Bertolucci, while a cinephile, had spent very little time on actual movie sets before making this film at age 21.
It’s a Rashomon like exploration of the murder of a prostitute. We see various men being questioned by police in a
stylized way – we never see the questioner, only the witness, sitting in a pool of harsh light. We hear the man begin
to tell what he did or saw on the fateful day, while cutting to images of his actual experience, often at odds with what
we hear him telling the police. By the end of the film we get a picture of what happened that night for each of these
men and the woman who was killed. Beautifully photographed, with an excellent sense of composition, it’s a pretty
strong little film.
There are weak spots; the acting is variable at best, in a few cases cringe-inducingly over the top. Also, much of the
dialogue was evidently post recorded, so even though the actors are Italians speaking Italian, their mouths are sometimes
out of sync with their voices, and the dialogue often has a tinny artificial quality.
But quibbles aside, the film has a haunting quality that marks the start of a great film-maker’s career, and makes this
well worth seeing.