Little over halfway into Marco Bellocchio's acid-dipped 1965 debut Fists in the Pocket, the criminally malcontent Alessandro (Lou Castel) and his happy-go-lucky sister Giulia (Paola Pitagora) chuck their deceased mother's furniture into the backyard of their villa, build a bonfire, and celebrate the burning of all things past. Afterwards, they drift off-screen, but Bellocchio stays on the scene. We watch as Leone -- Alessandro's younger brother, an epileptic halfwit -- picks through the bonfire's smoking remains for items of their mother's still intact, then chides the others for wasting a perfectly good pot. The scene illustrates Fists' mordant and bizarre sense of humor, and also functions as a metaphor for the movie's theme of how, in order to find your footing in modern bourgeois society, you've got to cast off any and all undesirable parts of yourself. Blind and needy, the mother was better dead than alive. Not much later, Leone's value too is weighed on the same scale.
Teenager Alessandro doesn't know what he wants, but life in his dead-end Italian town has got him angry, fidgety, and restless -- not a safe state of affairs for somebody who's already mentally on edge. Like Leone, Alessandro is prone to epileptic fits. What's more, with his cool, pragmatic attitude to murder and suicide, he's also a budding serial killer. In his older brother, Augusto (Marion Masé), Alessandro sees a suave (not to mention, sane) go-getter with a girlfriend, and who might have a shot at happiness if he weren't indentured to a clan of cripples and lunatics. Dangerously self-loathing, rattling the bars of his existential cage, Alessandro pledges to make life easier for Augusto by killing off his familial "liabilities." And so it goes, with Alessandro expressing not a shred of regret until his own infirmities begin to threaten the consummation of his scheme.
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