11 October, 2006

THE VOYEUR AND THE EXHIBITIONIST

 
Having been dismayed by the most recent effort of Brian DePalma (sometimes referred to as "the American Argento") we managed to catch up with the recent Anchor Bay DVD of Dario Argento's 2005 telefilm TI PIACE HITCHCOCK? and are happy to report it's a bracing and pleasantly surprising experience. Certainly his best work since the eternally underrated THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, a decade ago. Argento is, of course, often referred to as the "Italian Hitchcock" and the difference between him and DePalma is between being creatively inspired by an artist and blind imitation. DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? could be the title of a Brian DePalma biography. It's a small scale masterwork. A just-about perfect 93 minutes of pure cinema. It's drenched in the kind of joyful cinephilia that reminds us of the topic of our blog here: Jess Franco
 
The obsessions of Argento's voyeur (Murnau's NOSFERATU, Fritz Lang) are also the masters of Jess Franco who always announces the Murnau classic as his all time favorite film followed by Lang's silent MABUSE epic. Argento's primary source may be REAR WINDOW but it allows us to discuss here an obscure Franco hardcore from 1985 which strikes us as one of his most polished (on no budget) considerations of voyeurism, exhibitionism and cinema. The film is EL MIRON Y LA EXHIBICIONISTA, which has been released as a Spanish newstand DVD. Don't hold your breath waiting for it to appear on any US label.
 
The central metaphor is the same: a man armed with binoculars obsessively spies on the sensual adventures of a woman occupying an adjacent high rise. The intrigue in Franco is mainly erotic whereas Argento presents a more prosiac, if delightfully twisty, mystery a la Cornell Woolrich (who, of course, was the author of the source story for REAR WINDOW). In OBSESSION: THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO the director identifies Simenon as an inspiration for EL MIRON... and Franco is an ace detective of the female form in an deliriously erotic environment. Both films are about the pleasures and dangers of "watching." The protagonists use a visual aid as a sex substitute, although the sex is far more graphic in EL MIRON... while Argento is still finding startling, artful ways to stage bloody murder. Hitchcock spoke of REAR WINDOW as being influenced by the pure cinema of the Russian montage experimenters (Pudovkin) of the silent era. EL MIRON...(credited to "Lulu Laverne", it was generated from idea by the featured Lina Romay and it is sometimes said she directed it, but Franco has claimed it as his own) is a coolly assured, gracefully composed and magnetically edited study of a casual obsession, silent complicity and clandestine release on the Costa de Sol. HITCHCOCK, placed in modern Turin after a Primal Scene set in 1990, can also be described in those exact same terms (although I have witnessed flame wars between the admirers of both auteurs). It  could also be read as Argento's wickedly amusing commentary on a present subculture where obsessively watching cult movies alone in the dark on your HD monitor is the foreplay for the action which often occurs on Internet Message Boards (something we can certainly relate to).
 
We hope you search out EL MIRON Y LA EXHIBICIONISTA, but the prospects aren't good that you'll find it. We also recommend that instead of expecting TI PIACE HITCHCOCK to be another DEEP RED or INFERNO (it may end up being seen by more people than both put together) you will be able to enjoy it for what it is.
 
COPYRIGHT ROBERT MONELL: 2006

4 comments:

Adam Williams said...

I had no interest in seeing DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?, but after reading this I'll have to check it out. I've enjoyed De Palma's latest films far more than Argento's (though I still haven't caught up with THE CARD PLAYER), so it should be interesting to compare HITCHCOCK to DAHLIA. On the subject of suspense, I highly recommend the latest from Claude Chabrol (whose recent output has been somewhat uneven), THE BRIDESMAID. Like a slower-burn version of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, it's mysterious, creepy, and erotic.

Also, I wrote a comment on your BLACK DAHLIA posting that hasn't shown up. Did it vanish?

Robert Monell said...

Your comments on the BD review somehow got posted under the MACUMBA SEXUAL blog, so I responded there. Page down a few posts. I seem to like the Argento's no one else does, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME and now this. I saw TI PAICE HITCH... by accident but it's really very very interesting and I will watch it again. DePalma's earlier films are so promising. I just think he went to deep into the mainstream.

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