cinematographique

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Giallo *

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There seems to be an opening for a horror fan amongst the programmers at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. They just can’t seem to programme interesting horror. Over the last few years, their selections have been high-profile trash: from Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, through Land of the Dead and H6: Diary of a Serial Killer, to Giallo.

GialloTaking its name from a long-established genre moniker, Giallo should be a smart incision in the skin of this typically Italian thriller/slasher bastard (or at least, a witty send-up). Unless I’m missing something… (this is quite possible, given my ignorance of the rich film history it clearly references; the detective could symbolise contemporary American horror; the eponymous killer might even stand for the genre itself!) …this is a bizarrely stupid film: internally inconsistent, stylistically incongruous, skin deep, paying barely cursory lip-service to substantiality. However reminiscent of Dario Argento’s classic works, it abandons everything which made them so well respected. We follow a stewardess, Linda (Emmanuelle Seigner, gamely putting on one of the least credible American accents in film), whose sister has been abducted by a cab-driving Turinese serial killer (Byron Deidra). Legendary local detective and former New Yorker Enzo Avolfi (a petrified Adrien Brody) hunts the murderer with a barely tangible fervor. That’s basically it, aside from some plot points haphazardly lifted from the genre and slapped together with lazy bemusement.

Even if it’s meant to be a joke, it’s an intolerably bad one – unlike the infinitely superior Antichrist. Admittedly, it is at the expense of film past, not audience present – but as a cinematic fart it out-stinks Antichrist by far. The script seems to have been strangled by its umbilical cord. It is beyond expositional, more than prosaic: repetitive, ridiculous. Character relationships are introduced by naming (c.f. “Hey, what’s my little sister up to?”). Plot is so riddled with holes that it is incredible, a fatal flaw which prevents the audience from entertaining the film’s propositions. Inevitably, once a critical mass of viewers have been worn down, the well-meaning crowd can’t help but ridicule the film, bursting into laughter at each further P we are supposed to make believe. The impatient critical audience will boo, if they are still awake. Does Argento want us to be so self-aware, so disconnected from the plasticine world he’s created?

Playing into genre conventions, rather than subverting them, Argento plasters Giallo with comically misogynist figures: from the zero-dimensional female roles, to their photographic and surgical rape, and the banal evil of male condescension (c.f. “Hah! Girls”). Is it deliberate that each setting is rendered with mind-boggling inauthenticity? Has Argento never seen a fashion show, or met a model? Has he even been inside a nightclub? Does he know how people dance these days, or what music they listen to? Disbelief at every turn. The score is clumsy, although it may be some sort of wry nod to the expressive and unconventional arrangements of his classic films. At best, it sounds a lot like the soundtrack to the kitschest passages of Tim Burton’s Batman films.

The cast are directed to varying degrees of woodenness, but they manage to do an admirable job of staving off inevitable ridicule (c.f. Brody’s noble effort with on-the-nose gems like “You’re too beautiful… He hates beautiful things”). Brody in particular seems to be delivering a remarkable dead-pan comic performance in the middle of a shit-storm. It’s as though Enzo knows he is an absurdity at the heart of a terrible film, and he just wants it to end. He is essentially a smoking plank of wood. His nemisis is neither interesting, imaginitive, comic nor horrific. He looks and behaves like a character from Leigh Francis’s Bo’ Selecta!. Of course, he is the product of abandonment, prenatal heroin addiction and jaundice, alienation and isolation. He is perverse – he gets off to Final Fantasy VII themed hentai while sucking a dummy. This fails to explain, yet seems to try to justify, his craven desire to carve up pretty girls. This sucks.

Almost everything about Giallo is either annoying or stupid. The only praise it can arouse is directed to its colour and camera work, its stylistic reminiscences. It’s just bloody awful. And why does everyone in Turin speak in English!?

 

Giallo, Dir. Dario Argento, Writ. Agnew & Keller, Star. Adrien Brody, Opera Film Produzione, Italy, 2009
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Written by James P. Campbell

26/06/2009 at 01:10

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