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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor  [August 14, 2015]







[] It is too soon to call it a cycle, but it appears as if giallo is coming back.

In 2013, inspired by Dario Argento's Profondo Rosso, Argentinean filmmaker Luciano Onetti directed Sonno Profondo. In 2014, Jason Bognacki released what he calls a "neo-giallo" -- Another. Now Onetti returns with Francesca, a film so purely giallo, it's more giallo than giallo.

Francesca is the tale of a slasher. (Of course.) Not a brutish, post-Halloween slasher who wields massive knives, axes, and spears. But the more genteel kind who prefers razor blades and stilettos. Onetti's film is replete with closeups of typical giallo weaponry and icons -- leather gloves, cameras (a must for Peeping Toms), wheelchairs, Catholic art, high-heeled ladies' shoes, dolls, masks, etc. And the usual giallo themes of sexual licentiousness, sexual impotency, and sexual deviancy.

The story is simple. A slasher is killing people who have a sinful past. A police detective works to find the killer. We never see the killer's face until film's end. All we see are the killer's gloved hands and high-heeled ladies' shoes. My immediate thought: That doesn't mean the killer is a woman. In a giallo, one must doubt everything on screen. Nothing is what it appears.

But what makes Francesca so purely giallo is not its story but its execution. Other filmmakers have recreated past genres -- Shafted (blaxploitation), Isle of the Damned (1970s Italian cannibal films), Automatons (1950s robot sci-fi), and Man of the Century (1930s musical comedies). Those first two films also have intentionally poor lip syncs (Shafted also satirizes 1970s martial arts films), which is aesthetically appropriate but not difficult to do. Yet Onetti went so far as to dub his actors' in Italian, the language of giallo.

"Art is universal, but the giallo is typically from Italy," said Luciano Onetti to the Hollywood Investigator. "That's why we respected the Italian language. Also, we wanted to get the sound feeling of the 1970s and dubbing was common in Italian filmmaking at the time. And we found it a challenge to do it in that language. Beyond that, the ancestors of our family are from Italy. We have Italian citizenship."

"Likewise, some of the actors speak Italian," added Luciano's brother, producer Nicolás Onetti. "That was a great advantage."

Adding to Francesca's giallo ambiance, its story is set in Rome. In the 1970s. Which presented challenges, because Francesca was filmed in modern Argentina.

"It wasn't easy, but neither was it difficult to find Argentinean buildings and parks that appeared Italian," said Nicolás. "We live in Azul, a small town, but we are fortunate to have one of the most important architectural works of the Italo-Argentino, Francisco Salamone. One of his works, the Angel of Death, appears in the cemetery scene. The Teatro Español (Spanish Theatre) is also in Azul. It's one of the most important theatres of South America. Like you said, the state of Buenos Aires is very 'European.' Buenos Aires is called the 'Paris of South America.'





Francesca is filled with 1970s set decor -- an Olivetti typewriter, rotary phones, a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a slide projector. These items go far in recreating the story's era. Nicolás served as the production designer. "I spent a lot of time in antique shops. I really enjoyed it. It was a very nice challenge. Luciano helped me too. We always work like a team."

The film benefits from a distinctive cinematographic process. The images on screen have a rough texture, yet the colors are bright and saturated. "I had to work very hard to find the film look," said Luciano. "It took me six months. The idea was to get a correct color grading, so the film appears to be a remaster of a 1970's movie, while conserving high definition and the cinemascope aspect ratio. I used the same camera that I used in Sonno Profondo. I think the secret is in the lenses."

Francesca was edited on After Effects and Sony Vegas. Nicolás says the film "was financed with the funds we received for the world distribution of Sonno Profondo."



For the Onetti brothers, Francesca is both their second feature film and their second giallo. Will they ever tackle other horror subgenres?

"Yes, Francesca is our second giallo," said Luciano. "It will not be the last. It's a subgenre in which we feel comfortable. That allows us to 'play' with the artistic concept unlike in other subgenres. The vast majority of today's horror films are very similar. We want to give something different to the spectators."

"We'll continue filming giallo movies," agrees Nicolás. "But next year we'll start producing other subgenres through our company, Guante Negro Films."

Francesca's will premiere at Sitges Film Festival in October, where it will screen in competition in the New Visions section. It will also compete for Best Latin American Production.

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