Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The odd detail


Not that far from the urban landscapes of Northern Italy, lies a lovely city by the seaside.
Portofino. Its harbour, its small colourful houses, its relaxed atmosphere. Strange place for a giallo.

Is L'uomo senza memoria (Man without a memory aka Puzzle, Duccio Tessari - 1974) really a giallo? Not sure, but it's probably Tessari's trademark: his other contribution to the genre, Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate (The bloodstained butterfly, 1971) wasn't exactly a typical giallo either. There is something that cannot be denied: both films have their own particular style, and a remarkable elegance - something "precious" which makes them stand out of the crowd.

So, here we are in London with the story of a man who has lost his memory, and is attracted to Portofino by a letter supposedly written by his wife, whom he doesn't remember.
And the location is so beautiful, with the boats and the twisted paved streets,
and the characters all dress up in fashionable clothes, and there are nice cars too,
there's a witty kid, who helps solving the mystery,
there is also Anita Strindberg, and a bad guy who blows his nose all the time,
there's even a subtle tribute to Mario Bava's "La ragazza che sapeva troppo" when Sara (Senta Berger) is alone in the shadows of her house at night, as she's heard a strange noise...
Not to forget the soundtrack which is so classy, as ever with the great Gianni Ferrio.

All these elements contribute to make this film a definitely pleasant experience, something classy not quite fitting in the giallo frame, still very close to it.
Like an elegant painting made of a number of carefully selected details perfectly matching together, except for one. One detail which presence in the painting would seem very odd. Not something big, but sufficiently disturbing to make you rethink of the whole picture with a different look.
In L'uomo senza memoria, this odd detail appears shortly at the very beginning of the film only to find its utility at the very end of it: it is a chainsaw. Yes, a chainsaw which turns the final scene into a bloodbath, after 90 almost violence-free minutes.

Such an odd detail, which is typically constitutive of Puzzle's strange charm.


The film was recently released by two production companies: the French Neo Publishing and the Danish Another World Entertainment. The soundtrack, unfortunately, seems nowhere to be found, which is a shame considering Gianni Ferrio's consistently excellent scores.
More from this blog on Duccio Tessari's other giallo here and there.

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