Friday, June 10, 2011
Movie review: The Double Hour (La doppia ora)
Classic suspense, well-played.
The Double Hour, directed by first-timer Giuseppe Capotondi, is a sly and sexy thriller with a full 180-degree twist, in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock. It's an Italian language feature with English subtitles, which is why you'll only find it playing in art house cinemas (such as the Dallas and Plano Angelikas).
Drop-dead gorgeous Kseniya Rappoport stars as Sonia, an Eastern European immigrant working as a maid in a Turin, Italy hotel. The night after she walks in on a chillingly determined suicide in progress, Sonia meets ruggedly handsome Guido (Filippo Timi) at a speed-dating session. The two hit it off and proceed back to his apartment to — um — get acquainted.
Guido's the kind of bloke who likes to love 'em and make 'em leave, which he demonstrates to Sonia early the next morning. (It's to do with the memory of his dead wife and his resulting damaged psyche.) But something about Sonia warms his cockles with a unprecedented intensity, and before long he's calling her up for a repeat engagement.
Following a chance encounter with Guido's old police department colleague Dante (Michele Di Mauro), Guido invites Sonia to join him for the weekend at the wooded estate where he works as a security guard. It's a romantic, secluded location, replete with chirping birds, leaves fluttering in the breeze, forest paths to wander — and a gang of well-organized thieves waiting to ambush the pair and make off with everything in the residence that isn't nailed down.
During the course of the robbery, Guido is shot and killed. Sonia is left with haunting memories of her dead boyfriend and her old job back at the hotel, where things start to get really weird...
Disorienting time slips seem to be occurring, and Sonia catches a glimpse of a man in the hotel's security camera who could be the spitting image of Guido. She's getting strange and disturbing telephone calls. Inspector Dante makes it clear to Sonia that he's not convinced she wasn't involved in the crime that brought about his old friend's death. And a mysterious, vaguely sinister repeat hotel guest by the name of Bruno (Fausto Russo Alesi) begins taking an uncomfortable liking to Sonia, even offering her a lift home one evening after the funeral of a friend. (Don't take it, Sonia, DON'T TAKE IT!)
By the time Sonia receives a photograph of herself and a man she doesn't know standing in front of a river in Buenos Aires (where she's never been), we've come to the conclusion that things may not be as they seems — and that even the dead might come back to life to help a loved one out of a jam.
Oh, in case you're wondering, "double hour" refers to the time on a digital clock or watch readout, such as 23:23 (military time), 05:05, etc. — you get the idea. According to Guido, you're supposed to make a wish when you happen to notice such a thing. Although — as he admits — they never seem to come true.
The Double Hour won a trio of major awards at the Venice Film Fesival, including Best Italian Film and Best Actress/Actor awards for Rappaport and Timi. Deservedly so. At 95 minutes, this thriller powers along on a tide of atmospheric unease and dangerous obsession, serving up nary a dull moment.
If you're looking for dramatic proof that desirable women can be dangerous, here's your sign.