BluRay/DVD Reviews

CEMETERY MAN

By • Jun 13th, 2006 •

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(Anchor Bay) 1993
99 mins / Color / Not Rated / 1.66:1 AR, enhanced for 16X9’s
‘Death is Beautiful’ featurette. 8-page collectors’ booklet. Michele Soavi bio.

Michele Soavi has had a comparatively small body of work for an Italian genre filmmaker. His stepfather was an artist, he AD’d for Dario Argento (PHENOMENA) and 2nd Unit Directed for Terry Gilliam (MUNCHAUSEN), and he has directed five theatrical features. I remember Wes Craven telling me, after serving as a judge at the Avoriaz Fantasy Film Festival, that the best film was BLOODY BIRD, the first feature by Soavi, which has yet to be released in the US. CEMETARY MAN, made in ’93, has finally gotten its long overdue domestic DVD release.
To say the film is unique is understating things. This is a spectacularly audacious tampering with the popular Italian horror genre. It goes places where Argento, Fulci, and Soavi’s other peers wouldn’t have thought to tread. It begins as a black comedy send-up of the horror genre (a decade before SEAN OF THE DEAD) as cemetery caretaker Francesco Dellamorte (Everett) dispatches resurrected corpses with blasé finesse, then it slides easily into a forlorn romantic twist on the genre as Dellamorte’s true love bites the dust and returns in rotted form, then it dives into a surrealistic subjective study of insanity (Everett’s), and ends as a metaphor, and though I’m not certain what the metaphor represents, that’s okay.
Based on a 400-page novel and to a lesser degree on a graphic novel (‘Dylan Dog’) whose protagonist’s looks were modeled on Rupert Everett’s, the film stars Everett recreating the role he unknowingly originated on the drawn page. Opposite him, in three roles, is former model Anna Falchi, who is guided by Soavi into a better performance than models-turned-actresses such as Barbara Bach ever gave (not knocking Bach so much as praising Falchi). Her body would rival Matilda May’s were it not for the presence of (excellent) silicone-enhanced accouterments. Ms. May, in LIFEFORCE, was entirely real…and utterly perfect. But Ms. Falchi is a close second.
Also cast is Francois Nadji-Lazaro as Gnaghi, a mentally-deficient sidekick of Everett’s. I had difficulties with Nadji-Lazaro’s corpulent, buffoonish, drooling, unpleasant presence, but it’s a good performance, better than anything Tor Johnson or Stephen Furst ever delivered.
Now for the various genres it treads. I wasn’t laughing at the black comedy till the third act, still it was intellectually amusing and shocking, and might have worked better had I seen it with a crowd. The forlorn romantic aspects trump a few of my own ideas, although they aren’t carried too far (except in Gnaghi’s case, where they devolve into something far less mournful). The surrealism, as it over-takes us, is the most genre-bending aspect of the film and highly gratifying. Though it may be merely following the novel’s lead, still it takes us down some provocative genre-bending corridors, and it’s a great treat. The ambiguous metaphorical wrap-up is satisfying, prodding us to rethink everything we’ve just seen, and perhaps even seducing us into giving the film a second look, which isn’t such a bad idea. The visual motifs and stylization, editorial rhythms, and musical intrusions, are well worth a re-visit.
And there’s a good retro-featurette, including recent interviews with Soavi and others, and remembrances from still-knockout-gorgeous-13-years-later Anna Falchi. Such nice things are said about her (“She almost took more care of us than we of her…”), it leaves one feeling good about people of beauty. Soavi’s long absence from theatrical feature filmmaking isn’t broached, either in the featurette or in his bio, though I’ve heard it was because of a serious illness in his immediate family. But the good news is that this year he has a new feature in release – GOODBYE KISS – which has gotten rave reviews abroad. It’ll be good to see his work again.

As to a double-bill…hmmm… Though I insist that this is a unique film, there are others which essay some of its odd turns, one being a film that made a large impression on Argento, and is also released by Anchor Bay – POSSESSION. I wouldn’t even try to encapsulate the plot. But seeing them back-to-back could certainly invalidate the need for alcohol or other substances for an evening. Or maybe they would necessitate it…?


Crew:
Directed by Michele Soavi.
Screenplay by Gianni Romoli, from the graphic novel by Teziano Sclavi..
Cinematography, Mauro Machetti.
Editing, Franco Fraticelli.
Production design, Massimo Antonello Geleng.

With:
Rupert Everett,
Francois Nadji-Lazaro,
Anna Falchi.

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