IN 1996 LEGENDARY ITALIAN DIRECTOR SERGIO MARTINO (ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK, YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED DOOR, CASE OF THE SCORPION'S TAIL, GREAT ALLIGATOR, etc.) DIRECTED THIS RARE 4 PART GIALLO MINI-SERIES FOR ITALIAN TV STARRING THE GORGEOUS EDWIGE FENCH AND GENRE FAVE RAY LOVELOCK. PRIVATE CRIMES aka DELITTI PRIVATI IS IN ITALIAN WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES AND RUNS 365 MINUTES ON 4 DVD'S & SHIPS IN PLAIN SLEEVES WITH NO ARTWORK.
The discovery of murdered businessman Marco Pierboni sends shock
waves through the small Italian town of Lucca. At first journalist
Nicole Venturi (Edwige Fenech) sees the crime and the mystery
surrounding it as an opportunity to make her name But then, as her
own daughter Sandra proves missing and is subequently found dead,
her involvement takes a decidedly more personal turn....
Also investigating are Rome-based crime reporter Andrea Baresi; Sandra's former boyfriend Paolo and Inspector Avanza (Ray Lovelock) with a plethora of suspects for one or other murder and all manner of intrigues involving the town's prominent citizens (including Alida Valli, Paolo Malco and Gabrielle Ferzetti) in blackmail, loan-sharking, prostitution and so forth...
There's no getting away from it: Delitti privati often appears very much to be Twin Peaks all'italiana. But while it's certainly possible that it was put together in the style of Lynch's series, there are certain elements that thankfully show its creators were not just slavishly attempting to copy their US model and instead adapted it to their own context.
One obvious difference is what, for want of a better description, we might term the 'weirdness' of the two series. Whereas Twin Peaks increasingly moved into surrealistic terrain, Delitti privati remains firmly within the realm of the mundane. Crucially, it's not that director Sergio Martino couldn't have done a more supernaturally tinged mystery thriller, as illustrated by All the Colours of the Dark, more that he and his collaborators again seem reluctant to abandon 'narrative' logic ( Colours' approach to the occult) in favour of 'cinematic' logic ( Tragic Ceremony's approach to similar material), with this further demonstrated by the importance of various McGuffins here, most obviously the ten letters that will reveal the identity of Sandra's killer.
Indeed, it is also telling that the two apparent exceptions to the mundane within Delitti privati, a spirit medium who attempts to determine the location of the missing Sandra and a ghostly appearance at the window of a supposedly abandoned villa, are retrospectively explained away in non-supernatural terms. (A wider Martino thought / question: is one of the distinguishing characteristics of his cinema a basic refusal of non-rational / scientific explanations, of countenancing any world beyond what can be known empirically?)
Another related difference is the relatively closed nature of Delitti privati as a text, running six hours, as a duration more comparable to the first series of Twin Peaks than the seemingly endless second, and containing a clear beginning, middle and end narrative trajectories in the discovery, the investigation and the resolution of the crime / mystery.
What we do get within
Delitti privati are,
however, a number of more subtle touches that serve to indicate
Martino’s ever-adaptable talents. There are some nicely
executed suspense sequences, including one featuring a gliding
Steadicam shot that would not have been out of place in
Opera and is belatedly
revealed / justified as being from a dog's point-of-view; some
clever set-ups and lighting effects, involving the symbolic use of
reflections and colour, as with the image of Fenech reflected,
multiplied and fragmented in a crystal glass lamp shade, or a
tellingly demonic-looking close-up of her normally peaceful white
cat, Minou; and the recurring but crucially not over-emphatic use
yellow objects to remind us of the giallo filone itself.
Not, in truth, that the viewer would really need reminding given the plethora of intrigues and mysteries, the important role played by the amateur detective relative to the professional; the director, star and cast's previous history; or the various possible allusions to other gialli.
Thus, for example, the murder in the rain, the conservatory students and the revenge-seeking boyfriend cum suspect – the last admittedly also a Twin Peaks-ism – all recall The Bloodstained Butterfly, the small university town setting and suspect professor Torso.
Similarly, whilst a necklace found in one character's possession again has its counterpart as a McGuffin in Lynch's series, it can also be read in relation to the likes of The Case of the Scorpion's Tail; that it is of St George might be understood as an obscure in-joke targeted at Dario Argento's penchant for wearing a similar piece of jewelery.
Another point of interest for the fan of the early 1970s giallo is in seeing how things have changed over the course of the intervening two decades.
Fenech's strong, independent, divorced protagonist with an actual career of her own as a journalist – an element which goes largely unremarked upon, unlike in Deep Red – is about as different as can be imagined from the fragile, neurotic, in need of male protection characters typical of her earlier films for Martino, suicide attempt notwithstanding, and thus might be read something a testament to feminist progress.
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