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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD region 0. Mr Bongo Films.

The Grim ReaperMr Bongo Films continue their admirable mission to release early works by important European directors with Bernardo Bertolucci’s debut movie La Commare Secca (known in English as The Grim Reaper, and certainly not to be confused with the retitled American version of Joe D'Amato's Anthropophagous!), based on a story by Pier Paulo Pasolini. This whodunit takes what at the time was quite an unusual approach – now one commonplace through TV shows like CSI, Cold Case etc – of revealing the story through the accounts of various eyewitnesses / suspects, after the body of a prostitute is found in a park. We follow the lives of various people – a petty thief who is caught red-handed, a couple of teenage boys who rob a gay man, a soldier trying to pick up girls, a gigolo arguing with his girlfriend – before the real killer is identified.

The film looks wonderful – the neo-realism influences and the Rome scenery are impressive, and Italy looks like a very foreign place here, from the people to the places. The film has a haunting score and some excellent performances, while Bertolucci’s direction is assured.

However… it’s quite a dull film. The recollected activities of the various storytellers are overly drawn-out and do little to propel the story forward; and at their worst are not even interesting vignettes in their own right. The soldier’s story, for instance, is little more than him wandering around, trying to score – absolutely nothing happens other than the film grinding to a shuddering halt at an important juncture in proceedings.

So as a thriller, this is a failure – there are few thrills to be had. As a drama, it’s more successful, but definitely not for everyone. The biggest point of interest here is seeing how one of Italy’s finest directors started out. Whether or not that is enough to justify the purchase, I’ll leave for you to decide.






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