Sunday, 19 August 2012

Do You Like Hitchcock?

Giulio has a nasty little habit, he like to watch! For as far back as he can remember he enjoyed watching people. There was no sexual motive behind his actions, he just liked to study human behaviour. As Do You Like Hitchcock? Begins we witness a young Giulio observing two woman in a woodland slaughterhouse killing a chicken. The two woman chase him in order to teach him a lesson, that lesson being "its rude to snoop".

As an adult, and a film student Giulio continues to watch, his latest interest; the woman who lived in the apartment opposite with her mother. The woman in question is called Sasha, and he soon becomes fixated with her, she leads a interesting life. But one day he catches her with an attractive blonde, the two seem to be making a deal. On the very evening Giulio is awakened by noises in the night; too tired to investigate he falls back to sleep. Later that night police cause him to be awake again, this time the pull is too strong and he rises from his bed to see the scene below: Police cars litter this Torino suburb, and to his realisation Sasha's mother has met with a very bloody end. Giulio feels he must investigate the murder using his knowledge of Alfred Hitchcock's movies to try and break the riddles. The question do you like Hitchcock? Has never had such menace.

Since Argento's movie Bird With The Crystal Plumage back in 1968 Argento has been given the nickname "The Italian Hitchcock?" Indeed through his career Argento's movies have had a very Hitchcock-esque feel for them. Best known as a horror genius, Argento's movies Deep Red, Four Flies On Grey Velvet, Cat O'Nine Tails and Bird With The Crystal Plumage all have the feel of Hitchcock. On a personal note Argento's movies far surpass Hitchcock's films. For Hitchcock his movies were a pure, clear, clean form of terrifying his audience. With Argento however not only did he want to baffle his audience with a great riddle and the question "Who-dunnit?"; but he wanted to make his movies a work of art. 

I have a suspicion that Do You Like Hitchcock? Is a turning point piece for Argento; the movie features a man who observes, Argento is obviously a man who observes and I cannot help but suspect that Argento has made elements of this movie Auto-biographical. The other interesting reference is the name of his character Giulio, this is not an overly popular name in Italy; but similar to the term Giallo. Giallo is a breed of movie or novel, we in the UK would refer to them as Who-dunnits. The term Giallo comes from a small yellow magazine of thrillers that used to be available on Italian newsstands in the 40's and 50's. As cinema turned a corner Giallo's went from page to screen and at the forefront of this was Argento with his movies. A Giallo movie must be a mystery, it must be artistically handled and must contain a certain level of gore. Argento's movies work in blocks, he will makes several Giallo movies, then flip back to horror; as future projects show, it appears Argento in making this movie was signing off this block of Giallo films, before moving back to horror.

Back onto the movie, Do You Like Hitchcock, certainly feels like a homecoming for Argento fans. This movie was made for television network Rai Uno; and despite the obvious limitations that working on television, this piece feels very much like Argento's much acclaimed movies of the 60's and 70's. The whole movie has an uneasy feel about it, you know something's going to happen, but you don't know what, how, when and why. From the opening scene of two women in the slaughterhouse you are put on the edge of your seat slightly. Then observing Giulio's voyeuristic talents and in particular Sasha's apartment makes you fully aware that rather like Hitchcock's Rear Window he is going to see something he probably should not. When the expected occurs, Giulio gets closer than the truth and in the most blatant form than you yourself would. He is very open in his "stalking" of the characters that he believes are guilty of this crime, and again this makes you uneasy and wanting to shout at him to hide, or be a bit less obvious.

The acting is poor to judge, I feel dubbing of foreign language is sacrilege, while its easier for those lazy souls around you to watch the movie, you get no real definition of the stars depth of field because they always end up sounding a bit wooden. A prime example in this movie is Giulio's mother, while her acting style seems ok the vocal performance leaves a lot to be desired, and the screaming is just plain fake. Giulio's girlfriend Arianna seems completely devoid of emotion due to this rather annoying addition, especially during heightened scenes when her character becomes frustrated by his obsession with Sasha and co. In the subject of Arianna I hope that her ad Giulio's relationship is not an indication of a traditional Italian or the race will surely become extinct.

Something easier to judge about the movie is Argento's art, no nothing to do with paintings on a wall; but pure celluloid art. Every scene is thought out with great method, each location so cleverly incorporated into Argento's plot. From unusual colours on the wall, to the positioning of light and the reflectivity of the sun; Argento uses everything in the most artistic manner you could imagine. No sooner has the movie moved on from the woodland slaughter house than you have Argento's art thrust upon you.  Sasha's home is a flat in a typical Italian 17th century city house, big and majestic in its style. But in a blazing 21st century updating someone has placed a massive glass atrium up the side of this home making it look completely out of character with its surroundings. The glass reflects causing prisms that glimmer in the corner of the screens. In Giulio's rather downmarket bog standard bedsit, you can see Sasha's home all the time. While Giulio's character acts, all the time your watching the background careful not to miss the slightest thing; as with all Argento films he gives something away in his plots, something that you just don't realise has any purpose until the very end. 

The story is nothing to write home about in fairness; normally with a Giallo movie the plot is thinly knitted so you cannot identify the killer. Here the killer is revealed almost immediately, the only mystery here is how the whole thing was plotted out and how it all connects to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. What this movie does provide for me as a Italian horror/thriller movie fan is an ending that I cannot quite understand. I get the whole murder plot, how the crime was committed etc.etc. however the final scene which features a flashback just leaves me puzzled. I'm unsure whether its meant as a statement, a kind of flashback, or if I have indeed missed something far deeper. One thing is for certain, this movie will be in my thoughts for this very reason for some time.

Again echoing Rear Window, one last point of interest is that as the movie progresses, and Giulio's curiosity gets the better of him, he finds himself disabled. The prime factor to any good thriller in my mind means that one person is put in a defenceless situation, where either they or someone else is put in peril because of this. Do You Like Hitchcock? Gives the viewer a final edge of your seat ride off the back of this situation.

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