Slap the Monster on Page One ★★★★


Alternative facts. Fake news. Disinformation. Steve Bannon. Vladislov Surkov.

In light of our charged political atmosphere, I’ve increasingly been thinking about ideologically engaged Italian cinema from the 1960s and 70s.

Post War Italy till about the late 1970s was a motherlode of cinematic innovation, subversion and experimentation. Reinventing genres and embracing bold storytelling. From Neorealism to Spaghetti Westerns, Giallos, Poliziotteschi and more, it wouldn’t be hard to argue that Italian
cinema was as much at the forefront of the art as Japanese, French and American industries during that prime period. Not to mention the long list of auteurs who worked outside of genre.

Beyond these well known genre exports, there also arose a certain type of Political Film. Usually sympathetic to the working class and left-wingers, extremely critical of the bourgeoisie and those in power, but often enough taking a hard look at all sides and skeptical of ideology and
politics altogether. This cinema includes notables like Pasolini and Bertolucci, but also slightly lesser known, but no less greater names: Lina Wertmuller, Elio Petri, Francesco Rosi and the director of our first Movie Club selection Marco Bellocchio.

Bellocchio’s debut film, Fists in Pocket, was a proto-punk spit in the face and he would stick to provocations pretty steadily for the first 20 years of his career. Slap the Monster on Page One is no exception and seems especially prescient during our American-Media-Circus-White-House.

Much like this post-’68 Italy, Americans find themselves in a highly divisive cultural environment, where information is scarce, sources are malleable, each side has its own version of “the truth,” and political gains come from explosive sacrifices.

Replete with charged conversations and effortlessly symbolic imagery from beginning to end, Slap the Monster on Page One, shifts genres without a second thought, letting the pace zip along, as you crawl in your skin watching the sinister machinations within.

Here’s an interview excerpt with Bellocchio about his 2012 film, D ormant Beauty, which I found pertinent and interesting with regards to his entire body of work:

“I don’t have some preconceived ideas of what freedom is; I don’t have my own philosophical idea of freedom. However, this film was made with great freedom. It’s not an ideological film. I’m not out there to denounce or support anything…This freedom that I took to tell the story using
the point of view of people whose views I don’t share is part of who I am. For me, it’s enriching to have the freedom to tell a story that does not express only my own point of view. It’s a great bonus to be able to put myself in the shoes of people whose points of view are unlike mine.”