EIFF 09: Giallo

By Stuart Wood 2009-06-26 05:17:53discussion comments
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During the late 70s and early 80s, Italian director Dario Argento was the master of a sub-genre of exploitation films called giallo. Essentially artily shot police procedurals with gratuitious nudity and high levels of gore, they have developed something of a cult following over the years to the point that one of his “classics” is getting the remake treatment next year. However, after the genre all but died out, so did Argento's career, relegated to churning out similar DTV horror flicks. At some point, perhaps Giallo was intended to be some dramatic return to form. In reality, it is a horrific mess of a film which could have been a knowing pastiche of the genre if only the entire cast and crew hadn't seemed so obvlious to the absurdity of almost everything from the glib script to the terrible acting.

When a french model goes missing after a fashion show, her sister Linda (Emmanuel Siegner so wooden a tree could have replaced her) is sent to basement-dwelling detective cliché Enzo for assistance. Enzo suspects that Linda's sister has been abducted by a notorious serial killer who tortures and kills beautiful foreign women. The two eventually pair up and like the worst Dan Brown books, wander around aimlessly until sudden flashes of random inspiration give them the answer to the next clue which will lead them to the killer's identity and whereabouts.

At about two-thirds of the way in to this process, there comes a dramatic turning point in the movie. In the space of one three minute flashback sequence the entire movie comes crashing down in a flurry of head-slapping absurdity and a level of shark jumping that would make Fonzie proud. What little pretense this movie might have had left towards being taken seriously is thrown in the trash, burned and buried and the movie almost knowingly seems to pick up pace in it's dizzying spiral in to awfulness.

Watching Giallo without any background knowledge it's hard to imagine that Dario Argento was once the master of any kind of filmmaking. The entire movie has the air of a Uwe Boll flick, not the product of a one time genre maestro, completely lacking the creepy atmospherics and sleazy voyeurism that made the genre so popular back in it's day. As potential embarrassing career swansongs this ranks up there with Raul Julia in Streetfighter and Orson Welles in Transformers: The Movie. As for Brody, he does himself no favors in a role I am hoping he only took on as a favor to Argento's daughter and close friend, Asia. Po-facedly reciting howler dialogue without a hint of irony and subtituting chain-smoking for character development, Brody's character inhabits a bizarre part of Rome where all the police helpfully understand English and those who speak it do so with an American accent.

The audience I saw Giallo with for the most part started out, like myself, giving the movie the benefit of the doubt. However by the final third, almost the entire theatre had descended in to a barrage of laughter at the insulting grade school writing and silly action. Giallo is an embarrasment for all involved and a waste of good money for anyone who chooses to see it.
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