By Breanna Whipple
CALGARY – With arthritic fingers adorned by gaudy cocktail rings and cherry red acrylic nails digging deep into glistening skin in the thralls of ecstasy, we are familiar with the lovers tango of the early ’70s. Sexual liberation – a theme exploited time and time again throughout the past four decades and beyond has become a well-admired trope in the world of cinema. Psychedelic overtones carved and jaded by a glaring blade, blood spewing forth in a primal, orgasmic geyser… An interesting juxtaposition is displayed. Pain and pleasure, heaven and hell… Pummelling expectations and pushing boundaries, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is a surrealistic psychodrama progressing in a twisted, malformed dream-death state.
Perfectly exemplifying the giallo genre, a term used to describe Italian thrillers which predated and influenced the later slasher film genre, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is an enticing murder mystery largely exploring the confines of the mind. Due to this, not much can be said without spoiling a truly underrated masterpiece in Lucio Fulci’s, famed Italian ‘Godfather of Gore’, grotesque filmography. Without giving too much away, the plot centers around Carol (Florinda Bolkan), a young insomniac woman plagued by haunting dreams, and with her darling neighbour found slaughtered with details she can recall with startling clarity, her dreams have seemingly been brought to fruition.
Etched partly in the imaginative world of dreams, the effervescent use of psychedelic colours and patterns contrasting with the otherwise monochromatic nature of the film employs a visually stunning ride throughout the 95 minute run-time. Tapping slightly into the atmosphere of gothic traditionalism, the film serves as a window peering into the stylistic take on early ’70s romanticism. The unrelenting projection of taboo themes including sexual liberation, lesbianism, and use of hallucinogens allow connections to not only underground classics such as The Velvet Vampire (1971), but even critically acclaimed titles such as A Clockwork Orange (1971). Much like the controversy Stanley Kubrick ignited in the latter film, Fulci was not safe from such fates with this erotic nightmare.
Though predating Fulci’s rather abhorrent, gore-ridden endeavours he would later become known for, the blood and guts are used sparingly in this case. Worth noting, however, is the uncomfortable realism used in a particularly shocking scene in the third act in which our leading lady happens upon a trio of disemboweled dogs. The fictitious gore was so believable that special effects artist, Carlo Rambaldi, had to testify in court that his work was fake. Predating the ill-famed, controversial works of films such as Cannibal Holocaust (1980), this marked the first occasion in which an artist had to attend court to prove themselves free of engaging in any homicidal behaviour.
If all the sex, drugs, and violence aforementioned has somehow not sold you, then both alternative cinema admirers and Fulci fans, please hear me out – Though largely praised for his use of extravagant gore, A Lizard in A Woman’s Skin proves there is more that meets the eye gouge when it comes to Lucio Fulci.
Catch A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin on Friday, March 23 at the Globe Cinema.A Clockwork Orange, A Lizard in A Woman's Skin, Cannibal Holocaust, Globe Cinema, Lizard Woman, The Velvet Vampire