Cahiers du Coco: Fists in the Pocket

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[Join Ettes leader and Fond Object founder Coco Hames as she moves through the Janus Films Essential Art House DVD box set one film at a time.]

FISTS IN THE POCKET directed by MARCO BELLOCCHIO (1965)
Italian with subtitles
Running time: 108 minutes

Oh, I like Fists in the Pocket. I love everything about it. The era, the look of it, the style, his sweater, the girl's HAIR, the crazy story, the dialogue, the title, all of it! Wonderful! I'd move INTO it if it weren't such a crazy scene (and also not possible). I will tell you it's movies like these that got me into Janus Films (and film, in general), so I'll try not to drool too much talking about it.

I like how imdb.com states succinctly, "Ale, a deeply disturbed young man subject to seizures, benignly decides to murder members of his dysfunctional family for altruistic reasons." I never was good at the elevator pitch (surprised?) but that's a fun jumping-off point.

Fists in the Pocket shows a family on the outside of society, in more ways than one. All the grown children (but one) suffer from a hereditary seizure disease — the translation on the Janus film says epilepsy — and take turns caring for each other between violent and dangerous fits. That's difficult enough. But the aging mother is blind and distant, and epilepsy is not the only illness troubling the kids: they're all crazy.

The brother/sister thing going on between Ale (in an explosive breakout performance by Lou Castel) and Giulia (the Vitti-esque Paola Pitagura) is as uncomfortable as you could hope for, and the boiling-point vibe of the film sets you perfectly on edge the whole time. In one oft-revisted setup, there is a picture clear as day of Marlon Brando just over Giulia's shoulder in the frame, and there's no mistaking the parallel we are meant to draw between Brando and Castel. Oh, you do, all right — you get it, and you're not disappointed.

When I watch this movie, I can't help thinking it would be hard to get made now, let alone in 1965. It is cray-double-cray! And it's ironic that Marco Bellocchio would have his first major film largely funded by his family (and filmed at their estate) when the movie is about breaking down classic family roles and values, mocking tradition and religion, breaking standard taboos about love, sex, duty, society, life. Its debut here in the U.S. was in 1968, and the timing was right on.

I have a goat named Lou and I am going to pretend I named him after Lou Castel.

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