Tag Archives: Dario Argento

XL Popcorn – Suspiria / Caravaggio

Two weeks later and this is no longer a wrist problem, but my whole right arm and shoulder. The dictated reviews shall continue on.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Suspiria
Director: Dario Argento
Year: 1977
Country: Italy

After watching The Bird With The Crystal Plumage I do have to admit that my interest was piqued about Dario Argento. I mean, he is just one of those names that you come across when modern horror movie directors compile their list of influences. Right alongside John Carpenter, George Romero, Wes Craven and (of course) Alfred Hitchcock. I was not too impressed with his debut effort however…

What a difference 7 years has made. I still have issues with some of the acting and dubbing performances. It is definitely a step up from The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and now just verges upon camp (probably what he was going for here). I did enjoy the performances of Alida Valli (so different from her role in Senso) and Joan Bennett as the slightly macarbre heads of the ballet school. However, I was not really won over by any of the performances of the students. Jessica Harper was okay I guess, but that’s the limit of it.

Where Suspiria really excels is the atmosphere. Let’s just start with the music. It reminded me so much of the score from The Exorcist in places and then, depending on the scene, gets rocky and distorted. The fact that the band who created the score is called Goblin just adds to interest.

Other than the music let’s talk set design. It was incredibly gorgeous. I didn’t quite buy the pit of razor wire… but I adored the geometric shapes and the liberal use of colour. Also, Argento really knows how to use lighting and silloutting.

It takes a lot for a director to be able to make something creepy without the use of jump scare. He does this once right at the beginning and after that you are left on edge. Suspriria does not rank as one of my favourite horror movies, but it was an enjoyable experience.

Title: Caravaggio
Director: Derek Jarman
Year: 1986
Country: UK

When a film has the title of one of Italy’s greatest painters and uses one of his paintings has its poster it would be forgivable to assume that the film you are about to watch is a biography of that painter’s life. Caravaggio therefore did not live up to my expectation.

In terms of contemporary films Caravaggio was released a few years after Amadeus was a massive success at the Oscars. Whilst I was not expecting Caravaggio to be as good as Amadeus I somewhat expected in its to try and do a good job of being biographical. This film is not.

Many films tell the story through flashbacks from the point of view of a dying person. However, Caravaggio does this in such a way where attached becomes confusing and inconsistent. Also, at no point in this film do I actually care about what is happening.

Caravaggio had an incredibly interesting life so I cannot help but feel that Derek Jarman missed a trick with this film. There’s no denying that the way the director incorporates Caravaggio’s paintings into the film is interesting, but so many other films have done similar things and better.

One of the big artistic points made in this film is the use of anachronism. In the paintings of Caravaggio you see that he has used contemporary clothing and other things in Biblical paintings. Jarman decides to do the same thing with this film; notable examples including a rather loud electronic calculator, and newspaper hat, typewriters and the ambient sound of trains. As I know my paintings (somewhat) I got the point. However, if you do not know Caravaggio this all looks sloppy. Hell, to me is still looks rather sloppy, like the white van visible in the background of Braveheart.

So much potential here for an interesting biography with a lot of sex and violence just wasted if you ask me.

Progress: 520/1007

XL Popcorn – The Fly / The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: The Fly
Director: David Cronenberg
Year: 1986
Country: USA

I’m so glad that I watched this without hub. I don’t think that he could have coped with the level of gore. I mean I winced quite a few times, especially when he started pulling his own fingernails out. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Fly is one of those horror films that I’ve been meaning to see for a while. I would have seen it before, but I only really started to enjoy a horror movies and in the last 6-7 years. It still hasn’t toppled The Thing as my favourite horror film of the eighties but is still a definite 9/10.

I’m really going to be conforming with a lot of critical opinion here, but and how on earth did the Academy not even extend a nomination towards Jeff Goldbloom. I mean, talk about giving your all in a performance that is sympathetic, athletic horrifying. Sure, he got a lot of help with that from the amazing make-up work (the final transformation at the end is just… wow) but it’s an outstanding performance. I also have to give major props to Geena Davis as that could not have been easy to play against. I wonder how much of the terror on her face was spurred on by legitimate disgust.

Before The Fly the only other films I had seen by David Cronenberg was Naked Lunch, which meant that I was prepared for some of the disgusting visual effects. There’s this one bit where the Geena Davis character has a nightmare after becoming pregnant with baby of Goldbloom’s scientist. She has no idea if this was before or after he began his transformation so OBVIOUSLY she fears the worst. All I can say is… I have had similar nightmares so that may have made it extra horrifying for me.

I felt a mixture of disgusted and invigorated upon the film’s conclusion. It’s not something you want to watch before having your lunch… but it’s definitely one of those essential horror films that people should see.

There are two more Cronenberg films left on this list (Videodrome and Dead Ringers). I have things are only going to get gorier and more bizzare.

Title: The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo)
Director: Dario Argento
Year: 1970
Country: Italy

Okay so this is a bit of a tenuous link, but here we have a second horror film. This time it is the directorial debut of Dario Argento: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. I have to say that whilst some of the atmosphere generated in the second quarter was palpable the film was ultimately ruined by the fact that it was so easy to work out the murderer.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve watched a lot of television procedural dramas and crime films, but I worked it out within 5 minutes of the arrest of the protagonist. That usually does not ruin a film that I feel has a lot of other things going for it have however this is a film that started to bore me.

Since it was so obvious that neither the protagonist not his girlfriend would be killed at any point in the film (a realization probably due to watching too many films) there was no tension. At all. In fact, it was hard to warm to any the characters involved. I mean why did this writer even get involved in the case? Apart from the fact that the Italian police were basically blackmailing him through the withholding of his passport.

Since I have heard of Argento I really expected there to be a lot of gore. As in orange – red thick corn starch style blood. Alas it was not meant to be. There was not even a moment where I cringed in the slightest.

I do wonder how I will get on with Suspiria once I get around to seeing it.

Progress: 492/1007