Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mario Imperoli's Snapshot of a Crime (1975)

Luca (Luis La Torre) obsesses over sexy Mirna (Erna Schurer), who abruptly breaks off their affair one day. Luis doesn't leave her alone: he begins showing up unexpectedly wherever she may be. She asks to be left alone, but Luca won't allow it. He has a film that he would like to project for her at his home. Mirna gets to view the film but not the viewer; and with a harsh cut, the two are seen saying good-bye, although Luca wishes to reserve the right to call her, "from time to time." Luca is seen putting scuba tanks in his car and off to the seaside. Gian Carlo, a photographer, is snapping photos of models, Stefania (Lorenza Guerrieri) and Claudia (Monica Strebel). Stefania and Claudia attract the attention of Luca at a local cafe and both are attracted to Luca. Luca and Stefania begin having a relationship while Claudia stays passively and aggressively on the outside. Stefania borrows Gian Carlo's camera one day, and after a swim, Luca and Stefania begin to tussle on the ground, playing a little rough, and then making love. All in front of the camera. Luca goes for a swim. Stefania disappears. Someone else has the photos of the two in Mario Imperoli's Snapshot of a Crime (1975).
Superficially, Snapshot of a Crime reminded me a lot of Antonioni, specifically L'Avventura (1960) and Blowup (1966), two films that have a mystery at its heart but a true sense that the mystery serves the characters and not vice versa. The seaside location was evocative of L'Avventura, while the photography motif was evocative of Blowup. Perhaps fittingly and subjectively, I read Antonioni into this film (who's one of cinema's most influential film makers and quite possibly my favorite), because Snapshot of a Crime is a drama, where the character conflicts are primarily internal and the loose plot unfolds as its characters do, often very interestingly. Added to my sense, Imperoli's cinematography is akin to another Italian master of cinema, Pier Paolo Pasolini, who loves the arbitrary mise-en-scene with disorienting compositions. Pasolini was also a master of the social drama with, for example, Teorema (1968). Imperoli's film in 1975 is also following the height of giallo cinema, of which Snapshot is also evocative, with its frequent emphasis on sexuality. I hope my comparisons aren't unfair but I wanted to give a sense of the mood and style of the film.
Mario Imperoli has a handful of directorial credits and perhaps best known to cult film fans for his sexy flicks with Gloria Guida, Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975). Snapshot is a focused, intense, and serious drama. The viewer not only watches the drama unfold but also examines the characters, for this examination is, often in brief glimpses, where she/he will learn true motivations and true clues to the mystery. Luca is an arrogant and good-looking young man, one who seems to love the chase and the courting of a woman more than the woman whose heart he holds. This is the initial emotion of the beginning, as Luca and Mirna are shown squabbling, Mirna teasing and Luca agitated, while Imperoli juxtaposes the scene with a sequence of the two making love (presumably just before the two squabble). Luca can't have Mirna leaving him and he has to take power in the relationship, somehow. Stefania falls for Luca quite hard, yet Luca never ceases chasing after Claudia. Often when Stefania and Luca are together, Luca asks to meet Claudia somewhere, or Claudia shows up where the two are. After Stefania's disappearance, Luca and Claudia begin a relationship, but it's not a comfortable one for Claudia. Of all the characters, Claudia seems the most diligent about learning Stefania's whereabouts, as if she couldn't have a relationship with Luca without Stefania present.
Needless to say, I found Snapshot to be intriguing. The sex and the sexuality isn't graphic but very much necessary and often very sexy. For anyone who finds the bedroom scene sexy with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960) will understand: Small moments and Henry James-type movements and a vulnerability that only comes with lovers. The sexuality is the link which directly links the characters and indirectly drives the mystery. Imperoli has some beautiful compositions: some subjective, like looking into Erna Schurer or Monica Strebel's eyes, and some objective, as when Luca stares at the small of Claudia's back while he lays in bed. The dark side of Luca's sexual obsession is shown as well, and those scenes, like when Stefania and Luca tussle on the seaside, are disorienting and haunting.
The only reason that I can speculate as to the obscurity of Snapshot of a Crime is its lack of genre elements and lack of grandeur, as shown by Antonioni or Pasolini's cinema. Snapshot is by far not a giallo but has a mystery and characters just as intriguing as any giallo. The film has virtually no violence. Imperoli's subsequent and popular film, Blue Jeans, might have even erased the memory of Snapshot during its current time. Doubtful also, Imperoli was ever spoken in the same breath as Antonioni or Pasolini, unless they shared the same cinema bill. Just speculation on my part. However, as someone who often views gialli and is often inspired to have a regular viewing of Antonioni or Pasolini, I enjoyed Snapshop of a Crime. I often try to find cinema that I've heard nothing about to find something unexpected and unique. I succeeded this time.


Keith said...

Great review of this. I had heard of it, but never seen it before. You've got a really cool blog. Happy Halloween!

Mr.LargePackage said...

Great review, Hans. For Halloween I am going to dress up as my favorite saint: Drew Brees. And that is large and in charge.

Anonymous said...

Cool cinema to check out. I like exploring and then drawing from it ...

Hans A. said...

Thank you Keith for the kind words and the Halloween well wishes. I often enjoy visiting your blog and thanks for visiting mine.

Mr. LP, come Monday Night the original will reveal himself. That, too, is large and in charge.

Carrie, thank you so much for visiting and commenting. I really love character-driven cinema which is really rich, thematically. Makes viewing all the more engrossing.