Francesca Blu-ray Review

A modern giallo done in classic 70s style from Argentine director Luciano Onetti

Do you worship at the feet of legendary Italian directors like Dario Argento and Sergio Martino? A new movie out of Argentina faithfully recalls the giallo slashers of the Seventies in exquisite form. A lurid, graphic giallo made by fans for fans, Francesca hums with a rare vitality. You might even call it the best genre effort not made in the golden age. Perfectly timed with the growing renewal of interest in giallo classics on home video, Francesca rightfully deserves to stand with its forefathers.

Luciano Onetti and his brother Nicolas Onetti are two promising filmmakers from Argentina. Francesca is Luciano Onetti’s second film after the highly experimental Sonno Profondo. Hoping to reach a bigger audience this time, the brothers have crafted a crowd-pleasing giallo that seems straight from 1975. Painstakingly recreating a grindhouse print filmed with an incredible eye to period detail, Francesca is a psychosexual thriller that would have fit in nicely with Dario Argento’s classic work.

It’s been 15 years since the disappearance of little Francesca (Martina Nigrelli), daughter of the renowned poet and playwright, Vittorio Visconti (Raul Gederlini). The community is stalked by a mysterious psychopath bent on cleaning the city of impure souls, mostly seen through a first-person perspective that shields us from the killer’s identity.

The killer’s murder victims are found with two coins placed over their eyes. Passages from Dante’s The Divine Comedy found at the crime scenes seem to indicate the killer has an ulterior purpose. Moretti (Luis Emilio Rodriguez) and Succo are the detectives in charge of finding the masked killer. Francesca has returned, but she is not the same girl they once knew. As the bodies begin to stack up in this twisting thriller, what role does she play in this drama?

The Onetti brothers from Argentina made this loving homage to giallo filmmaking, even faking a 1975 copyright date on the print. It was only when the credits rolled that I realized this wasn’t made in the Seventies at all. Francesca saw its initial debut in 2013. That blew my mind when I realized this movie wasn’t made in the original giallo era.

… a real achievement for modern giallo entertainment

The retro aesthetic is nailed perfectly, down to an unsettling prog score that sounds like a leftover Goblin soundtrack. Director Luciano Onetti offers a remarkably confident vision with Francesca’s stylish opening. It opens up the hallucinatory storytelling and off-putting camera angles, creating a wonderful sense of tension and dread. The killer’s trademark red gloves are a perfect calling card and a nod to giallo tradition.

If there are problems in this lovingly recreated giallo, the dense opening act can get confusing. Audiences will have to pay close attention if they want to follow what is happening. That problem soon clears up but muddles the introduction of several important characters.

If movies like Deep Red and Tenebrae are up your alley, Francesca should be seen on your next movie night. It is a real achievement for modern giallo entertainment and deserves your attention. Francesca is strong filmmaking for fans of lurid giallo films, especially if you have seen everything released in the genre.

Francesca Blu-ray screen shot 3

Video

Unearthed Films (a sub-label of MVDvisual) puts out this incredible simulation of a classic giallo print from the Seventies. It’s a rough print with simulated wear and extreme edge enhancement, done up as leftover elements from the grindhouse era. It’s convincing in its retro vibe and look. A bleached contrast and washed-out white levels make it a raw, gritty film.

This is rough video that looks convincingly film-like in texture. What looks like faded, overexposed elements have been mocked up by the director in the hopes of recreating that classic giallo experience. I presume that MVDvisual’s presentation is a faithful replication of the Onetti brothers’ intended aesthetic. The AVC video encode looks great on a BD-25.

In classic giallo fashion, the main feature is shown at a strikingly panoramic 2.55:1 aspect ratio. This is trippy, almost hallucinatory cinematography. It recalls the stronger cinematography seen in Argento’s classic films with deep reds and twisted perspective. Francesca would be a far less convincing film for giallo fans if it were done in standard modern video quality with perfect clarity and definition.

Audio

The stereo 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack offers a fine mix with intelligible dialogue in Italian. A prog score rings with almost too much clarity for what is supposedly a vintage film. With a nod to its grindhouse ethos, the Italian dub offers a few synch issues typically found in poor dubs. Revel in the audio of the Seventies with miscues and occasionally late dialogue.

Optional English subtitles display in a yellow font outside the scope presentation.

Extras

This limited collector’s edition offers the film on both Blu-ray and DVD. The film’s musical score is included on CD with a total of 13 tracks. A collector’s booklet features an essay on the film by Art Ettinger of Ultra Violent magazine. It’s a nice package with attractive art, holding all three discs in a fold-out design.

Francesca: Behind the Scenes (14:21 in HD with English subtitles) – A practical look into effects and make-up, including footage from set.

Alternate Beginning (03:24 in HD) – A deleted scene that would have worked as the opening credits.

Interview with Luciano and Nicolas Onetti (19:48 in HD) – The brothers discuss the movie’s reception in Latin America and their intentions for making a retro giallo movie. Luciano talks about his previous film and his more commercial approach on Francesca. This is a nice, relaxed featurette that flips between the two brothers’ comments.

Hidden Scene (02:01 in HD) – This looks to be similar footage to a brief scene that ran after the credits, possibly previewing a Francesca set today.

Francesca Trailer (01:42 in HD)

Unearthed Films Trailers – Atroz, American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock, American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts and Gore, Lilith’s Hell, Sheep Skin

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