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The Mattei Affair

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An aircraft disaster killed an Italian industrialist. Is it an accident or a murder?

Francesco Rosi directed the 1972 film The Mattei Affair (Il Caso Mattei). It depicts the life and mysterious death of Enrico Mattei, an Italian businessman who, in the aftermath of World War II, avoided selling the nascent Italian oil and hydrocarbon industry to US companies and instead developed it in Eni, a state-owned oil company that competed with the “seven sisters” for oil and gas deals in Northern African and Middle Eastern countries.

At the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, the film shared the Grand Prix alongside The Working Class Goes to Heaven. Gian Maria Volonté, an Italian actor, played the lead in both films.

The film is an unusual blend of factual and fiction that represents Francesco Rosi’s film investigation. The flashback format reflects Citizen Kane and Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano (1962). With on-location shooting and non-professional performers, Rosi stays true to his neo-realist beginnings. The film includes footage of the filmmaker searching for his buddy, investigative journalist Mauro De Mauro, who went missing while doing research for the film. He was murdered by the Sicilian Mafia, but his killing, like Mattei’s, was never investigated.

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