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Film / Filibus

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Filibus: Il misterioso pirata del cielo (Filibus: The Mysterious Pirate of the Skies) is a 1915 Italian silent film about a lady thief who operates out of an airship. The main character is Filibus, and her alter egos are the Baroness de Troixmonde and the Count de la Brive. Filibus flies around robbing banks and stealing jewelry. She is pursued by the famous detective Hardy, who is trying to find the identity of this mysterious bank robber. In an amazing scene of audacity, she (as the Baroness) tells him that he himself, Detective Hardy, is Filibus. By the film's climax, he starts to believe it.

Filibus didn't get much attention when it was first released, and World War I spread into Italy soon afterward, destroying the country's film industry. It's been gradually rediscovered in the twenty-first century, with numerous film festival engagements and a 2021 DVD/Blu-ray release from Milestone Films. (If your library or school subscribes to the Kanopy streaming service, you can even watch the restored release there.)

This film includes examples of:

  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Filibus has male and female alter egos, but the film remains amazingly opaque on Filibus's own identity.note 
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Filibus is a true lady, being the Baroness de Troixmonde. She is only seen going after high-class targets.
  • Cool Airship: Filibus's airship includes an elevator that can lower her to the ground without her enemies knowing.
  • Couple Theme Naming: It's probably no coincidence that Leo and Leonora, the two points of the Love Triangle who end up together, have matching names.
  • Dub Name Change: The single surviving print of this film is a Dutch release version with translated titles. Filibus's opponent is Inspector Hardy in this print, but the Italian publicity materials call him Detective Kutt-Hendy, so there seems to have been a name change in translation.
  • Engineered Heroics: Filibus has her Mooks kidnap Leonora so that she can show up as the Count de la Brive, save the day, and sneak with her new identity into Inspector Hardy's social circle.
  • Faceless Goons: Filibus's airship is stocked with a handful of silent, deadpan, completely indistinguishable crewmen.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: Inspector Hardy attempts to trick Filibus with a false jewel (with a hidden camera, to boot; see "Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb" below). It works exactly the opposite way he expects.
  • Just Friends: When Leo Sandy declares his love for Leonora, she totally friend-zones him.
  • Love Triangle: Leo is in love with Leonora, who is in love with the Count de la Brive. When the Count turns out to be Filibus, they decide the natural course of action is for Leo and Leonora to get engaged.
  • Masculine, Feminine, Androgyne Trio: Some reviewers of the film have noted that Filibus is all three people in this trio, thanks to her identities as Count, Baroness, and burglar.
  • Meaningful Name: The Baroness de Troixmonde does indeed live in "three worlds" (trois mondes in French): she has identities as a local posh lady, a visiting posh count, and Filibus.
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The diamond eyes of the Egyptian cat statue.
  • One-Word Title
  • Rescue Romance: Romance blossoms after Filibus "saves" Leonora from the staged abduction. (It's left ambiguous whether this was a goal of the rescue or an unexpected side effect.)
  • Sky Pirate: Filibus is a Classy Catburglar who operates out of a Cool Airship.
  • Somebody Set Up Us the Bomb: A non-explosive example: Hardy's fake jewel is rigged with a hidden camera. He assumes that when Filibus reaches for it, the sky pirate's identity will finally be caught on film.
  • Spy Cam: Hidden in the Egyptian cat.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Filibus as the Count de la Brive, and indeed in her usual cat-burgling outfit. (It looks masculine enough that when Inspector Hardy briefly catches Filibus redhanded, he still thinks she's a dude.)