Sunday, 29 April 2007

Cimitero senza croci / Cemetery without Crosses

I've been on a bit of a spaghetti western binge at the moment. The best new discovery has been Robert Hossein's Cemetery Without Crosses, co-written by a certain Dario Argento and dedicated by Hossein - who produced, directed, wrote and starred in the piece, remarkably without compromising it - to Sergio Leone.

From one auteur to another?

While it might be possible to seek common elements between the film and Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West - as the Leone film co-authored by Argento, along with Bertolucci - that are not in evidence in Leone or Hossein's other films as possible Argento-isms, in truth I think that would be a largely futile exercise.

One thing that did leap out, however, was the way in which Cemetery's Manuel takes his black gloves out of a musical box and invariably dons the right one before going into action; at one point he even gets an opponent to back down by simple virtue of putting it on. It's classic unimportant prop to signifying fetish material.

The glove box also plays a tinkly music box theme like Mortimer's and Indio's watches in For a Few Dollars More or the killer's tape in Deep Red

Let's go to work...

No, not the infamous panty-ripping murder in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage but some Italian western black glove action

There's also a well staged suspense sequence where Manuel, having schemed his way into the home of the family whose daughter he intends to kidnap, is seated at the dinner table with the rest of their hired hands. Nobody speaks, the only sounds those of cutlery and typically messy spaghetti western eating. Everyone turns to look at him - has he been rumbled? As it turns out, no, with the release of tension coming not through a moment of violence, Leone style, but a Hitchcock style gag, as the family and their hirelings play a practical joke on the new recruit.

More generally, the film made me think about what seem to be the fundamentally different ways in which spaghetti westerns and gialli deal with trauma. In gialli trauma is more likely to induce insanity than a desire for revenge, which often also takes a somewhat confused and generalised form in which the society as a whole or certain groups within it are to blame. In spaghettis trauma usually leads to straightforward vendetta, even if the path to its fulfilment may well be just as convoluted and strewn with flashbacks and mystery elements.


Anonymous said...

One of the best Spaghetti Westerns of all time!

K H Brown said...

I have to agree. I wasn't expecting much from the film, more watching it for the Argento connection. But I found it grabbed me from the outset and never really let go. I especially liked the way it gave the sense of characters doing what they had to, on account of their past / a sense of duty, whilst knowing full well it was futile and left them with nothing to live for. I found that very true to Leone in Mortimer's and Harmonica's vendettas, for instance.