Murder And Mystery In La Commare Secca

Murder And Mystery In La Commare Secca

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Mr Bongo Records 

Release date: April 25th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 93 minutes

Original language: Italian with English subtitles
Country of origin: Italy

Year of production: 1962

Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
Writers: Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sergio Citti

Cast: Francesco Rula, Giancarlo De Rosa, Marisa Solinas, Vincenzo Ciccora, Alvara D’Ercole, Romano Labate, Allen Midgette

Based on a story by Pier Paolo Pasolini, La Commare Secca was director Bernardo Bertolucci’s first feature at the age of 21. After writing the screenplay, he had hoped Pasolini, would direct, but he wanted to work on Mamma Roma (1962) instead.

Complex and well crafted, it’s a murder mystery that begins with the discovery of a prostitute’s body near the river bank. From there, the police interrogations begin and what follows are a series of interconnected accounts of each suspect’s whereabouts leading up to the time of the murder.

The Grim Reaper/La Commare Secca

Could it be the young thief, Nino (Giancarlo de Rosa), who was seen walking through the park late that night? The soldier, Teodoro (Allen Midgette) who was spotted sleeping on a nearby bench might know something. What about the two boys, Pipito (Romano Labate) and Francolicchio (Alvaro D’Ercole), who followed a gay man to a darkened underpass? And why was there a guy wearing clogs?

Yes, they all have a lot to answer for and each one is as suspicious as the next, especially the greedy, cheating playboy, Bostelli (Alfredo Leggi) who was also in the vicinity of the crime that night.

Although their accounts are varying, they do share one thing in common – they remember a thunderstorm earlier that day and that’s the same moment when the not-yet-dead prostitute is in her apartment getting ready.

The Grim Reaper/La Commare Secca

While Bertolucci captures Rome with an almost film noir-like feel, there is a sense of romanticism despite the poverty and grittiness that’s all around. Pipito and Francolicchio are hopelessly in love two girls who bring them sandwiches for lunch and the camera lingers on them as they dance and sing, oblivious to the world and forgetting their hunger.

Teodoro, even though he has no place to stay, seems to be in love with the city itself, wandering aimlessly from place to place and soaking in all that’s around him, before falling asleep on a bench.

La Commare Secca, even though it has a murder case to solve, takes its time to show us the lives of each of its characters. It wants us to see their passion, their anger, their greed, their joy and the murder itself becomes secondary to the point when the culprit is revealed, its somewhat underwhelming.

In spite of this, the separate stories are very much enjoyable and the performances are extremely good and a special mention has to be made of Allen Midgette who is a revelation in this film. As a directorial debut, it shows great promise for Bertolucci who would go on to direct Before the Revolution (1964), Last Tango in Paris (1972), The Last Emperor (1987) and The Sheltering Sky (1990) among others.

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