Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Italian Job

I've been getting into Italian films lately. Not the arthouse-type stuff directed by the likes of Fellini and watched by pretentious bores. If that was the case, I would have said that I'd been getting into Italian cinema. No, I've instead been getting into the 1970s exploitation stuff. The sort of films that the distributor Shameless puts out on DVD - horror flicks, giallo films and so-called erotica. I've already mentioned Strip Nude For Your Killer, which I received as a Christmas present, an erotic giallo, and probably the sleaziest film I've ever seen. I also watched Torso: Carnal Violence, another, more conventional giallo-style movie, over the same period. However, this proved a little disappointing - poorly structured and slowly paced, it had no real sense of urgency, let alone clear narrative drive. Nevertheless, like most of this type of film, it had many compensations - beautiful locations, excellent cinematography and, naturally, lots of gratuitous nudity. Most recently, I watched the highly intriguing Footprints on The Moon. Interestingly, although marketed by Shameless as a giallo, this is actually more of a psychological thriller, chronicling the heroine's mental breakdown and subsequent descent into insanity. For most of its running time it successfully manages to deceive the viewer into believing that she might not be paranoid, that she might actually have stumbled upon some conspiracy related to a sinister moon mission.

But what is it that draws me to this underbelly of Italian film making? In large part it is the look of the films. They might be low-budget exploitation flicks but, like all Italian films, they have terrific production design and cinematography, with a superb use of colour, not to mention great locations, which they use to great effect. They also employ some striking imagery. Torso, for instance, juxtaposes its murders with the mutilation of a child's doll. Footprints on The Moon opens with an arresting sequence involving an astronaut being abandoned on the moon's surface by his crewmate. Even the film's weakest point - narratives which are often nebulous to the point of non-existence - can actually be a strength, as they give the plots the 'logic' of a dream, forcing the viewer into continually shifting their interpretation of the events unfolding on screen. Indeed, it is probably this dream-like aura which the strange narratives, odd imagery and elliptical direction imbue the best of these films with, which is my favourite aspect of them. That, along with the fact that, unlike contemporaneous exploitation flicks in the UK and US, (most of these films date from the 1970s and early 1980s), they seem to be continually pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, whether it be in terms of the depiction of violence, sex or even mental health. Damn it, they're edgy in a way other films aren't. Anyway, I've got a couple more lined up for this weekend: Venus in Furs and Oasis of Fear. I'll keep you posted on my reactions to them.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home