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Daniel Olmos [Celluloid 02.17.15] Italy thriller mystery giallo

[Editor's Note: A big QE welcome to our newest contributor, Dan Olmos! We’re thrilled to have Dan on board the mothership!]

These days it's easy to feel like you've seen everything worth seeing. Not only has the internet made watching almost anything your heart desires as easy and as instant as clicking on a few keys, but a quick Google search can provide endless lists of must see movies, cult or otherwise, we've never had it so good, whilst at the same time, the joy of discovering something special has been lost a little bit. That's not to say that we can't be surprised from time to time, and it's all the more exciting.

Le orme is a 1975 giallo film that was to all intents and purposes lost for many years. It's not unusual for films to get forgotten as time passes, but when it's as unusual, dreamlike and dare I say prescient as this, it's a real shame.

The film follows Alice, a professional translator, whose life begins to unravel following recurring dreams featuring an astronaut being abandoned on the surface of the moon, “As an experiment.” She loses two days of her life, and then finds strange objects in her apartment that lead her to travel to the dilapidated seaside resort town of Garma in order to try and solve the mysteries that are plaguing her.

What follows is a remarkably restrained, sombre film that is as stylish as it is evocative and mysterious. Alice's life in the city seems lonely and cold, her apartment is practically bare, she sleeps on her sofa, knocked out on tranquillisers. Her dreams have the feel of a 1950s b-movie, they are gaudy and disturbing (and also feature Klaus Kinski in a cameo).

The city scenes have a similar look and feel to much the much more recent style of cerebral thriller movies, the clinical settings and greenish colour grading of the film could have come from Villeneuve's Enemy (review), or any number of Fincher movies, in fact only the technology and the soundtrack really date the film at all.

Once Alice arrives in Garma the film becomes even more of a riddle, the town is practically deserted save for a collection of weird characters and most of them recognise Alice, even if she has no recollection of ever visiting before. And it's at this point that the film becomes even more beautiful and elegiac.

The Turkish resort of Kemer stands in for Garma, which in turn has a weird atmosphere, as if The Village from the “The prisoner” has been relocated to the near east. Faded façades and an even more faded sense of glory give the impression that Alice and the other inhabitants of the resort are ghosts drifting around a ruin. As the story unfolds we are given tiny morsels of information about the heroine and also about the other characters, but only a little at a time as is befitting a mystery story. Sometimes it almost seems as if it is a half remembered dream version of an Agatha Christie tale, but somehow slowed down and warped just enough to make it seem unreal. Also disquieting is the way characters seem to always be departing, leaving Alice alone and bewildered, and if it's not the characters, then it's the camera pulling out to leave her tiny and lost in an empty world.

Ultimately a fate befalls our heroine that I won't write about here, but the tale and the twist very much give the film a contemporary feel, or maybe it's that contemporary movies are looking back to oddities like this for inspiration. It has the feeling of a puzzle box, and we never quite know if what we are watching is important for the plot, or more likely. Just there to add to the tense ghostly atmosphere. It's not without its flaws, the deliberate pace and surreal take on the thriller genre mean that it could never be for a mainstream audience and the acting and dubbing aren't exactly brilliant, but this is a unique, refreshing and strange film that somehow transcends its small flaws and provides an unforgettable experience.

Thankfully, LE ORME is restored and Footprints on the Moon [PAL]available from Shameless on DVD

You can also watch the whole film (uncut, so it includes a few scenes in Italian) here.

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projectcyclops (5 years ago) Reply

I keep meaning to check this film out. As a big Argento/Bava fan it sounds like my kind of thing (and oddly reminiscent of 'Messiah Of Evil' - an old favourite).

Thanks for the review, and welcome to the site!


sevenape (5 years ago) Reply

Thanks for having me! I've never seen 'Messiah of Evil' If there's a dilapidated sea side, I'm Interested! Thanks again,


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