Thursday, July 8, 2010

Giuseppe Bennati's L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone (1974)

Since everyone has known each other for so long, says Patrick (Chris Avram), each has a motive for murder. Inside of a large ancient theatre, Patrick was standing center stage when the counterweight which supports the stage's curtain was cut. He walked away seconds before it landed. There is no performance, and the theatre has been in disuse for years. Patrick and nine others have spontaneously decided to visit the place (Patrick owns it by inheritance) after one of the group suggests a visit. One of the ten is a killer in Giuseppe Bennati's L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone (The Killer Reserved Nine Seats) (1974).
Director Bennati penned the script of L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone with Paolo Levi and Biagio Proietti, set in a single location with ten characters. Patrick is quite correct when he says that each character has a motive for murder: nearly every one is either related to, romantically involved, or in financial debt/dependence to Patrick. Hence, since every one is a potential killer (at least until becoming a victim), most are depicted as passive/aggressive or contemptible people. While motives are essential for murder mysteries, watching these characters bicker and backstab (metaphorically) for ninety minutes is far from entertaining; so this familiar plot gets one interesting and unfamiliar addition, a supernatural element, and the sensational elements of the script get pushed to the foreground. L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone is a fairly successful mix of classical mystery and 70s-style sex and violence. One of the notable features of L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone is the inclusion of several notable actresses of the period. Janet Agren appears as Kim, a would-be actress and fiance of Patrick, who every one knows is marrying Patrick for his money; Paola Senatore is Lynn, Patrick's daughter who in initial scenes appears as if she has romantic feelings towards her father; and Lucretia Love plays Doris, who is involved in a romantic relationship with Patrick's sister, Rebecca (Eva Czemerys). Bennati goes to some lengths in depicting Doris and Rebbeca's relationship as not only secret but also very taboo and decadent. In addition, all the actresses mentioned perform at least one nude scene, and of the actresses mentioned, those who are victims suffer more terribly as the film progresses. The first murder in L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone is less graphic and ornate than the subsequent one, as the murders increasingly become more brutal and contrived. Bennati does not rival his script, despite any attempts to do so, with his sensational scenes in L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone. Rather, the sensational scenes afford a more judicious use of character-driven scenes, keeping the bickering and backstabbing to a minimum. By far not a character-driven film with depth, there is enough background to each character to keep the viewer intrigued. Among the sex and violence and exposition, Bennati, to his credit as each are quite effective, is able to compose more than one odd and unreal sequence. One of the ten characters is named, at least in the English-dubbed version, "the man in the Nehru jacket" (Eduardo Filipone). None of the other characters knows who he is, and when he appears, his character brings an appropriate theatrical feel to the film as his dialogue feels scripted. It is not as if his dialogue feels contrived but rather when he speaks it feels as if he knows something about someone or something is about to happen. Keeping the theatrical motif, Bennati lets "the man in the Nehru jacket" serve as a sort-of commentator on the drama, as from some classical Greek play. Very nice. It is always welcome when a character takes a violent shift in character by performing some nonsensical, non-violent act: subsequent to a murder, which intuitively one would think would instill grief or some accompanying emotion, Senatore's Lynn takes a moment in a dressing room for some disrobing and dancing. At a couple of minutes, the scene goes on too long for the narrative, but Bennati uses multiple angles to lovingly capture the actress. The scene is not completely sensational and has little narrative weight. Just disorienting and lithe. L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone benefits from these scenes' inclusion.Carlo Savina delivers a beautiful score, a mix of funky-70s and classical composing. The film was shot by Giuseppe Aquari, and he captures the classical mix of old-school mystery and 70s sensationalism: the authentic theatre location goes a long way in creating its own atmosphere. It is a beautiful location and has enough claustrophobic settings and shadows to create its own tension and fear. Beyond that, Aquari shows an adept eye at the subjective, giallo-style P.O.V. from both victims and killer. There are classically-composed shots from wide, medium, and close-up angles side by side with more innovative camerawork, like his handheld shots. Low-budget and certainly now obscure, L'assassino ha riservato nove poltrone benefits from its talent and energy, focused and directed for its duration.


Alex B. said...

Chris Avram was very cool in Scavolini's little-seen SERVO SUO, a low-budget crime film set in Sicily and Amsterdam.

Aaron said...

I haven't seen this, nor have I heard of it, so I can't really comment. But it sounds cool, and I really dig your intro for this review. The dummy in the second screen shot looks like Abel Ferrara!