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Sleepless (Non Ho Sonno)

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Posted 27th April 2009 at 01:20 PM by Philleh

Before Non Ho Sonno (A.K.A Sleepless A.K.A I Canít Sleep), Dario Argento was suffering some serious verbal abuse from both fans and critics after the catastrophe that was Phantom of the Opera (1998). Few people will disagree with me when I say that it truly was the lowest point of his career. Some have said that since Opera Dario has been in an ever declining spiral, with failure after failure that began with his collaboration with George A. Romero on Two Evil Eyes. Argento-lite effort Trauma, which was pretty much a homagť to his own, superior, Profondo Rosso failed to capture the hearts and minds of the American audience. Setting off back to his native land, possibly due to his treatment by the hands of American producers, he set out to make his most cold and brutal film to date Ė The Stendhal Syndrome.

The Stendhal Syndrome showed a cynical side to Argento that hadnít been seen before, itís now showing up more and more with his recent Masters of Horror episodes, and has led to the film being shunned by both fans and critics. With Blue Underground finally giving the film the DVD it so rightly deserves, Iím hoping fans will be willing to give it a second chance and see it for the film it is. Itís a true Argento original and deserves its place next to Non Ho Sonno as the maestroís modern day masterpieces.

1983, Turin is in the middle of a serial killerís rage, known (hilariously) as The Dwarf Killer; this little power-house is killing women up and down the city in an array of original ways. His current victim is the mother of Giacomo Gallo (Stefano Dionisi), who had the great misfortune of seeing the killer slam an English horn into his mothers faceÖ repeatedly! The detective in charge of hunting this deranged midget is Ulisse Moretti (great name! great actor - Max von Sydow!) and he promises the child that he will bring this sick little bastard to bookÖ if itís the last thing he does!

Flash cut two decades and we come face to face with some titties - subtle! They belong to a hooker whoís not been so lucky with her john, she tells him itís okay and a lot of men suffer from impotence and to cheer up, buck-o. Unlucky for her then, that on her way out she knocks over some rather incriminating documents that seem to indicate that she is with THE DWARF KILLER! Naturally she picks it up and runs for her life. Once the killer realises whatís missing he runs for his knife and gives chase. Following her all the way to the train station where he proceeds to hunt her down and ends her day, brutally.

It doesnít end there folks! The woman had time to call her friend while on the train and has arranged for her to pick her up at the next station. The friend arrives on time, but is baffled when her friend doesnít showÖ so she decides to go onboard and look for her chum! (Genius) Finding the documents that her friend had stolen, she too meets her fate at the hands of a fountain pen to the throat while getting into her car. Itís a great opening set-piece that gives the double homicide in Susperia a run for its lira!

A Giallo novelist, Vincenzo de Fabritiis was originally pegged as the killer, but when retired Ulisse gets wind of these current killings, he starts to wonder if the right man was arrested back in the 80ísÖ and is the killer still out there? Will this incident inflame his bloodlust once again? So teaming up with the adult Giacomo, with some help from Giacomoís girlfriend and potential victim Gloria (Chiara Caselli), he plans to keep his promise and bring this psycho downÖ once and for all!

The only criticism I could launch at Non Ho Sonno would be that Argento tried too hard to make his ĎGreatest Hitsí flick. Heís taken bits from all of his classic gialli like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Profondo Rosso and Tenebrae, melts them down and hopes they will all stick together. It works, just. For hardened Argento-philes, they may feel a little disappointed by the lack of new material. Which is a fair point, but when the film is as much fun as this, you canít help but get caught up in the entertainment, even if itís only because it reminds you superior titles in Argentoís canon. For newcomers to Argento however, they shouldnít have this problem and itís a damn good introduction to the weird, wonderful world of Dario Argento.

However Argento-philes, he has come up trumps with the ingenuity in the death scenes. Each death is more macabre than the last and the film is chock full of claret, it would appear that Argento has kept hold of that bitterness that fuelled Stendhal Syndrome and has given the fans who were begging for more gialli exactly what they wanted: something he has done time and time again, in my opinion. The brutality will have you hiding behind your hands, itís strong stuff indeed and I believe that an R-rated DVD stateside has had a minute removed, which SUCKS!

Acting wise, itís a rare feat for Argento to have an actor such as Max von Sydow in one of his works, and boy, he shows us why! When a talent like von Sydow is thesping up a scene, he makes every supporting actor look twice as wooden as they usually appear. Itís a blessing to have such a calibre actor, but I can see why Argento hasnít continued to use big names: it makes the rest of the cast unbearable at times!

Another reason why fans should rejoice is that Non Ho Sonno marks the return of prog-rock group Goblin: who had broken up in the early 80ís. They are a source of a lot of enjoyment in Argentoís work and their contribution to his best works can not be denied. Itís a fabulous return, not their best, but it surely will have a lot of people light headed with nostalgia and help amp up the tension and excitement to full effect.

The 2-disc special edition from M.I.A Video is a great release; it comes with a lovely anamorphic widescreen presentation and features an English dub that has been given the most ridiculous choice in voice actors imaginable! Only Max von Sydow walks away unscathed by the renegade vocal casting agent and this could help explain why the hell he comes off so much better than everyone else! The Italian DVD release by Medusa sports and Italian dub that has far more fitting voice actors, and is the preferable dub, itís all the more irritating to know that the film was shot in English by the actors and they all did a fine job, why re-dub it? Itíll haunt me to the day I die.

Where this release does score some major bonus points is the second disc which features a documentary commissioned by British TV station Channel Four entitled Dario Argento: An eye for Horror. Itís narrated by British film critic Mark Kermode and runs a nifty sixty minutes and covers all you need to know about the great man. Also included is a fifteen minute behind the scenes featurette on the making of Non Ho Sonno, which shows all the actors speaking perfect English! A stills gallery and an Italian theatrical trailer round off the very welcomed second disc.

Non Ho Sonno can not be called a ďreturn to formĒ in my eyes, purely because one truly bad film does not mean youíve lost your way. It was a mishap that he promptly rectified with this film. His segment in Two Evil Eyes was the best half, Trauma was a decent Argento-inspired Argento movie and Stendhal Syndrome is an undiscovered masterpiece in waiting. Where, oh where, was his fall from grace? It simply did not exist.

Directed by:
Dario Argento

Max von Sydow
Stefano Dionisi
Chiara Caselli

Recommendations: Profondo Rosso & The Stendhal Syndrome
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