Saturday, June 18, 2011

What is it with the New Italian Films? See "The Double Hour" Now

      While Dexter recuperates, we’ll fill in our readers with some of our entertaining views.

      The Esquire just premiered Giuseppe Capatondi’s The Double Hour (La doppia hora) and it’s a must see for two reasons:  a plot that has two extraordinary twists and is still seamless, which is pretty tough for a romantic thriller (Tell No One from a couple of years back had a couple of loose ends when you had time to think through the whole story after the credits) and a terrific performance by Kseniya Rappoport, who deservedly won best actress at the Venice Film Festival.  Neil and I still want to see Super 8, though most everyone into movies wants to see it, and Midnight in Paris, though most everyone over forty who can still bear Woody Allen wants to see that, so we thought we’d choose something that wouldn’t be around long.  I hope we’re wrong and that it plays for weeks as I Am Love did last summer, but it’s already in the shoebox theatre so it’s not a good sign for a long run.  However, it was pretty packed for a late Saturday afternoon showing.

      The crowd was primarily 55+ and who most likely saw the first runs of the great French and Italian films of the 1950s – 1970s and this has that type of feel.  I Am Love was a contemporary and much more explicitly erotic turn on a story that might have been told by Luchino Visconti via Douglas Sirk/Ross Hunter.  The Double Hour plays with the same feelings of guilt and dread that obsessed and amused Hitchcock, but there’s also the extreme identification of the director with a blond muse playing a character wrestling with questions of Existentialism and existence that recalls Antonioni’s relationship with Monica Vitti.  After all, this is a movie that opens with a suicide and it’s about the only red herring in the story since it serves the atmosphere and creates a motif, but isn’t intrinsically connected to the plot.  

      What makes this so current is that the guilt and dread are valid for the characters and even when one major character is revealed to be very different from what we want to believe, though the writers, director, and actor are upfront about what is probably really motivating the character, we’re still hoping for a conventional happy ending and also crossing our fingers that the integrity of the film will be maintained to the end.  I cannot say much more about the plot except to reconfirm that it opens with a suicide and, yes, moves to a sequence involving a speed dating session.  It’s a thriller that plays with the situation of whether the lead female is being haunted, going slowly insane, or dealing with grief.  Rappoport and Filippo Timi have a strong, complex bond and that informs the ambivalence of their characters. They also are attractive in a European and Mediterranean way that Hollywood producers don’t understand because they aren’t glamorous, but are charismatic.  This was true for the secondary actors as well, a couple of whom were interesting in a way where you wish you could hang out with their characters a while longer, though it’s impossible in this type of suspense mystery format. The final image might be a homage to Polanski’s Repulsion since it focuses on the eyes of a character both fascinating and psychopathic.  An audience member behind me said, as the lights came up, “I just don’t understand the father.”  I wanted to say to him, “Lucky you,” but I knew he wouldn’t understand.

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