Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Double Hour

"Wishing Doesn't Make It So"

Sonia (Kseniya Rappoport) is a chambermaid in a Turin hotel.  It's dull work, broken by the creepy tenants, the staff gossip and the occassional suicide out the window.  This certainly doesn't cheer up Sonia's life and makes things particularly difficult at a speed-dating service where she meets (mercifully quickly) a bunch of losers all of whom are attracted to her. Last (but not least) is Guido (Filippo Timi), ex-cop now security guard, widower and sound-junkie.  They seem to hit it off, at least in speed-dating terms, and soon, they're taking the first tentative steps to...uh...slow-dating, I guess.*

Guido takes Sonia to the palatial res' he is currently monitoring, shows her his recording equipment which he uses to tape nature sounds, then takes her for a walk around the grounds.  As Fate would have it, that's just the moment that the mansion becomes the setting for a robbery and Guido is knocked unconscious, Sonia taken hostage and the place ransacked of its antiques and valuable paintings.  It is when one of the thieves decides to have some fun with Sonia that Guido jumps the guy, head-butts him...and then the gun goes off.

Fade to Black.

It is some time later.  Sonia is sporting a nasty scar on her forehead, the result of a bullet wound.  Guido is dead, killed by the same bullet, and Sonia mourns.  She misses him.  Well, more acurately, she is haunted by him...because she hears him speak her name every so often.  And then there are his ghostly appearances, and the strange booming noises that periodically elevate the audience out of their seats.  What is going on?

I can't tell you because it would spoil the movie.  It is enough to say that the film is a Möbius strip of twists and turns of both the mind and the heart, with a Hitchcockian identification shift that's disorienting, disheartening and damned clever.  There are enough red herrings to burst a fishing net, some of them necessary and some of them just distractions.  For instance, the title: Guido mentions on their first extended talk his own curious wish-myth of "the double hour"—when the hour and minutes are the same (like 12:12 am), make a wish and it might come true.  "Does it work?" asks Sonia.  "No," says Guido. 

Funny, but unnecessary.  It's used as a touch-stone for the entire movie, a call-back that ultimately adds little, one of a number of details that cloud the issue and distract (which may be the point).  A little buttoning-up of some of these elements might have made this one a better film.

Still, at its core, The Double Hour (La doppia ora) is a neat little conceit, and director Giuseppe Capotondi and his writers keep you guessing the whole way, bending, shaping and twisting the plot...and your mind along with it.

The Double Hour is a Rental.

* The slowest of which is Carbon-14 dating (....sorry).  

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