12/28/09

Col cuore in gola a.k.a Deadly Sweet. (1967): Tinto Brass' Pop Art Giallo

I’m back, and I’m rested, ready, and relaxed after the Christmas break. I hope everyone had a great holiday, and that you all got everything you wanted from Mr. Claus. I got plenty of great gifts, and of course, the people who know me well know there’s nothing I love more than movies. So I opened plenty of packages to find cinematic delights within. One of those films came from my lovely wife who hunted far and wide to find something interesting that I would like and did not have. What she came back with was an interesting film indeed, Tinto Brass’ 1967 film Col cuore in gola a.k.a Deadly Sweet. Billed as a “A Sexy Giallo Thriller”, the film delivers on most counts, and it throws in art house overtones, pop art references, and a few comic moments for good measure.

Bernard (Jean-Louis Trintgnant) is a French actor visiting London who meets the beautiful Jane (Ewa Aulin) while he’s out at the disco. Jane’s father was recently killed in a hit and run accident, and when Bernard follows her out of the club, he finds another dead man at her feet. Jane claims she didn’t do it, and he’s so smitten he whisks her away before the cops arrive. At his apartment, she tells him that the man had been blackmailing her father with pictures of her stepmother. Bernard promises to help her find out who killed the blackmailer and clear her name. He begins his investigation, and soon everyone from a thug named Jelly Roll to a midget is out to get him before he can solve the case.

Tinto Brass is probably best known for his erotic film work including films such as 1976’s Salon Kitty, 2000’s Cheeky (which is about what you‘d think it might be about), and infamously 1979’s Caligula which he performed principal photography on before being fired and replaced by Bob Guccione. Brass started his career with more of a directionless motion trying his hand at spaghetti western (Yankee, 1966), science fiction sex comedy (Il disco volante, 1964) and even straight drama (Chi lavora e perduto, 1963). With 1967’s Col cuore in gola, Brass planted the seeds of what would become his style of filmmaking, sexy and artistic with a snappy script. Even so, it is clearly the film of a less experienced filmmaker.

While in his later films Mr. Brass always exhibited a desire for artistically driven film within the context of the Exploitation genre, he really threw everything including the kitchen sink at Col cuore in gola. The film transitions from black and white to color at a whim, has flashes of Lichtenstein’s pop art paintings, and features quite a few moments that seem reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow Up. He also doesn’t hold back from using duel or even triple split screens. Some of these things work. The split screen scenes are particularly effective, but with so many random things inserted, it really muddies up the narrative. If I had not been taking notes while watching, the main story arc could be easily lost in the confusing mess of artistic flourishes. Another thing that held the film back was the music by Armando Troajoli. While I liked it generally, the whole film is tracked by two or three pieces of music, and it got very repetitive. The main theme was especially memorable, but after you hear it 10-12 times, it loses something.

The only actor I was very familiar with in Col cuore in gola was Jean-Louis Trintgnant, best known for the title role in the Corbucci western The Great Silence. It was strange to see him suited up and debonair, but he does a fine job as the French actor Bernard who is caught up in a mystery. He acquitted himself well with the action sequences, but he really shined in the film’s comic moments. I do wish a little more depth had been added to his character so there was some motivation for him to get involved in Jane’s life. Speaking of Jane, she was played by the lovely Ewa Aulin who also starred in the 1968 film Candy. She gives Jane the proper damsel in distress vibe, and even though we don’t get much of Bernard’s motivations, its easy to see how he could be swayed by the large eyes, innocent looking Jane. There is more to her character than it seems at first glance, but it wouldn’t be much of a mystery otherwise.

At about one hour and twenty-two minutes into the film, Bernard bemoans that he is “getting tired of this mystery”, and unfortunately, many viewers will feel the same. With little to no connection built between the audience and the two lead characters. It is difficult to keep invested in their plight. It is also problematic that every time Brass builds any suspense it is broken up by one of his artsy distractions. I really wanted to like Col cuore in gola more than I did. The style that it exhibits is very interesting at first, and the erotic aspects of the film are not as front and center as Brass’ later work. It just never really comes together. It’s also something of a stretch to label this film a giallo. Certainly, there is a mystery, but fans of the genre will be disappointed by the pair of murders in the film both of which occur off-screen.

Fans of Tinto Brass will surely be interested to see this one and check out the filmmaker in his younger years, but many other viewers will find themselves confused or bewildered by the meandering cinematic themes. The thing I will remember most from the film is a quote from Bernard’s character, “Water on a woman’s body is like dew on a rose.” Lao Tse.” I couldn’t find out if that was a real saying from Lao Tse, but it doesn’t really matter. It was smooth as hell, and definitely one I have to file away for use down the line. Col cuore in gola is ultimately a film for the more hardcore of Italian film fans or for anyone who has seen all the better-known gialli. So check it out, but if you want to follow what’s going on, you may want to take a few notes.

Bugg Rating

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