A Pure Formality

Une Pure Formalité

Year: 1994
Country: Italy
Running time: 108 mins
Screenplay: Giuseppe Tornatore
Production co: C.G. Tiger Cinematografica/Film Par Film
Producers: Mario Cecchi Gori, Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Executive producers: Bruno Altissimi, Claudio Saraceni
Dialogue: Pascal Quignard
Photography: Blasco Giurato
Production design: Andrea Crisanti
Costumes: Beatrice Bordone
Music: Ennio Morricone

Onoff: Gérard Depardieu
Inspector: Roman Polanski
Young policeman: Sergio Rubini
Captain: Nicola Di Pinto
Warrant officer: Paolo Lombardi
Janitor: Tano Cimarosa
Paola: Maria Rosa Spagnolo

Festivals: Cannes, 1994. Sundance, 1995
If your appreciation of Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore is based on the sentimental lyricism of his Cinema Paradiso, get ready for another point of view. As powerful and effective as he was in creating that world on film, he is equally inventive and successful in delineating this allegorical universe of life and death... As the film opens, Onoff (Depardieu) is a mysterious figure running madly through the woods in a driving rainstorm when he encounters the police and is stopped and arrested. At the station he fumes while the officers wait for the arrival of `inspector', played by Polanski, who begins a concentrated interrogation. Although Depardieu's identity as a world-famous author is rather quickly revealed, a body has been found nearby with the face mutilated beyond recognition, and the inspector intends to find out what has occurred. We're quickly caught up in the mystery as it becomes clear that Onoff isn't telling the truth, and his weak `I don't remember,' sounds inordinately suspicious. But A Pure Formality is much more than a simple murder mystery. As the intense repartee continues, the use of subliminal flashbacks, the physical confusion caused by the storm (the roof leaks relentlessly), and the alternating domination of the inspector and the suspect construct a fascinating and powerful tension. But even as we're trying to figure out the puzzle, the film quickly picks up the pace and drives toward an absolutely superb and thought-provoking climax. Tornatore has already proven he is a master of nuance and atmosphere, and here he reaffirms that reputation. A Pure Formality's masterful performances and compelling tale announce definitively that he is a director of remarkably diverse talents. — Geoffrey Gilmore, Sundance Film Festival