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Noi tre (1984)
Tender and elegant
Released in the same year as film version of Peter Shaffer's stage play Amadeus. Pupi Avati's Mozart film shares little with the grandiose epic of Milos Forman. Perhaps it only really shares it's loose relation to historical facts. But where Forman drives home Shaffer's story with absolute confidence and dramatic certainty, Avati threads gently around the historic persona and in reality makes a film about childhood in general rather than Mozart in particular. The focus of the story is that last summer, those last few weeks of childhood. Avati tells his story as Mozart is fourteen years old spending time at Count Pallavicini's summer estate outside Bologna, before an important exam at the Philharmonic Academy. Mozart (Cristopher Davidson) is more taken by the subtle mysteries of the estate, the wonder of the surrounding woods and a friendship with the count's son Guiseppe (Dario Parisini). Perhaps it is not so much the woods in themselves as what they represent as they stand between the estate where Mozart studies and the house of the beautiful Antonia (Barbara Rebeschini), the young girl destined to marry Guiseppe. The young trio (the "three of us" of the title), form a loving friendship experiencing the awakening of adolescence together. Emotive as the subject matter is there are no big gestures in the film, the trio explores each other and their surroundings and find new emotions of love and camaraderie on the threshold of forming their own persona's in a place and time where the grown up world is both near and far at the same time. Avati's story and direction threats the subject with tenderness and elegance, employing lush 18th century milieu's, atmospheric ochre color schemed cinematography and lovingly pastiche Mozart music by Ritz Ortolani. In all this Avanti strays from overstating events, giving the story an equal sense of honest realism and lingering mystery. This is not a film about an exceptional, singular genius, but a film about a young boy.
Moln över Hellesta (1956)
Charming matinée thrills
Rolf Husbergs 1956 film Moln över Hellesta possibly takes its cue from Hitchcock's Rebecca as much as from its literary original by Margit Söderholm. Count Carl Anckarberg (Birger Malmsten) brings his fiancée Margareta Snellman (Anita Björk) home to his family estate for the first time. But ominous clouds are gathering in the form of a mysterious past. The count's previous fiancée drowned in the nearby lake seven years ago and as Margareta moves in to one of the guest rooms strange things begin to happen, someone is lurking in the shadows, seemingly intent on scaring her away from Hellesta. There is a ghostly face, nightly visits to her room and a near disastrous car mishap, she is even locked in the local church. Margareta learns that these incidents echo the events leading up to her predecessor's untimely death. There is even rumors about a curse, or a ghost haunting any fiancée of the count. And in the greenhouse even the roses never bloom
However, not easily discouraged the crafty Margareta embarks on her own investigation between the seemingly never-ending dinners, breakfasts and coffees of high society life. Can she solve the puzzle before it is too late and she becomes another casualty of the curse of Hellesta? All in all Husbergs film is certainly clichéd and it does move along at an all too pedestrian pace, but it's its virtually brimful of redeeming traits. For one the setting is marvelous, filmed at the beautiful Hofsta estate, in Björkvik, Södermanland. Secondly Torbjörn Lundquist (known for his music for the thrillers of Arne Mattsson) supplies a lovely score. Furthermore the cast is highly amiable, and especially Anita Björk excels as the fearless amateur detective. Birgitta Andersson has an early supporting role as the friend of the dead fiancée, and does a colorful job with a small part. Bullen Berglund and Sif Ruud also bring their typical charm to the film. A minor criticism would be that Malmsten is perhaps a bit on the woody side to be a believable romantic interest for the adventurous Björk, but all in all his performance is adequate. To sum it up, Moln över Hellesta exceeds it limitations on pure charm and the beauty of the scenery to make it an attractive little piece of matinée thrills.
Clichéd but stylish and charming
In this American-abroad-in-peril the quite breathtakingly beautiful Shirley Jones plays a young secretary who arrives in Italy with Britton insurance agent George Sanders (noless!) to evaluate the stunning estate of Count Paolo Barbarelli (played with merit but without real imagination by Rossano Brazzi). She soon finds herself more interested in the clichéd aristocrat charms of the Count than in his art collection. However all is not as it seems, and sneaking around the house is the Counts eerie daughter, allegedly traumatized after the death of her mother in an accident a few years back. Questions mount and plot thickens as Shirley pursues a friendship with the girl, and roams around the big estate where a mystery seems hidden within the architecture it self. All in all this is an entertaining romp for those with a taste for stylish Hitchcockian thrillers of the 60's, and what it lacks in originality it makes up for in the charm of the cast, good paced direction and lavish imagery.
La vergine di Bali (1972)
70's exploitation charms
Bali-Archipelago-thrills from director Guido Zurli who also gave us the urban cannibal flick Lo Strangolatore di Vienna. In La Vergine di Bali, an English gentleman banker gets fed up with the London city rat race and ventures to Bali to find the meaning of life. Which, by the way seems to include severe alcoholism, brawls, harassing prostitutes, playing with local kids on the beach and making disparaging comments to anyone trying to talk to you. Soon the novelty wears off with the local Police, who makes our hero(?) an ultimatum: Get a job or go home. Said and done, the Englishman takes up employment with a local booze distributor named Fatso(!). But after getting it on with Fatso's wife, it seems his employer is out to kill him. But Fatso's half hearted attempts at assassination fails, and after a failed leisure cruise which ends in a shipwreck, it turns out that fatso is in the gold smuggling racket, and that our guy got his employment to spy on Fatso for the local 5-0. It all ends in a shoot out at sea over the sunken gold and our Englishman finds love in, yes, the virgin of Bali (who by the way is English).
But is he willing to give up his newfound lifestyle for love? All in all this is an enjoyable flick if you are able to over look the fact that the Englishman is seriously annoying and possibly one of the most charmless leads you'll see. A lot of film stock is spent on what I guess Guido Zurli categorizes as Bali's "weird-goings-on", adding up as colorful documentary footage of traditional theater, bull racing and religious festivities. And I must say the smuggler subplot comes across fairly well handled but what makes this film is the fact that it positively reeks with 70's exploitation charms. So if you think you're up for that, give it a chance, they certainly don't make 'em like this anymore.
Sangue di sbirro (1976)
Eurotrash with cult legend Eastman
Sure, it's a simple trifle in film history, if even that, and seeing Sangue di sbirro today is at best mildly entertaining. For although made in the heyday of the Italian crime genre this one is no zenith. Dan Caputo (George Eastman of dubious Antropophagus-fame) arrives in New York to avenge the death of his father, a cop involved with the mafia. Dan clears up the murder (and kills what seem like some 30 people) with help of local mob boss Duke (Jack Palance) and then flies back to wherever he came from. Possibly there is a bit more to the story, but the script is so confused so there is little point in trying to describe the goings-on. Suffice to say there is a little romance, brief scenes childhood reminiscing, and a helluva lot of shoot outs. Some of which are quite exiting in a cheapo euro trash way. The highlight of the film is definitely the opening scene at the airport when Dan arrives during some sort of terrorist attack simply to shoot his way through it. All in all it's not a badly done revenge film technically, and it's clichéd in the best sense of the word, but it suffers from some seriously dragging scenes, and a poorly executed whodunit sub plot, which slows the whole thing down. Only recommended for the die-hard fan of Italian 70's crime films. But then again who isn't?
Oi gennaioi tou Vorra (1970)
An apolitical partisan western?
THE BRAVE BUNCH is a bit of a confused puppy. On one hand it's a WWII partisan resistance flick of which a good many was made in Europe from the late 40's and onwards through to the 70's, but on the other it's a straight up western with the Bulgarians occupying the Greek enclave of Macedonia acting the proper outlaw gang, pillaging, raping and murdering. There is a governor, more horse back scenes than you can shake a whip at, a dame in peril and the partisans come through as a brave bunch setting out to save the besieged village. On top of all that it throws some elements of the 70's drive in terror vogue with graphic violence and rape scenes in to the mix. Having said that, the mix as such is interesting, but comes across as somewhat frustrating. At times it becomes a bit far fetched and you end up wondering why the producers couldn't decide on which kind of film they would make. I saw a short edit of the film (around 90 minutes) and possibly there is a political side to the film, which you miss out of seeing the English language version, but that's only speculation from my side. For as it stands now THE BRAVE BUNCH is apolitical bordering on the absurd for a partisan flick. If there is a final word to this rambling it would be that the film is worth a look for its genre crossing, but you are probably best off getting the longer Greek cut.
Il medaglione insanguinato (1975)
Tranquil, tragic and beautiful
Taihei Yasui's Freudian reading and subsequent criticism of Il Medaglione insanguinato in the previous posting, is undoubtedly interesting. However I do feel it's a bit over ambitious. In many of these Italian genre films Freudian thematics are loose points of departure rather than actual work methods as seen with, say, Arthur Schnitzler or ETA Hoffmann. Furthermore these directors often treated classical dramatic constructions and story line logics very much the same way, that is, as a mere basis for experimenting with the given genre themes. Personally I find this period in European cinema thoroughly refreshing. And to me, Il Medaglione insanguinato certainly is no exception. Logical or not, Freudian or not, it is certainly a psychological thriller but it is draped in the quite appealing aesthetics of an near surrealistic Gothic ghost story. It stands out among it's peers today above all thanks to a beautiful rural cinematography, solemn performances by solid genre stalwarts, and a sublime score. Ultimately Massimo Dallamano's dreamlike direction renders a the film a tragical nightmare-ish tranquility which to me makes the film exceed it's limitations.
Duello nel mondo (1966)
Early Italian krimi with style
An American sleuth looks into a British case where life insurance policy holders are seemingly killed of one after another by an unknown assassin firing poisoned bullets made of ice. -You gotta love that kind of set up. The investigation takes him all around the globe in a fast paced, and wonderfully illogical Bondesque "krimi", crammed packed with exotic locations, sharp threads, seriously groovy music and jet seting thrills. With names like Ernesto Gastaldi and Sergio Martino involved Duello nel mondo adds up to a proper treat for any fan of 60's euro crime. And keep an ear out for that ferocious Piero Umiliani soundtrack!
Killing Birds: Raptors (1987)
A film to fear
...but my only fear was that it would never end.
I love eurohorror, and I adore zombie time wasters like Tombs of The Blind Dead, La Notti Del Terrore and Lucio Fulci's zombie flicks. But this...this... I don't know how to write this so it won't end up one of those reviews where you end up wanting to watch the film just because the reviewer thought it was so enormously bad. But trust me. This one is bad-bad not entertaining-bad. Partly because it holds no hints of irony, and is technically well done enough not to end up cheesy. In the end it's simply mind numbingly dull.
I won't go into details on the story seeing as so many has already commented on it, suffice to say it's no understatement that it holds no immediate logic. And as far as zombies goes, they only appear in the last half an hour, which by the way seem to go on for ever and ever, due to the fact of unbelievable slow pacing. Also much of the time scenes repeat upon themselves, even the death scenes, but mostly the film grinds to a halt because the actors(if you can call them that) only stand around looking at each other or the surroundings for minutes and minutes on end. The only reason I sat through Zombie 5 - Killing Birds was because I was waiting for the zombie birds, which I naively enough thought would appear at least once. But even there I was disappointed.
I never thought I would say this, but you are better of re-watching Zombi 3. At least that one boasts some proper zombie birds and elementary gore.
Original but underdeveloped
Many have already commented and it seems that people either love it or hate it, well, my own opinion lands somewhere in between so here goes
"Who Can Kill a Child" is certainly worth a look. It's undeniably original and draws inspiration from a number of fine films, Lord of the Flies (1963 version) obviously, but also The Birds, Don't Look Now and possibly The House With The Laughing Windows. Just like in his first feature ("The House That Screamed") director Ibáñez-Serrador got sort of an oppression/revolution theme going. This time children suddenly fight back for all injustice that they have been made to suffer through the ages. The theme is treated without any subtlety, in the first eight minutes of the film we get brief but a run-down of cruelty children has suffered through time. This comes as a newsreel with real life footage from concentration camps, wars and famines. It's hard stuff to watch and the clumsy handling of the material makes it come across rather dubious. It smells of sensationalism and exploitation. However after that we get a fairly well handled thriller where a tourist couple arrives to a Spanish island only to find out that the children have taken over and killed off all the adults. The general atmosphere of the film is quite unnerving and the cinematography captures a certain dreamlike, or indeed nightmare-ish, quality. Sadly the editing leaves something to be desired which renders some of the dramatic set ups and pay offs a rather clumsy hue. Also many of the changes in pace works really badly and thus in parts the film seems slower than it really is. The ending comes as no real surprise but somewhat hard to interpret. Actually the substantial change in tone in the very final scene makes little or no sense vis-à-vis the dramatic construction of the story and the set up for the audience's sympathy. All in all "Who Can Kill a Child" stands as a memorable film, with a few too many questions left unanswered and possibly a tad pretentious.