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I Walked with a Zombie

Piazza Grande

I Walked with a Zombie

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© Beta Film / Deutsches Filminstitut, Frankfurt-KINEOS Collection

What is the best way to end the day? According to Manuel Puig: enjoying a nice movie. Maybe a supernatural story. After about 150 pages of his 1976 novel Kiss of the Spider Woman, one of Puig's characters starts to recall a strange movie he saw many years before, which told the story of a female zombie. It's I walked with a Zombie that Jacques Tourneur made for RKO in 1943 with the supervision of producer Val Lewton. Puig's novel confirms the strange aura that surrounds the movie. Thomas Pynchon quotes it in Inherent Vice. The great rocker Roky Erickson named one of his tracks I Walked with a Zombie. Pedro Costa had it in mind for Casa de Lava. The movie inspired many artists. Tourneur had always considered I Walk with a Zombie one of his best movies, even if it was produced with a very low budget (but the idea of “greatness” had never something to do with money for Tourneur). The movie? Exotic setting, voodoo rituals, a love story that makes us recall Jane Eyre. The cinematography is outstanding, a perfect black and white that completely gives back the underlying tense of the story. A sort of magnificent spell. On the wall of Jessica's room, the sick wife of the rich owner of St. Sebastian’s island, there's a copy of Arnold Böcklin's Isle of the dead. The movie was quite unappreciated, it was considered an unidentified object, but later it became a cult movie. One of those movies one should watch late at night, surrounded by the magic of the Piazza Grande.

Rinaldo Censi
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