A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Grim Reaper (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1962)

The Grim Reaper suffers from some inevitable comparisons. Because it's a film in which police investigating a crime are given accounts by people with varying points of view, it's often compared to Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950), even though Bertolucci claims he hadn't seen that film before making his. Because it's based on a story by Pier Paolo Pasolini, who also worked on the screenplay with Bertolucci and Sergio Citti, and producer Tonino Cervi said he wanted the film made in the style of a Pasolini movie, Bertolucci, who had worked on Pasolini's first hit, Accatone (1961), was judged and found wanting accordingly. And finally, the film doesn't measure up to Bertolucci's later work, such as The Conformist (1970) and Last Tango in Paris (1972). But considering that Bertolucci was barely into his 20s when he made The Grim Reaper, it's an impressive film, with a deft use of unknown actors and atmospheric Roman locations. The episodes in which the suspects are interrogated and we see the events they testify about in flashback are linked by a sudden thundershower in each episode and by sequences in which the victim, a prostitute, gets ready to go out to her fatal assignation. It's not compelling filmmaking, but a significant start to a major career.