Directed by: Luciano Onetti
Cast: Luis Emilio Rodriguez, Gustavo Dalessanro, Raul Gederlini
We’re in the middle of a quiet giallo resurgence of sorts, and Luciano Onetti’s Francesca is an excellent little addition (The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears and The Editor are two other fine pictures that fit into this second phase of gialli and both also come highly recommended) to this second wave of Italian murder mysteries. Just about every trademark that comes associated with the sub-genre surfaces, alive and well in the film, and for a big fan of filmmakers like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Sergio Martino, that comes extremely appreciated. I’m enjoying this new life in a sub-genre that many believed to be deceased.
The story doesn’t demand a thorough breakdown of every scene, because – again – if you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen plenty of gialli. Frankly, that ensures you know the core concept behind the film: A disguised killer, a pair of blood (typically black, but in this case) red gloves, a few compelling first-person POV shots and of course some gore, all serve as visual appetizers to a straight mystery story that sees the early origins of a murderous young girl who enjoys crushing the bones from birds, and, although it is a somewhat ambiguous shot, stabbing a small child in a dark and taboo moment. But who, pray tell, is truly responsible for the escalating murders? Only time and a viewing or two will solve that riddle.
Onetti’s control over his material is excellent, constantly introducing red herrings while maintaining an abstruse quality of the genuine murderer. Onetti also takes the time to pay all the proper homages to legends of the past. But one of the more appealing qualities to the film comes in the gritty, grimy visual presentation; Francesca feels as though it crawled directly from 1975. The slight emphasis on sexual experimentation as well as deviance is present and accounted for and the vulnerabilities of the film’s heroic figures actually mirrors Argento’s practice of introducing bumbling, susceptible and almost careless protagonists. There’s a serious charm in that final detail, though I can only praise Onetti’s decision to be so open to tipping his cap to those who made giallo what it is.
If you can consider yourself a giallo fan, then Francesca needs to be seen. You’ll appreciate the throwback visual style of the film as well as the score. You’ll get a kick out of a number of extremely risqué shots (something that began to be utilized in the mid-70s, when censorship had loosened up, to an extent), and while this piece isn’t overly graphic in nature, there are a few cringe moments once the killer takes to action. But above all of these things comes an air of respect for great filmmakers and legendary films, not to mention a true excitement at the idea that Luciano Onetti may be a true front-runner in the rebirth of giallo.
Watch this one the moment you get the chance!