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I Pugni in Tasca


(Fists in the Pocket)

Italy, 1965

Director: Marco Bellocchio

Production: Doria Cinematografica; black and white, 35mm; running time: 105 minutes. Filmed in 9 weeks. Cost 50,000,000 lire. Released 1965.

Production director: Ugo Novello; screenplay: Marco Bellocchio; assistant director: Giuseppe Lanci; photography: Alberto Marrama;editor: Aurelio Mangiarotti (pseudonym of Silvano Agosti); production designer: Gisella Longo; music: Ennio Morricone; artistic collaboration for dubbing and montage: Elda Tattoli.

Cast: Lou Castel (Alessandro); Paola Pitagora (Giulia); Marino Masé (Augusto); Liliana Gerace (Mother); Pier Luigi Troglio (Leone); Jennie MacNeil (Lucia); Maura Martini (Child); Giani Schicchi (Tonino); Alfredo Filippazzi (Doctor); Gianfranco Cella and Celestina Bellocchio (Youths at the party); Stefania Troglio (Waitress); Irene Agnelli (Bruna).

Awards: Locarno Film Festival, Vela d'argento; Venice Film Festival, Prize Outside of Competition, 1965.



Bellocchio, Marco, I pugni in tasca (scenario), Milan, 1967.


Wlaschin, Ken, Italian Cinema since the War, Cranbury, New Jersey, 1971.

Leprohon, Pierre, The Italian Cinema, New York, 1972.

Bernardi, Sandro, Bellocchio: Marco Bellocchio, Firenze, 1978.

Malanga, Paola, Marco Bellocchio, Milan, 1998.


Interview with Marco Bellocchio, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1965.

Bontemps, Jacques, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1965.

Jacob, Gilles, "Le Cercle de famille," in Cinéma (Paris), June 1966.

Bellocchio, Marco, "The Sterility of Provocation," in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), January 1967.

Delmas, Jean, "Les Poings dans les poches à travers les controverses," in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), nos. 27–28, 1968.

Lisor, A., in Image et Son (Paris), March 1972.

Zalaffi, N., "Entretien avec Marco Bellocchio," in Image et Son (Paris), April 1973.

Salvi, Demetrio, in Cineforum (Bergamo), vol. 33, no. 327, September 1993.

Masoni, T., "I trent'anni de I pugni in tasca," in Cineforum (Bergamo), vol. 35, no. 335, June 1995.

Lasagna, R., "Gli spettri l'epilessia a trent'anni da I pugni in tasca," in Cinema Nuovo (Bari), vol. 44, no. 356/357, July/October 1995.

* * *

After attending the Centro Sperimentale film school in Rome and then studying (on a grant) at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London, Marco Bellocchio returned to his native town of Piacenza and set out to make a feature film. Because he couldn't find a producer willing to underwrite the project, he borrowed money from one of his brothers and created a set in his family's country house near Bóbbio. He filmed for nine weeks on a shoestring budget of 50,000,000 lire (28,000 pounds sterling). The result, Fists in the Pocket, hit Italy like a bomb. The film was unanimously acclaimed for the skill of its direction and expressive camera work, and it received numerous awards at film festivals, thus ensuring international distribution. French critics compared the film favorably to Zero for Conduct by Jean Vigo and L'age d'or by Luis Buñuel, and Italian critics announced that they had not seen such a powerful debut since Visconti's Ossessione. For the next ten years Bellocchio was regarded as one of Italy's leading political filmmakers whose films also performed respectably at the box office.

Fists in the Pocket is about a family living in the provinces, and is a bitter denunciation of bourgeois values from an angry young member of the bourgeoisie. Situations are shown at their most extreme: two of the five family members are epileptics, the youngest son is an idiot, and the mother is blind—all abnormal states working as commentaries upon what Bellocchio sees as normal conditions in family life. The sister's epilepsy, for example, is a metaphor for the agonizing emotions of jealousy, incestual desire, and the fear that she always feels. The mother is blind because, as Bellocchio explained, "When a son becomes 18, his mother no longer sees him, no longer understands him, and is no longer of use to him." The only family member who has normal contacts with the outside world is Augusto, but he is also clearly representative of the hypocrisy and emptiness of so-called "normalcy."

Alessandro, the main character, acts as catalyst in the film. He respects Augusto so much that, in order to relieve Augusto of the burden of being the patriarchal protector of the sick family, he decides to kill everyone else in the house. The tiny push he gives the mother in the cemetery (which sends her literally to her grave) is an allegorical act testifying that within the bourgeois system a minor action is sufficient enough to make the whole structure fall. Alessandro kills his younger brother in the bathtub, which, with its warm water and Freudian connotations, represents the womb from which Alessandro never wanted Leone to emerge. Alessandro also attempts to kill his sister, with whom he has had an incestuous relationship. Meanwhile Augusto, acting out his role as true patriarch, allows his underling brother to commit crimes the result of which will be advantageous to himself.

The characters are depraved, fanatical, and morbid. As well, the film's rough style makes no concession to the traditional rapport among artist/character/spectator; here the spectator must remain active and question the director's objectivity in presenting gruesome events and bizarre psychological states. Bellocchio said in an interview (in Positif) that, although his work had exorcised demons from his own past, he wished to present that past in the most objective and critical way so that it might then be of use to others.

—Elaine Mancini

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