Photographer Fabrizio (Umberto Orsini), his wife Anna (Beba Loncar), her sister Valeria (Haydee Politoff) and model Margherita (Shoshana Cohen) sail to an island to do some location shots. En route they hear over the radio that about a prison escapee who has killed a policeman and is still at large. Later Fabrizio discovers the boat has engine trouble. Hailing a passing vessel, he arranges to get a lift ashore and to return with the required fix. The three women stay on the island, discovering a corpse, which vanishes, and Marco (Corrado Pani), who may or may not be the escaped killer.
Great title, but what does it mean?!
The titular interrabang was a non-standard punctuation mark, a combination of an exclamation mark and a question mark, developed in the 1960s. Though it never became standard use, there have been those occasions when in reviewing gialli especially it could come in handy, notably when a plot point is both surprising and of questionable logic. Indeed, in some reviews I've sometimes flagged such moments up with a combination of the two normal symbols, !? Or ?!
Interrabang itself has a number of these '!?' moments, beginning with the three women's decision to stay on the island where a killer is quite possibly on the loose. These are, however, clearly intentional on the part of the filmmakers, given its title and the various references to the interrabang – worn by Valeria – within the diegesis. It is, for example, “the new symbol of doubt, the uncertainty in all of us. Uncertainty in these times, the uncertainty of the world”
Valeria and her interrabang pendant
The issue, perhaps much like the symbol itself, is that this may come across not as clever but as a bit too clever for its own good. Is it good for a giallo to mention that “interrabang” rhymes with “boomerang” ?!
The word defining the meaning of the image
This is also the case when it comes to director Giuliano Biagetti's mise-en-scene. Editing is often performed within the camera by zooming in or out, with unmotivated zooms and camera movements also prominent.
Like the interrabang this “poetic” approach, of drawing attention to the camera's presence and treating it as a consciousness in its own right, is something of a product of the time, seen in both 'official' European modernist cinema (e.g. Antonioni, an obvious reference point for Interrabang) and its unofficial 'Eurotrash' counterpart (e.g. Bava, Franco).
Conventional chains of images are also sometimes disrupted through the repetition or omission of a shot. For example, when the policeman's effects and body is seen for the first time by the viewer and Valeria, there is no obvious reaction shot from her and what appear to be two versions of the same shot, one with the policeman's rifle and another with the rifle and his body. Valeria later clarifies that she saw the body after Margherita also, and more definitively, finds it, but even so we have to assume that Valeria's words and the images are true to one another.
Interrabang's narrative structure also seems designed to challenge: The first 20 minutes or so are quite talky and light on action and it is not until the hour mark, or two-thirds of the way through, or the final act that things really kick into action. Even then, however, the conclusion(s) are decidedly ambiguous and ambivalent, if more concrete than those of Blow-Up or L'Avventura.
If certain aspects of the film challenge, others provide for more conventional pleasures. The locations and performers are attractive to look at – even if not always so in their words and deeds – as is Berto Pisano's easy going, seductive score. Even here, however, it is also notable that while the three female leads spend most of their time in bikinis and swimsuits they rarely actually remove them. Moreover like many gialli the relationship between the implied male spectator and the female he is looking at is problematised somewhat through the foregrounding of Fabrizio as this implied spectator's controlling, voyeuristic surrogate.
The male gaze no. 456
Fabrizio telling his women how to act
Besides Antonioni Interrabang also invites comparisons with Ottavio Alessi's contemporaneous The Seducers and Deodato's later Waves of Lust, as other films working variations on the same kind of elements: sexual and murderous intrigues amongst a small group of bourgeois characters, boats, islands, disappearing bodies and so on. More generally, the film has the same kind of proto-erotic thriller / sexy psychological thriller aspect as the various gialli directed by Lenzi during the post-Bava, pre-Argento interregnum, although these tend to be less self-conscious and more straightforward.
Due to the casting of Haydee Politoff amongst the three women and the bulk of the film focusing upon the dynamics between them and an male outsider figure, Queens of Evil might also be mentioned as another intertext, albeit a more fantastical one.
I watched Interrabang through a review copy kindly supplied by Giallo Goblin. As can be seen from the screenshots, the film is presented in widescreen. It should be noted that the Italian dub, the image and the English subs go out of synchronisation with one another towards the end of the film. This appears a limitation of the source materials for the film rather than a fault of the copy under review.