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  Dellamorte Dellamore strange tales of love and death
Year: 1994
Director: Michele Soavi
Stars: Rupert Everett, Francois Hadji-Lazaro, Anna Falchi
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Sex, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is the cemetery watchman in a strange, little town called Buffalora, where the living dead rise ravenous from their graves. Aided by his mute, oafish assistant Gnaghi (French pop star Francois Hadji-Lazaro), Francesco protects the town from these “Returners”, blasting skulls to bits with his cartoon-sized pistol. It’s a tedious, daily grind Francesco enacts listlessly, until he meets a lusty young widow (drop-dead gorgeous Anna Falchi). This mysterious beauty re-enters Francesco’s life in three different guises, and their tragic tryst leaves him pondering the nature of existence. Gnaghi finds love with a severed head belonging to the mayor’s undead daughter, while Francesco battles zombie boy scouts, fields questions from the winged spectre of Death, and breaks into a psychotic killing spree. Finally, the friends escape Buffalora only to find a bittersweet kind of enlightenment.

Known in English language territories as Cemetery Man, this was the last, truly great Italian horror film. And what an achievement it is: as visceral as any regular zombie flick, but also sensual, darkly romantic, witty and deeply philosophical. Lucio Fulci always talked up the subtext in his zombie movies, but Michele Soavi really delivers. “Life goes on”, mutters our jaded anti-hero. Instead of staid discussion and philosophical posturing, Soavi translates Francesco’s existentialist dilemma into subtle, cinematic metaphors. Note the reoccurring circular imagery, 360-degree camera moves, repeated lines of dialogue (“You will allow me to return?”), and Falchi’s three incarnations of womanhood. Adapting a novel by Tiziano Sclavi (creator of cult comic book Dylan Dog, whose appearance was based on Rupert Everett), Soavi references Citizen Kane (1941), Vertigo (1958), and (1963), alongside Italian cinema’s rich history, both art-house and trash. Watch out for Mickey Knox as a police inspector. Knox was an actor, assistant director and screenwriter for Sergio Leone, much as Soavi was for Dario Argento, Fulci and Joe D’Amato.

Everett’s detached, diffident performance befits his morose, introspective character (although he delivers some sly comic asides), while Francois Hadji-Lazzaro delivers a surprisingly touching piece of pantomime (Given that he barfs over the object of his affections). But Anna Falchi (a woman for whom the word “yowza!” was invented) steals the acting honours. More than voluptuous nudity, she delivers three, subtly nuanced performances, each embodying a dreamlike conception of man’s romantic ideal: a tragic heroine, a supernatural femme fatale, and a beautiful whore. Her final guise precipitates one of the movie’s few flaws, as Francesco, dejected to discover he’s been tricked into bedding a student-turned-prostitute, murders three girls. It’s too misogynistic to work even as black comedy, and the hospital killings also feel like a conceit too far. Nevertheless, this is a rare horror film that requires repeated viewings to appreciate its nuances. As a teenager, it left this writer confused and a little annoyed, but curiously compelled to see it again and again until hate turned to love. A bit of cyclical magic that feels oddly appropriate. Judge for yourself.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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Michele Soavi  (1957 - )

Italian director best known for his stylish horror work, Soavi first worked both as an actor and assistant director on a variety of notable genre films, including Dario Argento's Tenebrae, Phenomena and Opera, and Lamberto Bava's Demons. After making the Argento documentary World of Horror, Soavi directed the superb 1987 slasher Stage Fright.

The Argento-produced follow-ups The Church and The Sect were flawed but intriguing supernatural shockers, while 1994's Dellamorte Dellamore was a unique, dreamlike zombie comedy. Unfortunately family troubles forced Soavi out of film-making soon after, and although he now works in Italian TV, his horror days seem behind him.

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