27 June 2018 | fando
Astonishing art-house "debut" from Claudio "Troll 2" Fragasso explains a lot about his later output
I am a native Spanish-speaker so, being a huge fan of "Clyde Anderson," the guy behind some seemingly involuntary surreal masterpieces such as Zombie 4: After Death, Troll 2 and Monster Dog, I knew I had to get my hands on this, his very first full-length feature on his own (since by then he had made several films with his mentor Bruno Mattei), even though is only available in Region 2-PAL DVD and Italian language (with captions, which made it relatively easy). I was not in the least disappointed but, like with most of his movies, I can't really pinpoint at what it is that made me so eagerly watch until the very end and even replay. Most of his movies are supposed to be incompetent. In this case, the reason why is because it's too "art-house" and clearly aimed at the film-scholar audience; I type of film I don't have the capacities or brains to put up with.
Even though I was able to figure out most of the dialogue, I couldn't discern a "story" or any sort of general idea, except through some visual cues that kept coming back throughout the film. The "premise" concerns some guy doing missionary work for the catholic church in Africa coming back to visit her sister, who lives with a boyfriend or husband (?). Apparently, she has incestuous desires toward him and is addicted to morphine, which is supplied to her by her downstairs old ex-actor neighbor in exchange for some undetermined "favors." Meanwhile, there's a gang of very eighties looking thugs loitering outside her place and a car chasing after weird people and attacking them, like an overly made up lady who always has to have loud music on or a blind pastel crayon drawing artist.
The ideal film to compare this one with would be Death Smiles at a Murderer by the great Joe D'Amato, another one of Fragasso's mentors, except that, unlike his, this one is very difficult to catalog into a specific genre. I would dare to say just for the sake of it "erotic thriller." Where as Death can barely be called a revenge story with fantastic horror elements, this one could be a couple of different things. Assuming that this one is indeed aimed at an intellectual audience, it might be a statement against sexual repression by the dominant religion in Italy, especially against homosexuality. By the same token, since this is his first film and it seems in different interviews with Fragasso that he knows the difference between the kind of movies he's known for and "serious" ones, this may have been his opportunity to show all his chops as a filmmaker. There are more than plenty of VERY impressive editing, lighting and camera movements angle touches and flares. Taking into consideration the guys from whose "school" he comes from, this might have been a case of "go fetch or make a list of whatever's left in the studio or the previous movie the company did, and let's make a movie out of it," pretty much like Ed Wood fantasizes when he comes across the documentary scraps in his biopic and much likeD'Amato probably did with Endgame or Mattei with Hell of the Living Dead.
The soundtrack, like it is the case with Death Smiles, is pretty awesome and adds a lot to the film's atmosphere and rhythm.
All in all, I would say this is a very well done, nicely paced, great looking, but too avant-garde and artsy film by an incredibly creative and resourceful filmmaker who became pretty well-known and even adored this part of the world for all the WRONG reasons which, because of them, we'll probably never see released in English-dubbed or subtitled form anytime soon. That's very sad.