DVD region 0. Mr Bongo Films.
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.
IT NOW (UK)