Kinoeye:  The fornightly journal of film in the new Europe

Vol 2
Issue 11
10 June

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Assault on the senses
The horror legacy of Dario Argento

"In its sheer enigmatic weirdness, Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977) serves to remind us that no film is ever really a text, but always an experience." Adam Simon*

Dario ArgentoDespite the originality, diversity and eccentricity of his work, Dario Argento's name is synonymous with Italian horror—and increasingly with horror cinema in general. The controversy generated by his films has been matched only by the interest they inevitably provoke and by their often overwhelming audiovisual design. In this two-part Kinoeye special, eleven scholars shed new historical, formal and theoretical light on the "Argento experience."

Part one: 1970 to 1980

Umberto Lenzi's Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso (Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, 1971)Playing with genre
An introduction to the Italian giallo

In this historical-theoretical introduction to the giallo as it has developed in the Italian cinema, Gary Needham explains why this perenially popular form is less a genre than "a conceptual category with highly moveable and permeable boundaries that shift around from year to year."

Dario Argento's L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo (The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, 1970)Intimations of colonialism
L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo
(The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, 1970)

Opening up a new direction in Argento scholarship, Frank Burke here looks at the presence of colonialist themes and references in L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo. Among the forms of social domination present in this giallo classic are those of encagement, exploitation and compulsive accumulation.

Dario Argento's Il gatto a nove code (The Cat O' Nine Tails, 1971)From punctum to Pentazet
Il gatto a nove code
(The Cat O' Nine Tails, 1971) and
Quattro mosche di velluto grigio
(Four Flies on Grey Velvet, 1972)

In this "personal interpretation" of two of Argento's earliest films, Gary Needham looks at how each one relates to the giallo form, raising central issues of gender dynamics and the Italian horror film's fixation with boundary transgression.

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Dario Argento's Profondo rosso (Deep Red, 1975)The principles
of association

Profondo rosso (Deep Red, 1975)

Aaron Smuts employs the philosopher David Hume's reflections on causality and the association of ideas to shed light on Argento's horror-producing effects, particularly in Profondo rosso.

Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977)The "mother" of
all horror movies

Suspiria (1977)

In this multi-layered examination of Argento's undisputed magnum opus, Linda Schulte-Sasse analyses the use of gothic spaces and sly references to fascism and the film's eligibility for being "Disney's hidden reverse."

Dario Argento's Inferno (1980)For the love of
smoke and mirrors

Inferno (1980)

Showing precisely where and how the film's detractors have misunderstood Argento's aims, Jodey Castricano argues convincingly for Inferno's place as a key work of dream-logic and self-reflexivity in the director's oeuvre.

Part two (1981-2002) coming next issue—24 June

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Assault on the senses: The horror legacy of Dario Argento
Guest editor: Steven Jay Schneider
With thanks to: Nick Dawe (Dark Dreams), Alan Jones and Frank Lafond

* Adam Simon, "Suspiria." In Understanding Film Genres: Film through Genres, Genre through Films, ed Sara Pendergast, Tom Pendergast and Steven Jay Schneider (New York: McGraw-Hill & Co, forthcoming 2003).return to text

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