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December 05, 2017

Death Laid an Egg

death laid an egg bd.jpg

La morte ha fatto l'uovo
Giulio Questi - 1968
Cult Epics BD Regions ABC / Region 0 DVD two-disc set

Sure, there's a shot of black leather gloves, and a woman's throat is cut, but to describe Death Laid an Egg as giallo seems to be missing the point, or at least misleading the viewer. The genre elements are only a small part of the visual and political shenanigans concocted by Questi in collaboration with co-writer and editor Franco Arcalli. That there is something that passes as a plot almost seems like a way to conveniently end the film.

Where Death Laid an Egg really shines is as a work of pop art on celluloid. Quests begins with a series of off-kilter shots of people who may or may not be connected, in various hotel rooms, with one primping his luxurious hair, another man encasing his head in clear plastic, while we hear, but do not see, the conversation between another man and a woman, perhaps a prostitute. The company where Jean-Louis Trintignant works has a giant egg statue in the lobby, while his office is decorated with a large poster of a chicken skeleton. There's a graph chart with two oversized jagged lines, blue and red, that looks more like a artist's parody of a real graph chart. Only seen up close was some kind of chandelier with glass drops that resembled vials of blood. On the road, Questi focuses on the directional arrow on the highway, and an unexplained car on fire.

I would have suspected that Franco Arcalli brought in the more political aspects of the film, but further research indicates that this might not be the case. English language writing on Questi is scant, based primarily on the two films he is known for by English language viewers. Arcalli would later collaborate significantly with Bernardo Bertolucci as a writer. Trintignant is the business face of a chicken farm owned by wife Gina Lollobrigida. Living with them is a young niece played by Ewa Aulin. The farm has become fully automated, much to the displeasure of the former workers. The farm, as such, is a large structure with row after row of caged chickens. The centerpiece of the farm is a huge, centrifugal machine that seems to somehow do everything from distributing the feed to completely plucking the chickens. Touched are thoughts that have become more widely discussed in the almost fifty years since the film was made, especially discussions of bioengineering the chickens for commercial purposes.

The film also features one of the handful of film scores by Bruno Maderna. One of the supplements on the blu-ray is the soundtrack album. That Maderna did the music score instead of someone more traditionally melodious like Riz Ortolani would be one way Questi would undermine genre expectations. Just as the violence is more suggested than seen, so the potentially erotic moments seem deliberately flat. After seeing Death Laid an Egg, you might not look at an egg yolk in quite the same way.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 5, 2017 07:58 AM