42nd Street Cinema

The House With Laughing Windows (1976)

An interesting gialloesque thriller by Pupi Avati. La Casa Dalle Finestre Che Ridono (1976). Starring Lino Capolicchio who portrays Stefano, an expert painter/restorer who travels to a small and remote Italian village to begin work on restoring an unfinished painting inside the village's church. The painting itself is composed upon a dilapidated wall and depicts the slaughter Saint Sebastian.

Taking cues from The Wicker Man (1973) with the bizarre locals, and the 'outsider' Stefano coming in to town. He heads to the church to take samples and begin working on the restoration. While at the village he begins to mingle a little with the locals. Their normality is somewhat unsettling, allowing curious minds to wonder whether the townsfolk are being deceptive. An small instance of Avati's clear direction. Soon enough he falls in love with an incredibly attractive teacher, Francesca (Francesca Marciano).

Lacking any substantial on-screen violence it's difficult to believe Stefano is in any danger as all we see Stefano do is essentially stalk around the town, conversing with various locals. Until he witnesses the death of his friend who falls (though it appears he was in fact pushed) out of a window. The Police write off his death as an accident, How convenient? This pushes Stefano to begin his own investigation of the town's dark secret. Before long we're slowly submerged in to a mystery involving of a maniac painter and his two sadistic sisters who kill people while their brother paints the demise.

A recent re-watching doubled up with a less naive approach towards Italian cinema, my perception of the film has been changed.
Avati conforms to a few of the usual Giallo cliches; stylish shots dripping with tension etc. Sadly, I feel that there is no real pay off here. The plot almost loses itself, either that or I lost it with the plot. Admittedly slow and awkwardly paced this is certainly odd entry. I do understand why fans of Italian cinema are attracted to this as it generally breaks most Gialli codes and conventions. In my opinion, had Avati molded this like any Giallo I may be more in favour of it. I also felt at times the acting was uninspired and I personally never felt compelled to care about any of the central characters.
Though certainly not one to avoid, basing that purely on the film's batshit climax this one is more for the Gialli completist.

On a side note:
If you do opt for this release (Italian 20th Century Fox release) be warned that the extras are in Italian language with no subtitles. So only go for it if you understand Italian. I began watching the first extra on the disc this one is a little easier to understand for non-Italian audiences as it basically has someone showing the restoration process to the print of the film, clearing up various scratches and print damage. The second extra is what seems to be a 'making of' documentary featuring interviews with the director Pupi Avati and others, I didn't watch too much of this due to not understanding a word or even what they are going on about. Plus side to this release is you get a snazzy slip case.

DVD: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - 25th Anniversario, Italian Release.
Running Time: 110 Mins
Extras: Special "Dietro le quite del restauro" and Documentario "25 anni di culto"


Franco Macabro said...

I thought this one was too slow paced and uneventful, but with a semi cool ending.

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