Cadaveri eccellenti (Illustrious Corpses). 1976. Italy. Directed by Francesco Rosi. Written by Tonino Guerra, Lino Jannuzzi, Francesco Rosi, from a book by Leonardo Sciascia. With Lino Ventura, Renato Salvatori, Alain Cuny, Tina Aumont. In Italian; English subtitles. 4K restoration courtesy of The Film Foundation and Cineteca Bologna. 120 min.
The agony of Italy during the anni di piombo (“leaden years”) of the 1970s, when the country was racked by terrorism on the left, a neo-fascist moment on the right, and a seemingly impotent national government in between, inspired its own sub-genre of cinema, called le poliziottesco. Directors such as Umberto Lenzi and Stelvio Massi explored new levels of violence and cynicism in films built around the endless, amoral conflict of bloodthirsty gangsters and corrupt cops. Francesco Rosi’s 1976 Cadaveri eccellenti attempts to take a step back from the genre’s nihilistic tendencies, with Ventura (in a rare performance in his native language) as a principled police inspector who begins to suspect that a grander conspiracy lies behind the chaos.