Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Italian Pseudo-Noir: The Double Hour

Is there anything with a lower percentage of success than speed dating? When two weary souls find each other amid the dross of their fellow speed-daters, it might seem like an act of providence. However, fate has other plans in Giuseppe Capotondi’s The Double Hour (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Sonia is a Slovenian immigrant working as a chambermaid at a hotel that in years past was probably quite a nice place to stay. Guido is an ex-cop who with a mysteriously troubled past. When they meet, they appear to immediately share a deep connection that withstands some initial miscommunication. After enduring lives of disappointment, these fragile individuals finally seem to have a chance to experience real and meaningful love. Just as suddenly, everything is upended by a violent crime.

Double is the sort of film that is devilishly difficult to discuss without giving the game away. It is safe to say that it incorporates elements of the psychological thriller and hints at the supernatural before fully laying all its cards on the table. However, Double is a “big twist” film that is not really about the big twist at all. Rather, it uses its dramatic revelations as vehicles to explore the timeless themes of love and betrayal. Yet, that makes them all the more effective, because the audience never feels it is being played in a cheap M. Night Shyamalan kind of way.

Inspired by both Italian Giallo films as well as Japanese horror movies, Tat Radcliffe’s cinematography has an eerie but classy look that projects a similar vibe as some of the great films of the 1970’s (without ever feeling retro). Adroitly making the considerable leap from commercial work to directing features, Capotondi quietly but forcefully pulls viewers through each turn of the elegantly constructed story, surprisingly credited to three co-writers: Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi, and Stefano Sardo.

While there are several supporting players, Double is dominated by its two leads, Ksenia Rappoport and Filippo Timi, who both won acting honors at the 66th Venice Film Festival for their performances as Sonia and Guido, respectively. Each implies so much person history viewers come to understand both perfectly without getting hardly any explicit backstory. Previously seen by American audiences as Mussolini in Marco Bellochio’s operatic Vincere, Timi connects particularly strongly here on a tragic everyman level.

Double is a finely crafted pseudo-thriller that guards its secrets well, but focuses laser-like on its deeper, acutely human concerns. Certainly engaging in the moment, it is the sort of film that also appreciates in the consciousness well after viewing. A highly recommended genre-straddler, Double opens this Friday (4/15) in New York at the Landmark Sunshine and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.