In Italy, They Call It “Battle Royale with Cheese”: I watch “The Tenth Victim”

Did you know that there’s a ’60s sunlit dystopia flick about a game show/social control mechanism where you hunt folk? Did you know it’s also a romcom starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress? The Tenth Victim is wigged-out, askew, sexy in a PG-13 adolescent kind of way, and the most Roman movie I’ve ever seen. (I’ve seen The Great Beauty.)

I loved this thing. I loved the interview with the “hunter”: “Do you believe in God?” “Of course.” “Do you believe in the family?” “A little less.” “Why did you go blond?”

I loved the location-scouting: “Let’s not fool ourselves. The Vatican wouldn’t allow it. They’re against the Big Hunt.” “Yes, but I have friends….”

I loved the sunset-worshipers and their protesters. I loved the propaganda slogans (“Why control the births when we can increase the deaths?” “Live dangerously, but within the law”). I loved the black-and-white clothes. I loved the America vs. Italy stuff–Andress plays an American who’s baffled by the idea that a man would be married only once. “Is he… all there?” she asks, trying to figure out this bizarre creature. (Also the romance is totally okay, guys, he got an annulment! This movie, I tell you.) In the USA you can hunt people just absolutely anywhere whereas in Rome entertainment-murder is strictly regulated.

There’s a weirdly prescient analysis of why terror of divorce makes people avoid marriage. Also, my goodness, there’s some Ursula Andress all up in your face.

There are grim subcurrents here–all the maimed and bandaged postwar people, “This year it’s trendy to kill women,” etc–but all of it is played as colorful sunshine satire. Just an unnecessarily smart movie.

“If you don’t mind, take the television last.”

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About Eve Tushnet