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Old 10-22-2006, 12:46 AM
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Default Do You Like Hitchcock?




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: October 21, 2006

Released by: Anchor Bay
Release date: 8/15/2006
MSRP: $19.98
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.665:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageWith L’Avventura, Michelangelo Antonioni freed the motion picture from the trappings of conventional narratives. With its unanswered story of a woman’s disappearance overshadowed by a love affair that blossoms during the investigation, L’Avventura influenced filmmakers both Italian and the world over. Two years later Alfred Hitchcock popularized the arthouse sensibilities of L’Avventura with Psycho, as a bank robbery caper suddenly drifts into horror when Janet Leigh checks into the Bates motel. During this fruitful stage in film development, a young Dario Argento was experiencing these revelations firsthand as a film critic. Even though his first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, was a recapitulation of the themes of Antonioni’s Blowup, he was still deemed by critics as The Italian Hitchcock. Whether justified or not, Argento has lived his life in comparison to the dual forces of Antonioni and Hitchcock.

His most recent feature, the television pilot Do You Like Hitchcock? finally sees Argento challenging the critical comparisons between himself and Hitchcock by adding his own twist onto the Hitchcock formula. Like Rear Window filtered through the lascivious eye of late-career Antonioni, replete with plenty of nudity, Do You Like Hitchcock? is a look back by Argento on his earlier influences. Forward-looking as of late, with the internet-fuelled The Card Player his most recent, Argento jumps back into the films of his golden age…does this one compare?


The Story

inline ImageGiulio (Elio Germano) is a bookish boy who stumbles upon a pair of sadistic beauts during one morning bike ride. The two women run off to a shack with a squirming back under each arm, and Giulio follows. They enter the shack and Giulio spies from below the front window. The women undress partially and then sacrifice a chicken(!), smearing the blood on their breasts. Giulio shrieks and the women chase him, but before they reach him the film jumps forward seventeen years. Giulio is now a film student, transferring that voyeuristic experience from his youth into the more controlled and academic study of images on a screen. He likes films by Murnau, Lang and Hitchcock…but so do a pair of mysterious young women.

inline ImageSasha (Elisabetta Rocchetti) lives in an apartment across the street from Giulio, which he notices memorably one night when he watches her undress in a seductive red stocking. Her and her friend Federica (Chiara Conti), a blonde knockout of similar bust proportions, share a similar love for the Master of Suspense as each rents Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train from the local video store. Giulio runs into them there while researching for an essay on German Expressionism, and while the sight of two beautiful women giddily spending their evenings watching classic films (can’t they all?) would entice interest from anyone (especially a film geek), Giulio has another motive. He sees the two of them together in secret, seemingly conspire for something devilish. His suspicions grow greater when Sasha’s domineering mother is pummeled to death by a candlestick (at this point the suspects are so nil, I guessed Professor Plum).

inline ImageRenting the same copy of Strangers on a Train as the two women, Giulio aims to solve the mystery. The Hitchcock film features two people unknown to each other who one day meet on a train and decide to each murder the other’s dead weight. Perfect alibis and no need for introductions, it is the perfect murder plot – and one for which Giulio suspects Sasha and Federica. He continues to peer out his window, spying on the two with binoculars, as his mind runs wild with possible motives. He can’t sit back behind his blinds forever though, and the closer he gets to the crimes, the more his life is thrust into danger. Watching Hitchcock is one thing, but living it could spell M for Murder!

While for the most part a conventional return to giallo territory, this time done with cheaper production values and for television, Do You Like Hitchcock? still features flourishes of brilliance that make the master’s films so memorable. And by master, horror fans, I mean Dario.

inline ImageInitially, the subject matter seems foreign to Argento. The chicken sacrifice of the beginning seems something more out of Polanski’s impoverished vistas than anything Argento has ever done. Furthermore, the overabundance of voyeuristic nudity, eroticized by flowing white curtains and the orange light of a fireplace, seems more fitting for something out of Antonioni’s later career. The further along Michelangelo Antonioni went on in life, the more pornographic his films became, as if fulfilling the impotence of being wheelchair bound by transcribing it into sensual films like Beyond the Clouds and his segment of Eros. Argento is still fully mobile, but you’d swear he’s compensating for something with all the nubile women he has nude at his disposal here. Either that or he’s tipping his hat to the unmentioned master implied by the title.

inline ImageInitially, the subject matter seems foreign to Argento. The chicken sacrifice of the beginning seems something more out of Polanski’s impoverished vistas than anything Argento has ever done. Furthermore, the overabundance of voyeuristic nudity, eroticized by flowing white curtains and the orange light of a fireplace, seems more fitting for something out of Antonioni’s later career. The further along Michelangelo Antonioni went on in life, the more pornographic his films became, as if fulfilling the impotence of being wheelchair bound by transcribing it into sensual films like Beyond the Clouds and his segment of Eros. Argento is still fully mobile, but you’d swear he’s compensating for something with all the nubile women he has nude at his disposal here. Either that or he’s tipping his hat to the unmentioned master implied by the title.

inline ImageYet when the film reaches its ambitious, but simplistic, final shot, Argento’s intent rings clear. Both the films of Hitchcock and Antonioni are defined by unpredictable narratives, ones that never abide by formula. While Argento will forever be remembered as one to break all the rules with transcendental results when it comes to his visuals, his stories have been more by the book. The giallo genre, synonymous of course with Argento, is one of the most assembly lined of all filmic genres. There’s a murder, there’s a naïve who tries to investigate, there’s a lot of sex and violence, and then finally there is a James Bond resolve, where the killer reveals all and is terminated in violent fashion. It’s clockwork, and even if Argento always put a new visual touch on each of his forays to the genre, he took very little narrative risk.

inline ImageHere finally, with Do You Like Hitchcock? Argento deconstructs the giallo genre by giving the audience puzzle pieces that never quite fit together. The poultry prelude is never resolved, and Giulio’s whole Strangers on a Train theory ultimately ends up an insubstantial falsity. Like Psycho or L’Avventura, Argento’s plot here takes a conventional narrative and turns it in a different, more introspective direction. Fitting his never ending preoccupation with the voyeur, Argento cleverly turns the plot over to the viewer in its final moments. The story becomes less the solving of a crime and more an indictment of the audience that eats up his penchant for boobs and blood (often together). The murder may get solved in Do You Like Hitchcock?, but the motive proves less interesting than gazing at the splendor of a naked woman. We’re all to some extent voyeurs, and by surrounding his main character with the dark shadows of old films and the seductive sights of topless tenants, he makes sure we never forget it.

inline ImageThe film’s two biggest voyeurs, the video store clerk and the film student Giulio, both prove to be Hitchcock’s weakest links. Respectively a murderous pawn and a clumsy do-nothing, the two characters exemplify the lame inaction that comes from relegating oneself to be the quiet observer. As a voyeur one can never experience, they can only witness, and here, more than any other Argento film, there’s never been so much spite for the main character. The film geek is a weak, poorly acted, little nerd and worse yet he is one who gives a bad name to film geeks. Watching his full frame silent classics stretched on his widescreen television, he epitomizes the pseudo-intellectual who can look but never understand.

The title, Do You Like Hitchcock?, may as well have been called Do You Like to Watch?, since that is ultimately the question Argento poses. He pays homage to Hitchcock through his splintering narrative, but ultimately Argento is questioning our propensity to observe. He turns the camera on us and himself with the final shot of the film, signaling that even if the chain of events will repeat itself (whether in the course of this film, or in the next giallo to come about), we’ll always sit there watching. Argento, like DePalma, has reached a stage in his career where he is no longer a young trendsetter, but instead an aging stickler to a unique vision. While their films may never achieve the heights of their seventies work, they now benefit from the hindsight of an old man who has lived the life of a paid voyeur and can now fully tell it. Hi, Mom! and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage were always about voyeurs, but it is only now, with The Black Dahlia and particularly Do You Like Hitchcock? that these master filmmakers can fully articulate it. Argento may not be in top form here, but his message remains as captivating as ever.

Image Quality

Although shot on 35mm, you’d never tell by this grainy 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a thick grain that overwhelms the image during portions, and many times resembles digital noise. Colors come across fine all the same though, with Argento’s trademark reds and blue coming forth at full hue. Still, this is a television movie and looks it, with some distracting interlacing effects during the first few minutes and a general flatness that overwhelms the entire visual palette. While this may be a 2006 release, truth be told his older films have been given much better treatment by Anchor Bay.

Sound

The film is presented in an English stereo mix, and while it has some moments of depth, overall sounds slightly hollow. This is due mostly to the horrendous dubbing that presides over all dialogue exchanges, with everyone in Torino donning a British accent. It makes the whole film seem manufactured and synthetic, which takes away from Argento’s roaming shots in the Torino streets. There is a bit of surround, and some used effectively in setting ambiance during the murder set pieces, but overall it’s a pretty average track.

Supplemental Material

inline ImageAnchor Bay seems to have skimped a bit on the audio and visual components of this release, and they’ve done so, too, on the supplement side as well. All that is included here is a 7-minute montage of on-the-set footage called “Do You Like Hitchcock? Backstage” and an informative text bio on Argento. The behind-the-scenes footage has several nice bits, from Argento donning the killer’s gloves to Argento jumping into a scene to pour more blood on one of the actress’s heads. Without narration or a thread to tie it all together though, it seems a little unfinished. Considering all the extras lobbied onto Argento’s Masters of Horror episode, the lack here comes as a disappointments.

Final Thoughts

Do You Like Hitchcock? is an ambitious attempt by Dario Argento to deconstruct the narrative trappings of the giallo genre and to question the nature of voyeurism. It is, at the same time, a bloody and bare chested romp with plenty of twists. While no way his best work, it is no doubt an interesting little experiment. The image, sound and supplements are all only average at best, so if you are wavering on purchasing the film, you need only ask yourself one question: Do You Like Argento? The answer therein will dictate whether or not you are going to want to buy this.

Rating

Movie - B-
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B
Supplements - C

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running Time - 1 hour 33 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Stereo 2.0

Supplements
  • "Do You Like Hitchcock? Backstage" featurette
  • Dario Argento bio

Other Pictures

 

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Old 11-04-2006, 11:02 PM
Screamy Bopper
I must say i enjoyed this - yeah, it's a lesser Argento and not as good as his earlier work, obviously , but for a creepy night in , i recommend it .

(Oh and the girl at some point in the movie is )
 
 

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