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03/18/15 9:00am
03/18/2015 9:00 AM |

A scene from Marco Bellocchio's CHINA IS NEAR (1967). Courtesy S

China Is Near (1967)
Directed by Marco Bellocchio
Two working-class secretaries, Giovanna (Daniela Surina) and Carlo (Paolo Graziosi), enact a plan to climb up the social ladder with the unwitting help of inexperienced professor-turned-Socialist council candidate Vittorio (Glauco Mauri) and his sexually promiscuous sister Elena (Elda Tattoli, also co-writer). But in the world of China is Near, no one—not even Vittorio’s passionate young Maoist altar-boy brother, Camillo (Pierluigi Apra)—is spared Bellocchio’s satirical blade. Those who only know Bellocchio from the more-humanist bent of recent efforts like Vincere and Dormant Beauty may be startled by the serrated edge of the comedy in this, his follow-up to his even-more-incendiary 1965 debut Fists in the Pocket. Even in 1967, though, Bellocchio allows moments of nuance and empathy to shine through: Giovanna’s heartbreak upon realizing she’s as much of a pawn in Carlo’s machinations as everyone else; Vittorio’s desperate attempts to intellectually justify his selling out to a disappointed Camillo. Though the details of its political concerns place this squarely in the late 60s, Bellocchio’s wounding view of human beings hiding behind politics to justify appalling behavior still resonates. Kenji Fujishima (Mar 20-26 at Film Forum; showtimes daily)