Smell of Night is still an essential film

There is a beautiful 2019 documentary born from the minds of Simone Isola and Fausto Trombetta called If there is an afterlife I’m screwed – life and cinema by Claudio Caligari, rentable and/or purchasable, at the time this article is written, on Prime Video. A very precious document that makes use of extraordinary voices very close to the director originally from Arona, including that of Valerio Mastandreafirst the protagonist of the film we are about to talk about and then his great collaborator, thanks to whom we were able to see Do not be naughty of 2014, the posthumous film of Claudio Caligari which launched two actors such as Luca Marinelli and Alessandro Borghi.


Valerio Mastandrea on the set of L’Odore della Notte.

A documentary so well made that the extraordinary value of its value lies entirely in the choice to associate the words “life” and “cinema” in its title. It is in fact very important to remember Caligari not only by virtue of his status as a director cult and for his incredible political commitment, but also for how much of his private life he brought into his screenplays, for how much he loved cinema and for his avant-garde vision of the audiovisual medium. The latter allowed him to bring to the screen very delicate themes with an incredibly truthful and effective slantmanaging to mix pulpNouvelle Vague, New Hollywood and Neorealism, and made it a very important link between the modern and more commercial imagination linked to outsider and the poignant Pasolini realities. His nature as a man of cinema gave him the opportunity to only have three feature films financed, even if those feature films are of the caliber of the one mentioned at the beginning of the article, Toxic love e The smell of the night. Perhaps the most important from a linguistic point of view is the one starring Mastandrea.

The 1998 film, freely based on the truth book by journalist Dido Sacchettoni, The Nights of A Clockwork Orangeis probably the one that has produced a greater legacy than the other two titles, as well as being, in its genre, a peak not yet reached by our cinema, also perhaps due to the very intimate nature of a film which owes its extraordinary nature to reasons linked to the overflowing personality of its director. An essential film to understand where a certain cinematic current comes from and is still current in terms of power and complexity of vision, which returns to theaters on November 20th in 4K version for its twenty-fifth anniversary, distributed by Cat People.

The younger children of History


Valerio Mastandrea and Marco Giallini on the set of L’odore della notte.

The smell of the night tells the story of Remo Guerra (Mastandrea), a policeman in Rome in the 70s, who carries out his regular service during the day, while at night he dedicates himself to a clandestine fight against the upper levels of the capital . Him, together with his gang of misfits (who have the fantastic faces of Marco Giallini, Giorgio Tirabassi e Emanuel Bevilacqua), they attack the bourgeoisie, those they consider to be the privileged, the favorite children, only to disfigure them, dirty their figure and thus make them equal to them, marked, broken and maimed.

Don’t be bad: Valerio Mastandrea and the cast talk about Claudio Caligari’s latest challenge

There is no hope in the delinquent attacks of Remo and his men, given that the dream of the bar is only a pretext, a political utopia, like the one that moved the struggles of the Italian proletariat, from those “loyal to the line” to those of the Red Brigades, as Claudio Caligari said several times, he who was close to joining in the Red Brigades he was there seriously. The protagonists of the film are excluded, forgotten, not only because they were first seduced and then abandoned, but also because they themselves are the first to see themselves as such, so much so that what they want is to become the bearer of a betrayal that they have felt for a long time. on him and which now clogs even the air of Rome.


A scene from The Odor of the Night.

From this perspective, the title of the film can be read almost as a social justice movement, but in a completely reversed sense. An anti-individualistic leveling force, deformed by the violence with which the latter try to make the former similar to them and bring everything down instead of seeking a common progression. A furnace that, bubbling, wants to swallow up all those who have ignored it, put it under the carpet, first lit and then left aside, but without real redemption, but only out of the will to continue doing so. As if moved by an irrepressible “desire to lose“.

The modern complexity of Caligari cinema


Giorgio Tirabassi and Valerio Mastandrea in The Odor of the Night.

The smell of the night And a noir on the contrary in which in the destructuring of a public official and of the Roman suburb we find all the melancholy of Caligari. It is like a glove that envelops a struggle for a better life already considered lost from the start and which therefore ends in violence as an end in itself, closed in a vicious circle that leads those who lead it only to self-destruction. Valerio Mastandrea, in one of the best tests of his career, is a broken and desperate black knight, a crazy driver who only seeks the guard rail to be able to crash. A heartbreaking image that the director from Arona draws in a disenchanted way, perhaps not even trying to make himself heard by the public and by a systemic cinema that has always kept him on the margins. His cinema had become more of a clash than a confrontation.

If there is an afterlife I’m screwed: a journey into Claudio Caligari’s cinema

There is much that is painful in the analysis of the story that the film brings to the scene, while the only truly moving thing is the love for cinema that exudes from his images. Taking up the legacy of Fernando Di Leo, Caligari puts on the scene a film that draws heavily on the poetic rawness of Pier Paolo Pasolini and by the political ferocity of Marco Ferreri (two of his absolute points of reference), modernizing their cinematic vision thanks to the mixture with the American language. Just as noir cites and overturns, the director in fact cites and overturns the charm of evil Martin Scorsese, rejecting the spectator, questioning any kind of empathy towards his violent latter, despite the fact that he is the first to make them literary figures. Suffice it to say that to represent the capture of his Oar, the director makes him the protagonist of a very long reference to the ending of Godard’s Breathless.


Marco Giallini in The Odor of the Night.

A modern complexity that of The smell of the nightuncomfortable for the spectator of the time and to some extent also uncomfortable for the spectator of now, ambiguous at first reading, but in reality incredibly and sincerely human. Caligari was not one to settleIndeed, he was the type of artist who took his actions to the extreme consequences. An artist willing to shoot at television and at his audience, as Mastandrea does in the film, in order to achieve the completeness of his vision. Many have done it again and many have looked at his cinema with fear and envy, because courage has a price that many are not willing to pay, but it gives eternity, which will not be that linked to the afterlife, but that linked to the cinematic legacy yes.

Leave a Comment