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L’uomo che guarda

(a.k.a. The Voyeur, 1994)

In the 1980s Brass spoke with his friend Alberto Moravia about converting his novel, L’uomo che guarda (The Man Who Watches) into a screenplay. This was originally scheduled to go before the cameras in 1986 or 1987. Moravia, an admirer of Brass’s work, was pleased at the prospect, but the film was delayed and he did not live to see the result. This is another Brassian sex-film experiment, and despite its darkness, it’s a significant improvement over the previous few films. The story is unusual, and its in-the-family jealousy is vaguely reminiscent of The Key. In a nutshell: French-lit professor Edoardo “Dodo” is puzzled by his wife Silvia’s frequent unexplained disappearances, and by her brief and unannounced reappearances. He is even more puzzled by his bedridden father’s success with the ladies. But all that’s nothing compared to his puzzlement at discovering that Sylvia is sneaking into his father’s bedroom at night. And when Sylvia’s confession about what she likes about her secret lover exactly matches his daddy’s secret proclivities, well, he’s just beside himself with confusion. But that doesn’t stop them from making up after Dodo finally moves out of his daddy’s apartment into one of his own — directly above daddy’s.

Odd story. Not a great story. Not a deep story. But odd. It keeps switching back and forth between stylish drama and farcical comedy. The technique works beautifully. Each aspect makes the other more believable. Visually this is perhaps Brass’s most stunning work. The art direction, the costumes, the locations, the lighting, the compositions, and, of course, the looks of the actors all combine to create breathtaking images. I found the novel at the local library but couldn’t read it because my Italian is too lousy. Finally I found an English translation (The Voyeur, London: Futura, 1989) and read it. It’s a short little book, marvelously perceptive, brilliantly written. The movie is neither perceptive nor brilliant. It is, instead, an exercise in style. The basic storyline from the novel is in place, more or less, and the characters as well, but with all the complications extirpated. Tinto found every conceivable excuse to have the scenes play in various stages of undress, which was certainly not true of the novel. The movie, actually, is a travesty of the novel, but not insultingly so. It is clear that Tinto loved the book dearly, but was not interested in filming it at all faithfully. The basic narrative would be used as an excuse to go off on tangents. (The above can also be said of Tinto’s use of the script for Gore Vidal’s Caligula.) The result is quite good and a lot of fun, but the result is no longer Moravia. The movie also does some strange things to the book. In the book we get the story of child-Dodo’s episode with the postage stamps. In the movie it is presented as an incomprehensible flashback. In the book, we understand the disquieting relationship between the child-Dodo and his mother. In the movie this becomes, shall we say, Oedipal. One scene in the book, where Dodo as a child chances upon his parents making out in the study, is especially significant. In the book, Dodo can only see his mother’s head held down firmly upon the desk by his father. Tinto added one visual detail: the image of the mother’s rump, for the scene in the book had occurred almost exactly in the child-Tinto’s real life, and Tinto added the detail to make the scene autobiographical. Art imitates life imitates art. It almost seems that Moravia wrote this story only so that Tinto could make a movie out of it. Overall the movie is rather fun, and it has a riotously funny surreal scene at a beach that has to be seen to be believed. There’s also a shot that nearly made me faint (I’m surprised I didn’t faint), as Pascasie, played by Raffaella Offidani, spreads her legs to show him that she’s been mutilated (“infibulated,” she wrongly says). That’s not a sight I ever wanted to see. (You won’t see it in the English dub.) And, like so many mutilated women, she is defensive about the butchery. Yes, Brass can be brave, but I thought this was a bit too brave. Anyway, Dodo’s childhood memories are wonderfully haunting.

REHEARSALS: When I first saw this movie I was surprised at how rehearsed it looked. In his earlier films Brass obviously aimed for spontaneity. Beginning with Miranda his films look more and more rehearsed. L’uomo che guarda looks rehearsed almost to death. The reason for the change is probably Brass’s increasing reliance on nonprofessionals. This new quality has carried over to all his subsequent films. Yes, I miss the old style, but, I have to admit, the new style works. And, as they say in theatre, “If it works, it works.”

Fausta provokes Dodo’s rage by telling him what she saw last night Katarina Vasilissa and Tinto Brass on the set
Silvia pays a surprise visit to Dodo Tinto on the telly

I bet Brass wanted Osiride Pevarello to play the voyeur at the beach. Instead he got English dubber Ted Rusoff, who looks a little bit like Osiride Pevarello, to do the honors — in English! — with his his lines dubbed into Italian. You MUST read what he said about Tinto at The Film Journal.

Giambattista Tiepolo, Woman with a Mandolin, 1755–1760 Giambattista Tiepolo, Saint Charles Borromeo, 1769

WHERE HAVE WE HEARD THAT BEFORE? The comic polka from The Key is used yet again, faintly in the background, during Dodo and Fausta’s first scene together. And the cheesy jazz piece from Miranda, which was repeated in Paprika, pops up again here.

CURIOSITIES: Though Moravia’s original novel is not mentioned in the credits, it is shown on screen twice: Dodo peeks through his neighbors’ window and sees them watching what appears to be a porno tape, but which is actually the preview for L’uomo che guarda, which features Tinto Brass as a voyeur who’s reading Moravia’s L’uomo che guarda. (How’s that for self-referencing?) A few moments later, Dodo peeks through a transom window and sees Fausta reading the novel. There is also some emphasis placed upon Céline’s Nord. Is that Paolo Lanza at the front of the classroom?

TECHNICAL NOTES: Most of the film was masked in the camera at 1.66:1 and needs to be projected that way. Yet several shots were mistakenly masked in the camera at the smaller 1.75:1. If you don’t understand the difference, study the frame captures below.

WARNING: Yes, there is an English dub available in PAL-system Region-2 DVD from England, and also now released in the US. Do not watch it. The English dub is cut to pieces — and it’s a lousy transfer to boot — and whoever dubbed Dodo sounded like a dork. And many of the opening and closing credits in the English version are wrong — as is the dubbing when The Key is playing on the cinema screen. The Italian version is a million times better, and quite a bit longer too. If you decide to order the US DVD from Cult Epics, be sure to choose the “Director’s Cut,” not the “Producer’s Cut.”

SO YOU THINK I’M BEING TOO PICKY? Well... in the sloppy English version:
   The assistant editor was credited as editor. Not too bad, you think, huh? Okay.
   The still photographer was credited as director of photography.
   The director of photography was credited as still photographer.

Still making a mountain out of a mole hill, am I? Well, here are some more examples:
   The dialogue coach was credited as script writer.
   The second assistant director was credited as location assistant.
   The camera operator was credited as generator operator.
   The focus puller was credited as electrician.
   The generator operator was credited as crowd coordinator.
   The chauffeurs were credited as the production office.
   The recording studio was credited as “scoring.”
   The upholsterers were credited as painters.
Well, people say I’m just too picky.

The Italian Region-2 PAL DVD, which will not play on most US equipment. The DVD transfer is quite good, but cropped to 1.75:1, which is rather tight but it still works, despite the tops of so many heads being cropped off. Oddly, the image is off-center, with a black border appearing only on the left side of the screen.

Entire 1.66:1 image transferred through the larger 1.375:1 aperture, and slightly windowboxed. You will notice that the camera aperture was overfiled (which is quite common) and is actually a bit taller, closer to 1.51:1. But, of course, since there is no such projection format, it was never intended to be shown that way.
Italian edition from CVC cropped to 1.75:1
(The US edition from Cult Epics is rather less cruel than the CVC edition)
This is one of the two or three shots masked in the camera at 1.75:1. No, not matted in the lab. If it had been matted in the lab, the sheen from her hair at the top right of the image would not curve into the black border. You are probably wondering why, since the images on left and right are both 1.75:1, they look slightly different. The answer might be rather surprising. Films begin to shrink as soon as they come out of the lab, and they continue to shrink until they disintegrate entirely. Thus it is common practice for the image on the film to be ever so slightly larger than the image that will be shown on the cinema screen. This is done simply as a safety precaution. 1.75:1 on unshrunken film is .864" × .494". The corresponding projector aperture is .825" × .471". As the film shrinks over the first few months of its life, the size of the image shrinks to something very close to the size of the projector aperture. Eventually it will shrink so much that it won’t be projectable, and new prints from the shrunken negative will have duplicated images toward the frame lines as well as black borders on the sides that will show on screen. Also showing on screen will be images of the negative’ sprocket holes, usually on the right side of the frame. Because the badly shrunken negative will no longer fit onto a normal printer, it is transported by sprocket holes along only one side of film and is thus printed off-center.
Lulù and Matteo
Theatrical greats Antonio Salines and Franco Branciaroli having a great time acting silly.
Emotional turmoil depicted by a deliberately mistimed and undersized shutter. (This effect creates emotional turmoil in the projectionist, who will panic that the shutter clamp has slipped or that a gear has stripped.) The effect, of course, bleeds into the part of the frame that is normally masked off.
Dubbing director Ted Rusoff as the Porking Attendant.

ANICA — Associazione Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche Audiovisive e Multimediali

DARC Distribuzione Angelo Rizzoli Cinematografica
Marco Poccioni, Marco Valsania e Angelo Rizzoli presentano
un film di Tinto Brass

L’uomo che guarda

copyright © 1993 FIN DU BARIL 1138:26:22 Rodeo Drive srl Erre Cinematografica srl

Soggetto e sceneggiatura di
(original story and screenplay)
Tinto Brass
Liberamente tratta dal romanzo omonimo di (freely adapted from the novel of the same name by) Alberto Moravia [uncredited but explicitly referenced]
Collaborazione al montaggio (assistant editor) Fiorenza Müller
Fotografo di scena (still photographer) Gianfranco Salis
Segretaria di edizione (continuity) Carla Cipriani
Fotografia (director of photography) Massimo di Venanzo
Scenografia e arredamento
(art direction and set décor)
Maria Luigia Battani
Costumi (costumes) Millina Deodato
Musiche composte e dirette da
(music composed and directed by)
Riz Ortolani
Direttore di produzione (production manager) Carmine Parmigiani
Organizzatore della produzione
(accounts manager)
Claudio Grassetti
Prodotto da (produced by) Marco Poccioni e Marco Valsania per Rodeo Drive srl, Erre Cinematografica srl
Scritto diretto e montato da
(written, directed, and edited by)
Tinto Brass
Aiuto regista (assistant director) Claudio Bernabei
Dialoghista (dialogue coach) Michela Prodan
Assistente regia (assistant to the director) Sabrina Ascani
Operatore di macchina (camera operator) Renato Palmieri
Assistente operatore
(assistant camera operator)
Pierandrea Pierpaoli
Aiuto operatore (assistant camera operator) Claudio Palmieri
Operatore steady-cam Sergio Melaranci
Fonico (sound) Andrea Petrucci
Microfonista (boom operator) Aristide Bigliocchi
[uncredited in English version]
Assistenti al montaggio
(assistants to the editor)
Emanuela Lucidi, Giovanna Ritter, Flora Elisa Algeri Bricoli, Carlo Simeoni
Assistenti scenografia (assistant art directors) Carlo de Marino, Aslessandra Martelli
Assistente costumi (assistant costumer) Cristiana Ricceri
Parucchiera (hairdresser) Jole Cecchini
Truccatore (make-up) Dirk Naastepad
Sarte (dressmakers) Gabriella Morganti, Edda Soliani
Amministratori (production accountants) Daniela Berardi, Angelo Frezza
Ispettore di produzione (unit manager) Walter Mancini
Segreatri di produzione (production secretaries) Francesca Romana Deodato, Patricia Radovic, Marco Spoletini
Aiuto segretario (assistant secretary) Ferdinando Bossi
Cassiera (payroll) Cristiana Valle
Capo squadra attrezzisti (prop master) Roberto Magagnini
Attrezzista (props) Ubaldo Panunzi
[uncredited in English version]
Aiuto attrezzista (prop assistants) Massimo Nespoli
Capo squadro elettricisti (gaffer) Romano Mosconi
Elettricisti (best boys) Domenico Zenga, Pietro Sottile, Carlo Catini
Capo squadro macchinisti (key grip) Vittorio Rocchetti
Macchinisti (grips) Paolo Anzellotti, Marcello Negretti, Massimo Spina
Gruppista (generator operator) Massimo Malfa
Autisti produzione Mauro Babini, Atef Abdelwahed
Autisti (drivers) Giorgio Ricci, Davide Biancifiori,
Stefano Marchetti
Ufficio stampa (publicity) Intesa & Intesa srl
Adetta locations (location manager) Ada Locatelli
Teatri di posa, laboratorio, Mezzi tecnici
(studio, lab, technical equipment)
Cinecittà [uncredited in English version]
Pellicola (raw stock) Agfa-Gevaert
Tecnico del colore (color technician) Stefano Giovannini
Sonorizzazione (recording studio) Fono Roma Film Recording
Dolby Stereo in teatri scelti
Assistente al doppiaggio (assistant dubber) Corrado Russo
[uncredited in English version]
Fonico del doppiaggio (dubbing recorder) Franco Mirra
[uncredited in English version]
Mixage (mixer) Alberto Doni
Effetti sonori (sound effects) Cine Audio Effects
[uncredited in English version]
Titoli (titles) Studio 4 [uncredited in English version]
Lampade (lights) R.E.C. sas
Trasporti (transport) Eurocinetransport
Assicurazione (insurance) Cinesicurtà
Edizioni musicali (music publishers) B.M.G. Ariola spa
Sartoria (wardrobe) Gi.Elle
Gioielli (jewelry) La.Ba [uncredited in English version]
Parrucche (wigs) Rocchetti & Carboni
Tappezzeria (upholstery) Artigiana Arredatori e Tappezzieri, Sanchini
Arredamento (set décor) G.R.P. Arredamenti Cineteatrali, E. Rancati, La Teca dell’Immaginario
Si ringrazia per la collaborazione
(for their collaboration, we thank)
Nouvelle Vague
Mediateca del Centro Culturale Francese
Varaschin Rattan spa
Becchetti Angelo Bal
Olri Argenti [uncredited in English version]
Intonacopronto srl
English version Double Vue (N.B.) INC.
     Directed by Thor Bishopric
Silvia Katarina Vasilissa
Edoardo “Dodo” Francesco Casale
Fausta Cristina Garavaglia
Pascasie Raffaella Offidani
Dottore Antonio Salines
Pascasie’s roommate Eleonora de Grassi
Madre di Dodò Gabri Crea
Contessa Martine Brochard
Alberto Franco Branciaroli
Suora nella piaggia Erika Saffo Savastani
??? Paolo Murano
Parcheggiatore/Porcheggiatore Ted Rusoff
Student outside class window Maria la Rosa
Bambini Lulù e Matteo
Professore / attore Tinto Brass [uncredited]

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