Gialloween Day 8: The Pyjama Girl Case
The Pyjama Girl Case is an interesting offshoot of the genre. An Italian take on a real life 1930’s Australian murder case set in the 70’s, what distinguishes the film from others is its focus on characterization and unique dual narrative structure. More of a drama / police procedural than conventional giallo, it is a commendable film that should be seen by fans of the genre looking to expand their selection.
A body found on the beach with a mangled / partially burned off face. Police are at a loss as to identify both the victim and perpetrator. A retired inspector shows interest in the case and begins to lend a helping hand. Alongside this, we follow a beautiful young woman Glenda, who is juggling jobs as well as lovers. Meeting a third, they soon marry while she continues to see the other two.
For the most part, I found Glenda’s narrative more compelling than the police one. Outside of the trance-like public exhibition of the corpse in hopes of finding a lead toward identifying the victim, the paint by numbers police plot and visuals paired with an annoyed performance of the inspector don't stand well on its own. Thankfully the film does an admirable job of switching between the main murder plot with Glenda’s.
Glenda is often seen going from job to job, lover to lover. Rather than showing this as something exciting, the film tends to focus on each relationship’s troubles more than their joys. Glenda herself looks uninterested and listless during most of the film. Wanting something more than what she has, desperately trying to find something in relationships that ultimately end up unfulfilling. When asked by a lover about her new married life, she poignantly replies “Nothing’s really changed much. Two lonely people together are worse than one.” A more salient exchange between the two have her answer the question why she can’t be happy with an apt “I just don’t know”.
The film’s soundtrack by genre mainstay, Riz Ortolani, reinforces the hollow and lonely lifestyle with tracks that are as equally wistful. The film’s main instrumental theme soundtracks many instances in which Glenda and other immigrant characters, wonder where their life Sydney went wrong and when it will get better. The film’s more upbeat tracks feature a couple of synth/disco pop hybrids as well. Catchily supported with vocals from Amanda Lear, the off-kilter performance adds a sense of unease that compliments the downward slope of Glenda’s life.
The delivery of two concurrent storylines works in the beginning but drags in the middle. That said, the film does come up wonderfully relating the two in a surprising way, and the disheartening ending is all the more impactful when it happens. Definitely more of a downer, it is still worth checking out if only for the clever narrative and wonderful soundtrack.