Fantastic Review: ‘Last Screening’ Feels Like a Neo-Giallo

By  · Published on October 15th, 2011

Doing homage well is a difficult enough task, but creating a new film that harkens back to a certain genre or timeperiod provides a whole new set of issues. While there’s been a onslaught of grindhouse homages in the wake of Rodriguez and Tarantino’s double-feature Grindhouse, giallo has also seen a few entries. Perhaps the best or at least most widely recognized title was the Belgian film Amer, a fever-dream of a movie told in three parts. While Amer nailed the framing, lighting, color and soundtrack that epitomized Italian giallo films, it did so at the expense of story, featuring a fractured, blurred narrative. It’s a case of style over substance and while the style is certainly impressive, the substance is certainly missed. Last Screening is another film that wears its giallo influences on its proverbial sleeve, but it does so in service of the story being told.

Sylvain (Pascal Cervo) is a bit of a loner. He spends his days working in a small cinema as a sort of one man band selling tickets, working the projection booth and acting as general manager. His nights are dedicated to more sinister passions, hunting down young woman and murdering them, taking a very specific item as a souvenir. Unfortunately, the theater isn’t doing so well and the owner has decided to shut it down. Sylvain takes almost no notice of this, continuing on as if nothing is happening, assuring the theaters’s few loyal patrons that the rumors about closing are untrue and even going so far as to call the ad department at the local newspaper to ensure that the screening times will continue to be printed as usual. A little light is shed on this odd behavior when we discover that Sylvain has been living in a small room in the basement unbeknownst to anyone, including the owner. His life is tied up in the theater and he can’t imagine that changing. But it is his nocturnal pursuits that may cause him the most problems.

The film is a character study about Sylvain, focusing on his present while sprinkling in flashbacks to his past. These flashbacks center on young Sylvain’s strange relationship with his mother, a disturbed women obsessed with cinema. These revealing scenes shed a flickering light on Sylvain’s current compulsions and give his actions more meaning. Pascal Cervo shines in the difficult role with a creepy, unsettling performance. His acting elevates the material, making the character interesting if not exactly sympathetic.

In the aforementioned Grindhouse, Rodriguez and Tarantino present two different ways of doing homage. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror attempts to feel like an actual grindhouse film, something that could have been released on the dingy screens of 42nd street in the 80s. Alternatively, Tarantino’s Death Proof is a film that clearly takes place in the present but works in several sly nods to the films to which it is paying tribute. Last Screening falls into the Planet Terror category. Aside from some cars on the streets and a few of other modern items, it could easily have come out in the 70s alongside giallo classics like Black Belly of the Tarantula. It’s bright red blood, almost primary red, alongside its framing and grungy high-grain film stock make it feel right at home as a giallo.

The Upside: Totally gets the feel and tone of giallo films, using the conventions to drive an interesting narrative.

The Downside: Perhaps a bit too artsy for its own good

On the Side: The official French title is Derniere Seance, which, according to Google Translate, means “Final Session.” Close enough.