Giuseppe Capotondi's Italian puzzler "The Double Hour" is a multi-layered story that resists easy definition. Like many, I was lured into the film by the usual devices. The DVD packaging promises a thriller with the overused (and seldom accurate) adjective Hitchcockian being employed. But the movie is considerably more complex than its advertising tagline "A Romance. A Robbery. A Mystery." would have you believe. I'm not saying this to be critical, but to help realign viewer expectations. Anyone approaching "The Double Hour" anticipating non-stop thrills and suspense will not have these expectations met. Rather this is a serious-minded drama that unravels a puzzle which leaves the audience (and the characters) questioning the nature of reality itself. As an intellectual exercise, I really liked this experience and for viewers that don't need everything spelled out--this is an investment well worth taking.
Made in 2009, "The Double Hour" is just now getting a North American DVD distribution deal despite its initial critical success. At the Venice International Film Festival of that year, it swept the major categories winning Best Italian Film, Best Actor (Filippo Timi), and Best Actress (Ksenia Rappoport). It is a film that really makes the most of its enigmatic art-house vibe. But it is also a film that should be left to unravel at its own pace without spoilers. Any of the reviews that reveal too much of the plot are simply doing the movie a disservice. At its primary level, the movie focuses on the relationship between Timi (a former cop and security guard) and Rappoport (a hotel maid and Slovenian immigrant). The two meet at a speed-dating event in Turin, both seem irreparably damaged by complicated relationships in their past, and both are somewhat reluctant to jump into something new. Despite their reservations, however, this casual meeting develops further until one date turns to tragedy.
The movie is then redefined by an act of violence. I will not divulge anymore, but suffice it to say--we're now left trying to piece together exactly what happened. It is well executed and particularly well acted. Rappoport, in particular, utilizes a world weary grace that is mesmerizing (and I kept getting hints of Mad Men's Christina Hendricks). As a psychological mystery, "The Double Hour" poses a number of interesting questions. In fact, I think it is open-ended enough to be interpreted in several different ways and I always think that's a fascinating dynamic. As long as you aren't expecting edge-of-your-seat thrills, this one has a lot to recommend itself to the right audience. KGHarris, 3/12.