?!

It can’t have escaped your notice that even poor gialli tend to have good titles. And said titles don’t always have anything much to do with the stories — FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON, anyone? At times, the titles seem to resemble haiku, with a set of precise rules for creating beauty — animal name, colour, random atmospheric word, random scattering of prepositions, gauche use or lack of use of the definite article…

Hats off, them, to those films that create their effects more economically — ORGASMO and SPASMO, I’m looking at you. And INTERRABANG (1969), perhaps the only movie to take its title from a briefly fashionable punctuation mark. A combination of question mark and exclamation point, the titular symbol stands for the mystery and shock of life in Giulana Biagetti’s non-thriller thriller, and at first it seems that the title actually IS the conjoined “?!” symbol. Why should a title be a word anyway? It could be a comma, or a drawing of a horse, or anything.

But then the word itself comes up, and the summer begins — yachting, Mediterranean islands, existential angst and cold, treacherous characters. This is a weird one: seemingly more in thrall to L’AVVENTURA and BLOW-UP than to Argento or Lenzi, its is practically cadaverless and takes place in the daylight and open air, eschewing both the gothic thunderstorm and high-fashion interior design. But it is remorselessly chic, with sunglasses and bikinis to die for. It may in fact be one of the great bikini movies, if you don’t mind all the women being skinny model types.

The blissful music of Berto Pisano provides an oblivious counterpoint, along with Antonio Borghesi’s sunkissed cinematography, to the plotting and sniping amid the quartet of a fashion photographer, his wife, her sister and his top model. Stranded during a sea-going manhunt for a dangerous fugitive, they waft around looking trendy and being mean to each other while we wait for the plot to show up. It’s incredibly languid, and would probably best be watched under a sun lamp.

After ninety minutes of nothing much happening, the ending delivers twist upon twist, some of which hint at even more interesting ways the film could have gone. As wayward and brow-furrowing as its title, INTERRABANG is still just about worth a watch. The nudity and sex are strangely listless, but the bikini scenes are infuriatingly erotic.

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7 Responses to “?!”

  1. Nothing’s more infuriatingly erotic than a bikini — except a topless Francoise Dorleac

    who can be seen on Roman Polanski Day at Dennis Cooper’s

  2. The only one I can think of (without a good title) is the poorly named and recently released Giallo, by Dario Argento. It stars Adiran Brody and it was terrible.

    Unfortunately, I think you planted a seed for what I’ll be watching for the next month. Thanks for the examples David.

  3. Brody had to sue just to get paid for Giallo. Not the first actor to find working with Il Maestro less than rewarding.

    One terrific and unconventional giallo that didn’t make my list: The Perfume of the Lady in Black. Recommended.

  4. Is that remake of the Marcel L’Herbier?

  5. Yes, except the story has absolutely nothing in common with the original — apparently they just liked the title, thought it should be on a giallo, and lifted it.

  6. Wow! Mimsey Farmer and Donna Jourdan!

  7. It IS something of a wow. Will write something on it soon.

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