Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ten Statements About...CEMETERY MAN a.k.a. DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (1994)

Love means never having to say 'you've got bits of
my cemetery stuck in you.'
“I'm the watchman of the Buffalora Cemetery. I don't know how the epidemic started. All I know is that some people, on the seventh night after their death, come back to life. I call them Returners, but frankly I can't understand why they're so anxious to return. The only way to get rid of them once and for all is to split their heads open. A spade'll do it, but a dum-dum bullet is best. Is this the beginning of an invasion? Does it happen in all cemeteries? Or is Buffalora just an exception? Who knows? And in the end, who cares? I'm just doing my job."

1) This film is built firmly on the back of Rupert Everett, who was born to play Francesco Dellamorte.  All the laughlines, the tone and the exposition is carried by Everett, and his presence is what moves the film forward even as it becomes--consciously or not--more disjointed narratively.  And speaking of the film’s disjointed narrative--

2) A strong argument (one I agree with) can be made that everything supernatural happens in Francesco’s head.  All the zombies, the strangeness, the angel of death, even the metafictional ending are not acknowledged by any of the other characters save Gnaghi, and given how no one understands Gnaghi save for Francesco, there’s a strong chance that he’s reading meaning into the man-child’s grunts.  This could very well be a film about a mentally ill man and not a weird cemetery where the dead rise after a week.

3) I love how Michele Soavi is unafraid to indulge in his humorous side--and not only in the obvious ways (like how the Mayor tries to fire Francesco even after dying).  My favorite bit is how the photo of The Widow’s statements and, ultimately, her lovemaking with Francesco.   It’s an indication from Soavi that this film should not be taken on its face value.
And the scary thing?  This is the closest thing we have to
a normal relationship in this movie.

4) I love Francois Hadji-Lazaro’s performance as Gnaghi.  A mime by profession, Hadji-Lazaro has to use his physicality to carry his performance, and he does so magnificently.  And while he is used primarily as comic relief, he is able to give Gnaghi a level of pathos and joy at time that is infectious.

5) Anna Falchi....hmmmm.  I appreciate that she is capable of giving us three different characters (she’s referred to simply as ‘she’ in the credits,’ but I refer to the three as The Widow, The Secretary and The Student), but more often than not she isn’t very good, and I keep being distracted by the strangely impossible shape of her body.  She’s at her best as The Widow in the first act, playing off Everett extremely well and managing to get off a few darkly funny she has the greatest reaction to the weirdest pick-up line in the world.

6) What does it say about this film that the sweetest and healthiest relationship is between Gnaghi and the decapitated undead head of the mayor’s daughter?  Just saying.
He runs a cemetery, she's turned on by old's a
match made in...well, somewhere.

7) The thing that’s kinda weird about the Buffalora Cemetery that serves as this film’s backdrop is that it seems to go on forever.  It appears far bigger than Buffalora itself is, which seems to be little more than a town square and some side streets.  Granted, this discrepancy allows Soavi to create some beautiful shots, especially the brief tracking shot pulling away from Francesco’s home so we can see the parade of undead making their way to him as the flash from his frequent gunshots illuminate the night.

8) Having seen all of Soavi’s films, I’m willing to bet that the frequent parallels that he evokes throughout the film--the young girl evoking her lover, whose body is now fused with the motorcycle he loved mirrors The Widow emerging from her grave fused with bits of the grounds of the cemetery Francesco tends to; the ignus fatu that surround Francesco and The Widow when they first make love reflect the fate of The Student after Francesco realizes her true nature--are intentional and meant to be noticed, just as the way his composition of Francesco and The Widow’s first kiss evokes Magritte’s ‘The Lovers.’
All this and..BREASTS!

9) I really like Anton Alexander’s Franco, who truly does provide the only touchpoint Francesco has to the real world...although I continue to be puzzled by how he’s handled in the narrative itself.  He takes this strange turn in the third act that doesn’t quite jibe with his portrayal in the first two acts.  Even if we accept that the actions happen in Francesco’s head, there’s a definite disconnect in Fraco’s narrative arc.

10) I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that I would ever go to a doctor’s office like the one of Clive Riche’s Doctor Verseci.  Even if we take into account my ‘this happens in Francesco’s mind’ theory, that place is a dirty, grotesque horror show of a place.

Overall...a strange and peculiar film that is unlike any other zombie film, this is recommended viewing not only for Rupert Everett’s amazing performance but for the sheer oddness of the narrative and the beauty of the compositions.  One of my favorite, if not my favorite, zombie films.

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