The restorer Stefano is hired by the Mayor Solmi of a small village nearby Ferrara to restore a painting of St. Sebastian, made by the mentally disturbed painter Buono Legnani in the local ... See full summary »
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Pier Paolo Capponi
The restorer Stefano is hired by the Mayor Solmi of a small village nearby Ferrara to restore a painting of St. Sebastian, made by the mentally disturbed painter Buono Legnani in the local church. Stefano was recommended by his friend, Dr. Antonio Mazza, and he learns that Legnani was known as "The Painter of the Agony", since he used to paint near-death people. Further, he was presumed dead many years ago but his body has never been found. Stefano works in the church, where he meets the weirdo Lidio, and he has one night stand with the local nymphomaniac teacher that is leaving the village. Meanwhile Antonio investigates the life of Buono Legnani and tells Stefano that he had found a dark secret about the painter and the villagers. However, Antonio dies before meeting Stefano and the police conclude that he committed suicide. Stefano is intrigued by the mystery surrounds Legnani and decides to investigate more about the deranged painter. However, he in evicted of his hotel room and ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Right from the opening credits we know that we are in for something a bit different. An ensnared man is repeatedly stabbed by unknown assailants. The scene is shot in a series of close-ups in a fuzzy monochrome. Simultaneously, a male voice narrates weird musings about his 'colours' and how they run through his veins. It's a standout opening that promises something a bit odd.
Directly after this, we are introduced to the central character, Stefano an art restorer, who is travelling by boat to a remote south Italian community. He is met at the quayside by the mayor Solmi, a midget who resembles a squashed John Saxon. The inhabitants of this community seem to be a bit strange. Stefano is taken to the local chapel where he is shown a recently discovered fresco that he has been tasked with restoring. It's a disturbingly graphic depiction of the sacrifice of St. Sebastian, painted 40 or so years earlier by the mysterious local painter Legnani, known as the 'painter of agony' such was his predilection for capturing images of death. Stefano subsequently receives a number of anonymous threatening phone calls suggesting that he should abandon his work and leave. His friend, the local doctor, takes him aside and warns him that he has discovered something ominous about the community, centring on a 'house with laughing windows' but before he is able to elaborate further he is interrupted. His friend is murdered shortly afterwards in mysterious circumstances. Stefano is eventually driven away from the local hotel and winds up staying in a remote house with a retarded odd job boy from the chapel and a bed-ridden old woman. He also finds an old tape-recording that contains the very sinister narration from the opening credits. I won't spoil the fun by revealing more.
The title and release date of this movie suggests that it will be a typical giallo. But this simply is not the case. Despite adopting some of the conventions of the genre the mystery maniac and tragic back-story this is not a body-count movie and there is no black-gloved assassin. The horror is more subtle but, crucially, a lot more frightening than the average giallo. This really is a scary movie. It fuses the aforementioned giallo elements with the weird rural community horror seen in films like The Wicker Man. Although the inhabitants are less weird here, the setting does have a similarly unsettling feel. It's the menacing atmosphere of the film that really sets it apart from most. It's the little details that make the difference, for example, the haunting tape-recording is particularly well used.
The photography is fine and really maximises the locations, which themselves are very well selected, the interior of the mysterious house where Stefano lodges is very effectively used. The music is particularly good, especially the brooding piano piece that accompanies the suspense scenes. The acting, too, is a notch above the average Italian horror. And the gore is kept to a minimum but, as a result, when it does show up it has a stronger effect. I would go so far as to say that this relatively unheralded film is one of the best Italian horror movies. It's an essential DVD for any Euro horror collection.
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