‘Illustrious Corpses’: A Mafia Thriller Heavy With Metaphors

The Italian analogue to “The Parallax View” and “The Conversation,” the Watergate-era conspiracy thrillers, “Illustrious Corpses” has breathtaking moments.

The 1976 New York Film Festival debut is currently showing at Film Forum through October 21 in a brand-new 4K restoration.


‘Illustrious Corpses’: A Mafia Thriller Heavy With Metaphors

“Illustrious Corpses,” a movie with high ambitions, is directed by Francesco Rosi, a political force in Italian cinema.

In the opening scene of this movie, the first of many judges to be assassinated falls from an assassin’s bullet after visiting the hallowed mummies of a church catacomb.

An orator later remarked, “The mafia killed him,” during the judge’s funeral. He was a member of the Mafia, young demonstrators shout in the street, expressing the specific argument of the movie.

Leonardo Sciascia, a Sicilian writer who frequently wrote about the mafia, utilises it as a metaphor in his work “Illustrious Corpses.” “Equal Danger” is “a narrative about authority everywhere,” according to Sciascia.

Italy isn’t mentioned, but the actual locations, like Palermo, Naples, and Rome, aren’t supposed to be metaphors either.

On the other hand, Rosi’s protagonist is a helpful cliche or abstraction. It’s left to the tenacious, honourable Inspector Rogas to solve the future killings (played by experienced roughneck Lino Ventura).

Amidst a backdrop of state-monitored strikes and protests, the police are conducting an existential inquiry. Strong indications point to the existence of forces that are invisible to the naked sight. Max Von Sydow portrays Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor as a judge, constructing a theology of judicial infallibility.

“Illustrious Corpses” “a superb example of trendy Italian filmmaking—elegantly composed, breathlessly paced, recorded in the brilliant, dry colours of a landscape in grief for the sun.” Even while the movie’s “indictment of the administration” had good intentions, he thought it was lacking in another way.

“Illustrious Corpses” is not only topical, but also quite precise in its handling of these topics, making reference to a bombing campaign by right-wing extremists to destabilise Italy as well as the “historic” settlement achieved by the Italian Communist Party and the government at the time.

The movie ends more forcefully than the book does with a quote attributed to Marxist scholar Antonio Gramsci, “The truth isn’t always revolutionary.”

Casting contributes to the sarcastic gravitas of the movie. The movie also has a minister of security from Spain played by Luis Buuel’s frequent alter ego, Fernando Ray, as well as two judges from France (Charles Vanel and Alain Cuny).

Despite the presence of a number of young revolutionaries, “Illustrious Corpses” is, as the title suggests, a world of elderly men.

The corrupt gerontocracy isn’t overthrown until Tina Aumont (the daughter of camp icon Maria Montez) makes a scene-stealing cameo as a victim of murder.

Exceptional Mortal Remains

The movie will be shown at The Film Forum in Manhattan (www.filmforum.org) through October 21.