Archive for Sylva Koscina

The Lone Granger

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on October 22, 2019 by dcairns
No, YOU’RE the idiot. No YOU are. No YOU are.

Poor Farley Granger! In SO SWEET, SO DEAD, he’s a disgruntled detective tracking a serial killer, and no wonder he’s so miserable: he’s a policeman trapped in a film where nobody ever calls the police. A murder victim’s secret lover consults his lawyer: should I contact the police so they can eliminate me from their list of suspects? No no no, advises the professional. A teenager witnesses her neighbour being stabbed to death. She waits until next morning to tell her boyfriend, then says she’ll mention it to her dad later. Her dad the lawyer.

One of the lovers (all the victims are adulteresses) visits his mistress and finds the bath overflowing and the woman dead, and has a tussle with the killer, and then we never hear about him again. Did he call the police? Or did he just have a bath, since it was already run and it would be a shame to waste it?

Even when Farley Granger gets a call from the killer saying who the next victim will be, HE doesn’t call the police. And he IS the police.

In fact, the only people to call the police in this film are a lunatic pretending to be the killer, and the killer.

Argh no what

A lot of gialli seem to be about anomie — it’s a practically an unspoken genre convention to have unsympathetic characters, maybe so we won’t mind seeing them killed? This sordid and inept little film heightens the disaffection until it almost seems meaningful. Everyone is cheating, nobody is a solid citizen. But it might equally be that the film just didn’t have the imagination to come up with anyone other than love rats, cuckolds, a necrophile mortician, and poor Farley Granger.

This is the sort of considerate coroner who will not only examine your murder victim, he will reconstruct the crime right in the operating theatre using his glamorous assistant as victim.

A general’s wife has been murdered, you say? Round up the usual suspects.

“STAY CALM? With that wallpaper?”

There’s no trace of Dario Argento artistic design in this movie. Only Georgio Gaslini’s music impresses — mostly swooning love themes, highly inappropriate, but that’s the giallo for you. Violence being sexualised is basically what it’s for. Gaslini is gaslighting us.

I guessed the ending in this one, but only because the movie kept showing us closeups of the killer’s face, and his stocking mask didn’t disguise his unusual chin cleft. Still, usually the more misogynistic the violence, the more likely the killer will turn out to be a woman — a kind of projection.

Who is murdering the unfaithful wives of the rich? Farley Granger considers a startling new theory. He is shocked – SHOCKED! – at such a possibility.

What, indeed?

I was originally watching this for PROJECT FEAR but it cemented my view that gialli are not horror movies, for all the violence. They might not even be thriller.

In Which the Entire British Secret Service is Gay

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2015 by dcairns

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Or perhaps just very very British.

A useful idiot is someone working for the secret service who doesn’t know it. In HOT ENOUGH FOR JUNE, Dirk Bogarde, nearing the end of his Rank starlet period, plays a Bohemian young fellow recruited by a dodgy glass company for a business trip to Prague — he’s actually working for Robert Morley and John le Mesurier of the secret service.

Follow the routine of the late Robert Anton Wilson: every morning when you wake up, ask yourself, “Am I a useful idiot?”

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Movie begins by tracking down one of those Corridors of Power we’re always hearing about. One of the very, very few stylish shots in the career of Ralph Thomas, director. He’d already propelled Dirk through a number of DOCTOR films (his brother helmed the CARRY ON series). At the end of the corridor, John Le Mes checks in the belongings of a deceased agent — revealed to be 007. It’s one of a number of cheeky gags dotted along the way, including a news headline where the film’s director protests “I AM NOT A SPY!” Mostly, the film is a light thriller just this side of parody — its vision of espionage is clearly closer to the truth than that of Bond.

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But Dirk gets his own Bond girl in Prague, Sylva Koscina (never in an actual Bond film, she did wave a speargun about opposite Richard Johnson as Bulldog Drummond for the same director). She gets some surprisingly sexy stuff to do.

Morley cautions Le Mes not to recruit anyone too susceptible to feminine charms. Then he warns him not to go too far in the opposite direction. Then he blows him a kiss.

Over a drink, Koscina asks Dirk if it’s true you have to go to Eton to get into the British government. He admits it helps. She asks if communists ever get to go to Eton. He explains that they don’t often go, but sometimes by the time people graduate from Eton, they are communists. She asks if they get into the government. “Mainly the Foreign Office.”

Screenplay is by Lukas Heller, best known for THE DIRTY DOZEN, which is also actually quite a witty film.

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Thomas isn’t much of a director, really — early on, he tries some very slight Dutch tilts, for a casual conversation at Dirk’s Bohemian flat. I figured he was limbering up for a bit of THIRD MAN business one we get to Prague (which is played by Padua, not too convincingly). But he omits to ever go lopsided again. I guess he didn’t like the look of the shots when he saw them in dailies, but a re-shoot was out of the question. If he’d had the nerve to sustain this approach, it would have worked beautifully.

But there’s some good comedy playing, the actual action is reasonably tense and plausible, and it’s amusing to see Bogarde meeting his contact in the men’s room. “Homosexuality is the best damn cover an agent ever had,” types William Lee in Cronenberg’s NAKED LUNCH.

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The Sunday Intertitle: Birdman

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by dcairns

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Look, I don’t mean to brag — probably what I do mean to do is GLOAT — but I was turned loose in the Criterion storeroom during my recent New York excursion (alongside Scout Tafoya). I don’t actually have a bucket list — too cheap to buy a bucket — but if I did this would have shortened it to the tune of one item. Bill Forsyth had described to me how his wife tried to drag him from the room as he frantically tried to stuff more swag into his Criterion carrier bag — “No, it’s free! They said it’s all free!” and I shared his Scottish thrill at the offer of unlimited audio-visual riches, while also bitterly regretting that the wretched laws of physics wouldn’t allow us to simply put the storeroom inside the bag. What one feels, in short, is a mixture of pleasure and panic, rather like what I imagine it must have been like to meet the young Brigitte Bardot.

JUDEX was one of the films I not-quite randomly snatched up. Georges Franju’s knowing recreation of Louis Feiullade’s unknowing surrealism moves at his usual stately pace, something which confused me when I first saw EYES WITHOUT A FACE — GF just isn’t interested in conventional dramatic tension. Here, he even fades to black in the middle of what is technically an “exciting chase.”

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Rather than tension, Franju relies on wondrous variety and what-fucking-next? plotting, mostly quite faithful to his source, but compressed and simplified. As I noticed while revisiting AN ACTOR’S REVENGE recently, movies based on serials pull all kind of tricks with narrative that normal movies wouldn’t go near — in particular, introducing new characters very late on, to reinvigorate the action. Ichikawa brings in a two-fisted priest, whereas Franju boldly has a travelling circus ride past, in a deserted street, at night, just when the plot requires the services of an acrobat (Sylva Koscina). And she turns out to be the detective’s ex-lover, newly liberated to marry him. The whole story is turned around because of this person showing up twenty minutes before the end (and having a girl-fight with the cat-suited villainess).

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It’s interesting to see how Franju mixes the film grammar of 1914 — irises and intertitles — with fluid camera movements which look more like the 40s than the early 60s when the movie was made. Really magnificent costumes, especially for Francine Bergé, and art nouveau sets and props — everything’s a triffid!

Elsewhere, we have the avenging hero sans motivation, who has invented closed-circuit television in 1914, who can bring dead doves back to life, and who communicates with a prisoner using a kind of ceiling etch-a-sketch intertitle ~

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And yet he has not thought to capitalize financially upon any of these inventions and abilities. Most extraordinary.

Extreme thanks to the great people at Criterion: Liz, Kim, Susan, Peter et al.