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Around the turn of the century (how's that for making you feel old?) Dario Argento decided to return to his roots, eschewing phantasmagorical horror for giallo, with all its attendant frippery and black gloves. The result was Sleepless, an also-ran type of affair with lots of sinuous style, tedious mystery, and a few instances of practical gore that represent probably the most worthwhile reason to visit, or revisit, this effort, one that otherwise will likely help you with your insomnia.
Featuring Max Von Sydow (gravitas provedore) as retired detective Moretti, Sleepless lays out a series of gruesome and (dare I say it) misogynistic murders in Turin, that hearken back to a case Von Sydow couldn't quite close several years before. As the bodies of various women begin to pile up in impenetrably ritualistic fashion, Moretti and Giacomo, (Stefano Dionisi) a young man looking to define his life by becoming an amateur detective, delve into clues from the previous murderer's reign of terror.
As for the current reign of terror, it's marked by a few different elements: Argento's stylistic inclinations, ridiculously hysterical victims, and a mystery that really doesn't generate any interest. Argento sets cinematographer Ronnie Taylor's camera loose in delightfully loopy, swooping fashion. This is camera as engaged observer, though possibly a 6-year-old observer, as the eye stalks and glides, often low to the ground, careering over knocked-over tables or gazing petulantly at the floor. When it works, this photography is rapturous, such as with the aforementioned table; the camera is a dizzied participant, or when a terrified observer's face emerges from between rubber gaskets in-between train cars. Other times it's curious style-over-substance, tracking feet and an inordinate number of vacuum cleaners down a carpeted hallway.
Such cinematic silkiness is in direct contrast to both the demeanor of Argento's victims, who begin to scream bloody murder at the merest flicker of lights, and the violence, which while not plentiful, will delight practical gore fans. The facial abuse on display is shocking and realistic, as well as particularly ugly. But in between these shock scenes, there's a whole lot of nothing much, plot-wise. Put another way, though Von Sydow was always a welcome presence, watching him lost in thought as he slowly pieces together the significance of a nursery rhyme, will cure, rather than exacerbate, any sleeplessness from which you might suffer. At least you get Sergio Stivaletti's effects to jolt you awake from time to time. If you've ever wanted to see someone repeatedly stabbed in the mouth with a flute, this movie's for you.
Sleepless represents a turn-of-the-century return to giallo roots for il maestro Dario Argento. As such, it's a mixed bag, with some wonderful set-pieces, loopy camera work, and punctuations of graphic gore leavening an otherwise flat loaf of who-cares-who-dunnit stalking and smashing anchored by Max Von Sydow's dulcet recollections of years gone by. Recommended for Argento-philes only.
The 1080p High Definition presented here in 1.85:1 ratio appears pretty great. Film grain is most apparent in darker scenes, but never strays from film-look into soft image territory. In more brightly-lit scenes, image definition increases nicely, with fine details (including fleshly trauma) coming in loud and clear. A minimal amount of damage appears once or twice, but is of little concern, while transfer artifacts and other digital defects are not apparent. Colors are rich and deep, appearing to conform to the cinematic intent, with flesh tones and blood looking natural, when lit in a natural way.
Scorpion Releasing presents Sleepless in two 5.1 DTS-HD MA tracks, English and Italian. A few small instances of sync-sound problems with the English track are noted by the label in a pre-movie title card. The Italian track is the default selection, which I would think would be the one to listen to, though dubbed nonetheless, it just seems more true to the film. However, when Von Sydow makes his appearance, you, like me, might switch to the English track, (which I continued to listen to for the rest of the presentation) there's just no substitute for Von Sydow's voice. Surround sound is used to full effect, and Goblin's score sounds fantastic.
Scorpion Releasing throws a fair number of extras at this release of Sleepless including a new, lively, informative and fun Commentary Track with film historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, and five new interviews. Dario Argento gets 18 minutes to reminisce (though his slow pace could probably have done with a mere 12 minutes), actor Paolo Maria Scalondro speaks of his role and more for 17 minutes, screenwriter Franco Ferrini speaks of his motivations for 11 minutes, while set designer Anotonello Geleng opines on the film's look for 13 minutes, and finally actor Gabriele Lavia talks of his work with Argento for 12 minutes. English or Italian Subtitles are available, depending on which audio track you listen to.
Sleepless represents a turn-of-the-century return to giallo roots for il maestro Dario Argento. As such, it's a mixed bag, with some wonderful set-pieces, loopy camera work, and punctuations of graphic gore leavening an otherwise flat loaf of who-cares-who-dunnit stalking and smashing anchored by Max Von Sydow's dulcet recollections of years gone by. Recommended for Argento-philes only. (This release appears to be an identical package to that which was released in Spring of 2020, albeit with different cover art and no slipcover.)