Footprints (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros have big shoes to fill as they review Shameless' Footprints...
’Did you ever see a dream walking?’
…so asks the title of the Bing Crosby song on the end credits of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2. Well, UK viewers only heard it when we had the direct ports over to DVD, as the prints over has had it substituted for incidental music. In any case, having watched the long-lost Giallo Footprints, we can empathically respond that we now have.
Alice Cespi (Florinda Bolkan) is troubled by dreams in which someone is abandoned on moon during a lunar-landing, with the marooning being no accident. Her psychiatrist is struggling to make sense of it all, and to make matters worse, she has been losing entire days. These gaps are not the product of getting blotto, but blackouts that leave her at a loss to account for. When her absence wrecks her job as a transcriber, her dreams of abandonment seem to have come full circle—or so she thinks.
At a loss with what to do with her life, she chances upon a torn-up postcard and finds the name of a town—Garma—which sounds vaguely familiar. Upon arrival, she is greeted with suspicion and hatred—more than just local rednecks fearing outsiders. Something bad happened in the past, and she is suspect number one, in spite of never stepping foot there before. In a town without pity, she must fight to get answers and save her sanity.
One of the most incredible concepts is that Klaus Kinski plays the head of a lunar mission. Now, what was wrong with that previous sentence? Exactly! Just who the Hell would ever put Klaus Kinski in charge of anything, let alone relating to astrophysics? If put in charge of deforestation relating to global warming, Kinski would probably burn down all the rainforests, thereby eradicating the source of the problem!
This is not a traditional Giallo, but the elements are there, and deployed with a playful confidence which some would lazily describe as arrogance. Chief among these is the way Alice’s memories of Garma are awakened from a torn postcard. The pieces are put back together, literally reconstructing the memories of the past—as tangible expression of the genre as David Hemmings breaking through the plaster in Profondo Rosso. There is more to the Giallo than just the identity of the wearer of a set of black gloves.
While this might be one of the most derided to modern clichés, but there are elements which really stand out as ‘ahead of their time’ when watched today, with an ecological disaster being predicted in 1990 and another in 2000, which will leave the planet uninhabitable through pollution. OK, the timescale is out, but this was undeniably progressive thinking when Footprints went before the cameras.
It’s no wonder that both Alice’s waking thoughts and her dreams are invaded by images she can’t understand, as you only have to take a look at the architecture of Garma to answer a question or two. Everywhere she turns, erotic imagery is embedded in the town. From phallic tombstones to huge buildings which dominate the skyline in pairs to look like tits, it’s as though Freud himself designed Garma as an assault on the psyche.
There are very few films which can reproduce the essence of dreams. Some use the easy way of dressing some schmuck up in a clown-suit, armed with a butcher knife in one hand and a soda-siphon in the other, all accompanied by a fish-eye lens and the ‘Big-Top’ theme. OK, so we hate clowns, but you get our gist. The notion of putting a dream onscreen is mostly doomed to fail, however Bazzoni is able to achieve this rare act without making the viewer aware of their waking state. Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography is dreamlike, with a subtle haze and open vistas of sweeping splendour haunted by lurking menace. With all elements in place, Footprints is almost unique in capturing both the structure and language of a dream.
Footprints is a movie you don’t actually sit down to watch, you can only experience it. Any attempt to pin the whole thing down is as futile as trying to stamp on a cloud. The whole story washes over the viewer and the waves gently carry you along. You will notice that we aren’t going to go into the story all that much, as we wouldn’t want to give everything away—not to mention that there isn’t all that much aside from the Giallo element, of which Footprints is everything. The most wondrous, nightmarish dreams can haunt you during your waking hours, but though most is gone from your memory, the essence will claw away at the back of your mind without mercy. To experience Footprints is to see a movie like few others.
We’ve through this for some time, and Footprints only adds more proof for our theory, and it is this: the Italian movie industry must have production-line of weird ginger kids for their films. Pick of the bunch was Silvia Collatina, whose peering eyes and general resemblance to Professor Yaffle put viewers on edge in House by the Cemetery. Here we have the talented Nicholetta Elmi, whom by this point was already a veteran of Who Saw Her Die, Flesh for Frankenstein and Bay of Blood, and once Footprints was in the can, went straight into Profondo Rosso! With a career like that, it’s only right she quit the biz as an adult for the medical profession.
One sequence will make anyone who has ever stayed in Rome is when Bolkan settles down for the traditional Italian business breakfast of Espresso and a pack of Dunhills. You certainly won’t get that on the ‘tourist menu’ at the average tratoria. Such decadent, self-destructive cuisine further sets Alice down the path of self-destruction, and her entry into Garma suggests that she is has been guided there by some divine hand in order to cleanse her soul.
There are certain films which have garnered acclaim for inventing their own version of the world and let innocent interlopers become enmeshed in the madness of their creation. Most memorably was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Footprints succeeds with the same feat. The town of Garma is nothing but hostile to Alice, and she can’t understand why—yet she has never been there before to trouble its’ residents. She is struck by in ingenious sense of reverse deja-vu, where everyone else swears she has been there before.
With her repressed psyche begging to find itself, Alice goes to the extreme of dressing in her alternate self through a wig, makeup, clothes and shoes. While this certainly furthers the gaillo theme, the transgender subtext of it practically shouts to be heard: this sequence is a dream for transvestites, as they find their alternate selves utilizing the same methods. What better way could there be in turning the Giallo on its’ head by having the lead character concealing her own identity and taunting herself by her actions?
Another of the films’ key assets is the music score, supplied by the eminently capable Nicola Piovana. The music serves the material in every respect, from echoing the desolate nature of Garma’s streets, tuning in perfectly with the isolation Alice feels when reality crumbles beneath her feet. In the conventional sense, Piovana spurs on the pace when needed, turning the score into a driving force when Alice arrives at her final destination. That the musical motifs are as superbly realised as they are should come as no surprise, bring an early work from a woman who would eventually win the Academy Award for her efforts with La Vita e Bella in 1997.
Footprints is a movie about finding the dark side within yourself, even though we might not think it exists. When Rolf Harris wrote his autobiography, he was unsettled to find that he was not nearly as nice a person as he thought he was. Here, Alice’s personality is split, with the less-pleasant side sheltering deep within. Regardless of how she stumbles blindly through the streets of Garma baffled by the insinuations of the locals, she has no idea that a self-fulfilling prophecy is unfolding around her. The repressed memories are slowly reappearing to release the darker personality within. Hollywood has explored the same themes, with Total Recall and The Long Kiss Goodnight being two examples, and in both, the central character rejects the emerging bastard they truly are. Footprints easily achieves the same thing with neither guns nor explosions, and manages to get under the skin without being subcutaneously injected. There is so much to be said for the combination of exquisite cinematography, subtle direction and haunting atmosphere, with Footprints fusing them beautifully.
We can’t possibly review Footprints without mentioning the sterling work of Florinda Bolkan. The Brazilian-born actress is one of the best actresses not only to grace the genre, but it’s hard to even think of another who can display depth with almost no effort. Here she not only gives a life to her character, but manages to keep her alternate life just beyond her grasp, with her desperate scrabbling to put the pieces together nothing short of captivating. We have always admired her work, with Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Don’t Torture a Duckling being our favourites. Besides, no actress can furrow their brow like Florinda Bolkan—not one of them.
Footprints is something that you can’t really put your finger on in terms of opinion—it will polarise people; those who like to soak up cinematic atmosphere will just go ga-ga over the movies, whereas those looking for something a bit more challenging will want to be aware that this film isn’t exactly going to tax the ol’ logic circuits. The best we can say is that you should take our advice onboard and them make up your own mind, as there is just a movie where much of the time is taken up about someone who might possibly be trying to wax a Brazilian…
It should be pointed out primarily that this copy of Footprints is a ‘Shameless Fan Edition’, meaning that in order to restore the movie to as close as the director originally intended, scenes that have long been excised from certain prints have been obtained from the best surviving prints possible, regardless of the quality.
Generally, the image is pretty good, a few jitters in the print aside, with Vittorio Storaro’s camerawork having a nice pleasing cinematic look to it and the level of detail in the non-reinstated material is nice; Garma has an arid feel that makes you want to reach for a long, cool summer drink.
Should you have the ability to control the ‘overscan’ setting on your TV, might we suggest you leave it in the ‘on’ position. This is because the aspect ratio spends some of the time shrinking and expanding back to fill the screen. We have witnessed the same thing when watching The Pink Panther Strikes Again, but this is not nearly as severe as the Sellers movie.
Shameless presents Footprints with not one, but two audio options—a vanilla English language mono dub and an Italian stereo dub. Generally, the English track is stronger, but sounds a little muffled, whereas the Italian one is quieter, but sounds more natural. Both soundtracks feature a degree of hiss, the Italian track has hiss that is quite prominent, but this is nothing to spoil your enjoyment.
There is one moment when a scene is hit by a disorientating gap in dialogue, and we’re not sure if this is a fault with the original audio track or some artistic choice, but other than this, we have no complaints about the audio on Footprints. It should be pointed out that the material taken from non-English prints is in Italian with English subtitles, but true European movie fans will be watching in Italian anyway.
Trailers: Both the US theatrical trailer and the US video trailer have been included for your edification. The latter is particularly bizarre, as it is taken from a videotape release and retitled Primal Impulse and as cheesy as it gets.
English Credits: The Anglicised titles sequence has been thrown in for good measure, allowing the viewer to see how the titles would have appeared in English-speaking territories. This has been taken from a fuzzy VHS source, but it's nice to see them all the same.
Image Gallery: Numerous stills and bits of publicity material can be found here; they are presented in a manner similar to photo galleries on Doctor Who DVDs—as a slideshow set to music from the film. It ends on what is presumably the Polish film poster, which is as reassuringly bonkers as most other Polish theatrical posters—did you ever see the one for Escape from the Planet of the Apes? Yeesh!
Shameless Trailer Reel: As Chris Tarrant used to say on TISWAS ‘this is what they want!’—all twenty of Shameless’ titles are represented here; this is precisely the sort of thing that would liven up a party and give you something to cheer and jeer at during just such a drunken event.
Well, this review is shorter than we usually do, but it’s rare that a movie comes along which defies regular critical analysis as Footprints does. The images are gorgeously-filmed and romantically startling, the atmosphere utterly unique and we can say that you’ll be hard-pushed to find another film as mind-scrambling as this one. It has been cruelly neglected over the years, but Shameless has released it from its imprisonment in a dank, European vault and into the shining brightness of DVD. We can only urge you to experience Footprints for yourself, and you’ll be rewarded with something utterly unique, and the haunting fear that someone who hates you is hiding behind your own eyes. Stunning.
Review by Wilson Bros
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 31st August 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Italian
Extras: Trailers, English Opening Titles, Photo Gallery, Trailer Reel
Easter Egg: No
Director: Luigi Bazzoni
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Klaus Kinski, Lila Kedrova
Length: 92 minutes
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