Renowned painter Leonardo Ferri, whose works have a standard price set by the market, and his girlfriend Flavia live together in his studio in Milan. He has not completed any paintings in two months as he slowly goes mad. His mental issues, about which Flavia is aware, includes a recurring dream where she is torturing him before attempting to kill him. As such, Flavia makes arrangements for them to rent a country villa outside of Venice where the change in scenery may recharge his creative juices. Because she can feel negative energy toward her at the villa, Flavia decides to spend her weekdays in Milan, visiting on the weekends, leaving Leonardo alone at the villa during week with only the housekeeper, Egle. Still haunted by his mental problems, Leonardo tries but is unable to restart his work. During this time alone, he learns of Vanda Valier, a previous occupant of the villa who was killed outside the villa walls during the war at age fifteen. Many of the locals still have their ... Written by
A talented, imaginative painter(Franco Nero)is having trouble finishing any of his paintings (painter's block?). His matron and lover (Vanessa Redgrave) arranges for him to stay at a quiet villa out in the country. Instead of getting any work done there, however, he becomes obsessed with the story of a beautiful and promiscuous 17-year-old girl who was mysteriously killed at the villa during WWII. The older locals (especially the men)are equally obsessed with the girl,and they all end up holding a bizarre séance. But it is only the painter who starts seeing her ghost and eventually solves the mystery. Or does he?
This movie is kind of a combination of a ghost story like "The Sixth Sense" and an artist-as-unreliable-narrator movie like the recent French film "Swimming Pool". It's not really clear whether the ghost exists or whether Nero's character is going crazy (although the latter seems more likely). It is difficult to really compare this movie to a Hollywood-style movie, however. Whereas a Hollywood-style movie would have ratcheted up the suspense and eventually resolved the mystery. This movie starts and ends with pure over-the-top 60's pop psychedelia and only the middle seems to be a really coherent narrative. And this is really more like the more famous 60's Italian film "Blow Up" in that the mystery eventually becomes almost completely irrelevant.
The "Blow Up" comparison is tempting in that both films star Vanessa Redgrave in one of her more sex kitten-ish roles as opposed to one of her later, more serious roles (she did both, kind of like a British Jane Fonda). However,this film has a much more frenetic pacing than "Blow Up" and is really of a piece with talented director Elio Petri's other films like "The Tenth Victim" and "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion". Besides, this is much more Franco Nero's show than Redgrave's. This is an unusual role for Nero. He looks physically different--thinner and with much less muscle tone (especially compared to his earlier appearances in "Django" and "Texas Addio"). His character is very manic and seems half-crazed from the outset, and he has a lot of blackly humorous scenes like when he visits the dead girl's lonely, invalid old mother and just kind of helps himself to all her photographs. The supporting cast is good too including the very pretty Gabrielle Grimaldi as the "ghost" and Rita Calderoni (who later worked a lot with equally crazed if less talented Italian directors Renato Poselli and Paolo Solvay) as the maid at the villa, who always seems to be in bed with her "brother" and at one point gets painted-- literally--by her crazed employer. You may or not like this, but you certainly can't say it isn't interesting.
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