Footprints on the Moon
Italy: Luigi Bazzoni, 1975
Some films are so completely nutty that the only way of understanding just how nutty they are is to see them for yourself. This is certainly the case with Footprints on the Moon, which also goes by the names of Primal Impulse or just Footprints (its original Italian title is Le Orme, which translates as “the tracks”, i.e. footprints). This 1975 piece was made by Luigi Bazzoni and his regular cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who in 1971 had collaborated on a giallo called The Fifth Cord, which was very impressive to look at but rather inremarkable in the script department. Footprints on the Moon is generally referred to as Bazzoni’s “other giallo”, but in truth I think that label is somewhat tenuous. The word “giallo” conjures up different things for different people, but I think it’s fairly self-evident that anyone expecting the usual black-gloved serial killer affair, as popularised by Dario Argento, will be slightly disappointed by this film. Likewise, even those whose definition of the giallo is broader will probably find the content of the film a bit surprising. The nearest point of comparison I can think of is The Perfume of the Lady in Black, another Italian thriller from the same period which dealt with the similar subject matter of a woman whose sanity is crumbling.
Florinda Bolkan (A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) stars as Alice, a translator being haunted by nightmares of a rather creepy black and white sci-fi film starring Klaus Kinski as the sinister Blackmann. She believes she remembers seeing the film once, but the dreams are incredibly vivid and seem almost real. Following one of these dreams, Alice awakens to discover that she has forgotten the events of the past three days. Initially led to believe that she has actually been asleep for this duration of time, she becomes suspicious when various clues lead her to the Turkish island of Garma, where various locals clearly remember her having visited only a few days ago - an event of which Alice has no recollection. Even more strangely, they all address her as Nicole.
Footprints on the Moon is considerably more avant-garde than its predecessor. While The Fifth Cord was essentially the work of an experimental crew saddled with a conventional script, this one makes absolutely no attempt to be “normal”. Right from the start something seems to be off: there is a sense of distance and artificiality, conveyed by the careful camerawork and set dressing. The washed-out pan and scan transfer of my copy makes it difficult to appreciate the cinematography, but even so Bazzoni and Storaro’s fascinating use of angles and geometric architecture is readily evident. Likewise, there use of primary colours recalls their work on The Fifth Cord, with night scenes where the entire screen is bathed in blue and a slow motion climax with pumped contrasts and heavy colour tinting. As befits a film in which the protagonist’s mental faculties are being called into question, we’re never quite sure whether what we’re seeing or hearing is real or all in her head.
There’s a sense at times that the imagery is just a little too crazy to be entirely successful: the use of the aforementioned sci-fi movie is, to an extent, explained at the end, but it doesn’t exactly fit the tone of the rest of the film, and much of it tends to be a little on the cheesy side. I’m also not sure I’d call the film as good as The Fifth Cord - its narrative is certainly considerably more imaginative, but it does at times overstep the mark and end up simply being weird for the sake of weirdness. In balance, The Fifth Cord was more successful because it was less ambitious in its intentions. Still, Footprints on the Moon is a unique, atmospheric, and visually arresting film that really needs a legitimate DVD release so that these qualities can be fully appreciated. 8/10