Despite 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
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."
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.
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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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.
The "mother" of
all horror movies
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."
For the love
smoke and mirrors
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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