25 June 2004 | dwingrove
The House of Bird Droppings?
Fans of Claudio Guerin Hill's sublimely weird horror classic The Bell of Hell would do well to realise that this, his first feature film, is nothing like it. The House of Doves is a soppy romantic melodrama, drowning in soft-focus photography and syrupy music. It also boasts continuity so atrocious that Lucia Bose seems to wear three separate outfits in the course of one conversation.
The lovely Lucia plays a glamorous widow, living with her nymphet daughter (Ornella Muti) in a remote corner of southern Spain. When an old flame (Glen Lee) drops by in his jazzy red sports car, the couple resume their affair - until she finds out he's been the paid gigolo of a much older woman (Caterina Boratto). Understandably miffed, Lucia shows him the door. He gets revenge by seducing the daughter...
The film does improve remarkably at this point. The randy rotter lures the innocent girl to the mysterious 'House of Doves' - a place of assignation done up like a plush 19th century brothel! All over the house, doves flutter about and flap their wings in slow-motion - a 'poetic' way to illustrate Muti's first orgasm. Bose, we start to suspect, is no stranger to this house. It all gets progressively more twisted, as pseudo-Romantic slop gives way to Surrealist psychodrama.
Lucia Bose, fortunately, is an actress we watch no matter what - like Greta Garbo or Charlotte Rampling - and her magnetism does help us overlook the script's absurdity. (Why, for example, is the 'House of Doves' not encrusted with droppings?) The best I can say for Muti is that she seems to have begun her career very much as she meant to go on. No acting, but lots of energetically faked rumpy-pumpy. At least both ladies look gorgeous, thanks to lyrical camerawork by Fernando Arribas.
An arty but half-baked effort, The House of Doves is no threat to Lolita or Pretty Baby in the 'sexy schoolgirl' stakes. Very few people will enjoy this film. Fewer still, I suspect, will admit it.