One can't help but wonder what cemetery watchman Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) would have had to of done in his past life to have to constantly lose his love, over and over again, in Michele Soavi’s darkly poetic and comical DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE. Could it be that Francesco is being punished by Death himself in an attempt to drive him to the breaking point so he’ll stop shooting the dead and instead do Death’s work for him by killing the living?
I remember going into this expecting a zombie movie, but I ended up enjoying and appreciating it on a number of different levels, with the zombies being the part I cared the least about in the long run. Love and death are the main themes here and the zombies are merely a backdrop to the story and end up becoming the least important element. It is like this is a zombie movie that isn’t primarily about zombies.
There is an eminent cycle of ironic plays on life and death all throughout this film. Consider the brilliant intro when Francesco is having one of his evening chats over the phone with his only other living associate that ever calls him. He is interrupted by a knock at the door and after opening it, without being alarmed at all, Francesco gazes at a slightly rotting visitor for a mere few seconds before shooting him in the head, point blank, and all the while looking very bored. After the person on the other line asks how things are with him, Francesco calmly replies with “You know how things are (exhales cigarette smoke), life goes on” to which the camera travels out the front door to a beautiful view of the Buffalora Cemetery. Cue the opening credits.
Bravissimo Soavi! That’s how you start a movie.
Bravissimo Soavi! That’s how you start a movie.
Viewers who don’t quite buy into the odd premise of this movie will still find a lot to love with the two very appealing leads: the aforementioned Francesco and his moronic partner, Gnaghi, played by French actor/pop-star, François Hadji-Lazaro. I love the character of Gnaghi and cannot even put into words my gratitude for all the grins and laughs that he’s brought me over the years. Francesco, on the other hand, is just too cool, not because he’s always lighting a cigarette (a likely tribute to Soavi’s idol, James Dean) but just his worry-free approach to his dangerous job, as if disposing of zombies is just part of the everyday grind. Also, his resolve and sincerity when pursuing what he describes as the most beautiful living woman he’s ever seen is something to be admired from an extremely girl-shy type like myself. We all have had that moment when we are blown away from the sight of that perfect woman (or man) that happens to come along and yet feel that nothing will likely come of it, but Francesco pursues and scores even when the circumstances are against him. This should serve as a motivational example for anyone that knows what they want, and it should also be a reminder that even the most farfetched fantasy could become a reality. I even admit to sometimes thinking about dressing like him, but I don’t think I could pull it off, as I don’t think I’m tall and lean enough.
An amusing anecdote, which sort of adds insult to injury at times for Francesco, is when the cemetery visiting elderly woman as well as the Mayor of Buffalora refer to him as an engineer, despite a few annoyed objections. Calling a cemetery watchman an engineer seems highly sarcastic and insulting, but the characters who call him that don’t seem to mean any disrespect. This is sort of an inside joke and is unusual but still pretty funny and likely to confuse anyone who may not be familiar with another elderly lady in Dario Argento’s DEEP RED, calling the Jazz Pianist, Marcus Daily (David Hemmings), an engineer. I thought of this as Soavi’s homage to his former mentor as well as a nod to Italian horror fans in general. Though I do think Francesco firing his gun right after saying “I’m not an Engineer” under his breath, with a cool British accent, far surpasses everything else that is cool in this movie.
Francesco’s object of desire is a grieving widow (Finnish/Italian actress/supermodel, Anna Falchi), known as “She”, whom he first spots while she’s attending her husband’s funeral. After Francesco sees her again when she visits her late husband’s grave, she is completely cold to his initial advances and his attempts to get to know her while she is trying to mourn. Who can blame her? Though she is oddly intrigued when, after a final attempt to get her attention, Francesco mentions the cemetery’s marvelous ossuary. After being hypnotized by the damp, wet, and deathly skeletal remains of the dreamlike ossuary, she suddenly starts to give in. Being surrounded by death and brought closer to death is what it finally takes for her to be able to find the strength to move on with life and find love after death with Francesco, thus continuing the dark cycle of irony.
The sex scene that takes place before a turning point in the story between Francesco and his love is done in good taste and is what I’d imagine a soft porn scene shot by Tim Burton to look like. When their love making is interrupted by the return of her late zombie husband (she wanted to make love over his grave in order to still be faithful to him!), Francesco experiences grief from losing his love for the first time. The bizarre occurrences that take place throughout the film where she repeatedly appears in Francesco’s life again in several reincarnations (including a zombie) is what really starts to cause the movie to be much more interesting than typical zombie fare. A certain part where Francesco loses her again after nearly giving up something very important reminds us that sometimes we shouldn’t take our current relationship for granted, as you may find yourself alone out of the blue again after losing the person you had just planned on spending the rest of your life with.
In addition to Francesco’s love story is Gnaghi’s even more demented but hilarious love story about love after death. After Gnaghi’s crush, the mayor’s much too young daughter, Valentina (Fabiana Formica), is killed in a motorcycle accident and buried in the cemetery, Gnaghi realizes that this is his only chance to be with someone he was unable to win-over during the time she was alive. Gnaghi’s anticipation for her return is just great. In a voice over by Everett, Francesco tells Gnaghi, “patience Gnaghi, in love it’s the waiting that is the best part”, as Gnaghi plays the movie’s own nursery rhyme jingle on a coffin-violin while occasionally stopping to check his pocket watch in anticipation, knowing full-well that she’ll awaken seven days after her death. I won’t ruin what happens for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet, but it is one of the best love stories ever committed to celluloid.
Someone I recommended this movie to a while back, watched it and claimed that it was good for the first half or so but eventually went nowhere. I have to disagree, because the movie didn’t just go nowhere. It went everywhere. Zombies, death, love, sex, severed heads walking around on their own, a cool looking grim reaper, poetry, the feeling of being inebriated without having to drink, and a whole lot more. It seems Soavi did go overboard, as the movie crams in as much as it can and fills every kind of void while nearly abandoning the initial premise in the later half. The solipsistic ending is a little head scratching but still gives off a really good climactic feeling, despite the fact that we don’t really know what we are climaxing to when it happens. But with enough focus and open-mindedness, I still believe that many viewers could come away from DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE with a full understanding of the meaning of death and love.
This is a really cool music video from François Hadji-Lazaro (the actor that plays Gnaghi). The video is wicked, with Picasso like antics and creepy dolls, and Hadji-Lazaro is actually pretty good. It gets a thumbs-up from me.
If that video wasn’t cool enough, than I hope there is much to be enjoyed from these pinups of Anna Falchi, who played the nameless love and cause for grief in Francesco’s life.
This is old news now, but it was announced well over a year ago from FANGORIA that Soavi intended to develop a sequel to DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE with plans to shoot from sometime at the end of 2011 to January, 2012, which means that it should have been shot already. I truly hope that this is happening and that Everett and Hadji-Lazaro reprise their roles, because it would give the sequel a much better chance at working (just like the possible BEETLEJUICE sequel having a much better chance with Michael Keaton), and Falchi would be most welcome, too. I cannot find any other news aside from the initial announcement, though. Anyone out there know anything?