Saturday, April 23, 2011

Film Review: Giallo

"Giallo" *** (out of ****)

After watching "Scream 4" (2011), which I think is over-all a good, entertaining movie, I suddenly had an urge to watch a Dario Argento film. Because I've seen nearly all of his classic, earlier works, I decided to watch his latest film "Giallo" (2009).

Argento and "Giallo" have been taking a beating from fans and critics. I can kind of, sort of, understand. Dario Argento's more recent works have become very campy. He also no longer makes truly effective horror or supernatural films. Instead he has turned into a thriller filmmaker. "Giallo" has been called another weak attempt by a filmmaker who has lost his touch. Not so fast I say.

"Giallo" was anticipated as a "comeback" film for the famed Italian director. Giallo is not only the name of this particular film but is also a sub-genre in horror films. A sub-genre Argento was at one time considered to be a master of. Giallo (the Italian word for yellow) refers to cheap paperback suspense novels which had yellow covers. The novels combined horror with supernatural elements.

I'm happy to say I feel "Giallo" is somewhat an improvement over other more recent Argento films such as "Mother of Tears" (2008) and his version of "The Phantom of the Opera" (1998). Those movies were extremely campy and lacked any suspense. "The Phantom of the Opera" may very well be my least favorite Argento film. It is almost an embarrassment. "Giallo" does not suffer from this problem. The story here is taken much more serious. No ham acting. The dialogue is slightly better.

Still there are problems. The acting is wooden here. And Argento has a difficult time creating any suspense and anticipation. The film doesn't have a proper pace. But, when compared to Agento's other recent films, "Giallo" is a step in the right direction. For that reason we should offer some support and encouragement.

Adrien Brody stars in "Giallo" as Inspector Enzo Avolfi, a homicide detective who has been having a hard time capturing a serial killer, who goes after pretty women (don't they all?). Linda (Emmanuelle Seigner) fears her sister, Celine (Elsa Pataky) may be the killer's latest victim. So, this hard as nails cop teams up with the vulnerable lady to track down the killer.

The film tries to offer some insight into the Enzo character by giving us flashbacks of his troubled youth. He witnessed the murder of his mother. Is that why Enzo has become a police officer? Is that why Enzo has a hard shell and doesn't allow people to get close to him? Is that why he has an anti-social personality? Or is it because the screenwriters; Jim Agnew and Sean Keller didn't know how to write better, more convincing dialogue? It is a bit of both I think.

One of the major downfalls of "Giallo" is we lack a clear understanding of Enzo. I wonder what was Brody thinking when he read this script? What was his motivation? What kind of conversations did he and Argento have? I find it hard to believe neither man could see the character lacked dimension. The flashbacks aren't enough.

Another problem Argento fans are going to have with this film is there are no elaborate, stylized death scenes. This is a bit of a shock coming from a man who seemed to have had a fetish for blood. His camera would linger on it like an animal going after its prey. Of course in Argento's earliest films like "The Bird with the Crystal Plumage" (1970) and "The Cat O' Nine Tails" (1971) he kept the violence mostly off screen. But in later films Argento earned a reputation for his startling death scenes (mostly of pretty girls). The best examples of his work are "Suspiria" (1977), "Deep Red" (1975), "Opera" (1987) and "Tenebre" (1982).

But once again, "Giallo" is still worth watching. It falls more into Argento's thriller period rather than a horror film. It has more in common with "The Stendhal Syndrome" (1996) than "Suspiria". Despite all of its flaws, like a weird ending, it is a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately the film has been caught in legal troubles. Actor Adrien Brody has sued the film's producers and has tried to stop the film from being released on DVD (it did not received a theatrical release in America). He says he was not fully paid. Because of this a limited amount of people have seen the film. Brody is hurting the film by having its reputation proceed it. Thus viewers are walking into the film with a bad attitude and not giving the film a chance.