- Petri, Elio
- (1929-1982)(Born Eraclio Petri.) Screenwriter and director. A journalist and film reviewer for the Communist Party daily L'unita, Petri graduated to writing for the cinema in 1951 when he was invited by director Giuseppe De Santis to collaborate on the screenplay of Roma ore 11 (Rome 11:00, 1952). While continuing to work as a screenwriter for De Santis and others, Petri also made several documentaries before directing his first feature, L'assassino (The Assassin, 1961), an intriguing police thriller starring Marcello Mastroianni that was nominated for the Golden Bear at Berlin. This was followed by I giorni contati (Numbered Days, 1962), an interesting portrayal of an existential midlife crisis, and La decimal vittima (The Tenth Victim, 1965), a science fiction story set in the 21st century that appeared to be part James Bond, part Hitchcock, and part George Orwell. A ciascuno il suo (We Still Kill the Old Way, 1967), adapted from a novel by Leonardo Sciascia and ostensibly about the Mafia but effectively exploring wider legal and illegal power networks, was hailed as a major work and won four Nastri d'argento and a nomination for the Palme d'or at Cannes. Then, after the ironically titled Un tranquillo posto di campagna (A Quiet Place in the Country, 1969), the portrait of a disturbed artist tormented by both ghosts and hallucinations, Petri made what is generally regarded as his best film, Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, 1970). The first of a series of strongly committed political works displaying an open distrust, and often outright cynicism, toward all established authority, the film was both commercially and critically successful and went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. The caricatural and slightly hysterical style that had characterized Indagine returned in La classe operaia va in paradiso (The Working Class Goes to Heaven, 1971), a film that was fiercely attacked for what appeared to be its very confused prolabor ideology but which nevertheless was awarded the Palme d'or at Cannes and the David di Donatello for Best Film. The same mixture of caricature and black humor reappeared in La proprieta non e piu un furto (Property Is No Longer a Theft, 1973) and then Todo modo (1976), a mercilessly grotesque and transparent portrait of the ruling Christian Democrat Party, again adapted from a work by Sciascia. After Le mani sporche (Soiled Hands, 1978), a production of Jean-Paul Sartre's play for Italian television, Petri's last film before his untimely death from cancer at the age of only 53 was Le buone no-tizie (GoodNews, 1979), another grotesque social satire, this time directed at the Italian television industry.
Historical dictionary of Italian cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.