Thursday, March 24, 2011
Another new (to me) Argento film, another next-day post. The problem this time, though, is that I still don't know what to think. Phenomena has me confused; it could either be my least favourite Argento film yet or it could even be - whisper it- my favourite. I certainly will need to see it again beofre I'm sure.
It has all the faults you could accuse an Argento film of, and it has them by the bucketfull. The story is pretty much nonsensical. The dialogue is clumsy. The acting is as wooden as it gets. If I wanted (and several IMDB reviewers have wanted to) I could make this sound like a truly awful film. It's about a half-mad girl who communicates with insects, for heaven's sake!
So... it's a bad film right?
Phenomena is, as with so many of these films, not really meant to be a narrative to follow, a dramatic performance to astound or a literary tour-de-force. It's an experience. It's a film you have to sit and give your full attention to. So surrender your art-critic pretensions and just immerse yourself in it. There's a lot to like!
She does, after all, communciate with insects! This, predictably, does not mean talking to ladybirds but rather invokes biblical-plagues of flying terrors, ready to sting, nibble and smother anything in their way.
It also has Donald Pleasence (always a good thing) and a monkey.
If I seem to be struggling to find useful things to say about this film it's really only because it has such an absolutely brilliant, arresting, throat-grabbing, mind-boggling wonder of an ending. The film was good, sure, but the last quarter of an hour or so utterly trumped it. It's not frightening as such (there's certainly no scene to equal the dog-chases-girl in Tenebrae) but it is tense, it is shocking and it is delivered with enthusiasm and panache!
It would be such a shame to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, so I'll carefully guard my tonguer (er... keys?) and leave you with a very unsatisfactorary conclusion. Phenomena is quite possibly utter rubbish with a chilling ending. Or it is quite possibly a stunning film that needs to be experienced. I'm just not sure.
Either way, I certainly need and want to watch it again.