Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In short: L'occhio dietro la parete (1977)

aka Eyes Behind The Wall

If you have seen enough movies of a genre that was a local and temporal phenomenon, you'll in the end reach a point where a large part of the films in it that are still new to you just aren't very good at all. Case in point is my relationship with the giallo, so it is like a minor gold find when I encounter a film in the genre I haven't seen before that isn't complete crap. Giuliano Petrelli's movie (the only writing and direction work by an actor) is such a film, and certainly worth watching for the more jaded giallo fan.

Sure, the film suffers a bit from typical 70s psychology (including some really unpleasant ideas about homosexuality) and the resulting character clichés it pretends to be deep characterization, there's dialogue that confuses pseudo-intellectualism for intelligence, and a dominant wish to underplay the script's most lurid elements as if Petrelli were a little ashamed of them and would in truth have preferred to make a more straightforward psychological thriller about voyeurism and bourgeois sexual desperation without wandering too deeply into the fields of melodramatic sexual perversion it can't quite keep away from. Or it might be Petrelli thought he was being subtle about the sexual melodrama of his plot instead of a bit prudish.

Be that as it may, the film still has things to recommend it: some solid acting by Olga Bisera, Fernando Rey (how often did that poor guy have to play an impotent man in a wheelchair in his career?) and John Phillip Law (who applies himself so much he even has a frontally nude muscle training sequence, so fans of nude John Phillip Law can very much rejoice), a script that from time to time manages to not just shy away from certain genre conventions but actually manages to surprise by subverting them a little, a Goblin-esque soundtrack by Giuseppe Caruso, and stark yet stylish visuals that make the film look more thoughtful and precise than it actually is.

At this point in my giallo-watching career, Eyes Behind the Wall is a minor discovery worth celebrating.

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