THE VALLEY OF THE RATS (a.k.a. Odissea Della Morte) * Italy / Canada 2017 Dir: Vince D’Amato 67 mins (Alternate version: 80 mins)
Canadian film festival curator / filmmaker Vince D’Amato’s latest begins as it means to go on by immediately disappearing up its own arse. Referring to what we are about to see as both a “poem” and a contemporary insight into class conflict and taboos, it uses a simple thriller set-up as the springboard for an exercise in artistic indulgence.
The protagonist is on a mission to find the killer of his ex-girlfriend – and thus prove his innocence. From the backseat of a rented limo, this mission allows him to experience first hand the city’s grimy underbelly. The elliptical, non-linear narrative – divided into meaningless chapters – becomes a portentous series of vignettes incorporating boring characters drinking coffee, unerotic softcore sex, bondage, fashion shoots and giallo-inspired gore. The latter stages almost completely forsake dialogue – a merciful relief from the excruciating interactions and awful sound quality of the earlier scenes. It doffs its cinematic hat to everyone from David Lynch to Dario Argento and aims for a hallucinatory sensory assault, but sadly only reaches the level of an obnoxious, painfully pretentious glorified student film that also manages to waste the distinctive Lynn Lowry (“even old flesh is erotic flesh…”) and Tristan Risk in disposable cameos.
Review by Steven West