Friday, August 17, 2012
Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005)
I still remember the surprise when the Swedish state television actually aired this in 2005, probably one of the first showings ever - not counting the Italian TV of course, both because we horror geeks in Sweden could feel a bit unique for the first time ever but also because it was an Argento on Swedish fucking television! Do You Like Hitchcock? is a TV-movie, meant to the first of eight thrillers in the same vein as the work of Alfred Hitchcock. I doubt those other movies ever was produced, or do anyone know something about that? Anyway, Argento got the honour of starting this series and I would say the result turned out pretty interesting.
We start with young Giulio (who later grows up and is played by Elio Germano) discovering two witches performing a animal sacrifice in a deserted cottage deep in the forest. They discover him and they go after him, screaming and waving with a knife. Many years later Giulio is a film student, but his love for voyeurism is still there and he can't stop himself from studying the people in the opposite house, including a young attractive woman who lives with her aggressive mother. One dark night the mother is killed and Giulio puts one and one together and believes that the daughter and an unknown woman has made a deal, just like in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, to switch murders with each other. Soon someone is after Giulio, but he can't stop watching. He must watch...
Those who expects a gory, violent, sexy and typical giallo will be disappointed. This in many, many ways a quite complex tribute to Hitchcock, with several storylines mixed to a new one - and I must say it works quite good. Argento still has the giallo-vibe going with a killer wearing gloves, breathing weirdly and a lot of red herrings. It's a bit dry, a bit low-key, compared to most other films by Argento, but it is a TV-movie and that's probably to blame for the non-spectacular style of the story.
But I must say it works very good. It's a fine little thriller, with cheesy dubbing and a lot of good details. The main - and only - murder is in good Argento-style: violent, bloody and sadistic with a few interesting macro-shots of the door lock. What doesn't work is how the final is written. It has a twist, and even if it could have been interesting the script just moves along in a calm, boring way and the twist gets lost, like they didn't have time to stage the revelation properly - and in the end it's almost as there's no twist. First time I saw it I didn't even notice the twist, but the twist is an anti-twist which could have been very cool if they did it right.
The acting is also very uneven, even if I think the main characters do a good job.
The main theme with Do You Like Hitchcock? is voyeurism, deeply connected with Rear Window of course. Argento seem more interested in the idea of watching, investigating, than the mystery itself. The prologue might seem very detached from the rest of the story, but if you read it as a film about watching you will find that it's very important to why our main character do what he does. When he was a boy he found excitement in discovering something forbidden and this is so rooted in his persona that he can't stop doing it as a grown man. The final moments of the movie has a brilliant montage of him watching, and it kinda puts the signature on what kind of person he his - and always will be.
What's even more interesting is a small detail that Argento added for us who likes to watch, who keeps our eyes open wide. Giulio watched a naked woman in the end. She reads a book, but it's not just a book, it's this book:
La Finestra Sulla Notte, original title The Window at the White Cat (1910), by Mary Roberts Rinehart, one of her first detective stories! What the woman holds is also the 1937 release (or an identical reprint) from the Mondadori publishing house, published in their highly successful series "Il Giallo Mondadori" from 1929 and forward.
Yes, this is the origin of the gialli, the sole reason why Argento ("The Italian Hitchcock) became THE Argento, the reason why Bava did Blood and Black Lace, why Fulci abandoned comedies and musicals. The reason for so much of the things we love.
This is a tribute and a test. A tribute to what started it all and test to see if we, the viewers, really are voyeurs of Italian genre cinema.