In this magnificently inscrutable late-sixties masterpiece, Marco Ferreri, one of European cinema’s most idiosyncratic auteurs, takes us through the looking glass to one seemingly routine night in the life of an Italian gas mask designer, played, in a tour de force performance, by New Wave icon Michel Piccoli. In his claustrophobic, mod home, he pampers his pill-popping wife, seduces his maid, and uncovers a gun that may have once been owned by John Dillinger—and then things get even stranger. A surreal political missive about social malaise, Dillinger Is Dead finds absurdity in the mundane. It is a singular experience, both illogical and grandly existential. —The Criterion Collection
An agent for a liqueur company, he became involved in the cinema by making short advertising films; later he worked in the production sector and finally in the sale of cinema equipment, moving to Spain. There he met the young humorist Rafael Azcona, with whom he set up an extraordinary, lasting working relationship: the first fruits of their partnership were “El pisito” (1958), “Los chicos” (1959) and “The Little Coach (El cochecito)” (1960), the three “Spanish comedies” marked by a corrosive anti-bourgeois sarcasm. On returning to Italy, Ferreri continued his Spanish theme with “Queen Bee (L’ape regina)” (1963), an anti-Catholic satire in which the institution of matrimony is so fiercely under fire as to unleash the ire of the censor (requiring various cuts in the film and a slight change to the title). He fared no better with “The Ape Woman (La donna scimmia)” (1964), a bitter and lucid parable on the relationships between the sexes, dominated by the exploitation of the weaker sex… read more
When I eventually make a feature film, it will most likely be in the vein of this one. Ferreri's Dillinger Is Dead exists in the space between narrative cinema and avant-garde abstraction. Michel Piccoli plays a gas mask designer who discovers a revolver wrapped up in a newspaper full of articles about John Dillinger. Mostly he just skulks his uber-mod home with its garish pop art colors, while listening to the top hits on the radio and watching his homemade movies. The film is a complete breakdown of logic and bourgeois values into incomprehensible abstraction. There are elements of Bunuel and Godard, and Ferreri anticipates Rappaport in many ways, but his work is more whimsical, more subtle, less obvious, but just as stylized and cool. An easy one to fall in love with, and a hard one to forget.
"For all of its enduring popularity The African Queen has not been available on American home video since the distant days of the laserdisc