Monday, November 5, 2012
Is the giallo on it's way back to the limelight again? No, I don't think so, at least not as a mainstream-genre. But behind the blockbusters lurks a new generation of filmmakers who loves the combination of mystery and splattery, spectacular murders. Just like me, that's the best combination. A gory Agatha Christie-style thriller is exactly what I want, that's one reason why I'm watching all the old Italian thillers - and of course every international wannabe there is. Masks is a very interesting thriller, a movie I think will be quite big and well-distributed now when it's finally - just a week or so ago - was released on BD and DVD in Germany. It's not English-friendly in anyway, so I had to rely on my very primitive school-German while watching this.
Stella wants to be an actress, but her latest audition doesn't turn out well. Before she leaves the theatre an elderly judge recommends her to take contact with the Matteusz Gdula school of acting. Gdula was a controversial teacher who had is own style of teaching acting, so controversial that he committed suicide and several of his students died because of the soul-breaking way they worked with acting. Nowadays the school just uses some of his ideas - at least that what they says... because something is wrong and more and more students is getting killed, disappears... and soon the killer wants Stella, more than anyone else!
Sounds good yeah? And it is! Director Andreas Marschall has managed to create a very convincing retro-feeling without going neither pastiche or parody. First I was afraid that it would be one of those grindhouse-style genre-tributes because the film was worn and dirty - but it was only an old movie clip, a faked news report, telling us about this very special method of acting. The story is a very fine mix between Suspiria, without trying to hide it, and gialli from the late seventies, when the stories became a bit more edgier, slightly more experimental and less detective-mysteries.
Andreas Marschall also gives us a giallo that works as it's own movie and not just as production referencing other, older, movies. He's a true master when it comes to visual, non-dialogue scenes. An eye for details and beautiful set-ups. Just like François Gaillard's masterful Blackaria, another - French - giallo-style thriller with an excellent story and an overload of imaginative visual, almost orgasmic, treats. Masks has a more money behind and in front of the camera than Blackaria, but they are both in their own splendid leagues.
Like with Suspiria - and even Black Swan - a physical artform is the McGuffin here, an art where you use your body and mind to tell something. I'm not a dance, but I've done my fair share of acting and maybe that's why I feel extra connected to the madness told in Masks? The idea of an acting-style that wears you down so much, makes you give everything you have - maybe even your life - attracts me, and it makes a fine story to. Now, some of the supporting younger actors are a bit uneven, but they're not in the movie enough to bring it down. Instead Susen Ermich, who plays Stella, carries a lot of the story on her (sometimes naked) shoulders with a few good German veteran actors around her (for example Norbert Losch and Maximilian Rüthlein for example).
Masks is a bit slow, it's moody and atmospheric, it takes its time to tell the story, but I would say Andreas Marschall really hits the mark here. It's an amazing tribute to the golden age of thrillers, but with slices of sadistic and graphic violence that's up to date without being too much. Highly recommended!