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February 15, 2011

For the Love of Film (Noir)(Giallo): Footprints

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Le Orme
Luigi Bazzoni - 1975
Shameless Entertainment Region 0 DVD

On the occasion of Florinda Bolkan's 70th birthday.

While focussing on film noir and film preservation, I don't find it inappropriate to take a look at film noir's younger, colorful, and sometimes flamboyant sibling, giallo. Giallo filmmakers, most clearly Dario Argento, have been inspired by film noir, noticeable in the casting of actors associated with some of the classics of the past. Giallo also was the result of the dissolution of the old Hollywood production code, with the new films revealing what the older films mostly concealed. Again, we can thank the British DVD label for rescuing a film that might have be lost, or at least not available in its most complete version. Whether Footpriints is truly an important film doesn't matter. Consider the years it took before there was universal acclaim for Touch of Evil or The Big Combo.

Some of the story elements in Footprints could well be found in film noir. The main character waking up to find that three days of her life are missing, strangers who remember her as someone with a different name, and the recurring nightmare are to be found as parts of other films. In this case, it is a woman named Alice who dreams of an astronaut being abandoned on the moon, who discovers that the next morning is Thursday and not Tuesday, and tries to uncover a mystery after finding a ripped postcard depicting a hotel in some remote town. Unlike classic film noir, Alice finds herself in a situation where the clues reveal greater mysteries.

The first images in the film are of the moon, but most of the film seems to take place in an alien landscape. What is seen of Rome are imposing steel and glass buildings. Most of the film takes place in a town called Garma, actually a village in Turkey, with a very large, ornate hotel and mosques in the village. With the exception of one scene, there are few people to be seen. Even Alice's hotel room is oversized and sparsely furnished. Vittorio Storaro often films Florinda Bolkan in such away to emphasize her aloneness, the emptiness around her, physically and emotionally.

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Footprints is not a giallo in the way of Luigi Bazzoni's best known film, The Fifth Cord. The emphasis here is on the mystery, not violent set pieces. It may be a nod to the genre's name that part of the film revolves around a blood stained yellow dress. What makes this film also uncharacteristic is the frequent absence of color, with Bolkan primarily wearing white clothing, often with the scenes taking place in rooms with white walls and furnishings. One of the other places that might be of importance is a memory of a white house.

The mystery is based on what Alice may more may not remember of the missing days, but also the dream of the moon. Is the dream something taken from a partially seen science fiction movie? Is this in any way connected with Alice's work as a translator, working for some kind of international agency with scientists discussing the inevitable end of human life due to multiple forms of pollution? As in some classic film noir, Alice's paranoia may not be quite imagined.

What is it about Florinda Bolkan that makes her so alluring? It's unusual enough that one of the most acclaimed Italian actresses of her era was Brazilian. Bolkan's beauty is severe with its sharp features, especially the penetrating eyes. Bolkan most notably worked with Luchino Visconti, Elio Petri and Vittorio De Sica, as well as two films with Lucio Fulci. There is something so right about Bolkan as Lola Montez in Richard Lester's Royal Flash. Florinda Bolkan, even during her peak period, was not conventionally attractive, yet whenever she's on the screen, it's impossible to look away. There's a sense of commitment to her roles that Bolkan forces even the most implausible scenario to be taken seriously.

Featured in a small role in Footprints is the real crazy guy of cinema, Klaus Kinski, who may be a scientist, or possibly an actor playing one. Lila Kedrova has a small part as one of the people in Garma who might know more about Alice, than Alice herself knows. Kedrova and Bolkan would be seen together again thirteen years later in Michael Hoffman's Some Girls, as the grandmother and mother, respectively, of the three most beautiful sisters in Montreal.

Some of the classic noir films have been centered on women in trouble, such as Whirlpool and My Name is Julia Ross, films that are about a woman's loss of memory and self-identity. For myself, regarding Footprints as an extension of film noir is made easier from this quote from Jeremy Butler: "The noir protagonist is alienated from a combustible, hostile world, driven by obsessions transcending morality and causality . . . . The obsessive noir protagonist is drawn into a destiny he cannot escape; he is impelled toward his fate by exterior forces beyond his power and interior forces beyond his control." In the case of Footprints, the noir protagonist is a woman wearing a yellow dress.

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More Noir in all its colors are to be found at Ferdy on Film and Self-Styled Siren. And let your fingers do the walking to the blogathon link where you to can save a print, even if it's a foot or two of The Sound of Fury, stepping up to the plate with The Film Noir Foundation.

Posted by peter at February 15, 2011 06:40 AM

Comments

Love what you said about Florinda. She's one of my favorite actresses and you're so right. She always seemed totally committed to her roles. She's really beautiful in a sort of earthy and unconventional way and there was always so much going on behind her eyes. She seemed to have such a rich "inner life" that so many modern actresses are lacking these days.

Posted by: Kimberly Lindbergs at February 19, 2011 01:38 PM

Kimberly: I was reminded that she's a favorite actress of yours in a past Cinebeats posting a while back. I didn't want a milestone like her 70th birthday to go unnoticed.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at February 19, 2011 03:35 PM