Saturday, July 25, 2015

Blackaria (2010)

Blackaria (2010), directed by the duo of Francois Gallard and Christophe Robin, is not so much an homage to gialli of Dario Argento but rather like a sandbox film, wherein the directors pull imagery and techniques from Argento’s filmography to create their own film.  Blackaria is not a true giallo, as it does not follow its traditional structure.
Sexy Angela (Clara Vallet) lives in an apartment building next to equally sexy and mysterious Anna Maria (Anna Naigeon).  Angela borders upon obsession with Anna Maria as she tells her psychiatrist:  she is having dreams about Anna Maria and they are highly sexual, usually ending with Anna Maria being murdered before her eyes.  In a standout sequence, Angela enters the elevator and behind the mirror within she witnesses scantily-clad Anna Maria.  As Angela begins kissing and caressing what would be her own image she is kissing and caressing the image of Anna Maria.  (The eroticism early in the film is very reminiscent of Jess Franco’s dreamy, poetic eroticism.)  In the mirror, Angela sees a masked figure donning a dark hat and raincoat with straight razor in hand appear behind Anna Maria.  With brutal slashes, Anna Maria dies bloodily.  Angela awakens from this dream and visits Anna Maria’s flat.  She finds her dead upon the bed, and in a fit of shock, Angela knocks a crystal ball off of a table.  It comes crashing down upon the floor, and Angela’s arm becomes full of cuts.  She removes her robe and picks up the pieces of glass.  Angela exits the apartment and tells nothing to the police when they arrive to investigate the next day.  Angela tells her psychiatrist that this glass is special, and when one peers through it, he/she can see the future.  She gets eyeglasses made from the broken pieces, and when she wears them, she sees herself as the next victim of the killer.
At this point in Blackaria, if it were a traditional giallo (save the magical eyeglasses), then Angela or someone close to her would become the amateur sleuth, hastily making an investigation before becoming a victim.  However, Blackaria makes a radical shift in narrative focus by revealing its killer, the Lady in Red (Aurélie Godefroy), and following her character (and subsequent carnage) for almost the entirety of the remaining film.  It is a bold move by the directors and the choice is very engaging and compelling.  In my favorite Lady in Red sequence, she stands alone in an alleyway, brandishing a knife, when two drunk young ladies stop to accost her.  She brutally slashes one with her knife and broken bottle.  The other runs away, and the Lady in Red picks up a long chain.  Wielding it like a whip, she trips the young woman and strikes her to death.  (The scene is very evocative of an early scene in Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond (1981).)  The film ends when the police confront the Lady in Red, and the police investigator wraps up the plot to the last, would-be victim.  An epilogue of sorts then occurs, ending Blackaria with poetic justice.
It was fun watching Blackaria and being bombarded with imagery from Dario Argento’s filmography:  the soft pastel lighting of Inferno (1980); the red high heels from Tenebrae (1982); the doll imagery from Profondo Rosso (1975); and the technicolor lighting scheme from both Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (to name just a few).  The murder scenes of Blackaria are truly operatic and ornate, much like the sequences from original gialli.  Often Dario Argento’s cinema is referred to by fans and critics alike as “dream-like,” and it would appear the makers of Blackaria took that sentiment as their ultimate goal.  At seventy or so minutes, Blackaria cuts the fat from a mechanical narrative and delivers a film based almost solely on its visuals.  Blackaria is very much recommended.

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