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The Fifth Cord (1971)  rating

Review: written 2020

 The Fifth Cord (1971)

This Italian giallo thriller follows an alcoholic journalist, played by Franco Nero as he becomes a suspect in a murder investigation. Nero, someone I have always found a charismatic screen presence, is terrific here – believable both in his reprehensible moments in how he treats women, and yet gaining our sympathy as we learn more about his struggle to deal with a changing society, reflected through his past and current loves. This background character study is far more interesting than the central murder mystery, but thankfully the movie is really notable for two other key elements. The music is by the maestro himself, Ennio Morricone, in a jazzy dreamy mood quite different from his Western scores. And then there is the visual, which are extremely inventive and fascinating to watch. The use of Venetian blinds to look like bars, the huge flight of steps and tiny figure running down them showing the isolation of the character, are just a couple of examples used by the cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, who won Oscars for Apocalypse Now and The Last Emperor. These elements, and Franco Nero’s performance, make this an interesting watch, and it’s a good thing too – because the plot really is lacklustre and all over the place. A lot of time seems to have been taken adding red herrings, and not enough on an actual satisfying story and conclusion. While individual scenes are tense and gripping – for example the young boy being hunted in the house, taken as a whole the narrative fails to thrill.

 The Fifth Cord (1971)
 The Fifth Cord (1971)

In fact, watching the movie turns out to be enjoyable, but only in the sense of objectively admiring the work being done. The film as a whole , despite its sometimes audacious visual panache hinting at political and social subtexts (exploitation of youth, corruption of the wealthy classes) and good performances, just fails to generate any spark and we are left with something quite beautiful, but rather vacuous, neither exciting or prurient enough to enthral.

 The Fifth Cord (1971)
 The Fifth Cord (1971)

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