Dario Argento: (was) a master of thrills

Darius SilverGreat Thrill Master Italian cinematographer, was born on September 7, 1941 in Rome.

Passionate about cinema and the world he grew up in (his father is producer Salvatore Argento, his mother is a Brazilian photographer), he first critic, then screenwriter: the most notable contribution remains participation in writing Once upon a time in the West Sergio Leone with another future great name of Italian cinema Bernardo Bertolucci in 1968.

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First two horror thrillers Dario Argento, Bird with crystal feathers (1970, film originally planned for Terence Young) e cat with nine tails (1971), presented as exercises Antonio-Hitchcocks in which the young Italian director loves to deceive the senses of the audience.

In addition to great masterpieces, Argento also presents honest masterpieces. Police series B, stylized and studded with cinephilic references and sadistic details, to the incredible music of Ennio Morricone. Same for 4 gray velvet flies (1971), a more personal film that concludes this first crime and mannerist trilogy.

On the contrary, the following films are his main works. deep red (1975) Suspiria (1977) and Hell (1979) reveal real wild and hallucinatory visions of a filmmaker under various influences: drugs, the occult, progressive rock, black magic…

Hit trilogy

deep red is a police investigation marked by bloody murders, with a baroque staging in the grand tradition”Yellow» Italian, but which also returns Explode borrowing David Hemmings from Antonioni’s masterpiece, as well as his game with the traps of the image, once their metaphysical considerations are eliminated.

IN SuspiriaA young American dancer (Jessica Harper) arrives at a dance school in Freiburg, Germany, and discovers that the terrifying mansion houses a coven of witches. Dario Argento, between two Val Lewton and Fritz Lang quotescreates his “hallucinated” version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (identical decorative motifs in both films), a bloody story with surreal fires and scenes of paroxysmal violence, close to the great puppet and voodoo trance.

Suspiria remains one of the most nightmarish cinematic experiences, due to the director’s voluntary break with narrative logic and the unheard of aggressiveness of his images, to the point of seeming more like a psychedelic rock opera than a horror movie traditional. In Argento, surface director, depth (psychological or visual) does not exist. This decorative obsession produces amazing directorial artefacts and influences the direction of actors, expressionist figurines whose performances rediscover the hysterical intensity of Italian silent film divas. The script is held together by a thread of riddle, the key to which is clearly hidden among the decorative elements, a labyrinth overloaded with motifs designed to interpret the fragile heroine.

It happens to this modern fear classic Hell, which prolongs Argento’s alchemical delirium. Final chapter trilogy of three mothers – three terrifying harpies guarding the gates of hell in Freiburg, Rome and New York – was rejected by the director for a long time (partly out of superstition) before he decided to sign a contract in 2007. Third Motherprobably the most ridiculous of his films, which is best forgotten.

IN Hellcontinuation Suspiriaa young woman tells her brother about the existence of palaces in Rome, Freiburg and New York built by the same architect and which house Three Motherswitch guardians of the Gates of Hell.

Hell this is a real psychedelic work on the topicalchemyundoubtedly Argento’s most insane masterpiece, visually luxurious and subject to the logic of nightmares.

The best films of Argento effectively use color:V Hell variations of pink and orange are inspired by Pre-Raphaelite painting and represent extraordinary chromatic creations of the cinematographer. Romano Albaniin contrast to the aggressive colors of Suspiria, whose photographs were curated by Lucian tables.

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IN Dark (1982) An American writer of successful crime novels, while in Rome, becomes involved in a series of bloody murders committed by a fanatical reader. hyperrealism Dark and the light inspired by the American television series of the 80s only emphasizes the cruelty, coldness and violence of the film, in which all the characters are unpleasant and die from knife or ax blows.

A turning point

phenomenon (1984) was underestimated by Argento fans upon its release, mainly due to the excesses of “heavy metal” in the soundtrack. In a film in a Swiss college, a girl who can communicate with insects finds the trail of a sadistic killer. This unusual initial idea, although based on scientific reality, gives rise to amazing and poetic images.

phenomenon marks a turning point in the career of the Italian director who, as usual, draws on expressionist cinema and productions Val Lewton (the whole scene is simulated after the introduction Curse of the Cat People), but refuses baroque and bloody excesses Hell or Dark and shoots his movie on the side Lewis Carroll and a fairy tale, despite the usual scenes of brutal murders.

Her fragile heroine, who has the lunar beauty of a young Jennifer Connelly (she was noticed by Argento in the film of his friend Sergio Leone). Once upon time in America) travels through a terrifying world populated by monstrous humans and benevolent animals. Silver makeup with natural elements (Water, Wind, Night, Forest) an addictive dream track game through traps, visual puzzles and magical moments.

Reclaiming the public

In 2001, after a commercial disaster (Stendhal syndromehis unknown masterpiece) and artistic disaster (Phantom of the Opera), Silver returns to his first love, Yellow.

i’m not sleepy this gives him the opportunity to return the favor of the fans in the first hour. Announced as a remake Deep red because it was also filmed in Turin, with the same second role (Gabriel Lavia) and noting the reform Goblins whose memorable music contributed greatly to the fame of the little master.

I am not sleepy it’s more like a painstaking compilation of the style and stage effects used in all of Argento’s previous blockbusters. Thus, his famous morbid fetishism is transformed here into a sequence of close-ups of dissimilar objects (from a pen to a mug of beer), which, as we know, will announce a turn in thirty seconds.

Beginning of decline

The latest film is a mechanical and predictable narrative that can no longer mask the script’s ineptitude, Argento’s longtime great weakness. Virtuoso results of the first twenty minutes dead end containing Silver is reduced to one caricature of himself.

Long and irreversible reject Argento’s work continues with Cardmaker and TV movie Do you like Hitchcock?or again Third Mother AND Yellow which look like rambling and almost boring TV movies to fans of the genre who bought DVDs in the early 2000s.

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To the great surprise of viewers and critics, in 2012 the film Dracula 3D selected in the official selection, out of competition Cannes. And Dario Argento becomes a model victim Italian cinema crisis and his inspiration.

Not that he was much of a surprise: with both the best and worst films, he was neglected by the major festivals of the world because he was never among the respectable and serious directors when he was at the top of his career, maintaining his rock star status.

Another very flat version – despite being 3D – of Dracula, with papier-mâché actors, dialogue and sets, and only one original idea in the script: Dracula often transforms into animal (an owl, a wolf, a fly, and even in a giant religious cloak – a scene from the movie).

Film from the late 60’s and early 70’s Category B (or at least C) vampire movies they had great success in Italy and Spain. Dario Argento, compared to Antonioni in his debut, achieved Dracula 3D an anachronistic movie with big-breasted starlets, long, no-action scenes, and near-cheap shenanigans.

Black glasses

In 2022, the last work of Dario Argento: Black glasses starring Ylenia Pastorelli as Diana, a prostitute who is stalked by serial killers. A failed chase will result in Diana’s blindness and the death of a Chinese family that happens to be there, leaving behind Chin (no pun intended), a ten-year-old boy who becomes a co-star. sole survivor. The film is devoid of the detective element typical of the thriller genre and devoid of unexpected twists: fans were disappointed by the happy ending and the superficiality with which the themes that could offer great ideas, including exciting ones, are (not) treated.

The film grossed just under €170,000. about 10 times cheaper than it costs.

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