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.

5 comments:

venoms5 said...

I found this in the video store last night. I passed it by, though. Adrian Brody is in a lot of movies these days. Not far from GIALLO was another new movie with him in it. I forget the name, but I'd not heard of it before.

Incidentally, OPERA was the last Argento movie I have seen from start to finish and that was way back when it came out. I've not been able to make it through any of his newer films ie 90s up to now. I did make a note to see his first Masters of Horror episode.

Hellbilly Hollywood said...

I was really curious about this movie, but after seeing Phantom of the opera and then the DREADFUL Mother of Tears, I was a little gunshy. Sounds like I was right to avoid it. Thanks for the tip!

Jason Marshall said...

Yeah, Argento hasn't made a decent movie in quite a long time. I've seen several of his recent ones but MOTHER OF TEARS was wretched and I gave up on Argento completely. I vaguely wanted to see this one, but I think you have successfully crushed any faint desire to do so.

There are some Argento movies I really liked including THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, DEEP RED, and even SUSPIRIA. (I haven't seen OPERA in a number of years and don't really remember my reaction to it.) DEEP RED is especially good and a great example of the giallo style. But the past decade or so he has made one stinker after another, opting for the easy torture porn route and ignoring the mystery part of the giallo genre. I hear George Romero is planning a 3-D remake of DEEP RED. I usually reserve judgment on these things but... oy.

Samuel Wilson said...

Thanks for writing, folks, and thank the Albany Public Library for making this public service possible at no cost to me apart from 90 minutes of my life. My understanding has been that Argento has been on the decline for quite a while, and Brody seems well en route to F. Murray Abraham territory.

The Film Connoisseur said...

I've too passed by this one at the video store, afraid of being dissapointed once again. Well, theres no doubt in my mind, Argento simply doesnt have his heart in filmmaking anymore.