Wikipedia defines “Giallo” as a twentieth-century Italian and French storytelling genre, one specifically focused on crime, mystery, eroticism, and horror. (Think blood. And plenty of it.) One can probably search the internet for various examples of legitimate Giallo films, though I suspect you’ll find some controversy surrounding the level of quality typically associated with these films. In my web-life as a movie critic, I’ve only had the opportunity to review a few of these, so others might be far more inclined to give something like CITY OF LUST stronger marks. I didn’t dislike it; rather, I saw it as far more experimental than an actual entry into the form of art.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “Arianna is a young woman who moves to the city to escape a traumatic family life in the suburbs. She works as a cosmetologist and is showing early signs of formaldehyde poisoning. New to the city and lonely, she reaches out to a female sex line operator. They agree to meet and soon begin a volatile relationship. An altercation at work results in Arianna losing her job. Then, people in her life begin to turn up dead. With Arianna’s health, career, and new relationship all disintegrating before her eyes, how much longer can she, and those around her, survive?”
The downside to producing such an experimental-style release is that right off the bat you’re practically guaranteed a relatively limited audience. (Now, hold on there, haters: this isn’t to say that fans of Giallo horror are in short supply but rather to say that there aren’t as many folks who’ll pass up, say, TRANSFORMERS 4 in favor of spending 76 minutes with something they know nothing about.) The narrower the influence, then narrower the ticket sales; and I suspect such will be the case with CITY OF LUST.
Written and directed by newcomer David A. Holcombe, so very much of LUST feels kinda/sorta like an inside joke: you may not get all of the details, but you sure understand the punchline. Holcombe has possibly drawn on a plethora of influences as not all of these characters feel that original nor even all that contemporary (are there still sex-line operators like this in existence?). Each one is a bit more lurid than the next – some with more flamboyant personalities than they really needed – but all of them do pale when paired against the sublime young beauty of Arianna. She’s the classic victim here – or is she? – who was only looking for a way out of a personal tragedy, one that’s obviously about to catch up and make her life worse all over again.
Still, Holcombe packs his lean 76-minute feature with enough interesting creative choices that I had no problem staying interested if even for the mild annoyance of so many cookie-cutter secondary characters. (Seriously, if I see one more clever but catty transvestite I’m gonna puke.)
CITY OF LUST (aka YELLOW) (2013) is produced by Soft Cage Film NFP. DVD distribution is being handled by Brain Damage Films. As for the technical specifications? Well, therein lies many of the problems I experienced with the flick: the sound work isn’t particularly impressive in a few sequences (though I have experienced much, much worse with films I enjoyed less), but the clever if not quirky cinematography makes up for it most of the time. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then prepare for disappointment as there aren’t any; it would’ve been nice at the very least to get an interview with Holcombe to know what films have influenced his career.
RECOMMENDED. As I said at the onset, CITY OF LUST feels like the kind of flick that was ‘inspired’ by countless other works; and the danger in crafting something so stylistically dependent upon other films is that unless you’ve seen them you may be at a loss as a casual viewer. Still, I think most folks these days can recognize good cinematography for what it is, and, on that front, LUST offers up something that I found easy to look at for most of its 76 minutes.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Brain Damage Films provided me with a DVD copy of CITY OF LUST by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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