Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bird with the Crystal Plumage

From one to the next!

Tonight's film was Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L'uccello dalle Piume de Cristallo) which was another that I'd seen before but, once again, was none the worse for it.

My entry for this one will be much shorter. Mostly because I'm much more tired today, but partly also because the film is, in my eyes at least, somewhat less remarkable. It makes a fairly neat comparison against Opera though, mostly because nearly every flaw I found in Opera is corrected here.

Yesterday I pointed out that Opera's music left something to be desired; here, a certain Mr Ennio Morricone steps in to create a score that bursts with energy when it needs to, broods menacingly at times and jangles its merry way through the film. Similarly, the actual plot - another weak spot in Opera - is phenomenally tight here. Mystery and suspense lurk at every set-piece and in ever shadow. I challenge any viewer not to spend the entire film guessing at who's responsible for the series of grisly deaths handed out to the poor victims.

Yet, for all this, it simply doesn't have the sheer atmosphere that makes Opera so thrilling. The camera, although rarely short of wonderful, doesn't drag us, biting at our nails, into the story in the same way as yesterday's film and this is telling of the film as a whole. It's fascinating, it's captivating, it's beautiful but yet it never quite achieves the intensity of Opera.

If I'm damning it with faint praise, I must apologise. Bird with the Crystal Plumage is by no means a bad, or even mediocre film. It's a great film. It tells a compelling story and it tells it very well indeed. But this is perhaps all it does; it is a brilliant story, but never quite manages to be a brilliant cinematic experience.

Note: It only occurred to me to check the date of this film as an afterthought. This is Argento's first film as director, some 17 years before he directed Opera and perhaps this explains the points I highlight. This is a much more 'traditional' film than Opera, a film that obeys more of the normal 'rules'. In some respects, it's the better for it, but in terms of a cinematic experience it merely hints at what he was to achieve later.

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