Saturday, October 22, 2016

FRANCESCA (2016) (Unearthed Blu-ray Review)

Label: Unearthed Films
Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 77 Minutes
Audio: Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Luciano Onetti 
Cast: Martina Nigrelli, Raul Gederlini, Emilio Rodriguez, Gustavo Dalessanro

Synopsis: It's been 15 years since the disappearance of little Francesca (Martina Nigrelli), daughter of the renowned poet and playwright, Vittorio Visconti (Raul Gederlini). The community is stalked by a psychopath bent on cleaning the city of 'impure and damned souls'. Moretti and Succo are the detectives in charge of finding the killer of these 'Dantesque' crimes. Francesca has returned, but she is not be the same girl they once knew.

The Onetti Brothers from Argentina have improbably directed one of the very few modern giallo movies to re capture the vintage aesthetic of the stylish original Italian whodunits from Italy. Yeah, there have been loads of recent arthouse homages to the crafty proto-slashers and even an over-the-top send-up from the Astron-6 guys but this is the only one I have watched that feels like a real deal Italian whodunit right on down to the movie title typography and lurid cinematography. It has all trademarks of a classic Argento or Martino movie including the classic killer POV shots, a creepy doll straight out of Deep Red, a deeply traumatic childhood that could have been lifted from Pieces, a killer in a stylish veiled fedora and of course those patented leather gloves, though in a nice twist the gloves are not black but deep red in color, which is perhaps another nod to Argento. 

Set in the 70s we have a series of bodies turning up around the city, each victim has had coins placed upon their eyes, the seems to be obsessed with Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Police Detectives Moretti (Luis Emilio Rodriguez) and Succo (Gustavo Dalessanro) are on the case and convinced that the string of recent murders are linked to the disappearance of a young girl named Francesca fifteen years earlier. The set-up is simple but well-executed, the filmmakers have done a great job with the story, as with the classic giallo entries the story is not complicated, just a bit convoluted and riddled with riddles. 

As a lover of the vintage giallo movies I found Francesca a fascinating watch, not just as a technically brilliant homage to the vintage whodunits but as a solid crime-thriller. It will definitely be a more informed watch if you're a fan of vintage giallo cinema but I think the casual thriller fan can enjoy this as an arthouse thriller without having been schooled in works of Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, Aldo Lado and Massimo Dallamano, though it couldn't hurt. Recent neo-giallo like Berberian Sound Studio and Amer are more arthouse wankery with nods to the classic whodunits rather than true giallo. Don't get me wrong, I love some arthouse wankery, but this is more authentic, with everything you've come to love from the genre, with loads of style, perversion and some wicked kills, including a signature weapon, and without winking at the audience. 

The attention to detail is deft, the Onetti's went to great lengths to find Argentine locations that could double for Italy, including the use of period appropriate cars, authentic vintage clothing, and nicely textured locations and decor that set the right mood, the vibe of this is pitch perfect, including an Onetti composed prog-rock score that sounds not just authentic to the era but is very good. 

Audio/Video: Francesa arrives on a three-disc Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Unearthed Films looking vintage and authentic, the digital-shot film has been tinkered with to give it the vibe of a well-worn film print with overblown whites and deeply saturated colors, giving it an authentic 70s vibe. The image manipulation feels vintage, it doesn't come off as one of those cheap grindhouse knock-offs we've seen way too many off. Textures in the close-ups look great, the 70s wallpaper and fashions look great in HD but overall there's a deliberate lack of crispness and clarity to the image, which might prove troubling to some but does make this feel vintage. The movie is framed in a super-wide presentation which is striking to watch, very nice framing throughout on this one. 

The disc comes with an Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track with Optional English Subtitles. The audio was dubbed with some loose syncing, adding another layer of authenticity to the whodunit. The score composed by director Luciano Onetti and it sound awesome, the disc has been in my car stereo non-stop since this release arrived, Onetti does a close approximation of a classic prog-rock score, sounding a bit like the Four Flies On Gray Velvet era Goblin.

Extras on the disc include a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, an interview with the Onetti brothers, an Unearthed Films trailer reel, a booklet with writing on the film from Art Ettinger of Ultra Violet Magazine, a DVD of the film and extras, plus a CD soundtrack of the Luciano Onetti composed score. The 3-disc set comes housed in a gorgeous tri-fold digipak case featuring some of my favorite artwork of any release this year, the artwork is evocative of prime-giallo classics, each of the three discs featuring a different image from the movie. This is just a great looking package from Unearthed Films, one of my favorites so far this year. 

Special Features: 
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (14 Mins) 
- Deleted Scenes (3 Mins) 
- Hidden Scene (2 Mins) 
- Interview with Luciano and Nicolas Onetti (20 Mins) 
- Unearthed Trailer Reel (12 Mins) 
- Collector's Booklet with writing on the film from Art Ettinger of Ultra Violent Magazine 
- CD Soundtrack  

I loved Francesca, it comes highly recommend to hardcore lovers of the stylish original Italian whodunits who crave some new blood. A technically brilliant homage with a solid story and an authentic 70s whodunit vibe, red leather gloved hands down this is my favorite of the modern giallo movies.