With this unambitious but entertaining giallo, Argento proves he can still thrill an audience.
The consensus among fans and critics seems to be that Dario Argento’s glory days are behind him, and after the embarrassment that was PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1998), one could hardly blame long-time followers for abandoning him completely. Yet the new millennium has seen Argento direct a handful of thrillers that, although lacking the inspired artistry of TENEBRE and SUSPIRIA, at least display some competent craftsmanship. SLEEPLESS and THE CARD PLAYER are good, old-fashioned giallo efforts of the kind Argento used to make so well. Add to this list the 2005 made-for-television film DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?
As the title implies, DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? deliberately emulates the American Master of Suspense. Fans will recognize plot elements borrowed from several sources, most notably REAR WINDOW. The story follows a young man who rents lots of Hitchcock videos and also spies on his neighbors, until he sees something he shouldn’t, which leads him to investigate a murder-mystery, putting his own life at risk.
Ironically, the fact that Dario Argento and co-writer Franco Ferrini borrow so much from Hitchcock turns out to be one of the strengths of DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? Argento’s output in the ’90s was characterized by an almost free association approach to screenwriting, with apparently random scenes and ideas intruding at incongruous moment and then disappearing. DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?’s plot may be borrowed, but at least it has a plot that makes sense when held up to minimal scrutiny, and Argento proves himself capable of using it to build suspense in a more conventional manner than usual for him.
The result is competent and entertaining, though not as distinctive as Dario Argento’s best work. No doubt because of its television origins, DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? is both low-budget and low on gore. The scenes are more functional than spectacular, serving to advance the story rather than as memorable set pieces. And even Argento’s hard-core fans may be more impressed than disappointed that the director can make a suspenseful thriller without bursts of graphic violence. In this sense, the tele-film feels a bit like a throwback to Argento’s debut feature, THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (and it is also light years ahead of his subsequent, gore-drenched episodes of MASTERS OF HORROR, “Jennifer” and “Pelts).
Bottom line: Though not displaying the flair of Dario Argento’s best work, this competent little giallo shows the director abandoning the excesses that marred his 1990s output. Though modest in ambition, DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK works perfectly well as made-for-televisoin film, proving that Argento can still deliver the goods.
DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? (Ti Piace Hitchcock?, made-for-television, 2005). Directed by Dario Argento. Written by Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini. Cast: Elio Germano, Chiara Conti, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Cristina Brondo, Ivan Morales, Edoardo Stoppa, Elena Maria Bellini, Horacio Jose Grigatis, Giuseppe Lo Console, Milvia Mangliano, Giampierro Perone.
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