Marcello Mastroianni - The Assassin

The Ladykiller of Rome

My barber always finishes my haircut by rolling a flaming torch on my ears and the back of my neck, scraping the edges with an open razor and then rubbing all around with rosemary-infused alcohol. I'm not quite sure what that he's saying about my ears, but it's quite a spectacle, and a rather invigorating way to end to the session.

I am always reminded of the 1961 Italian film The Assassin, directed by Elio Petri and starring Marcello Mastroianni. At the start of the film, Marcello's character Alfredo Martelli, an antiques dealer and small-time playboy, uses a lighted candle on his hair (top picture) to singe off stray hairs. (Why not try it at home, gents?) With such attention to his appearance we are immediately on his side.

Alfredo is picked up by the police and discovers that he is under investigation following the death of his wealthy mistress Adalgisa. As the investigation proceeds, flashbacks prompted by police interrogations show how the relationship between Alfredo and Adalgisa developed, and how those actions now sit with his conscience and sense of responsibility. In these recollections, we see Alfredo as an apathetic and parasitic man, using people for his own ends with sometimes short-lived regret. But could he be capable of murder? And could he ever change his ways?

Marcello's Elegance

In The Assassin, as in real life, I think it was impossible for Marcello to ever look anything less than The Elegant Male from pyjama to overcoat.

Life Lived with a Jazz Score

We are introduced to the character of Alfredo in the opening credits of the film, accentuated by the slightly sleazy jazz soundtrack. We start the film knowing something of the man and his habits,  much like the opening credits of the Ipcress File, released in  colourful 1965, when we're introduced to a jaded-looking Harry Palmer making coffee to a John Barry score.


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