Like Guillaume Canet’s “Tell No One,” first time feature director Giuseppe Capotondi’s “The Double Hour” successfully uses a refined Euro art-house restraint to revive noir and psychological thriller tropes. Capotondi, a Vanity Fair photog and director of music-videos for Natalie Imbruglia, and Spice Girls Emma Bunton and Melanie C (Chisolm), claims he was inspired by ’70s Italian giallo (giallo all’italiana,) but his modern style, though erotic, avoids the splashier slasher elements of his idols Mario Bava and Dario Argento.
Leads Ksenia Rappoport and Filippo Timi won Best Actor Volpi Cups at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.
The title refers to the moment on a watch when the numbers of the hour and the minute are doubled like 11:11. If you look at your watch at one of those “Double Hours” you can make a wish. At least this is what superstitious Guido believes.
Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport- “The Unknown Woman”), whose delicate blond features recall Vera Farmiga’s icy beauty, is another immigrant Slavic chambermaid at a luxe Turin hotel. Toughened by her life in the new Europe, Sonia watches impassively as a guest suicides from the open window of the room she is cleaning.
Lonely widower Guido (Filippo Timi-Mussolini in “Vincere”) is a security guard and “speed dating” habituee. He has a bantering relationship with the speed-date den mother Marisa (Lucia Poli). Ex-cop and gadget nerd Guido runs the sophisticated security system at a swank estate. The owner is mostly absent leaving darkly handsome Guido the run of the place.
Used to a series of soulless one-night stands, Guido’s surprised by Sonia’s sweetness and fragility. Their sunny romance takes off, shot in grainy 70’s inspired close-ups. The chemistry is intense. Guido invites Sonia back to his digs and shows off his modified shotgun mike. Their garden tryst is interrupted by ski-mask wearing robbers, who tie them up and pillage the art. Guido tries to defend Sonia from a threatened rape. He’s killed. She suffers a head wound. Cut away.
Sonia awakes from a coma to struggle with the apparent ghost of her former lover. It’s a Hitchcockian second act, reminiscent of his Freudian flourishes in “Notorious ” and “Vertigo.”
Michele Di Mauro (“Santa Maradona”) plays Dante, Guido’s friend from his days on the force. Suspicious Inspector Dante sets himself the task of unraveling Sonia’s guilt. Why did she survive the heist? Was it an inside job? He tracks her past to Slovenia looking for answers.
The clever film, scripted by Alessandro Fabbri, Ludovica Rampoldi and Stefano Sardo bears reviewing, as layers and background clues (visible to the most hyper-vigilant armchair sleuths) will reveal themselves. The plot holes are all plugged by the time the film folds back on itself, twice. In fact two seemingly parrallel stories weave themselves together for the accomplished final reveal. Cleverly edited by Guido Notari, a series of seismic revelations sprinkled throughout leave you wanting more.
There’s even a twist at a ‘double-hour’ during the movie. The last haunting image recalls another delicious neo-noir, Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 “Body Heat.” Antonia Truppo plays Sonia’s friend Margherita. Opens April 29, Landmark Theatres.