Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

entry June 2021
 
Dario ARGENTO (b. 1940) is a director, producer, screenwriter and critic. If you read briefly about the history of Italian cinema, you know that it has been influential and important. Everyone in the world knows something about Italian films and most people can name at least a couple of famous Italian movie stars.  If you read about it too quickly, however, you may come away with the impression that Italian films went from the serious and weighty (though sometimes funny) intellectualism of Neorealism to a lighter weight kind of film as an antidote to the misery of WW2. In a way, there is a lot of truth in that; indeed, some of the same neorealist directors changed their style when the tide of history changed. For example, Vittorio De Sica, who directed perhaps the most depressing film ever made, Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves) (1948) 15 years later came up with Ieri, oggi, domani (usually Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow in English) a hilarious "anthology" comedy in three parts, all starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, paired in each segment, but as different characters. Fair enough. But that may be a bit too facile. If you need a diversion from the agonies of a lost war, there are films that fit in nicely in the work of Dario Argento.  His influential work in the horror genre during the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in the kind known as the giallo,* made him the "Master of the Thrill" and the "Master of Horror". His films as director include the "Animal Trilogy", consisting of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971); the "Three Mothers" trilogy, consisting of Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and The Mother of Tears (2007); and the standalone films Deep Red (1975), Tenebrae (1982), Phenomena (1985), and Opera (1987). He also co-wrote the screenplay for Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and was George A. Romero's script consultant on Dawn of the Dead (1978).
Giallo (Italian pronunciation: [ˈdʒallo]; plural gialli) is the Italian term designating mystery fiction and thrillers. The word giallo is Italian for yellow. The term derives from a series of cheap paperback mystery and crime thriller novels with yellow covers that were popular in Italy. In the context of 20th-century literature and film, especially among English speakers and non-Italians in general, giallo refers specifically to a particular Italian thriller-horror genre that has mystery or detective elements and often contains slasher, crime fiction, psychological thriller, psychological horror, sexploitation, and, less frequently, supernatural horror elements.
I desist from further critical comment because I have never watched a whole film by Dario Argento. I don't like them. I don't like zombie films, the living dead, guys with nails in their skulls running around and all of that nonsense. I am thoroughly unqualified to talk to you
about the merits of such films. I pass. I can only say that Argento has been highlighted in various retrospectives by intellectuals with lots of letters after their names. He used to have some serious zombie-cred, but in general his reputation since the the 1980s has declined. No comment.


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