I didn't care who won the NBA championship and was too tired to read so Dario Argento's 2005 Italian tv movie DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? felt like just the thing to end my weekend. 90 minutes long and billed as just the kind of "no heavy lifting" genre fare I needed, plus as a Hitchcock fan I was intrigued by what Dario would do with the concept. Hopefully he wouldn't simply trot out the nods to the classics that we've seen ad nauseum.
After a short pre-credit sequence in which young Giulio follows two suspicious chicks into the woods only to witness them sacrifice a chicken and then chase him the scene shifts to then-present-day 2005 where grown-up Giulio (Elio Germano) is a film student with an impossibly cute girlfriend (Spanish actress Cristina Brondo), a video store around the corner and an apartment whose giant windows look out onto the flat of Sasha (Elisabetta Rocchetti), a curvy brunette who likes to admire her form in the mirror... while Giulio stands in the window watching her through his binoculars.
When he's not amateurishly smoking pot and watching German expressionism for his upcoming exams and papers, Giulio continues spying on his neighbors across the way, getting an eyeful of everything from bossy perfectionists to card cheats. But it's the volatile relationship between Sasha and her widowed mom that catches his eyes – and ears – most. The two shout, scream, throw things and generally annoy each another, and you wonder when, not if, one of them will turn up dead.
It isn't long before Sasha's mother gets her head gorily bashed in by an intruder while Giulio sleeps and the alibied Sasha parties with friends. The film buff/stalker turned detective begins to wonder if Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (in which two travelers meet and talk about exchanging murders) is being played out in real life. Could Sasha – who recently struck up a friendship with sexy blonde Federica (Chiara Conti) over the classic thriller – be plotting to swap murders in that film's "criss-cross" fashion?
What follows feels like the low-budget tv movie that it is – not something you'd expect from the man who helmed the intricately-plotted likes of FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, CAT O' NINE TALES, BIRD WITH THE CRYTSAL PLUMAGE, TENEBRAE, OPERA and other hallmarks of the giallo genre. Unfortunately, it's just the kind of thing one might expect from the director of the wretched THE CARD PLAYER (hyped throughout on poster's in the video store shop the main characters haunt).
Argento mainly tries to conjure REAR WINDOW and STRANGERS – two of Hitchcock's masterpieces – but largely comes up flat (there are also nods to DIAL M FOR MURDER, SABOTEUR and PSYCHO). Giulio never comes off like a sympathetic everyman caught up in the plot's twists and turns a la Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart – he's really just an annoying peeping tom and it's hard to root for him, even when he's hobbled and rushing to avoid being caught by a hulking blackmailer who wants to rip off his head. Character motivations come out of left field when convenient while "twists" are largely absent. In fact, HITCHCOCK plays out quite predictably and Argento, once a master at wringing suspense from a scenario, rarely succeeds in creating any kind of tension even when serving up classic genre tropes.
Frankly, I was less concerned with whether or not the killer or killers would get away/get Giulio than I was with whether or not Brondo would take her top off again.
That said, DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? succeeds in being more watchable than the dreadful THE CARD PLAYER and less insulting than the forgettable THE MOTHER OF TEARS, so I suppose it has that in its favor. Again, no heavy lifting is required and you'll identify all the major culprits within moments of their on-screen appearance. Like the mystery movies of the week I watched as a kid it's the perfect Sunday nightcap after a busy weekend.
Buy or rent DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? at Amazon.