TWO LEFT ARMS (2013) BY DOMIZIANO CRISTOPHARO

Reviews

Director: Domiziano Cristopharo
Writers: Andrea Cavaletto, Francesco Massaccesi (Translation)
Year: 2013
Starring: Paolo Stella, Federico Pedroni, Yvonne Sciò , Yuri Antonosante, Irene Baruffetti, Carlo De Mejo, Ruggero Deodato

Synopsis:
Randolph Carter arrives in Italy to restore an old painting inside an unconsecrated church. He soon discovers that he is in the middle of a strange, secretive town, surrounded by weird people and a mysterious lake….which legend has it was created by the impact of a meteorite.

Review:
Opening on a dark night in what appears to be a palatial villa, or at least a set designed to emulate one, a man mourns the death of his wife and renounces God for what he has taken away. As his grief overtakes him a meteorite flies overhead and crashes nearby, starting a series of strange events.

This opening pre-credit sequence looks exactly as you would expect from a lower budget independent film and may cause a few viewers to start having doubts about continuing however after this sequence we jump into the modern day and thanks to an engaging (and budget-realistic) script the film succeeds on its own merits and terms.

As per the synopsis, Randolph Carter arrives in a small Italian town having been commissioned to restore an old painting, very HOUSE OF LAUGHING WINDOWS you might think, but here in this place with the stereotypical small town mentality, not only are the locals unfriendly but his contact Emma (Yvonne Sciò – ARMAGEDDON; THE MUSEUM OF WONDERS) seems oddly close to falling apart.

Now at this point it is worth noting that TWO LEFT ARMS is not a direct adaption of any particular Lovecraft story but rather a Lovecraftian story that builds on and takes influence from the writers tales. A couple of key points will jump out to fans of the writer very quickly; for instance the lead character name would be familiar, having ‘starred’, if you will, in several published stories. Although rather than hailing from Boston, here, Randolph (terrifically played by Paolo Stella – MOTHER OF TEARS, who really manages to convey the classic ‘fish out of water’ persona) is an Italian who, after the untimely death of his parents moved to Rhode Island, Providence to be raised by his Uncle. That location should also be familiar to the Lovecraft fans too.

As Randolph acclimatises to his new surroundings his inquisitive nature is met at times with a thin veil of secrecy and at others with outright hostility, one highlight being the town drunk Ernesto (played by famed director Ruggero Deodato) who comes across almost in the same vein as Crazy Ralph from the Friday 13th franchise, but perhaps with less helpful advice.

It is for reasons like this that credit must be given to Andrea Cavaletto for while his script puts Randolph at a disadvantage, we the viewers are given only a few breadcrumbs more. Due to this the story manages to install a certain level of intrigue and as ritual elements appear to enter the fray comparisons with CUSTODES BESTIAE appear, at least on the surface.

As the mystery deepens Randolph becomes drawn further and further in, driven by curiosity yet seemingly compelled to keep going by fear. This is most apparent once he is shown the nearby lake and through his meetings with the mysterious Antonio Mezzanotte. Now the pieces slowly start to come together while his mind does the converse as it begins to dawn on him that the whole town may be in on a bizarre plot to bring about the dawn of chaos and  instill a new world order or rather one should say return to an old world order.

Ultimately TWO LEFT ARMS is a film about the corruption of innocence and the decaying of the soul. To reach this message it takes in concepts such as freedom and slavery but sets these in a Lovecraftian universe where the external is often shown as a physical manifestation of the internal.

A slow burner (much like the previously mentioned CUSTODES BESTIAE, TWO LEFT ARMS is a decent watch thanks to a strong script and highly competent directing and is a film which can be enjoyed with and without prior knowledge of Lovecraft’s tales.

Version Reviewed:

This was reviewed from an online screener. If you are in the USA you can order the film on Amazon.

The best…and worst of me

blog

What is the difference between love and obsession?

The trailer for the upcoming Albanian film LAST DAY (THE BEST OF ME), courtesy of Bad Trip Bros., promises to answer that question by way of the weirdest love story ever told, as it introduces us to a body horror that has been freely inspired by the real story of Ricardo López, Bjork’s stalker who descended into a dangerous madness in the mid-1990s.

Hold up I hear you say, an Albanian horror movie! Now this country’s output is a bit of a mystery for me however strictly speaking this journey into madness is an Albanian-Italian production having been directed by Domiziano Cristopharo (HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS; RED KROKODIL) and featuring a cast weighted in his countryman’s favour. This combination of countries is not as strange as it might seem however as Albania is one of the most polyglot nations in Europe with Italian being widely spoken. No doubt a fact that would have helped this production come about and potentially a common denominator that might see more films coming out of the country and getting distribution deals.

Promising lots of practical effects, and the trailer certainly looks like the film will deliver on that aspect, and will certainly appeal to those who enjoy a trip to the dark side of the human psyche…along with gore of course.

Oh on a final note it is not just the visual aspects that might grab your attention. Music for the film has been scored by frequent Domiziano Cristopharo collaborator Antony Coia (E.N.D; SCARECROWD; VIRUS) and perhaps more exciting the film will feature original songs by the American-Italian  multiple award-winning composer Susan Dibona, one half of the terrific duo The Villa Studios. As a big music fan myself I am very interested to see, considering the subject matter, will there be a Bjork influence? Will Susan Dibona take things in a different direction? There certainly is a lot of room for variation here.

Check out the trailer below and follow the film on Facebook for updates.

The Transparent Woman (2015) By Domiziano Cristopharo

Reviews

Director: Domiziano Cristopharo
Screenplay: Andrea Cavaletto
Year: 2015
Starring: Roberta Gemma, Arian Levanael, Giovanna Nocetti

Synopsis:
Anna is a fiercely independent blind woman. Her husband Carl sells their apartment and they move into his childhood rural home where, left alone during the days, Anna starts to believe that someone…or something is in the house with her.

Review:
THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN is the thirteenth directorial effort from the prolific writer/director/producer Domiziano Cristopharo and also the fourth time he has worked with actress Roberta Gemma (HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS; HYDE’S SECRET NIGHTMARE; BLOODY SIN) and it is perhaps of little surprise for fans of these two that the film practically opens with nudity as our lead couple Carl (Arian Levaneal – BLOODY SIN; DARK WAVES; P.O.E 3) and his partner, the blind Anna (Roberta Gemma) are in the bathroom going through their usual routine, all while their actions are set to an almost sensual, playful seventies style track reminiscent of Nora Orlandi et al. from days long lost, courtesy of the award-winning American/Italian film composer team DiBona & Sangiovanni.

Rather interestingly, particularly considering all involved are not prudish, director Domiziano Cristopharo shows some restraint here and rather than leading us towards something a little more risqué or hardcore he switches things up courtesy of a glorious credit sequence. Of which the style genuinely took me by surprise. So  realistically gloriously retro is the feeling it invokes that it was up there with the rebooted French ‘OSS:117’ films in terms of fun. No doubt aided by another hugely enjoyable track.  

We learn that our happy couple are moving back into the childhood home of Carl, a man whose piercing blue eyes and rugged masculine looks are almost enough to make you brush off the subsequent bizarre nature of a scene in which he begins to start playing an accordion by the fireside only to briefly enter a physical trance that seemingly only we, the viewer, can see. This trance represents the rekindling of old memories as Carl appears to be trapped in a loop but also seems to serve almost as a turning point in the couples relationship – one where it now no longer just the two of them.

On an initial viewing this scene does appear to come out of nowhere on and as a British viewer the use of an accordion seemed somewhat strange (although admittedly not as strange as its appearance in HOLY MOTORS) but does serve a narrative function. I was fortunate enough to have discussed this film with the director after an initial viewing and discovered that this choice of instrument was inline with rural Italian culture and so perhaps, like with many films from a different culture, was a culturally-specific choice that while adding substance and authenticity would not be picked up by wider, international audiences. Or at least not in the way initially intended. 

Whatever the justification, the accordion playing worked and Anna becomes a little more settled into their new home, which is good as she will be spending her days alone in the house. It is in these moments of solitude that Anna starts to suspect there is someone else there. This seemingly standard woman-in-peril set up is coupled with the breadcrumbs dropped by writer and frequent Cristopharo-collaborator Andrea Cavaletto which leads us to speculate on a past emotional trauma that affected Carl and that also may have happened in that house previously. 

As the mystery progresses and unravels, when we move away from the story and begin to focus on the aesthetics it becomes apparent that Domiziano Cristopharo is no amateur when it comes to understanding the importance of light and composition in order both elicit and project mood. For instance as he bathes several shots in blue the end results are beautiful and serve to mark him out as a real talent in an industry that is becoming increasingly Americanised or should that be homogenised and less about individual style. 

The aesthetics, of which I include cinematography, are perhaps more impressive when one considers the films meagre budget but when we consider the directors past perhaps we should not be so surprised.

Again this point is important because this focus on the visuals (and sound) is arguably more important in THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN due to the limited dialogue employed. 

With the exception of our two leads, and even then Anna spends many days alone, there is very little interaction with anyone else but here every interaction counts and rather than be a hindrance it instead helps to generate additional tension and combines will all other elements to produce an engaging film. 

Furthermore this result is made possible thanks to the decent performances of our leads, which although not Oscar worthy are enough to keep you immersed in the world. Roberta Gemma in particular I have to say impressed me considering the role, due to its isolation, could have proven quite tricky even for a more accomplished actress.

Certainly not everything in THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN worked for me, and I doubt it will be very different for you but regardless of this the film is beautifully composed, competently acted and most importantly of all – it is intriguing; as you want to know what has happened previously and you need to know what is going to happen after.

THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN will appeal to fans of the neo-gialli of Cattet & Fozani (AMER; THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS) as well as Onetti (DEEP SLEEP; FRANCESCA) thanks to its peppering of artistic shots, at times reminiscent of the visuals of Bava and Argento, and its less traditional (at least in regards to the non-Italian interpretation of the giallo) take on the genre. 

It is interesting also to note that THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN was actually constructed by several writers with the initial story coming from Francesco Massaccesi, Elio Mancuso and director Domiziano Cristopharo before finally being scripted by Andrea Cavaletto and it is of great credit to this group that at no point does the film ever lose focus or become disjointed. No doubt having Cristopharo bookending the process meant that the concept was kept cohesive from beginning to end.

Ultimately a tale of loss, reliance and the inability to accept the consequences of one’s actions, THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN is well paced, beautifully crafted and a creative mystery drama that I believe everyone should check out.

Finally keep an eye out for the 1970’s singer Giovanna Nocetti who pops up in a very unexpected role.