Saturday, November 20, 2010
In Brief: GIALLO (2009)
Dario Argento has disavowed his latest film and star Adrien Brody is suing its producers. I can't blame either man, but I don't think they're blameless, either. While I've never really been a fan of Argento's -- I find Suspiria overrated and I walked out of Opera in the director's presence, though I recently saw The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and liked it -- I still expected something auteurial or idiosyncratic from him, especially in a film named after the genre he's credited with inventing or perfecting. It's as if Sergio Leone had made a film called Spaghetti Western, or John Ford just plain Western. But there's an all-too-literal subject to which the title refers; a BTK-style menace dubbed "Yellow" by one of his victims because of his jaundiced appearance. He's a villain for torture porn, and the last sort you might expect in a giallo homage. He's almost something out of a Tod Browning film, tormented as a child for his color and grown into an ugly man. Insults are his weakness, in fact; he has a hard time getting into his groove with a victim when she recklessly (I'd say suicidally without benefit of hindsight) insults his looks. Without a proper giallo killer the homage aspect of the project doesn't extend much beyond some handsome shots of typical genre milieux: a fashion show and an opera, for instance. But Argento doesn't invest any of his directorial personality into these actualities, nor in any other part of the film from what I could tell. Even the gore is relatively minimal. Worse yet, while Argento's films are noted for their music, from the likes of Morricone, Goblin, etc., Giallo's score is so utterly generic you'd be excused for thinking it was library music. Worst of all, the story is simply dull when it isn't actively stupid, and the acting is dull (Brody) when it isn't obnoxiously shrill (nearly everyone else). The star sleepwalks through his role as an Italian-American police detective with a sensitivity to serial killers because as a child he'd seen his mother murdered and as a teen murdered the murderer. He was found red-handed by a policeman who apparently became his mentor, but did not make much of a detective of him. Fortunately, clues tumble into his lap. A corpse dumped on the street proves to be not quite dead, living long enough to call her killer Yellow, and it's up to our hero's hectoring tagalong (Emmanuelle Seigner), the sister of the latest kidnap victim, to deduce that Yellow might mean jaundiced and hence a hepatitis patient. Once they realize that the suspect must depend on prescription drugs, the movie can only keep itself going by literally throwing obstacles in Brody's path. The only reason he doesn't catch the killer in a hospital, having shown up serendipitously just as he's filling his prescription, is that he trips over a janitor's mop and bucket. It's that kind of film, i.e. lousy. No one had a heart in it. It's an insult to its own title, and to Argento's own legacy.