J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Tulpa: Italian Giallo with Tibetan Décor

There are about one hundred Mormon congregations in Italy and they can all sleep soundly. On the other hand, the rich and kinky Commie Catholics frequenting a Buddhist-themed sex club are in deep merda. A mysterious killer decked out in a black hat and gloves is violently murdering them one by one. It is all quite disturbing for Lisa Boeri because she had club dealings with all the victims. Having it all go down during the world financial crisis is not doing her any favors either in Federico Zampaglione’s Tulpa (trailer here), which releases today on DVD in the UK.

Right, Tulpa is about as Giallo as you can get, starting with the strangely reassuring mixture of Italian and phonetic English. There is also plenty of sex and violence, so consider this a trigger warning for just about anything. To relieve stress, Boeri frequents Tulpa, an exclusive members-only club, operated by the mysterious Kiran, who serves up hallucinogenic cocktails while presiding over the nightly orgies. Boeri is one of his favorites for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, she is rather taken aback when three of her recent partners are murdered by a serial killer (just for the record, that would be two women and a man).

Of course, the police have no idea what links the victims, because they do not exactly advertise their membership (and naturally the killer collects their Tulpa cards). Boeri will try to warn her most recent hook-up while navigating the viperous office politics at her embattled financial services firm. Perhaps her two intense worlds will intersect or perhaps the killer is of her own creation. Either way, she cannot trust anyone.

According to ancient Tibetan mysticism, a Tulpa is a sort of golem that is created through meditation. That is all well and good, but Kiran, as played by the Romansh-Swiss-born Nuot Arquint, only looks marginally more Tibetan than Tilda Swinton. Frankly, the entire Tibetan Buddhist theme of the club is just bizarre, particularly all those statues of Buddha the members frolic around. Fortunately, the enlightened Buddha is past any worldly concerns. In fact, he might find humor in the situation, especially when Zampaglione is reincarnated as a bed bug.

Be that as it may or may not, Zampaglione certainly checks the rest of the Giallo boxes. Claudia Gerini (who played Pilate’s wife in The Passion of the Christ) is naked a lot as Boeri and the murders are all pretty gruesome. For further fan service, Zampaglione, his brother Federico, and Andrea Moscianese collaborated on a score that evokes classic Giallo soundtracks, but also incorporates a healthy dose of smooth boudoir jazz. Likewise, cinematographer Giuseppe Maio periodically breaks out the fish eyes for suitably distorted effects.

To recap, Tulpa offers sex, violence, gore, smoky tenor sax, and Tibetan spiritual motifs. That’s what we call fully stocked. Although the elements often make little sense (especially the deliriously illogical yet weirdly obvious final revelation), Zampaglione marshals them into a slick, uber-stylish package. It is the “guilty pleasure” in its purest, most lurid form. Recommended for genre fans, Tulpa is now available on Region 2 DVD in the UK.

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