Saturday, 28 August 2010

Florinda’s Giant Steps

Footprints on the Moon
aka Footprints
aka Le Orme 1975 Italy
Directed by Luigi Bazzoni
Shameless Screen Entertainment
DVD Region 0

Wow. Just wow!

That’s the second time lately that I’ve seen a really fresh and memorable film and both times it’s been courtesy of Shameless Screen Entertainment. You know, I keep thinking that pretty soon I’m going to watch one of their presentations and really hate it... well that will probably happen at some point sooner or later but... this wasn’t it. Shameless’ re-build edit of this lost and mostly forgotten movie is a really great viewing experience for those of you who like minimal dialogue and long sequences of reflective atmosphere.

Footprints on the Moon is, I confess, a movie I’d not heard about until I started exploring Shameless’ back catalogue... but I saw a trailer for it on one of their other releases and the cinematography looked so beautiful that I thought I’d give it a go... and I’m really glad I picked it up. Going on the sleeve artwork, the film comes across as a cross between a science fiction movie and a giallo... the truth of the matter is, though, that Footprints on the Moon is neither... so I’m a bit puzzled by Shameless’ description of it as “the most haunting and beautiful giallo you will ever see." I guess if you’re trying to sell DVDs then gialli are really popular right now in the UK.

They’re absolutely right though in their assertion that it’s a haunting and beautiful film. The cinematography is, indeed, quite stunning... and no wonder. It’s by the acclaimed Vittorio Storaro of all people!

The film starts with Alice (played by “giallo-babe” Florinda Bolkan) awaking from a sci-fi dream which features Klaus Kinski and his colleagues stranding an astronaut on the moon in raw black and white photography. When Alice, who is played as an icy and private individual by Bolkan, goes to work she finds she may have lost her job as a translator because, and she only discovers this when she gets to work, she appears to have lost three days of her life which she can’t remember.

A postcard in her wonderfully spacious apartment which has been torn into four pieces leads her to investigate and stay in a hotel on the island of Garma... where people seem to know her from a previous stay which she has no memory of, albeit under a different name. So the whole film becomes a mystery puzzle where the main protagonist is trying to find out what the hell has happened to her and why she keeps dreaming of herself as an astronaut stranded on the moon. With it’s moody cinematography, long reflective passages sans dialogue and atmospheric musical cues by composer Nicola Piovani (there really needs to be a score CD of this movie!), I found that Footprints on the Moon kept reminding me of Resnais’ Last Year In Marienbad... which as far as I’m concerned is a really good thing. And with the island of Garma... I couldn’t help but pick up a little on that whole Portmerion and The Prisoner vibe coming at me. It almost certainly wasn’t intentional... but that really doesn’t matter.

And for fans of the giallo film (of which this is definitely not an example), the film also features young Nicoletta Elmi, or as me and my friend Jake refer to her - “dodgy giallo child”, in a prominent role in the film. You may remember her from such giallo and horror genre classics as Deep Red (Profondo Rosso), Who Saw Her Die?, Bay of Blood (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve), Baron Blood as well as her “all grown up” form in the first Demons movie (famously as the usherette). It’s always a good moment when watching these kinds of movies that we get a new Nicoletta Elmi sighting!

The one problem with the film, if indeed it has any problem at all, is that the end sequence answers all the mystery puzzle questions with one sweeping and, perhaps, unsatisfying gesture. And when you look back at the history of Bolkan’s character in the movie (her job for instance) then it doesn’t really add up too well or make a lot of sense. But then again, Last Year In Marienbad never made a lot of sense either but you don’t hear people complaining about that (I hope). It’s perhaps a slight spoiler to say that the end coda of this movie takes as it’s template what I always refer to as “The Caligari Conclusion” in that it shares the same stylistic dismissal of its main protagonist with the same lack of respect afforded the characters in both The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920) and The Cabinet of Caligari (1962). This bothered me a little since the puzzle element took such a strong hold in my mind during my first viewing of this movie... but it’s such a great movie that this particular ingredient will soon diminish in my mind and this will be a movie I’m sure I’ll probably rewatch a number of times over the coming years. My gratitude and respect to Shameless for putting this one out there for people to see.

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