Tuesday, February 24, 2009

M.I.A. on Region 1 DVD Tribute Month (Film 24) Dario Argento's Le Cinque Giornate (1973)


With the recent releases of Door Into Darkness and Four Flies on Grey Velvet, the filmography of Dario Argento is almost completely represented on Region 1 DVD. The one holdout remains Argento’s most peculiar production, 1973’ Le Cinque Giornate.
Known as The Five Days of Milan, Argento’s odd political comedy was made as a response to the failure of both Cat O Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet to live up artistically to his stunning 1969 debut, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Argento was also fearful of being pigeonholed in the Giallo genre, and a complete change of pace seemed the best way to go for the 33 year old writer and director.
Based on a story by Argento and Luigi Cozzi, The Five Days of Milan was shot in and around Rome and Milan in the middle part of 1973. Alan Jones reports in his wonderful Profondo Argento that the film was supposed to have been shot earlier with Veruschka as the female lead, but scheduling conflicts made that impossible. It worked out in the film’s favor though as Marilu Tolo, Argento’s girlfriend at the time, turned out to be one of the film’s chief pleasures. Joining Tolo in the cast is Italian singer Adriano Celentano and Enzo Cerusico, neither whom impress much here.
The Five Days of Milan is a bit of a mess and is easily the worst production Argento mounted in the seventies, but its ambition and the fact that it represented such a major change for the director mark it as a noteworthy production. It’s a nice looking film as well thanks to the costuming of Elena Manninni and the cinematography of Luigi Kuveiller, who shot the stunning Paul Morrissey/Antonio Margheriti directed Flesh For Frankenstein the same year.
Argento himself summed up the film’s biggest problems to Jones when he said, “I wasn’t certain I was ready for an historical comedy”, and that shows as the work suffers from the most unconfident direction Argento has ever lent to a film. It never gels and it just feels slightly vacant. Argento’s memory of it as, “a strangely awkward little film” is about the most dead on critical response I can imagine.
While it fails as both a response to the Paris student riots of 1968 and as a return to the work Argento had done of Sergio Leone’s masterful Once Upon a Time in the West, The Five Days of Milan is worth at least a look for fans of Argento and Italian Cinema in general. It might very well be the most Italian specific film Argento ever shot, a fact that makes its unavailability to English language terroties perhaps a bit more understandable.
The Five Days of Milan failed to captivate either critics or audiences when it premiered in Italy just before Christmas of 1973. Argento realized he had made a mistake and perhaps The Five Days of Milan’s greatest legacy is that its failure would inspire one of Argento’s most important productions Deep Red, a flat out masterpiece.
The Five Days of Milan is clearly the, “abberation in Argento’s genre career”, that Alan Jones called it, but it’s deserving of a DVD release so English language viewers can make up their own mind about it. Currently only available in Europe, The Five Days of Milan is now the one empty space in many of our Argento collections.

5 comments:

Keith said...

I've never seen it. I've not heard much good about it. I still would love to see it though.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith,
Hopefully one day it will be more readily available.

The Beerman said...

Marilu Tolo was quite the revelation when I first discovered her in Bava's "Roy Colt and Winchester Jack" (followed rather swiftly by "Django Kill..." and "Confessions of a Police Captain" and her three seconds in "Triumph of Hercules")and has been a fave ever since. Something about those eyes...

Neil Sarver said...

I enjoyed this movie quite a bit more than I expected to. As you say, it's definitely the least of the period, but then it's interesting in ways that many others are not.

It fails mostly in its attempts to blend comedy and drama, especially as the comedy, as Italian comedy tends to be, is too broad to recover credibility afterward.

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