“I still can hear all the excuses he found every time we were supposed to come up here; all of those LIES! I took care of him and he never brought ME here, he brought those bitches! Not the one who loved him! I suppose I was just his goddamn nurse. How could I be so stupid?!”~ELEONORA (Giada Colagrande) venting about the cheating habits of her recently deceased lover Karl (Claudio Botosso) to Leslie (Willem Dafoe), who is the caretaker of Karl’s estate, which Eleonora has just inherited.
Today’s New Release: THE BLACK WIDOW (a.k.a. BEFORE IT HAD A NAME/ a.k.a. THE RUBBER HOUSE)
With screenings at events such as the 2005 Havana Film Festival, the 2005 Haifa Film Festival and the 2006 Bangkok International Film Festival, this film by real-life husband-and-wife duo Willem Dafoe and Giada Colagrande is a confusingly sweet art house pet project that is as affectionately touching as it is embarrassingly trite. Here you’ve a picture that is not only known in film distributing circles under 6 different titles (I only listed three because it gets EXHAUSTING, folks), but one whose identity is completely lost by the 6 different genres its shoddy plot is tug-of-warring over within its 90 minute runtime. Most synopses you’ll read on this film (in all its titled reincarnations) will set it up as a psychological sex thriller. Guess that’s the best way to sell it, I gather. Alas, what it IS however is a romantic black comedy bordering on absurdness. Small, innocently quaint moments like a pantry scene -for example- are made unintentionally hysterical with the addition of Hitchcockian suspense music; try these two scenes: one at the 17:52 time-mark, the other at 50:05. That’s the problem sometimes with married auteurs; some inside jokes are never let out properly for the viewing public. The best chemistry between the two leads are scenes when they’re either eating dinner, or lying in bed together. Wife Colagrande plays Eleonora, an Italian research mathematician who fell in love with her late mentor, Karl, while studying in New York. Husband Dafoe plays Leslie, Karl’s estate caretaker and friend, who’s a botany hobbyist. Karl’s death after a long illness brings the two together, and sparks eventually fly. The most genuine moments of the entire film are actually touching and humorous to watch, knowing that the connection between the two is in no way manufactured. It’s too bad that everything else simply doesn’t connect to the overall story, which leaves the viewer wondering “WTF”. Is Leslie dangerous? Is Eleonora a psychopath? Why does Leslie treat Seymour Cassel’s Jeff with such disdain?? Who IS Jeff, by the way?! What’s their connection!? What’s up with the curry in the pantry?? Why do Italian women sound so sexy when they say “Panther”!?!? How come Leslie said nothing about the red urn!?!?
Well, as former Leslie paramour Gail (Emily Cass McDonnell) states, “He knows how to take care of everything… this guy’s got the woman’s disease: the disease to please!” But the thing about THAT is that you’re left to wonder. Were both Leslie and Karl -and maybe even Jeff and Gail- involved in some sinister act of voyeurism? Meh… look, all I know is that Italians consuming raw eggs in cinema TRULY confounds me still after all these years; THAT, and that Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love” will forever be made synonymous now with Green Goblin’s ass in front of a fireplace. THE BLACK WIDOW, here on BIGSTAR. Have at it.
Directed by Giada Colagrande
Written by & Starring Willem Dafoe & Giada Colagrande
Also Starring: Seymour Cassel, Emily Cass McDonnell, Claudio Botosso, Bari Hyman
Tagline (Spanish version): Tentación. Obsesión. Sexo. Muerte.