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This Italian-French co-production could easily be thrown into the Italian giallo genre of the time, but it is really a pretty unique film that differs from other films in that genre in several major respects. First off, it is much more of a big-budget, arty affair with big-name actors like Vittorio Gassman and Catherine Deneuve, and a director who had just come off a big international art-house success with "Profuma di Donna" (the original Italian version of "Scent of a Woman" which also featured Gassman). It's also much more obscure than most giallo and was never clumsily dubbed into English. Mostly though it has a plot that actually makes sense and it develops slowly and subtly--quite a contrast from the hysterical tone and overwrought style of most gialli.
A naive young man studying art in Venice comes to stay with distant relatives, an elderly uncle (Gassman) and a somewhat younger aunt (Deneuve). In "Jane Eyre" fashion he discovers that his uncle is apparently keeping his insane brother in a secret room in an attic. His curiosity is piqued and he begins to investigate with his new artist model/girlfriend (Alcinee Alvina), and quickly discovers that all is not as it seems with his mysterious relatives.
You have to have a little patience with this film (especially if you're expecting a typical giallo). The atmosphere builds up slowly, but ultimately quite effectively. There is no graphic violence at all and no sex (aside from a memorable nude scene from the gorgeous Alvina). The final revelations at the end though are as perverse and disturbing as anything you'll find in any other giallo, with intimations of child abuse, incest, and the dual nature of man. Without giving too much away, this movie ends up being one of the best, most faithful adaptations of a certain classic story by R.L. Stevenson that I've seen. It's very hard to find, but find it.
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