Elio Petri’s Portrait of the Artist as Mental Patient

Italian director Elio Petri is probably best known for Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), which won the Oscar for Best Screenplay (by Petri and Ugo Pirro) in 1972. Yet, most of his other work, with the possible exception of the cult sci-fi satire The 10th Victim (1965), remains overlooked or forgotten when film historians write about the great Italian directors of the sixties and seventies. And 1968’s A Quiet Place in the Country (Un Tranquillo Posto di Campagna) is easily one of his most intriguing and visually compelling films.

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Defiantly Abnormal

(from left to right) Paul L. Smith, David Carradine, unidentified child actor, Brad Dourif) in Sonny Boy

(from left to right) Paul L. Smith, David Carradine, unidentified child actor, Brad Dourif) in Sonny Boy

Occasionally a movie comes along that is so unclassifiable and non-mainstream that you have to wonder who the filmmakers were targeting as their intended audience. Sonny Boy (1989), directed by the virtually unknown Robert Martin Carroll, is a remarkable example of this quandary. Is it an exploitation movie with art-film aspirations? The casting alone – David Carradine, Brad Dourif, Paul L. Smith, Sydney Lassick and Conrad Janis – has built-in cult appeal but the highly eccentric storyline and grotesque characters are completely polarizing. Either you’ll tune out immediately or watch in fascination and disbelief. It is hard to imagine an indifferent viewer.   Continue reading