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Boring, boring, boring! I just could not get into this at all. Based on Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, it's about an aspiring writer who travels across West Germany with a group of artistic oddballs, comprised of a poet, an actress, a 'singer' and a mute acrobat. The film feels very stilted and artificial; it's full of pompous speeches, with hardly any dramatic content. It doesn't help that none of the artists seem to be especially talented at their chosen disciplines; maybe something is being lost in translation, but the writer and the poet's musings are self-obsessed and pretentious, the actress is not actress enough to fool the writer when she tries to pass off a piece of pure invention as a dream she had the previous night, and the self-proclaimed singer doesn't really sing, perhaps because he's invariably got a harmonica stuck in his gob. Nastassja Kinski, whose first film this was, just juggles badly and performs the odd cartwheel; if that's all it takes to be an acrobat, I'm running off to join the circus... A film about alienation, best left alone.
"The House with Laughing Windows" is a relentlessly depressing and, I found, a deeply disappointing 'giallo'. It deserves praise for avoiding those superfluous, atmosphere-sapping attempts at comedy that mar even the best examples of the genre - Dario Argento's "Deep Red" included - but, in all honesty, the plotting is as audaciously daft as ever. Fatally, the central mystery is not as absorbing as it should be, and the film is neither stylishly directed nor especially technically competent. It also contains a couple of the most risible love scenes I think I've ever seen. The atmosphere is unusually oppressive but, rather irritatingly, it's largely achieved via faintly sinister members of the supporting cast, who constantly drift in and out but never stick around long enough to be characterised. The glut of unanswered questions, and the unfair way in which the killer's identity is concealed - a common fault of gialli - are also annoying. We see little of the murders, probably for the very good reason that, retrospectively, it's impossible to imagine the victims being overpowered in the first place. The movie is mostly just Lino Capolicchio, walking around looking puzzled and miserable. Considering its strong reputation among exploitation aficionados, this is perhaps the most disappointing movie I've seen this year.