Sunday, January 20, 2019

In the Labyrinth: THE FIFTH CORD (1971)

Yesterday I watched Luigi Bazzoni’s THE FIFTH CORD, which is coming out imminently (February 5) in a spectacular Blu-ray edition from Arrow Films. The notes on the back cover describe it as “arguably the most visually stunning giallo ever made,” which certainly primed me for an argument - but this is Vittorio Storaro, folks, before the mainstream discovered him, and a thoroughly evolved example of his impeccable cinematography. I would even call this a sterling example of what I’ve called Continental Op - that is, Op Art-influenced European cinema. The characters consistently occupy abstract, mesmerizing, geometric backgrounds and settings, all remarkably natural and which conjure the feel of a labyrinth in which protagonist Franco Nero must find and confront his Minotaur.

The disc is fully outfitted with appreciative extras, including a restored deleted scene; an audio commentary by Travis Crawford; a video essay on the film's visual style by Rachael Nisbit; and interviews with star Franco Nero, editor Eugenio Alabiso (he also cut Sergio Leone's classic Westerns and Sergio Martino's best gialli), and author and critic Michael Mackenzie.   

Coming out the same day is Bazzoni's previous giallo, THE POSSESSED (1965), a head-scratching English title for a film more accurately titled La donna del lago, or "The Lady of the Lake," in Italian. I provided the audio commentary for this one and, unusually, I came to the project with no prior knowledge of Bazzoni or his work. I came away from the experience with absolute respect, and also considerable regret that he directed so few films (only five dramatic features, and some shorts and documentary work) before his death in 2012. He subsequently directed another giallo (1975's FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON aka La orme), which I haven't seen, but these two gialli alone secure his place as an almost singular master of the form, yet also a perverse one because he so willfully raises it to a higher level. In both cases working from a novelistic source, Bazzoni was able to propose the giallo as something befitting mainstream or even art cinema, devoid of its epidemic, often charming quirks of casting, scripting and behavior - the kind so outrageously nailed byAdam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy's parody THE EDITOR (2014).

(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved. 

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