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Less Black, More Blue

by John Rodat on July 28, 2011

The Double Hour
Directed by Directed by Giuseppe Capotondi

Though The Double Hour is scripted with the requisite shady characters, murky motivations and sudden plot twists, and though it features affecting performances by two quietly charismatic leads, it fails to live up to its billing as a “crime thriller” in the most basic way: It does not thrill.

First-time feature director Giuseppe Capotondi—who comes from commercials and music videos—has made curious decisions regarding the pacing of this noirish film, decisions that at times slow the film to a contemplative and melancholy crawl.

To the extent that the film is about the relationship between Sonia (Ksenia Rappoport), an Eastern European working as a chambermaid in Turin, and Guido (Filippo Timi), a widower ex-cop working as a security guard at a lavish private estate, the tone is appropriate enough. Rappoport and Timi are both excellent at evoking differentiated types of wounded wariness.

They meet at a session of speed dating (which, if you don’t know, is a timed introductory conversation among single adults held in a public place, a sort of musical-chairs version of the first date). Guido has been attending such sessions since the death his wife three years earlier. He appears to be using the service as a way of finding serial partners for casual sex, as a distancing mechanism rather than as a means of finding greater intimacy. Sonia’s own motivation for attending is less clear. She is a sad-seeming and largely asocial person. But Rappoport and Timi have a morose chemistry together that goes a long way in establishing the credibility of the coupling. Sometimes too long a way.

Capotondi has a good eye, and The Double Hour has an Old World grittiness that’s an interesting visual riff on the classic, nighttime-L.A. setting of canonical noir. And the stock characters—the wounded loner (often an ex-cop, or ex-military); the damsel in distress/femme fatale; the dogged but plodding lawman—are ably portrayed. But where the best examples of the form are basically morality tales, stories of actions and their inevitable consequence, of reckonings, Double Hour comes across as a more open-ended philosophical rumination about the distance between desire and fulfillment. The consequences in this movie are, most significantly, emotional.

Which might, in itself, be an interesting spin on the genre. But The Double Hour is also burdened with a tricky plot device, one that feels not so much clumsy (in fact, it’s technically well handled) but extraneous, beside the point. It’s as if someone grafted an M. Night Shyamalan-style surprise onto Sunset Boulevard.

Which would be a crime deserving of swift and merciless consequences, indeed.