I watched The Tenth Victim (1965, La decima vittima) starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress again recently and thought it might be becoming increasingly apt …and creepy. It is a little too corny to be taken seriously, I suppose, but as the brief synopsis on IMDB puts it, the film might increasingly find its place as a primer for the future.
“Some people like violence so much, that they decide to create a club in which human hunts are organized – members being alternately hunters, and prey, until they end up dead.”
This a state-run and socially tolerated way of creating celebrity and commerce while addressing social ills, in this case over population. A far-fetched idea, suitable only for the world of make believe.
But isn’t this the way we deal with things now? We turn to our heroes, whether they be an Oprah Winfrey or a Kim Kardashian, for answers and we make them ridiculously wealthy for the privilege. We protect them, we tolerate them.
The Tenth Victim is different, however, and the difference is important. The Tenth Victim comes with a sense of humor, something increasingly lacking around these parts unless you find spite and cynicism funny. The Tenth Victim features the first bullet-shooting bra…the first! This is the ur bullet bra worn by none other than Ursula. Fitting, isn’t it? Yes, it is and it does. (The bra is marvelous.)
The Tenth Victim also served up a kind of self-aware irony that I don’t think we are capable of achieving today. We live in the dark. In
In the film, the hunters and the hunted don’t make any claims to rights and freedom — they’re too dignified for that — instead they live thoughtfully and even mock themselves, each other, and the fatalism of the gun-toting modernism that engulfs them. In the United States, we just complain a lot while stock piling a lot of guns.
Much less authentic.
Take a look at the screen clipping . One character complains to the other “You can’t shoot in nursery schools…you can’t shoot anywhere anymore!” Marcello thoughtfully considers this and shrugs it off. The golden days of shooting are in the past. Oh well.
In the United States today, no one dare make a complaint about something like that, but at the same time they fight for the right to arm everyone but the little babies poking each other in the eye at the nursery school. Life is full of complaint and fear and paranoia. No shrugging. This is, of course, ironic, but not in a self-aware sort of way.
A film like The Tenth Victim does not work in American culture today. It can’t. People will talk about the bra, not the gun. Besides being frightened and out of control, the mocked reality the film portrays, is getting too close to the absurd reality of our world. The “funny because it is true” logic works only to a point. Sometimes if it is too true, it isn’t funny anymore. And we have reached the point where not even a silly self-aware turn of irony would not save the joke.