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Elio Petri: Time to investigate

September 04, 2003

The work of Elio Petri, one of Italy's most provocative directors of the 1960s and '70s, receives unique and overdue exposure this month when his Oscar-winning "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" plays at the Nuart and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art launches its "The Films of Elio Petri" program.

Petri, who died in 1982, first made an international splash in 1965 with the uneven and lurid sci-fi fantasy "The Tenth Victim," a lampoon of the decade's excesses. Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress starred in the film, which envisioned a time when war and aggression are replaced by a game of legalized murder. Petri is best remembered for "Investigation" (1970), in which his combination of caustic political protest and commanding style reached its apex.

LACMA's two-weekend program in the Bing Theater starts Friday. "L'Assassino" (1961), while dated and extremely conventional in style for Petri, remains timeless and compelling, thanks to a remarkable performance by Mastroianni.

Along with "Investigation," Petri's other finest accomplishment may well be the starkly ironic and uncompromising political thriller "We Still Kill the Old Way" (1967), set in a Sicily where past and present clash in comic and tragic ways.

-- Kevin Thomas

"Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" opens Sept. 26 for a one-week run at the Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.

LACMA's "The Films of Elio Petri" screenings are Friday and Saturday and Sept. 12-13, 7:30 p.m. Info: www.lacma.org.

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