Sunday, 8 February 2009

Spiando Marina / The Smile of the Fox / Foxy Lady

Foxy Lady has three things going for it. The first two are the most obvious: Deborah Caprioglio's 'charms,' prominently displayed throughout in all their glory. The third, the direction by George Raminto, takes a little, but not much more discernment, as he places the camera in somewhat unexpected places and moves it in somewhat unexpected ways, as with an early shot that begins as an establishing shot before tracking back as the characters advance.

Who is this guy and why have I never heard of him before, I wondered. Maybe he's not a top-flight filmmaker but definitely someone with the air of a solid B-man whose whose work would be worth exploring further.

I did a spot of investigation and it became much clearer: behind the George Raminto pseudonym lies none other than Sergio Martino, one of the undisputed masters of the giallo form.

Or maybe not, as a second mystery then arises: Martino, while sometimes using a pseudonym, is not the sort of guy who you'd think would want or need one here.

True, Foxy Lady is the kind of film that might be labeled a giallo for convenience sake, being a hitman revenge drama cum erotic thriller more than your traditional murder mystery, but some more traditional elements - voyeurism and sexual perversion, a protagonist troubled by traumatic flashbacks to a life-defining incident in the past, rendered in slow-motion for added impact - are there as well.

The biggest problem the film has is its script, courtesy of Martino and Piero Regnoli. Going for surprise over suspense, the narrative both strains credulity whilst you are watching and raises a number of Hitchcockian "icebox" moments afterwards.

There is the odd self-referential touch, with Caprioglio's character remarking at one point that hers is "Such a stupid story [which] sounds like a trashy soap opera," but these aren't enough.

The first issue here, excusable in terms of market realities trumping others, is the basic set up: Steve Bond is a corrupt ex-cop, who was caught working for a drug smuggling cartels and then turned on them to save himself, with the consequence that they killed his wife and son.

The second, slighly less excusable but still probably explicable in terms of co-production opportunities, is the setting, Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the supposed home of the cartel: how many Argentinean drug cartels have you heard of?

The third is the thing which brings Bond and Caprioglo's characters, Mark and Marina, together, that they are neighbours in the same apartment block.

In itself this wouldn't be a problem, other than the possible implausibility of Mark being assigned to do the hit and then having to wait weeks for his target to be announced to him.

Well, that and the eventual identification of said target as Marina's effective owner, who conveniently beats and brutalises her for added emotional impact, along with remarks made by Mark's contact which imply that they and she are all part of the same conspiracy.

Or, it's Martino as director versus Martino as screenwriter, with the former not quite able to overcome the inadequacies of the latter. But if Foxy Lady is thus a failure as a film, it is also a revealing one, by virtue of identifying how much Martino needed a screenwriter such as Ernesto Gastaldi to make it all work and the distinction between his gialli and those of an Argento, where style and substance were inseparable.

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