Sunday, 1 March 2020

The Spider's Strategem (La Strategia del Ragno) (1970)

Edderkoppens strategi
“The Spider’s Stratagem” (“Strategia del ragno”) is another one of those movies I cannot work out. This era seems to overflow with this sort of movies and I am getting tired of them, hence my not very enthusiastic review.

Athos Magnani (Giulio Brogi) arrives in the small, Italian town of Tara. His father died here before he was born and now his father’s old mistress Draifa (Alida Valli) wants to see him. She wants him to find his father’s murderers and although he first refuses, he is convinced to stay and look into it when several of the townspeople seem intent on discouraging him.

This sounds like an interesting thriller plot and I suppose this could have been that. An investigation, mysterious adversaries, hidden agendas and dark secrets.

However, this is a Bernardo Bertolucci movie and he does not seem to be content with making a thriller. Instead he wraps it in weirdness to create an ambience of unreal that makes Twin Peaks look ordinary. Tara is populated with old people, everybody says weird things and a standard conversation can suddenly shift to odd directions. Athos is apparently a clone of his father, the mistress wants him to be his father etcetera etcetera. This makes it entirely clear that there is another agenda than the murder mystery, but what this agenda is, is apparently up to us, the viewers to work out. I have mentioned this before, I dislike it with a vengeance when filmmakers sacrifice causality for symbolism. I do not mind symbolism, but not at the expense of a logical or sensical plot and well, Bertolucci did not receive that brief.

It does not help at all that Bertolucci has a way of making films that seem to repel my attention. Every few minutes my attention will drift away and I have to forcibly redirect it at the movie. I cannot say exactly what it is, the pacing, the weaving, the dialogue or something else. The result is that there are gaps in the narrative as if I had fallen asleep a few times in the course of the movie. Jumps in the story I cannot explain, though I promise, I did not sleep.

There is a resolution to the murder mystery and it is something about preserving a myth, but I cannot say it is very satisfying and how that ties in with Athos being stuck in town I do not understand. The Book writes something about that Athos is becoming his father, but except for Draifa wanting him to be his old man, I do not see that at all. Frankly the idea that he is sucked into the town is not very well developed.

Alida Valli is one of the grand ladies of Italian film and it was fun to see her again, although her role is creepy. But that is just about the only positive thing I can say about this movie.

Not recommended.

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