Arrivederci Amore, Ciao (TH - DVD R3)
Ciao, bella! Gabe Powers celebrates the return of Italy's most promising maestro...
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Giorgio, a left-wing idealist-turned-terrorist, returns to Italy from exile in Central America to establish a life of comfortable bourgeois respectability. All the idealistic fervour and political conviction since destroyed during his horror-filled years on the run, Giorgio's obsessive desire for a normal life is limitless, his methods utterly ruthless. He sinks unavoidably and ever deeper into a vortex of violence and crime from which there seems to be no escape.
Italian director Michele Soavi disappeared from filmmaking after the release of his finest achievement – Cemetery Man (aka: Dellamorte Dellamore) – when his young son fell dangerously ill. In his absence Italian horror died, pathetically and quietly. Hope himself returned five years later, but Soavi chose to work exclusively in the crime genre, and only in the television medium. Finally, after a twelve-year absence, Soavi returned to cinemas with a new, feature-length motion picture, Arrivederci Amore, Ciao (aka: The Goodbye Kiss). Unfortunately for fans of Grand Guignol horror, it was another crime thriller. Fortunately for crime thriller fans, it's a pretty good one.
Arrivederci Amore, Ciao is a stylistic and lurid little cops and robbers flick, and one not at all uncomfortable in Soavi’s small but distinctive canon. It may not be as oddball or flashy as his horror work, but here Soavi proves he can tell a visually entrancing tale even when demons, ghouls, and zombies do not infiltrate the narrative. The director holds an innate ability to find interesting camera angles, and he effortlessly keeps his camera moving, not unlike his many maestro mentors. However, unlike many of Italy’s more garish filmmakers, Soavi has the ability to tone himself down, and make a film about more than visuals alone. His contrived images are natural rather than arresting.
Soavi’s applies the lessons learned by the crime genre’s modern aficionados (here and in his television work) without overtly ripping anything off. The film is a microcosmic look at crime through a single character experience, not unlike Scorsese’s Goodfellas, casually skipping along the important elements of a rather epic time line. Soavi actively utilizes pop music to assist his story in a similar fashion to Scorsese as well. The colour pallet and general tone are similar to Michael Mann’s television and film work – a kind of clean, neon style that has been very popular throughout Asia since the success of The Killer and Infernal Affairs. A pinch of DePalma inspired slo-mo flamboyance is then added for extra flavour.
The plot isn’t anything particularly new, and often doesn’t quite match the film’s performances or direction. The script itself proves a solid enough foundation, and tells what should be a contrived and overlong story in an efficient fashion. Some of the characters aren’t as thickly drawn as others, but traits and motivations are clearly stated and easily understood. The actors are perhaps a little hammy at times (including Italian favourite Michele Placido as a crooked cop), but they’re Italian, so it’s only natural for them to speak particularly boisterously.
The familiarity factor is the one thing really holding this feature back from genuine greatness. The story impresses most at its darkest points, and when it leaves the crime story stereotypes behind. Unfortunately the film ends rather abruptly, just when it’s getting really good, leaving a few too many loose ends and failing to produce an actual climax. The film’s structure is also very episodic—more like three episodes of a television series than a proper, three act feature. Apparently it’s is based on a popular graphic novel series, so perhaps it’s meant to be part of a set, or has been literally translated. This episodic nature is a problem shared by other Italian made comic book adaptations, like Mario Bava’s Danger Diabolik and Soavi’s own Cemetery Man.
Arrivederci Amore, Ciao marks the first time Soavi has worked in the scope aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and his visual control does not falter. The DVD is anamorphically enhanced, but slightly flat in appearance. Colours don’t pop like they should, and background noise is a constant issue. Details are pretty sharp, though, and grain is minimal. A lot of the problems I experienced watching the film can be blamed on viewing a PAL video on an NTSC television, including some blocking on brighter details and edges, and some slightly strange camera movement. Overall a good disc but not as good as I may’ve hoped for.
This Thai release comes with both the original Italian track, and a dubbed Thai track, both in Dolby Digital 5.1. For a fun time I suggest watching the films more dramatic moments in the dubbed Thai. The Italian track is well balanced, and contains some fun and effective surround and stereo effects. The whole thing could do with an increase in bass, but cleanliness and clarity aren’t issues.
Soavi’s soundtrack choices are sometimes inspired, including original Italian pop music, The Fine Young Cannibals’ She Drives Me Crazy, Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, and Tears for Fears’ Shout, and Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. The PAL speedup isn’t obvious for most of the film, but I know these songs like the back of my hand, and their tempo and pitch increases do not go unnoticed.
The English subtitles are full of errors, but nothing is so overly misspelled or mistranslated that I was ever confused as to what a character meant to say (though “I f*ck kill you” is pretty amusing).
Nothing here but the Italian trailer (see the French Trailer here, presented by Jonathan Demme), and a small photo gallery. From what I can tell this is an uncut version of the film as well.
Arrivederci Amore, Ciao is a solid thriller thanks to the assured direction of Michele Soavi and some effective cast performances, but isn’t quite the return to the big screen most of us were probably hoping for. The script is episodic and occasionally thin, but there is a classic noir feel to the dialogue and dark situations. The soundtrack is pretty great, and this affordable Thai DVD release has English subtitles (though not the best I’ve ever seen).
So how about giving Soavi an American comic book property, studio heads? Between this and Cemetery Man he’s got the credentials, and his television work proves he can work under a budget and with strict time constraints, while still delivering action packed results. Maybe Fox could give him the proposed New Mutant X-Men reboot (especially if it’s based on Grant Morrison’s work), or Marvel could pick him up for a live action Dr. Strange movie? He’s bound to work out better than Brett Ratner, Len Wisemen, or David Goyer, and I bet he costs about a quarter the cost to hire.
This and other Soavi releases (including La Setta) are available from my friends at Xploitedcinema.com. Check them out and support my sponsor.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 4th February 2006
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Thai
Subtitles: English, Thai
Extras: Trailer, Photo Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Michelle Soavi
Cast: Alessio Boni, Carlo Cecchi, Isabella Ferrari, Alina Nadelea, Michele Placido, Kai Portman
Length: 107 minutes
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