Francesca is another one of those movies that I picked up and watched without any prior knowledge of it’s existence. After delving into a little bit of research I found that it was written and directed by Luciano Onetti, an independent film-maker from Italy whose repertoire consists of 5 horror movies, three of which are Giallo style throwback films. Francesca was the second of Luciano Oneti’s Giallo ‘trilogy’, a trilogy which consists of Deep Sleep, Francesca and Abrakadabra. Francesca is a throwback to 1970’s/1980’s Giallo cinema, recreating the style of a classic cinematic era instead of trying to create something new and original. Aside from that, there’s nothing else I can to say about the significance of Francesca as there’s barely any information about it online. There’s no Wikipedia page, the IMDb page has only five reviews and no information on the film, and the official Facebook page is in Italian, a language I cannot read. So, it’s fair to say that I went into Francesca completely blind, not knowing what to expect.
What I found, is that Francesca is a film that successfully recreates the nostalgic style of the Italian Giallo films of the 1970’s/1980’s, mainly those created by Dario Argento. The film recreates Dario Argento’s iconic style with the use of creative and sweeping camera angles, artistically abstract sequences, a visceral colour palette and numerous violent death scene. Francesca also pays direct homage to Dario Argento’s films: it recreates the messages from Tenebrae, the pink/purple lighting from Inferno, and the abstract montages from Deep Red. Overall, in my opinion, Francesca definitely nailed the aesthetic style of Giallo cinema: it nailed the cinematography, lighting, film grain, even the soundtrack is appropriately nostalgic; every technical aspect of the film evokes memories of 1970’s Italian cinema. All in all, I have to pay my respects to Luciano Onetti, he definitely understands the Giallo aesthetic and manages to recreate it beautifully, albeit with a shoestring budget.
What the film doesn’t recreate, however, is the intriguing mystery, the intelligent characters and the entertaining stories that made Giallo such an entertaining genre to experience. I feel that Luciano Onetti desperately needs to develop his writing because the the story of Francesca, his second feature film, is a poorly written, incoherent mess. It’s such a sloppy mess that half the time I didn’t understand the story that the film was desperately trying to tell me. I know that there’s a killer, there’s a protagonist, there’s a red herring sub-plot, but the majority of the film’s overall plot exists for no rhyme or reason. There’s no significance to any of the clues that the film addresses, there’s no conflict, there’s no character development, and it all builds up to a laughably rushed ending which barely makes sense. The story that Francesca is trying to tell is barely a story at all, completely missing the point of Giallo cinema.
It’s obvious that Luciano Onetti cared more for the film’s aesthetics instead of telling a coherent story, and, in the end, Francesca is a film that’s all style and no substance. However, unless the film-maker is truly dedicated and confident in creating a film that’s purely aesthetic, the end result of trying to go style over substance is always going to be a sloppy mess. A good movie is one that balances style and substance: Deep Red, Tenebrae, Blood And Black Lace, What Have You Done Solange?, A Hatchet For The Honeymoon, all of these films – films which fit into the Giallo genre – have substance as well as an appropriate style, and it’s quite insulting to create a Giallo film which has no substance whatsoever. By boiling down the genre to a visual style, one ignores the clever writing that made Giallo cinema so iconic.
In the end, I have to give to congratulate Luciano Onetti on nailing the Giallo aesthetic, especially on an independent budget, but in all honesty, Francesca contains nothing else of worth. It’s a short (75 minute) horror flick that left no impact on me whatsoever. It’s forgettable nonsense that pales in comparison to the films that it was trying to emulate. Giallo fan or not, I don’t recommend watching this film.