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August 25, 2006

Do You Like Hitchcock?


Ti Piace Hitchcock
Dario Argento - 2005
Anchor Bay Region 1 DVD

In retrospect, there is a certain irony that the most famous film by Alfred Hitchcock is one of his least characteristic. When Dario Argento was supposedly fighting with Lucio Fulci over who was more deserving to be called the "Italian Hitchcock", the argument was based on which filmmaker had outdone Psycho. What has been usually overlooked is that when Hitchcock made Psycho, he wasn't trying to be Alfred Hitchcock. After the box office failure of Vertigo showed that the "Master of Suspense" was unable to be the American Clouzot, Hitchcock settled on making a William Castle-style horror movie better than Castle had produced.

Do You Like Hitchcock is a decidedly minor film that Dario Argento made for Italian television. Filmed in Torino, the film shows Argento in a much lighter mood. Elio Germano, an actor who resembles a younger Argento, portrays a film student named Giulio, a name that perhaps not coincidentally sounds like giallo, the genre of Italian horror movies. Giulio believes he has stumbled upon a murder plot inspired by Strangers on a Train carried out by Sasha and Federica, two women who meet at the neighborhood video store that Giulio frequents.

Someone with even general familiarity with Hitchcock should recognize elements of Rear Window, Vertigo, Dial M for Murder and Marnie. There are times when I felt that instead of watching Argento imitate Hitchcock, Argento was also recalling De Palma's Body Double. The De Palma connection is reinforced by the use of music by Pino Donaggio, with his score that takes its cues from Bernard Herrmann. Giulio is also seen watching Murnau'sNosferatu and Paul Wegener's The Golem. Giulio's apartment is overdecorated with movie posters, which like those in the video store almost distract from paying attention to the film's story.

Signature elements of Argento's style include extreme close ups of lock mechanisms, traveling shots observing people through windows, and a gloved killer. The violence is toned down, possibly due to the film serving as a pilot for a proposed television series. For those unfamiliar with Argento, go directly to Suspiria or Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Those who are waiting for the completion of the "Three Mothers trilogy" just need to know that Do You Like Hitchcock is far less traumatic than Trauma, and neither deep nor red.

Posted by peter at August 25, 2006 09:01 AM