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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Double Hour


In movies, as in all storytelling, a mystery is only worth our interest if it involves a juicy question worth answering. That question can be as juvenile as, who killed Mr. Body? Or as metaphysical as, what is the meaning of life? In either case, someone -- maybe Renee Descartes, maybe Scooby Doo -- is eagerly attempting to find the answer and we, the audience, are simply along for the ride. Problems arise when a story devolves into mystery for mystery's sake, and the audience is no longer vicariously following a crusader into the abyss, but kept coldly alone and in the dark, struggling for a reason to care.

This is precisely the problem with the Italian romantic-thriller, The Double Hour. It begins promisingly as a tall, pretty maid named Sonia (Kseniya Rappaport) is ushered into a hotel room by its young female inhabitant. As Sonia cleans the bathroom, the young lady, without warning or reason, falls (or leaps? Or is pushed?) from the window and lies dead on a rooftop below. Why? That's a good question, and one worth answering. But The Double Hour jumps ship in a heartbeat and we find Sonia, now, relaying through sleazy creepos at a speed dating get-together. She meets Guido (Filippo Timmi) -- a gruff, unshaven behemoth of smoldering sexuality. He's the only bearable suitor, she's a melancholic sulker with low standards -- so they hit it off. Guido takes her to his country mansion/sound-studio and a gang of masked, gun-toting burglars shoot Guido and leave Sonia for dead. When she comes to in the hospital, her world has become a haunted, unnatural place.

The subsequent Rubik's Cube of a storyline -- involving hallucinations, criminal histories, leering priests and double crosses -- evoked Sherlock Holmes in its intrigue, The Double Life of Veronique in its Euro-art incoherence, Repulsion in its psychosis and even that 2001, B-movie, teen-ghoster Soul Survivors. But The Double Hour isn't a pop mystery like Holmes or even an abstract piece of European identity-loop impressionism like Veronique; it's an oddball hybrid, bleeding the lines of logic and dream, not in a fun, thrifty way, but in an indecisive kind of way. As director Giuseppe Capotondi second guesses himself again and again, his film loses its structure and its control, climaxing just passed the half-way point and leaving the audience in an insufferable 40 minute denouement. The finished film is disjointed and, when twists designed to shift our sympathies instead leave them stranded, we're left wandering the caverns of confusion alone, with no reason to care.

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