There have been several recent films that have paid more than a passing reference to the giallo period of filmmaking. From The Love Witch to Berberian Sound Studio, the style and exuberance of giallo has been a heady influence, but Francesca director Luciano Onetti has in many ways constructed much more of a direct imitation than a subtle homage.
The plot centres around two police detectives on the hunt for a killer, and to solve the current mystery, they must delve into a case from many years ago. After initial intrigue and excitement generated through Onetti’s bold use of recognisable tropes, the experience quickly becomes increasingly tiresome as proceedings become far too referential, and the story loses itself amidst one ticked off giallo marker after another. Close-up shots of gloves, a veiled stalker, fetish-inspired killers and an invasive electronic soundtrack all make the list, purely with the intention of generating a venerable smile from fans. But an over-reliance on these stock motifs hints at a lack of confidence in the narrative and serve more as distractions than compliments. Whether by intention or otherwise, the subtitled dialogue is often humorously clunky, and the cast act at times as if in a spoof rather than a real feature. What you’re left with is something more akin to a college film project, than an independent feature production.
Where Francesca suffers the most, though, is in its lack of any real peril or nerve-jangling drama. The necessity to engage the viewer is at the heart of the genre, and in failing to do so, Francesca has fundamentally failed in its goals. Visually striking and swathed in giallo flavourings certainly, but there is not nearly enough meat on those leather-clad bones to carry an entire film.
If you succeed in paying close attention to the mystery at the heart of Francesca there is some reward to be found, and there is no doubt that the film very much looks the part. Onetti and his co-filmmakers cannot be faulted for their obvious love of giallo. But sadly, their finished film drifts toward a finale containing numerous revelations that, in all likelihood, you will have either already guessed or no longer care about. There are too many great giallo films out there to discover and enjoy to dwell too long on what is more pale imitation than glowing tribute.
FRANCESCA / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: LUCIANO ONETTI / SCREENPLAY: LUCIANO ONETTI, NICOLÁS ONETTI / STARRING: LUIS EMILIO RODRIGUEZ, GUSTAVO DALESSANRO, RAUL GEDERLINI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW