Count Gore De Vol's Screaming Room

With Lady Pam De Graff

Lady Pam De GraffTHE DOUBLE HOUR (2009) Italian, English subtitles
WRITTEN BY: Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi, Stefano Sardo
DIRECTED BY: Giuseppe Capotondi
FEATURING: Ksenia Rappoport, Filippo Timi, Antonia Truppo, Gaetano Bruno, Fausto Russo Alesi
TAGS: Noir, puzzler, thriller, mystery, romance, supernatural, horror

PLOT: After surviving a gunshot wound to the head, a woman is haunted by apparitions of the dead and visions from what seem to be an alternate, but parallel version of her life. Her perplexing afflictions are in some way grounded in a personal relevance, but instead of clarifying to her what has happened, they further darken the murky conundrum into which she inexorably spirals in this smoldering, claustrophobic thriller.

COMMENTS: Wow! This story really kept me guessing and thinking in Guiseppe Capotondi's stylish, haunting mystery wrought with paradoxes and disturbing plot twists. Capotondi cleverly wields suspense and uncertainty so as to merge the lead character's unfolding impressions with our viewing experience in such a way that I found myself drawn into her to nightmare as if it were my own.

Strong performances glue The Double Hour's convoluted, anomalous elements together into a cohesive, atmospheric mystery. Stars Filippo Timi and Ksenia Rappoport won 2009 Venice Film Festival awards for their roles. Armchair sleuths will find themselves put to the test to try to untangle a twisty path of clues in The Double Hour. With a finale; similar to The Butterfly Effect II, everything comes together in the end with no red herrings, but even the most intrepid brainteaser trailblazer will have to lift the double bill of his deerstalker cap to scratch his brow in consternation after the 20 minute mark.

The Double Hour takes it's name from those times during the day when the numerals designating hour and minutes match. Such as 10:10, or on a 24 hour clock, 22:22. In The Double Hour, these instances hold a special significance: it's rumored one can wish on them and the wish will come true. They seem to figure prominently in Sonia's (Rappoport) life, coinciding with strategic events.



Sonia is a chambermaid working in an upscale hotel. She is hounded is by the proximity of bizarre occurrences. After a hotel guest in a room assigned to Sonia leaps off her balcony as she is speaking to Sonia, Sonia takes up romantically with a man, Guido (Timi) employed to guard a wealthy absentee land owner's estate. While there visiting Guido, professional criminals raid the manor, and hold Guido and Sonia hostage while they loot the mansion of art treasures. Events run awry when Guido tries to protect Sonia. A shot is fired, and everything goes black. It's unclear what happened.



This is where The Double Hour, already a romance and now a crime caper, completely departs from what the viewer is expecting and plunges into the realm of the eerie and bizarre. The film takes up with Sonia back at work at the hotel as if nothing has happened, but clearly her world is incipiently sliding off its axis. Sonia's life shifts back and forth between light and dark, with a maddeningly indiscernible, sickeningly deliberate design. Phantasmal apparitions and unnerving coincidences begin to gaslight the moments of her day, appearing at those times marked by double digits on the clock.


Disquieted again and again by contact from the other side, Sonia questions her interpretation of reality. How far can we trust our senses to tell us what is real? At what point does subjective experience part from objective truth? Like a Gordian-esque tangle of thread unraveling from some bedeviled funeral shroud, Sonia's effort to decipher her burgeoning enigma is predicated by a series of uncanny twists and turns, each successive development hurtling all that has preceded it into uncertainty.



As Sonia drifts through a limbo, The Double Hour deftly, seamlessly crosses multiple genre boundaries, from mystery, to horror, to thriller, keeping us off balance and agitated. Just as we begin to draw conclusions, the storyline bends and splits yet again down another unexpected course.



Do our lives co-exist on parallel planes, where mere chance causes outcomes to diverge into differing pathways? If we could wish to reverse tragedies, could things ever really be the way they were knowing what we know now? Be careful what you wish for. We can only watch powerlessly as Sonia discovers whether or not destiny compels those alternate pathways to converge with an eerily vexing prearrangement upon the manifestation of The Double Hour.





Lady Pam De GraffTHE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH (2011) French-British-Polish independent, French/English language, English subtitles
WRITTEN BY: Douglas Kennedy, Pawel Pawlikowski
DIRECTED BY: Pawel Pawlikowski
FEATURING: Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Delphine Chuillot
GENRE: Psychological Thriller, Puzzler

PLOT: When a troubled writer meets a mysterious mentor, reality bends, leaving him in a scramble for his sanity.


COMMENTS: The Woman In The Fifth is a complex, puzzling atmosphere piece which follows a bizarre series of events that transpire during a man's visit to Paris. The story just keeps getting weirder, right up to its strange, twist ending. Carefully composed, artfully gloomy photography and symbolic segue-ways which hint at divergences, and parallel states of being, add a moody, brooding dimension to this disturbing psychological thriller.




Here's the basic setup. Freshly released from a stint in an insane asylum, professor/struggling author Tom Hicks (Hawke) lands in Paris to reunite with his estranged wife (Chuillot) and daughter. After he breaks into his ex-wife's apartment, his spooked spouse calls the cops.

Next, Hicks is robbed on a commuter train of everything, and finds himself flat broke in Paris' seamy underbelly, the part where the Morrocans live. Desperate, he must make a deal with shady a flophouse proprietor (Guesmi) who sets him up with a filthy room across from a crazy neighbor who won't turn his music down or flush the toilet.



And how will Hicks pay for such lush accommodations? The proprietor has that angle figured out, too. He puts Hicks to work in a fortified control room in an underground crime warehouse. There, Hicks must lock himself in, and man a camera and remote controlled door. As a steady progression of sleazy and sinister people arrive at the subterranean entrance to be let in, bizarre bangs, scraping sounds, and screams fill the creepy corridor outside Hicks's control room. He finds that he himself is on camera. As soon as he makes a move to investigate the screams, a mysterious voice threatens him with death. Makes sense.



OK. Back to work. In his spare time, Hicks attempts to write a second novel, stalks his estranged wife and daughter, and manages to entangle himself with his mobster employer's girlfriend (Kulig ).

As if all of this isn't bizarre enough Hicks's new writing mentor Margit (Thomas), an exotic older woman regularly seduces and pampers him. But then there is a murder, followed by a disappearance. Does his new muse knows more about it than she will tell Hicks? She, and everything surrounding her becomes a conundrum. As Hicks attempts to solve it, the line between fantasy and reality undulates. When Hicks discovers his lover doesn't live at the apartment where he has been meeting her, and realizes that the apartment has been long empty, he must struggle to keep his sanity and find the answer to the riddle.

The Woman In The Fifth isn't for everybody. It's one of those movies that entertains you by raising possibilities and making you think about them. Some viewers might find the ending open-ended and ambiguous, although it really isn't. The Woman In The Fifth is a puzzler, but if you enjoy movies in this genre, such as Giuseppe Capotondi's ethereal, 2009 The Double Hour, its ending is easy to grasp. Even if it isn't you might enjoy the ambiance this film casts. It will give you a dark, haunted feeling that is a perfect match for our cloudy October days.


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