House With Laughing Windows, The / La casa dalle finestre che ridono (1976)

4.5 out of 5

Pupi Avati’s bleak and unsettling fifth feature film is made all the more disturbing for its steady disavowal of the style and pretence of the giallo. Avati instead elects to draw the audience in rather than distance them with aesthetics, and the result is a pervasive and insidious film that lingers and persists. A perpetual sense of dread unites a small rural community in Northern Italy, and their efforts to repress the deeds of a death obsessed artist and his monstrously sadistic sisters has led to a climate of mistrust, paranoia, and insanity. The forces of modernity prove ineffectual as city dweller Stefano, Lino Capolicchio, unravels a nightmarish history of torture and cruelty performed in the name of art. The damaged fresco depicting the sufferings of St. Sebastiano which he works to restore offers one of many clues which he is unable to act upon as a net of silence and conspiracy draws him ever nearer an unforgettable fate. Avati’s film is beautifully subdued, with a sombre tone that is at once depressing and refreshing. The stifling heat of summer echoes the lazy and lethargic way the narrative unfolds, and the tension builds inexorably to a conclusion that equates art and Catholicism with torture and sadism.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics