Friday, 21 September 2007
I colori del buio
Published in 1999, I colori del buio covers “il cinema thrilling italiano dal 1930 al 1979,” a wide-ranging remit that author Luca Rea is nevertheless quick to qualifies in his preface as being to the exclusion of the 1970s polizieschi.
Following this the two Antonios, Bruschini and Tentori, set the scene with a comprehensive A to Z of recurring giallo themes and motifs that will undoubtedly save a bit of time for anyone wanting to know the key films as far as the role of the priest in the giallo goes, or needing a list of ones set in Venice. Interestingly while most of these entries overlap with those provided by Gary Needham in his more academic / theoretical discussion, omissions such as that of jet set travel / exoticism also seem telling.
Rea returns with brief discussion of the silent-era Italian thriller, valuable as a reminder that in a sense the giallo existed prior to the use of the term to describe a particular form of literature. This theme continues in the next, more substantial chapter, on the telefoni neri, or the thriller film of the thirty-year period from 1930 to 1959. While there seems little chance of actually being able to see many of these films outside of national film archives, simply knowing of their existence is useful in and of itself.
The bulk of his study focusses on the 1960s and 70s, however, at which point he also changes his approach, breaking the discussion down year-by-year and film-by-film. Each thriller discussed gets the same basic treatment: credits, followed by a synopsis and commentary and concluded by information on video availability; if the last is now perhaps obsolete for the ever-growing number of titles released on DVD it will nevertheless prove valuable for enthusiasts precisely because of the sheer number of obscure releases included.
Personally speaking, for instance, I'd love to track down the likes of Elio Petri's 1961 L'assassino, which sounds as though it would make for a revealing companion piece to 1970's Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, telling a similar kind of story from the perspective of the innocent man accused of the crime; the vaguely krimi-sounding title La Jena di Londra / The Hyena of London, which has Alan Collins / Luciano Pigozzi and Claude Dantes credited together around the same time as they were in Bava's seminal Blood and Black Lace; and 1964's The Accomplices, identified as a precursor of the kind of thriller Umberto Lenzi was to specialise in a few years later.
A wealth of trivia is also to be found within – did you know, for instance, that Bertrand Tavernier has an assistant director credit on Orgasmo, albeit one almost certainly for bureaucratic reasons only, or that the story that served as the basis for Il Terzo occhio was credited to one “Gilles de Rays” – while the stills and poster reproductions, though only in black and white, are a joy to behold.
There are a few obvious omissions, with the inclusion of Bertolucci's Commare secca against the exclusion of later arthouse giallo-politico entries such as the aforementioned Investigation... and other works by Petri and Francesco Rosi striking one as slightly odd, but again this could simply be a reflection of the difference between insider and outsider perspectives; as it is one thing which comes through is the importance of what Rea terms the “sexy gialli lenziani,” suggesting an alternative way of looking at the likes of Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion than as merely sullo stesso filone Argento...