“The effect that produced I pugni in tasca in 1965 can only be called disturbing in every sense of the word. Disturbing because it divided couples and friends, forcing them to take a stand in regards to their cinematic passions. Disturbing for the established values of Italian cinema at the time. Disturbing for the big names, because in one fell swoop, the arrival of Marco Bellocchio on the scene suddenly aged them.”
Fifty years after the film premiered at the Festival del film Locarno, the words of Alberto Moravia preserve all of their flavour and at the same time have the ring of a manifesto for a film festival aiming for the avant-garde. Marco Bellocchio’s film belongs to the history of Locarno as a place of discovery and for launching films that can, without any fear of misunderstanding, be considered uncomfortable.
In addition to this important anniversary, the happy coincidence of an important restoration project by the Cineteca di Bologna offers the opportunity not only to rescreen this extraordinary film in Piazza Grande, but also to celebrate its director, Marco Bellocchio, given that the work condenses many of the themes that he went on to develop during the rest of his career. There is no doubt: I pugni in tasca is a pivotal film, not only for its director, who would return many times to its concepts of family, madness and rebellion, but also for many other films that came after it, both in Italy and further afield. The decision to give the Pardo d’onore Swisscom to Marco Bellocchio is based on the awareness that his way of making movies has a lot to say to those who live in Italy but also to filmmakers in the rest of the world. Since Locarno dedicated an important retrospective to Marco Bellocchio in 1997, he has directed eight feature films and more than ten shorts, developing a path that shows a strong coherence, though divided into two main threads. The more intimate trajectory based in his home town of Bobbio (think of the Sorelle and Sorelle Mai diptych) meets other trajectories that investigate Italian society and its past more broadly. Just as in his debut film, shot at his own home, the family – explored in its disconnects and instabilities – becomes the ideal prism for reflecting the idiosyncrasies if not of a country, then at least of a generation.
Marco Bellocchio has continued to observe Italy during recent years with a unique lucidity, alternating films that look towards the past (La balia, Buongiorno notte, Vincere) with others immersed in the present (L’ora di religione, Il regista di matrimoni, Bella addormentata). For Bellocchio, the past is never the past and the present is never just the present. After all, the director, who has dedicated a good portion of his work to the archives of the past, knows all too well the power of images as both the precipitate of a precise moment and at the same time the metaphor of a condition. It is no coincidence that in this most recent phase of his career, the archive has acquired a new function, moving from documentary material to a narrative tool in dialogue with the rest of the fictional subject matter. These aesthetic choices once again reveal a filmmaker whose modernity is always discomfiting, his voice more necessary and vital than ever before.