DVD Debut: Dillinger Is Dead

Dillinger Is Dead (Criterion)

Italian auteur Marco Ferreri’s films profile a modern consumer culture that is not simply empty but diseased, deadening emotions and driving people (specifically men) to acts of excess. The epitome is La Grande Bouffe, his grotesque 1973 men so bored life they decide to end it all in one final orgy, a food-and-sex blow-out, but you can find the seeds of that in the 1969 Dillinger in Dead, recently restored and rereleased in a revival run and now on DVD from Criterion.

Michel Piccoli plays with his new toy

It’s not a gangster film but an eerie character study of an industrial engineer (Michel Piccoli) over a long night where boredom and ennui and alienation (he’s in the middle of designing a gas mask) take their toll. Set almost entirely within the walls of a cluttered modern apartment filled with cultural detritus, Piccoli’s character plays like a spirited kid in a life-size toy box while his gorgeous but emotionally disconnected wife (Anita Pallenberg) medicates herself to sleep. He watches (and then interacts with) home movies, cooks up a snack, grabs a quickie with the maid (Annie Girardot), but the toy that fascinates him most is a handgun (which he cleans in olive oil) that may have belonged to Dillinger (or is simply wrapped up in the gangster’s mystic, which becomes both as his tool of liberation and of his ultimate act of arrogance and human contempt.

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