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Italy, 1972 (MIFF 1975)

Director: Marco Ferreri

This black comedy is directed by Marco Ferreri, who earlier made La grande bouffe. He has written the screenplay, together with Rafael Azcona, and the story draws heavily on Kafka's novel, The Castle.

A young man arrives in Rome from the provinces with an important message for the Pope. He refuses to disclose the information to anybody else, and his persistence arouses the suspicions of the Vatican's security corps. He is harassed by the police and clerical officials. At first they think he is dangerous, and then mad. The police inspector asks his mistress, played by Claudia Cardinale, to seduce the young man and discover his supposed revolutionary schemes. He is put in an asylum and eventually goes to live with an old artist who creates miniature sculptures. The most impressive of these is one of the Vatican as a ruined city.

The scope of the satire is extended through sequences of a Vatican nobleman training right-wing guerillas, as well as indulging his foot fetishism. The clergy try to run the Church like efficiency experts, and pray for the starving poor at an extravagant banquet. Finally, the young man dies of pneumonia on a Vatican street, still without having seen the Pope.

The film includes performances from Vittorio Gassman as the nobleman, and Michel Piccoli as a French priest.

'For uninitiates (non-Italians) the pace may seem somewhat slow and overindulgent, and the director also loses some credibility with some over-grotesque sequences which approach caricature, but there's no denying the ultimate impact of this well-made film.' Hawk, Variety

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