|Malleus Rock Art Lab|
But as disappointing as the movie may be as a movie, it is interesting to look at as a piece of Argento's filmography in the way it continues to develop a variety of his common themes.
Nonsensical science and technology are invented as a means of finding the killer (here they are discovered by looking at the last image imprinted on a victim's eyes), but the provided answer isn't quite enough. Technology in his films always gives us something that doesn't help until it's already too late, until we've already figured it out ourselves anyway (We don't know what the "four flies on grey velvet" are until the killer attacks their final victim). This always feels to me like a commentary on our attempts to objectify or pin down our own identity with machines that fundamentally don't understand us.
Argento's visual style is also very much in evidence here. Point of view shots from the killer's perspective are used to get the audience close to the murders—closer than they feel comfortable being—without revealing the killer's identity. Argento also has a penchant for using murder weapons which are relatable to the audience: most of us haven't been shot by a gun before, but we've all cut ourselves shaving. He uses this along with the camera as another method of getting the audience as close to the murders as possible.
Finally (and most problematically), the film also continues Argento's exploration of the links between psychology and sexuality. Early on, we hear a character explaining how libidinal frustration can create homicidal impulses in people. This is then connected back to the murders themselves, which are often sexual in nature (expressing the repressed tensions, but also in the eroticism of the camera's gaze). Where this gets problematic is Argento's portrayal of queer sexuality: it's so offensively stereotypical it borders on homophobia.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet is not quite my flavor of Argento, but it nonetheless feels like a small part of the larger puzzle of his filmography, and for that reason it's at least somewhat compelling.