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Movies Max Glaessner Review by
Max Glaessner
Do You LIke Hitchcock?
DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? - 2005
Genesis Pictures
Rated: N/A

This made for TV movie, Dario Argento’s homage to the master of suspense himself, is by no means on par with anything that old Hitch would have created, but if you are a fan of both directors, chances are that you will probably find something enjoyable in this style over substance tribute.

The movie begins when, Giulio, an inquisitive little boy with a habit of snooping, is riding his bicycle through the woods. Little does he know as he peddles along, that he is soon to bear witness to a very strange horror. This unexpected surprise arrives in the form of two shabbily dressed women, presumably witches of some kind, who appear to have a vaguely lesbian relationship. Hidden behind the trees and brush, Giulio can see the two crones greet each other with a kiss, and then walk hand and hand into the forest. Forsaking his bicycle, Giulio follows them all the way to an abandoned shed, where he spies through the window, as the two women, cackling, proceed to cut the head off of a live chicken.

Now, I can just hear you asking yourself. What the hell does this have to do with Alfred Hitchcock? Well, nothing much really... but you'll probably have to admit upon seeing this film, that the whole chicken sacrifice thing has a great way of grabbing your attention. In seriousness, besides that, this scene is successful in establishing Guilio's curiosity, and how sometimes, by viewing something dangerous, we have the tendency to put ourselves in the middle of a dangerous situation. Curiosity killed the cat, and for Giulio this lesson comes early in life.

Once the two vagrant women realize that their private chicken torture session is being observed by an outsider, they turn to the window where young Giulio's face is pasted to the glass. "WHO'S THERE?" one of them cries, and the boy goes tumbling to the ground. "YOU'LL NEVER GET AWAY FROM US!" Despite their protestations, Giulio grabs his bike and manages to peddle off to safety.

Cut to present. Giulio (Elio Germano) is a hip and nerdy film student living in the heart of Torino, Italy. He leads the solitary existence of any college kid, in a decorated bachelor pad, raised several levels off of the ground in a spectacular neo classical building. From a cursory look at the posters for PSYCHO, VERTIGO, and DIAL M FOR MURDER plastered all around his room, we can tell where he derives most of his inspiration. Across the street from him, lives a girl named Sasha (Elisabetta Rochetti) a real babe by all accounts, and the focus of Giulio’s continued fascination. He watches her undress through a pair of binoculars (Think Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW), and sometimes, when she’s not stripping by the window, he sees her argue with her mother. The tension between Sasha and her mom seems mostly focused around Sasha being a neighborhood tramp. In one particularly heated fight, the mother picks up a glass and hurls it at the back of Sasha’s head. You know, just typical mother/daughter stuff.

Giulio’s interest in Sasha really takes off when he randomly encounters her at the video store, where she is trying to check out a copy of Alfred Hitchcock’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Interestingly, she reaches for the movie at the exact same time as another mysterious hottie named Federica (Chiara Conti) and an electric current seems to pass between the two girls, sparking an intense discussion about the classic film from 1951. “Hitchcock scares the shit out of me,” remarks Sasha. This line of hers is truly ridiculous, mostly because Sasha doesn’t look like the kind of girl who would have the patience to watch a Hitchcock movie. (She seems more like the type who would be too busy dancing topless at the Euro Disco.) The two girls agree that Sasha will rent the movie first, and that she’ll bring it right back the next day for Federica to look at.

The meeting of the two girls arouses that rampant curiosity inside of Giulio, and he is pleasantly surprised upon returning to the video store, to find Federica there once again. Federica has come back to check out the Hitchcock thriller herself, and when she leaves the store, Giullio follows in hot pursuit on his bicycle.

As it turns out the Federica has gone to meet Sasha in a park, and when Giulio happens upon them, they are sitting on the edge of a fountain, behaving like lesbians. Not like the witches in the beginning of the movie. This time there is cuddling and caressing, and sweet nothings being whispered. Poor Giulio can’t help but wonder what it is that the girls are whispering about. They only just met inside the video store. What secret are these girls keeping together?

Now we cut to the evening. A white-gloved hand fumbles with the key to the home of Sasha and her mother. From the gloved person’s point of view, we enter the house and observe Sasha’s mother like we are a rat, looking at her from a hole in the wall. Sasha’s mother is watching television, and becomes infuriated when she hears a noise. Assuming that it is her daughter, arriving home from some midnight tete-a-tete, the woman scurries throughout the apartment, looking for Sasha, that sneaky tramp. Finally satisfied that it’s only her imagination, she sits back down in front of the television, only to be bludgeoned from behind by a blunt object. She screams, but the white-gloved killer is relentless, striking the defenseless woman multiple times over the head, spraying blood against the window. Meanwhile, across the street, Giulio stirs in his sleep. He thinks he hears some shrieking from Sasha’s place, but he merely tosses and turns. It’s not until the sirens start blaring that he grabs his binoculars and goes to the window.

Soon enough, Giulio is convinced that this murder had to be committed by Sasha, or more likely Federica, in cahoots with Sasha. It’s just a hunch, but the notion starts to fester in his head, until it has transformed him into an obsessive spy with the same dedication to his crackpot notions as Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. In fact, Giulio even has his own Grace Kelly counterpart in his girlfriend Arianna (Cristina Brondo), who does not think much of her boyfriend’s obsession with the crime. As the film goes on Giulio forms the theory that Sasha and Federica have tried to replicate the scheme in STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, by swapping murders. He believes in his heart that Sasha hired Federica to kill her mother, and soon enough there will have to be another murder. In his efforts to prove this, his relationship with Arianna becomes strained, and she attempts to leave him more than once. In the mean time, someone has begun to stalk Giulio and starts breaking into his apartment. One of these break-ins occurs as Giulio is in the shower (this scene cannot help but resonate shades of PSYCHO). Equally eerie, the next home invasion nearly occurs as Giulio has a dream involving the bizarre chicken incident. He awakens to the sound of someone picking at the lock in his door. Although he yells at the intruder before this person can break through his door, Giulio cannot get a good look at his stalker, as the anonymous person runs away.

By the time we reach the mid point of the film, Giulio finds himself with a broken leg. I won’t tell you how he breaks his leg, but it’s a rather interesting scene. Ordered by his doctor to recover in a cast and wheelchair, Giulio is confined to his apartment all the time. Without Arianna to look in on him, Giulio becomes a prime target for the killer(s), as he has now become embroiled in the deadly plot.

Now that you have the synopsis, here’s the reason this film didn’t work. Simply put, the suspense is not consistent. For the first hour, Dario keeps us hooked on the edge of our seats, wondering how this is going to play out, but by the time hour two rolls around we get bored. Contrary to Hitchcock, who often built slowly and overwhelmed us as his films progressed, this one gets off to a strong start and then progressively disappoints. Most of the major plot twists in this movie are unremarkable, and the ending is downright drab. While Argento is sometimes known for wrapping things up a tad awkwardly, DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? Just leaves us feeling cheated. In my opinion, the latter half of this film takes what could have been a fairly decent horror/thriller and transforms it into a half decent afternoon hangover flick.

That being said, fans of Hitchcock (and particularly Argento) might as well see this. While it’s certainly true that this was made for TV movie, Argento does a great job of serving up his most constant strength, which is, naturally, super bad ass cinematography. In spite of the overly glossy, direct to video camera work, Argento brings the city of Torino to life in vivid colorful detail that only he can create. Much like Hitchcock had the great ability to do, Argento makes us want to live on the street where his movie takes place. All of the houses on Giulio’s block are both historic and timeless at once, just the way they’d look in any Hitchcock classic. (The big difference is that while Hitchcock preferred to shoot movies like REAR WINDOW on a big Hollywood lot, Argento found a real location that reflected Hitch’s set design to the T) This kind of visual authenticity should be applauded, and the zeroing in that Argento does on stone gargoyles and monsters etched upon the buildings adds a unique touch of paranoia.

One other factor, not to be overlooked in DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?, is the humor. Argento, over the years, has obviously come to know his audience. Horror fans and hipsters alike are lovingly poked fun at in this movie, and it’s hard not to snicker a little bit. Take, for instance, the video store, in which so many crucial scenes occur. This video store is an indie film nerd joint (and we know because there’s one in every town). Some of the dialogue can really only be amusing to those of us who have made a point of continually seeking out the weirdest films imaginable. For example, a moppy haired hipster enters the store at one point and asks,
“Do you have David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET with the interview?”
To which the clerk, replies, “No, but I have ERASERHEAD, with all the extras.”

In addition to this, the character of Guilio, himself, is often times hysterical. While he doesn’t possess a ton of physical strength, or the strength of character displayed by, say, Jimmy Stewart in REAR WINDOW, you kind of have to admire the kid. Guilio is the kind of guy that wears glasses, likes German expressionism, gets laid, and smokes weed while watching NOSFERATU. Personally, I have to root for a character like that.

I give it three shriek girls.  Two of the girls are shrieking and one of them is a half yawn.

Shriek GirlShriek GirlShriek Girl
This review copyright 2008 E.C.McMullen Jr.

For Max, it's personal -

In closing, I’ll give you all one more reason that DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? is not a complete waste of time, and that’s because, in my experience, I would have to agree with Argento. Sometimes life does imitate Hitchcock. Take my word for it, here. I live on the fourth floor of a creaky Victorian house in Chicago, which may be close to a hundred years old. While looking out the windows, friends of mine have often commented to my girlfriend and I, how we live on a block that looks very “Rear Window”. Cinematographers tend to agree with this, and a few years ago, an episode of ER was shot on our very scenic rooftop. Most of the houses on my block are as old as mine, and looking out across our block, you’d think it was a Hollywood set from a bygone era.

If I sit by my windowsill, like Jimmy Stewart or Giulio, I can see into everyone else’s homes. In the house across the street, I can watch all of my neighbors all day long if I like. On the second level there is a family with a young boy who looks to be around ten. He stands in the window and eats his cereal while his parents dress for work. On the third level above them there is a young exhibitionist couple, who always do it with their shades up and their lights on. (Happens every night around ten o’clock. Not that I’m interested or anything). Now if you’re still with me and I haven’t lost you, I’m about to get to the point, here. Across the street from me, on the fourth level above the amateur porn stars, live a group of actors, except I didn’t know they were actors the first time I saw them. Keep in mind; these neighbors live at the exact same height as I do, so my line of sight with their home is very direct. In fact I can see them so well, it’s kind of eerie.

The first time I laid eyes on the actors they were rehearsing a scene.

Looking out from my kitchen window, and into their living room I saw a man shouting and threatening a woman with a knife. She was pleading with her hands for him to put the knife down, and he backed her into a corner where it looked like he was ready to stab her.

My heart froze, and I was about to reach for the phone to call the cops, when I saw four people enter the room and wrestle the knife from his hands. These people were holding scripts in their hands, and after all the people were done talking, they handed the knife back to the man and had him rehearse the scene again.

Just then in that instant I was utterly relieved. But at the same time I realized that if I had seen what I thought I saw, the implications would have been severe to say the least, and I would have been in a sticky situation. You can get into a lot of trouble when you peer into a dangerous world that’s not your own. I think that’s what Argento was trying to establish in this movie, and while it didn’t really work, you’ll be able to see what he was going for.

Return to Movies

DVD


TRIVIA

*
A collection that is as a side note, well worth purchasing. In addition to the three films named, it includes classics such as PHENOMENA and TENEBRE, as well as special features alongside each film, which includes exclusive interview footage with Dario Argento himself.

According to
imdb.com
and
Wikipedia.org

Aura's Anorexia nervosa was based on Asia Argento's half sister, Anna, who suffered from the disorder and died in 1994, shortly after the movie's release.

Actors Piper Laurie and Fredrick Forrest apparently had no respect for TRAUMA and according to Piper Laurie, the two would constantly sit through the entire shooting, laughing.
 
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