Saturday, January 21, 2012

Blood and Black Lace

I love Giallo films. Not so much because i'm a horror fan, but because i'm a sucker for aesthetic extravagance. I wish i could flounce around in the minidesses and go-go boots of All the Colors of the Dark, listen to The Bird With the Crystal Plumage's avant-garde groove soundtrack, live in Suspiria's pop art deco nouveau sets (through i'd redo the razor-wire closet). Cosmopolitan Italy in the late sixties/early seventies was a post-La Dolce Vita world of luxury, fashion and rancid decadence and, ultimately, Blood and Black Lace is more gorgeous than it is gross.

It is 1964, somewhere in Italy, a world in which everyone has beehives for hairdos, cat eyes for maquillage, works in a palazzo and lives in a penthouse. We quickly find ourselves in that old "serial killer who only whacks models" trope. Somehow her battered and rain-soaked corpse makes it back into a (seventeenth-century antique French provincial) wardrobe, from which it falls at the feet of her (astonishingly coiffed and chicly attired in a little black dress) employer. Stoic detective soon rounds up the usual suspects in the murder of any model -- her boyfriend, her agent, her best friend and her coke dealer.
Then dead model's diary shows up backstage at a fashion show -- a scene in which all the eurosleazy fashion folk alternately eye each other and The Purse in portentious closeup is glamorous and hilarious at the same time. (The don't want it because it's part of the auto-inspired Prada spring collection, but because it contains the incriminating diary. Although, given this crowd, i figure they also hope there's an eightball stuck in the lining somewhere.) The entire fashion show is a masterpiece orchestrated shots and multiple fields of activity, as well as a full-on vintage haute couture experience.

Other models soon meet their deaths is more elaborate set-ups -- such as a cat-and-mouse in an exqusitely labrynthine antique store, soaked in red and blue light and a mounting sense of dread, leading up to facial impalement via historic torture instrument. Stoic Detective decides to arrest all of the male characters, who react with everything from disdain (silly mustache) to dismay (the dead ringer for Peter Lorre) to shrieking "Look at his face! He hates women! He's the murderer!" and collapsing into an epileptic fit (shiny suit and bad pompadour). The models pose about the fashion house, equally fastidious and frightened (and rather distressed that all their menfolk are gone).

Yet the murders keep on happening! Not that the models don't help. As in: When a serial killer is on the loose and you are too afraid to even go home, when you find that multillated corpse in the trunk of your car, don't drag it inside, hide it and send all the other people in the building away. Do not add insult to stupidity by stripping down to a black slip to make your inevitable demise sexaaay. The killer is eventually outed with Scotch and stopped by architecture (so much for Stoic Detective). There's a theoretical reason why all the models were killed but, as we all know, it was mostly because they were models and the killer was a killer.

Again, the appeal of Blood and Black Lace is definitely more style than substace or perhaps style as substance. The fashion is more than simple (window) dressing, but forwards the plot -- no one wants to wear the black lace dress that the first dead model was supposed to wear in the fashion show. Even in ominous moments, i find myself more fascinated by a near-her-expiration-date mannequin's rose satin sheath dress under a raspberry wool swing coat than the fact that she's about to die or i'm  focused on the Henry Clarke-like tableaux instead of the plot points being hit.But, well, i'm enjoying myself and what other point could there possibly be...

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