After the epic, intimate density of the Venice retrospective’s Anna, Augusto Tretti’s long-to complete Il potere (1972, started seven years earlier) is pure blunt-force political comedy. Employing lofi production techniques, non-professional actors, gag-and-landscape based mise-en-scène, Tretti’s film bares close resembles to films French New Waver Luc Moullet was making at the time, yet attacking with politics and ideology as direct and transparant as its own cinema.
This feature goes through the ages of mankind’s subtle evolution of power manipulation, from the Stone Age (cavemen endlessly chasing a chicken, until lightning strikes the ground and one man claims to be the god of fire) to the Roman (social-agrarian land reforms squashed by murdering Senators!) to the climactic and longest segment in 1919 Italy starring a papier-mâché head Mussollini (with Tretti underneath) as he speaks in the language of nationalism, religion and reform while simultaneously working for capitalist interests. It sounds a bit dry and indeed the film is naught but its confrontationally unsubtle gags and undisguised (to a propaganda-like degree) political farce and satire—usually and best united as one, the gag-politic—but the sense of humor is splendid, and brashly stupid.
Three tiger-masked gods of Military, Commerce and Agriculture sit on thrones throughout the ages deciding how best to exploit the people for their own profit, all exploitations expressed as clearly and simply as possible, and thus rendered absurd and poignantly satiric. The spare filmmaking and repeated cast of unusual faces across the time periods calls back (that is to say, contemporaneously) to the Moulletian pleasure of unpretentious, presentational cinema. It is clear, direct and inevitably raw in what it attempts, whether jokes—a Mussollini parade of armymen is so lacking in numbers that the same troop keeps going in a circle, changing costumes around the corner and taking apart their bicycles to fashion fake cannons and tanks—or, as in the concluding segment of modern corporate-consumer capitalism (which features a sculpture-like product, "Moblon", which is heavily marketed but does nothing, and industrially produced eggs, connecting a circle from the opening chickens,), bitterly upfront political realities. It is defiantly and definitely a harsh but hilarious cinematic pill to take.