Enigmatic Italian parodist Marco Ferreri has traveled a route familiar to so many non-canonical European art directors: condemnation from the squares, encomium from the die-hards, avoidance from even arthouse distributors, and then the long winter of obscurity. Considered by enthusiasts to be his first masterpiece, nightmarish 1969 happening Dillinger is Dead could ignite Ferreri’s reputation here in a first U.S. release, but only on its own lastingly abrasive terms. Opaque and hirsute Michel Piccoli plays Glauco, an industrial designer of fashionable gas masks who undergoes an of-its-time anti-bourgeois transformation when he comes home to a bored wife, laboriously plays cook, discovers a Dillinger gun wrapped in ancient newspaper clippings announcing the infamous bandit’s demise, and initiates a romp of absurd acts culminating in sex, murder and liberation.
Misogynist fantasy or satire of misogynist fantasy? Located historically and stylistically smack between Pasolini’s Teorema and Fassbinder and Fengler’s Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? — those other late 60s erotic and thanatotic violations of upper-middle class security — Dillinger upends a meticulously quotidian account of its comfortably situated protagonist’s unraveling with kooky and caustic surrealism, including Glauco’s childlike immersion in a cine-bath of grotesquely mundane home movies projected across his mod living room and a wall-to-wall soundtrack/commentary of psychedelic light jazz and American AM gold. Ferreri, best known for the cartoonish male gluttony of La Grande Bouffe, dulls the blade slightly by providing only perfunctory evidence of Glauco’s corruption, relying on an expository prologue about “standardization,” “industrialization,” and how “even the old sense of alienation is no longer possible.” Nonetheless, despite such over-intellectualizing giveaways, Glauco’s is as dippy and disarming a self-immolation as you’ll find outside Godard’s Pierrot. Long live Dillinger.