals after filming was completed in the summer of 1969 which made the film even more topical on release, and although the screenplay is solely credited to Petri and Ugo Pirro she describes how Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion was very much a collaboration between Petri and Volonté, himself something of a subversive playing against type as the impulsive Chief whose need for control leads him to manipulate the investigation in his absurd fantasy of ego.

Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is available on Blu-ray from Criterion now