Elio Petri has one image, Modern Man like a trussed Rodin surrounded by whirring appliances and skewered by his babe, "un vero peccato." The frenzied mind laid bare belongs to the blocked Milanese artist (Franco Nero) futilely smearing his canvases with thick paint; his patron is his mistress (Vanessa Redgrave), also his nurse and killer in increasingly cacophonous visions. The Pop movement is the nonstop clickety-clack of the city, all the painter longs for is a little silence so he settles in the old cottage near the woods. "Only death is quieter," declares the groundskeeper. Bergman’s cracked aesthete in Hour of the Wolf is besieged by the beasts of Symbolism, in this version the clammy psyche is a Rauschenberg cutout-collage of crumbling frescoes, stroke magazines and gooey hues. D’Annunzio’s haunted castle, where creaking doors multiply with a roar; the specter of the promiscuous Contessa (Gabriella Grimaldi) who both titillated and maddened fascismo, the buried past and a new muse. Fear of castration giving way to misogynistic venom, artistic inspiration shading into supernatural possession, a slew of conceits flashed by Petri like a stuttering slide show. "Crisis of humanity?" "Eh... crisis of shit!" A riotous horror style dilated from Bava for the protagonist’s mania, an unmoored mind stabbed by every chord of Ennio Morricone’s most dissonant score. The butcher knife in the glowing electric dishwasher, the corpse in the garden, séances and dismemberment -- all grist to Verhoeven’s parodical mill (The Fourth Man). The punchline is the creative tranquility after the rupture, the realization that the crazy house is sometimes the best atelier. With Georges Géret and Madeleine Damian.
--- Fernando F. Croce