La doppia ora (The Double Hour)

It comes as only a small surprise to find that Giuseppe Capotondi got his start as a director of TV commercials and music videos: (small) portions of his début feature feel like a perfume ad, complete with forced romantic/dramatic embraces and swelling musical flourishes. Ostensibly a thriller and nominally something of a puzzle film, La doppia ora (The Double Hour) is actually above all a mystery about a chambermaid at a five-star Turin hotel, an immigrant from Ljubljana who becomes involved with a man she meets at a speed-dating event. He’s a park ranger of some description and records nature sounds as a hobby, but he has a shady past and is possibly tied to nefarious underworld figures. The title, explained as those times in the day when both hands on the clock align—more often digitally, and on a 24h clock: 23:23, or 14:14 are two examples in the script—becomes more prominent, and more important, as the film reaches its conclusion.

The narrative is a slipstream that sucks in events all around it: photos that were never taken; apparitions on security-camera monitors, blips in time that aren’t resolved until the end. This is conveyed visually through a series of short, sharp shocks, and aurally through pitch-perfect implementation of sound bridges and subliminal noises from upcoming and past scenes; Capotondi even incorporates something of a Lynchian hum—though it’s not quite as omnipresent as Lynch himself would have made it because it glides in and out of the acoustical frame. La doppia ora is a psychological puzzle film inasmuch as it’s full of visual, textual and aural clues which, added together, may help solve its central riddle—viewers should keep an eye on an inquisitive priest (who recognises our protagonist) and note the recurring use of a crimson bedspread as a signalling device in the narrative—but the ending will, to many, seem weak and almost contrived.

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