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La Vedova Nera

Italian teen is caught in a fantasy world of murder, sex and cinema, in this Franco-Italian pithy and vibrant tribute to giallo - from the Pardi di Domani section. of the 76th Locarno Film Festival


A young male teen (played by Italian actor Siro Pedrozzi) hops on his bicycle one day after school in Marseille. He falls and hurts himself inside a tunnel. He then pops is at strange local cinema in order to use their telephone, claiming that he lost his mobile during the minor accident. The movie theatre is showing La Vedova Nera, a fictitious movie about a black widow (played by French filmmaker Marina de Van). The far and few people in the audience, however, are busy with far more mundane, carnal affairs. Suddenly reality, hallucination, allegory and the film-within-the-film morph into one single terrifying dimension.

From this point on, the storyline becomes entirely subordinate to the visuals and the sounds. And that’s fine. Sit back and enjoy the wild ride. You’re in for a delicious gumbo of cinematic tricks, references and devices.

At a taut 21 minutes, this short film pays homage to giallo movies, particularly those of Dario Argento. There is no shortage of blood and frantic running, as our helpless young man desperately attempts to escape this scary fantasy. The imagery successfully combines the dark and the sombre with the colourful and the vivid, creating a disorientating sense of space. The pervasive and incessant music score blends Italian pop music, electronic beats and frenetic strings, thereby helping to confuse and hypnotise viewers further.

The topics of sadomasochism, murder and gay sex gradually intoxicate the mind of our young protagonist. He is trapped somewhere between extreme fear and arousing. Perhaps not coincidentally, the French call the brief post-orgasmic sensation of weakening or unconsciousness “la petite mort” (“the little death”, in free translation). The effectiveness of Pedrozzi’s electrifying performance is aided by his stunning looks: he has the ephebophilic allure of Timothee Chalamet in Luca Guadagnino’s Call me By Your Name (2017).

La Vedova Nera premiered on August 11th at the Pardi di Domani section of the 76th Locarno Film Festival. Its images and sounds will echo in your head for a long time. Particularly next time you enter a creepy little cinema on your own.

This piece was published in partnership with Ubiquarian.

By Victor Fraga - 11-08-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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