AKA The Driver’s Seat
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DIRECTED BY: Giuseppe Patroni Griffi
FEATURING: Elizabeth Taylor, Gino Giuseppe, , Maxence Mailfort
PLOT: Having been fired from her job after a nervous breakdown, Lise travels to Italy to find the man of her destiny.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA: The fractured narrative, which freely jumps back, forth, and freeze-frames, disorients the viewer ceaselessly as we try to figure out just what Lise is up to as she has random and unlikely encounters in a version of Rome which appears to have been cast into the Uncanny Valley by a miffed deity.
COMMENTS: Elizabeth Taylor brings the goods full to the fore as Lise, pivoting between blasé tourist, unhinged pixie woman, and ferocious lioness—all while sporting a rainbow-seared traveling dress. This dress, which is quite the eye-catching sight among many eye-catching sights, somehow manages to get the jump on us. Identikit opens from the neck up, so to speak, as the camera follows Elizabeth Taylor’s famous face gazing around an undefined space filled with aluminum-foil-topped mannequins. Then, a medium shot, and we see the dress, a dress I suspect is one of the more famous in motion picture history. Lise loves it! The German saleswoman tells her it also has been rendered stain resistant. Lise hates it! A fit ensues, a senior clerk is summoned, Lise is calmed with an untreated dress, and so an ambiguous adventure begins.
Identikit‘s somewhat odd beginning shifts into full-blown ambiguity during a scene at the Hamburg airport. Shortly after advising an elderly woman which dime-novel might be “more exciting, more sadomasochistic,” Lise retrieves her boarding pass. The frame freezes on Lise’s face (and wild ‘do, which veers between being free-spirited and crazy), and a voiceover breathlessly communicates an Interpol investigation. Throughout, the director doesn’t shy away from further still shots, as well as copious timeline-ambiguating interviews between those who interact with Lise—airplane passengers, porters, a nobleman played by Andy Warhol, because it’s 1974 and why not?—and even the Italian police, who are also neck-deep in a sub-sub-plot investigation into terrorists, bombings, and a Middle Eastern royal in hiding.
The story isn’t illogical in its progression, but doesn’t make clear its arc until the final scene involving a young, mild-mannered Nova Scotian who wears a size nine shoe. Countless such details are dropped into the dialogue as Lise spends a hectic day in Rome before her assignation at a park pavilion. There, a delightfully chaotic mountain of park chairs graces the otherwise orderly park-scape, mirroring Lise’s coif. And even when the story becomes clear (enough), the purpose remains something of a cipher—mirroring Lise herself.
Elizabeth Taylor’s dedication to this character is apparent: from her wild hair, to her dramatic makeup, and down the length of the psychedelic dress. As an exercise in dramatic storytelling, Identikit keeps the viewer on their toes, with promise of a crime (or crimes) to be unearthed. But it is more a character study, dissecting a single frenetic day in the life of a woman who has obviously been much put-upon, and who has decided to let go of everything in order to determine existence on her own terms.
Indentikit is available as part of the “House of Psychotic Women” box set (reviewed here), or can be rented on-demand separately.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: