While the French 68 was a mere burst of youth rage that imho ended in nothing, the Italian version of it lasted all the 70s and contributed to create one of the most tense periods in the country.
Rossi e neri (red and black or left and right) confronted each other during a whole decade in such a violent way that today’s Grillos’ or 15M’s movements’ acts look like child’s games.
That whole situation contributed to create a whole movement of intellectuals at both sides that deffended the thesis of their sides and produced books, newspapers, songs and movies portrait their beliefs.
In the cinema field it’s the time of the so-called Cinema politico (Political Cinema) in where the directors tried to depict the state, society and struggles.
Elio Petri or Francesco Rossi are some of the directors that followed this path, sometimes with the help of an actor that compromissed himself with leftism like no other. Gian Maria Volonté is the maximum dxponent of an actor that involves himself into politics but also in the film creation process, taking part in the script creation and modelling the characters beyond any actor would do. After La Classe Operaia va in paradiso or Indagine da un citaddino sopra ogni sospetto, he teamed withe Marco Bellochio in sbatti il mostro in prima pagina.
Today’s movie was finished in 1972 but it clearly depicts what media did and continue doing in our society. I strongly believe its message it’s quite valid and not old-fashioned at all.
The movie explains the treatment how Il Giornale (nothing to do with Montanelli’s newspaper, created 2 years after this film), a right-side newspaper, manipulates the information about the killing of a young girl to influence the result of the soon-to-happen election. Bizanti (Volonté) is the chief editor of Il Giornale, but in practice he is the one that controls the newspaper following orders directly from the owner. He won’t hesitate to manipulate, exaggerate or ignore the facts he is aware of, with the sole purpose to create the climate that will move the reader of Il Giornale in his desired direction. Working altogether the police, Bizanti gives them the guilty both the newspaper and the police need, not the real one. Never allow that truth destroys a good piece of news!
The movie treats the society as a puppet in the hands of the media. A puppet the media sometimes needs to be comforted but other times needs to be brought to indignation… just to serve the purpose of the elites. At the end the reality we see in newspapers and TV is the reality that somebody created and cooked to be served to us.
Two key moments. The long conversation between Volonté and Laura Betti (Rita Zigai) where he says: “I’d rather be a voluntary slave of a shitty newspaper than to be a purist that keeps spitting on the hand that feeds him”. Also worth mentioning the lesson Bizanti gives to Roveda (a young journalist) on how to create the perfect title for an article.