“Fists in the Pocket” director Marco Bellocchio has long woven elements of autobiography into his work, threading personal themes of siblings, madness and suicide through his most intimate films. Much less apparent until now was how the maestro sublimated himself behind fiction, using cinema to address such elements onscreen in order to avoid dealing with them on a consciously verbal level. With “Marx Can Wait” he mixes this pattern together, delivering a candid and revealing documentary about his family – and more specifically himself – which focuses on his twin brother Camillo, who committed suicide in 1968. Simple in his concept but psychologically profound, the film draws audiences with a lingering sadness made more powerful by the director’s clear but unspoken sense of guilt.

The catalyst was a 2016 reunion of the surviving Bellocchio siblings in their Emilian hometown of Piacenza. Planned in advance or not, the event gave the director the opportunity to engage his siblings in a discussion of their childhood, but more specifically of Camillo, initially recalled as “an angel” whose intense melancholy and unanswered led him to hang on. himself when he was 29. The Bellocchio were a strong middle-class family, their father a lawyer, their mother a pious wife whose all-consuming fear of hellfire is a source of laughter now but has clearly had its effect on the children.

Paolo, the eldest, was mentally imbalanced, his frequent screaming was a source of anxiety their parents had never thought of protecting them from (Bellocchio’s 1980 film “A Leap in the Dark” contains a figure based on Paolo ). Marco and Camillo were born in late 1939, joining older siblings who now recall Camillo’s delicacy as a child. The boy grew up to be their father’s favorite, although, as often happens, that didn’t mean Camillo’s wishes were being fulfilled – in fact, quite the contrary. Although unsuited to a technical vocation, he was driven to become a surveyor, which was seen as a far more practical profession than the intellectual pursuits of Piergiorgio and the cinematographic ones of Marco.

As the careers of Piergiorgio (founder of the leftist newspaper “Quaderni piacentini”) and Marco began to take off, Camillo felt increasingly inadequate, and as the family recognized his deep grief, he was considered as a trait rather than a pathology. Perhaps because Camillo was the prettiest of the bunch, the one who liked to play spirited pranks, those around him allowed his golden boy surface to ignore the darkness within. Of those interviewed, only his girlfriend’s sister, Giovanna Capra, appears to have been aware of the depths of Camillo’s emotional turmoil, with her relentless and lucid remarks providing some of the documentary’s most insightful commentary.

Brother Alberto mentions Camillo’s identity crisis, but oddly no one explores what this may have entailed, nor what part of this crisis apart from a lack of vocation (which is not an identity). allegedly led to suicide during the 1968 Christmas vacation. The account of this event by the family who was there is heartbreaking, as are Marco’s attempts to explain to his adult children Elena and Pier Giorgio what happened. The twins are often thought to share a special bond, some sort of unspoken understanding, but that was clearly not the case with Marco and Camillo, and as adults they were in very different circles. In the late 1960s, the director was dealing with his newfound celebrity and clinging to the political upheavals of the time, so much so that he no longer remembered his brother’s letters and clearly hadn’t paid attention to the Camillo depression.

As he rationalizes all of this to his children, their faces reflecting what the public will certainly interpret as disturbed skepticism about their father’s unsatisfying explanation, it becomes clear that Marco is unable to verbalize his guilt for having ignored the mental anguish of his twin. It would be easy to castigate him for it, but the documentary itself is his way of remedying its inadequacy. Listening to him, we hear half-hearted apologies, but looking at him, we realize that Camillo’s suicide and Marco’s self-involvement at the time remain major sources of guilt in his psychological state. . This is not an admission: he does not seek absolution but self-understanding, realizing, however, that such elusive knowledge will neither ease his remorse nor bring satisfaction.

The title of the film comes from a line that Camillo himself said, in response to the director’s left-wing crusades. As Giovanna Capra painfully reminds him, in 1968 Marco was so obsessed with helping the proletariat to rise up against injustice that he ignored his own brother’s cry for help; it was this realization that led Camillo to say: “Marx can wait”, a reproach so blunt that Bellocchio used it in his 1982 feature film “The eyes, the mouth”.

Unlike his films “Sisters” and “Sisters Never”, which were also family affairs, this is a pure documentary, incorporating family photographs, home movies and historical footage as well as scenes from the brothers. and sisters talking with Marco and talking to each other. Memories contradict each other at times, inevitably, but the sad heart of Camillo’s brilliant but troubled existence remains unchallenged, even though the anxieties he faces remain somewhat obscure.