Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Gialli often reflect a point of view on Italy's moral and political crisis of the 70s (Short night of the glass dolls, The bloodstained butterfly...). But it was nearly always made through a very sophisticated vision of the world, the aesthetical treatment moving away from an objective depiction of reality. Giallo is an allegoric cinema genre.

Except for Lucio Fulci's Don't torture a duckling, which could be considered a giallo born out of Neo-Realism.

Beyond the plot, this film has a documentary feel, turning the viewer into a witness of the accelerated modernisation of Italy in the 60s & 70s, depicting the country's evolution through the very ones remaining untouched by change: poor and rural people.
A testimony on a schizophrenic country, stretched out between the extremes of tradition and modernity.
Neo-realist films were clearly about this particular topic after the desolation of WWII: witnesses of the Italian reconstruction, often symbolised by kids (Vittorio de Sica's "Bicycle Thief", Roberto Rossellini's "Open City", amongst many others).

In Fulci's film, they clearly embody the link between the old and new Italy.
They are the perpetuation of traditions, under the strict rules of Religion that will ensure this little village living at the foot of a brand new highway will remain untouched.
Yet the kids are irremediably attracted by the promises of the modern world coming from the highway. They are the living connection with this new world, letting temptations and alien cultures in. So much so that they end up becoming a threat to the village community, bringing change and disorder.
In a terrifying reflex of self-preservation, the community chooses to cut this dangerous link out to maintain its integrity.

The community chooses to kill the kids. It's the end of hope.
We are, indeed, in a giallo.

More on Neo-Realism here. And on "Don't Torture a Duckling" from this blog there.


Richard Harland Smith said...

DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING is a surpassingly rich quasi-giallo that has been mislabeled and miscategorized for almost 30 years. I had the pleasure to review it at length for VIDEO WATCHDOG magazine, a review later reprinted on the web at ShockingImages.com. I still have thoughts of turning it into a stage play, I think it's that powerful and that complex.

Sylvain L. said...

Dear Richard, I had indeed read your excellent review - that can be found here: http://www.shockingimages.com/fulci/duckling.htm

I think calling it a "quasi-giallo" is a very interesting angle on this film.

Richard Harland Smith said...

I saw quasi-giallo because here the revelation of the identity of the killer takes a backseat to exposing how the actions (and words) of all the characters, from the big city interlopers to the local cops to Florinda Bolkan's tragic feral woman) contribute to the latticework of liability for what's wrong. Fulci and his contributors put forth the then (and still) unpopular notion that serial killers are not aberrations but products of their time and place, and that their actions represent a perverted version of socially accepted behavior. (Think Jeff Dahmer trolling for a friend and lover to call his own.) To minimalize DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING as an angry anti-Catholic tract is to miss the point that we all bear our share of the blame-- even those of us who enjoy the vicarious thrill of watching a faceless killer stalk his victims.

Horror_Wizard said...

I don't think that it's per se the community who chooses to cut out their branch of juvenile sins to maintain their integrity. That would be, in a black-and-white perspective, a direct attack on the southern, rural side of Italy and tha't's exactly what Fulci prevented. Neither their poverty nor tradition can be blamed for the murders but the firm grip the Church has on their lives, making them the ignorant followers, not the aggressors. The Church on the other hand is the one being condemned for its mentality and conservativeness, and hypocrisy.