Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Le foto di Gioia (1987)

Le foto di Gioia (aka Delirium) (1987) is an Italian thriller (or giallo, depending on how liberal you are with your labels) that no one seems to like.  Its participants are well-known to fans of the genre:  director, Lamberto Bava; cinematographer, Gianlorenzo Battaglia; screenwriter, Gianfranco Clerici; and actors Serena Grandi, Luigi Montefiori, Daria Nicolodi, and David Brandon, for example.  In short, Le foto di Gioia is a quite sleazy but standard thriller.  The requisite over-the-top kill sequences are present, but this film is more a Serena Grandi-centric showcase of eroticism.
Grandi plays Gioia, whose character I've read described as "a former porno actress (1)," "a former hooker (2)," and "a model for Pussycat, a skin magazine (3)."  In any case, Gioia is now the owner of the "skin magazine," and Le foto begins with a poolside scene at her house of a photo shoot involving up-and-coming model, Kim (Katrine Michelsen).    Her brother, Tony (Vanni Corbellini) "directs" the shoot by telling the models how to pose, while quiet Roberto (David Brandon) snaps the soon-to-be glossy pics.  Gioia's close friend and colleague (who also lives with her), Evelyn (Daria Nicolodi) handles the administrative duties.  A disabled young man, Mark (Karl Zinny), spies on Gioia with a telescope from the second story of the adjacent house.  He even calls Gioia and makes inappropriate remarks, but she only seems slightly perturbed.  At the end of the day's shoot, the group convenes for a drink.  Kim is the last to leave; and in a bizarre sequence leading to a very pedestrian murder scene, Kim becomes the first victim of the film.  Sales of the magazine skyrocket upon the discovery of the model's death; yet Gioia feels that this killer is targeting her in a very deadly game...

It does not take long after starting Le foto di Gioia to note the distinct lack of enthusiasm in this production.  I submit as evidence these two quotes from director, Lamberto Bava, in which each he makes a telling admission:

"I don't like thrillers, even though they say I can direct them.  After LE FOTO DI GIOIA, I had to make another one, but I find doing scenes where women get stabbed to death repugnant.  Dario Argento does it so well, but I feel like being sick as soon as I see the knife in the murderer's hand.  I reached my limit with that film, it's a genre that doesn't interest me.  I prefer fantasy.  To be a director, you have to enjoy what you do; the moment you stop enjoying yourself, you'd better stop, that's why I've stopped doing thrillers.  I'm better off doing something else. (4)

"At a distance of year, I can say that it was an error of mine to do a movie with Serena Grandi, who at that period was at the peak of her success in Italy.  Maybe I should have made a movie with a Black Mass, Serena on the altar with black goats, but I don't like eroticism.  I made a giallo I shouldn't have made.  If I was a professor and LE FOTO DI GIOIA was a composition, I'd give it a 6, 6+ [on a scale of 10]." (5)

Bava admits during his interview included as a supplement on the Media Blasters/Shriek Show DVD of Delirium that this film was made at the peak of Serena Grandi's popularity in Italy, and also that the production was centered around her.  (6)  He did note in the same interview that he did like some of the murder sequences (7); to which I agree, as they are very unique in conception.  For example, when Kim is murdered early in Le foto, the camera changes to a first-person, subjective point of view.  Cinematographer, Gianlorenzo Battaglia lights this point of view very much in the vein of Bava’s previous Dèmoni (1985).  The face of Kim changes radically, and her head is covered with a bizarre mask which resembles a giant eyeball.  Presumably, this point of view is to demonstrate the crazed mind of the killer.  Bava admits in his DVD interview that he was influenced by the paintings of Savini (presumably Tom Savini).  (8) These sequences are designed to have a surreal, disorienting, Buñuel-ian effect but unfortunately, they are done without any sensitivity.  In execution, the murder sequences appear almost silly.
Gianfranco Clerici’s script for Delirium is exceedingly easy to follow and mind-numbingly boring to boot.  Bava’s direction does not help much to either elevate or energize it.  For example, he paints almost all of his characters as red herrings in a very uninteresting fashion.  Daria Nicolodi’s character will make an offhand remark to Gioia and then brush it off as nothing.  Luigi Montefiori’s character has been hooking up with Gioia and then splitting town, but what is he hiding?  In a single take, Montefiori sits in front of a window in an office.  Behind him is the Colosseum.  He tells Gioia over the phone that he is not in Rome.  Really?

Since Le foto di Gioia was conceived with Serena Grandi in mind and the production centered towards her, it is no surprise that the film is truly a love letter to its voluptuous and beautiful star.   The film’s credits are intercut with a nude model pictorial of Grandi; the killer photographs all of his victims in front of a giant nude photo of Grandi; and in the office of Pussycat magazine, nude photos of Grandi hang from the walls.  Grandi has two love scenes with Montefiori, one in a bubble bath and one in a sauna:  in these sequences, the nearly seven-foot actor occupies less than a quarter of the frame.  In the quite sleazy finale, the killer rips the clothes from Grandi’s wardrobe nearly piece by piece to increase the ogling time for the viewer.

“Lamberto is a fairly good director but I only acted in BLASTFIGHTER and LE FOTO DI GIOIA to make money,” recalls Montefiori.  (9)  “I don’t think much of either film, though I’ll admit the former had more originality and style.” (10)  When asked if Le foto di Gioia was one of her least-liked films, Daria Nicolodi answers, “Yes.  I believe I love everything I do and all the experiences I live through, but these two films [the other, Paganini Horror] simply weren’t very interesting.” (11)  I’ve already detailed above what Bava thinks of the film.  In conclusion, given the talent involved, Le foto di Gioia is a missed opportunity to make a memorable thriller in the waning days of Italian horror cinema.  I love just about anything that these participants produce; but when they are not excited at all about the production, how are we to be?
I am, however, excited and proud to include this entry as part of the Italian Horror Blogathon being hosted by Kevin J. Olson at his blog, Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies.  Kevin has written some fine pieces on Italian Horror this week and the previous contributions from other bloggers have been top notch, as well.  I highly recommend everyone to visit his blog and immerse him/herself in a little horror, Italian-style this Halloween season.

1.  Smith, Adrian Luther.  Blood and Black Lace The Definitive Guide to Italian Sex and Horror Movies.  Stray Cat Publishing, Ltd.  England.  1999:  p. 39.
3.  European Trash Cinema.  Vol. 2, No. 6.  Ed. Craig Ledbetter.  Kingwood, TX.  1992: p. 40.
4.  Spaghetti Nightmares.  Ed.  Luca Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta.  Fantasma Books.  Key West, FL.  1996:  p. 23.
5.  Della Mora, Max, Matteo Palmieri, Andrea Giorgi, and Manlio Gomarasca.  “The Lamberto Bava Interview.”  European Trash Cinema.  Vol. 2, No. 7.  Ed. Craig Ledbetter.  Kingwood, TX.  1993: p. 11.
6.  Interview: Lamberto Bava.  DVD Delirium: Photo of Gioia.  Media Blasters/Shriek Show.  January, 29th, 2002.
7.  Ibid.
8.  Ibid.
9.  Spaghetti Nightmares.  Ed.  Luca Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta.  Fantasma Books.  Key West, FL.  1996:  p. 109.
10.  Ibid.
11.  Spaghetti Nightmares.  Ed.  Luca Palmerini and Gaetano Mistretta.  Fantasma Books.  Key West, FL.  1996:  p. 117.

1 comment:

Dr.LargePackage said...

Great review, Hans. Sleazy seems to be the perfect adjective for this movie. But is it also athletic and demure? Enthusiasm for sleazy productions is large and in charge.