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Gli Occhi, La Bocca (Italian Release)
Aging actor Giovanni (Lou Castel) returns home for the funeral of his twin brother Pippo. The family tells him that Pippo has committed suicide leaving behind a short note explaining his motives. Yet, Pippo's mother (Emmanuelle Riva) is kept in the dark-she is told that it was an accident. Why? To make things even more complicated Pippo's on-and-off-again fiancée Wanda (Angela Molina) refuses to grieve with the rest of the family. Giovanni is puzzled, angered, and curious to find out what really happened.
Reuniting legendary Italian director Marco Bellocchio with Lou Castel, the enigmatic psycho from I Pugni in Tasca a.k.a Fists in the Pocket (1965), Gli Occhi, La Bocca a.k.a The Eyes, The Mouth (1982) is a film that comes dangerously close to being a copycat. Yet, despite some occasional resemblance to I Pugni in Tasca, it is not. And the reason why it isn't is precisely because the main protagonist Giovanni is nowhere as destructive and suicidal as the one in I Pugni in Tasca. In Gli Occhi La Bocca Giovanni must deconstruct an enigma where family relationships are only used as a background for a much larger universe of issues: is it worth growing older; what if life wasn't meant to be a pleasurable journey, etc?
Disturbing and misunderstood by both critics and fans Marco Bellocchio's Gli Occhi, La Bocca is a much more complex film than it may initially seem. The family tribulations which Giovanni must endure before he uncovers why his brother committed suicide are well played but not central to the story. What Marco Bellocchio is fascinated with in this film is the aftereffect of a tragic act which as the story progresses seems less and less catastrophic. But how could that be? Can suicide be justified with common logic?
Furthermore, Gli Occhi La Bocca also partially explores the conventional reactions human beings resort to when they must overcome tragedy. Unlike other films with similar thematic constructions, however, where it is the process of learning to live after a sizeable loss that becomes the focus of attention in Gli Occhi La Bocca what takes precedence is the importance of time, before and after the tragic act.
Perhaps the reason why Gli Occhi, La Bocca seems like such an introverted film is because none of the main protagonists appear as overpowering as Lou Castel's Alessandro from I Pugni in Tasca. Yet, the French actor constantly evokes comparisons with him which puts Gli Occhi, La Bocca in a somewhat compromised position (it is ironic that Alessandro's face could be seen here as well). It is also difficult to come to any sort of a definitive conclusion as to what the moral message of this film is. Are we to side with Giovanni or dismiss his reactions? As far as I am concerned Gli Occhi, La Bocca's greatest strength remains the fact that it forces audiences to reconsider (favored) "conventional" behavior where action is expected not reflexive.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the film looks simply amazing. Courtesy of Italian distributors RHV (Ripley's Home Video), the same company that produced the marvelous Before the Revolution by Bernardo Bertolucci this presentation of Gli Occhi, La Bocca is just as impressive as the company's other catalog titles. Colors are very strong and lush, contrast is excellent, print damage is nowhere to be found, and edge enhancement is virtually non-existing. The actual print is in an immaculate condition and it clearly shows that the Italian crew has once again performed meticulous restoration. The film's natural grain especially during some of the indoor scenes is beautifully preserved and the DVD retains that film-like quality so many releases lack nowadays. To sum it all up I can not be any happier looking at RHV's disc: it is a solid package all around!
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with its original Italian mono track and optional Italian and English subtitles the sound is just as perfect as the video presentation. Crystal clear and easy to follow the dialog comes off the speakers beautifully. This being said you will notice that some of the international actors (Michell Piccoli, Lou Castel, Angela Molina) speak their lines in their native languages and are being dubbed in Italian. This is how the film was shot and as far as I am concerned the dubbing matches the lips very well. The English translation is superbly done and I could not spot any issues of concern. The subtitles appear in small white font. PAL-encoded, Region 2.
Unfortunately none of the supplemental materials are subtitled in English so I am going to only list them without commenting on the actual content. What you will find on this disc is: the original Italian theatrical trailer, a rather large interview with Marco Bellocchio, a second large interview with Enzo Porcelli, an extensive photo gallery, a photo-test.
I am yet to see a film by Marco Bellocchio (and I have seen all but two of his early works) that I did not like. Gli Occhi, La Bocca is not an exception: an excellent suggestive piece of cinema that once again delves deep into issues that not many directors that I can recall have explored. The reuniting with old friend Lou Castel brings some extra flavor to Gli Occhi, La Bocca which as far as I am concerned helps tremendously, it does not detract from the film's power as some have claimed. If interested in Marco Bellocchio and his work this spectacular Italian disc comes highly recommended.
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.