Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds

Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento

Maitland McDonagh
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsc3t
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds
    Book Description:

    Italian filmmaker Dario Argento’s horror films are psychologically rich, colorful, and at times garish, excelling at taking the best elements of the splatter and exploitation genres and laying them over a dark undercurrent of human emotions and psyches. Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds, which dissects Argento cult films, includes a new introduction discussing Argento’s most recent films, an updated filmography, and an interview with Argento.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7342-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION: HEART OF DARKNESS: TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY NIGHTMARES
    (pp. vii-xxviii)

    By 1976, I had seen plenty of Euro-thrillers, but I had never seen anything likeDeep Red.It wasn’t the story that stuck with me months, and then years, after I encountered it at the Victoria, a shabby, once-grand movie theater on Forty-sixth and Broadway. It was the overwhelming visceral experience of it, equal parts visual—vivid colors and bizarre camera angles, dizzying pans and flamboyant tracking shots, disorienting framing and composition, fetishistic close-ups of quivering eyes and weird objects (knives, dolls, marbles, braided scraps of wool)—and aural.Deep Red’sthrobbing progressive-rock score was almost hypnotic, and alternated with...

  4. Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds
    • AN INTRODUCTION TO THE DARK DREAMS OF DARIO ARGENTO
      (pp. 3-34)

      A man named Flitcraft had left his real-estate office, in Tacoma, to go to luncheon one day and had never returned... here’s what happened to him. Going to lunch he passed an office building that was being put up - just the skeleton. A beam or something fell eight or ten stories down and smacked the sidewalk alongside him. It brushed pretty close to him, but didn’t touch him, though a piece of the sidewalk was chipped off and flew up and hit his cheek. It only took a piece of skin off, but he still had the scar when...

    • THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE
      (pp. 35-58)

      “To reproach Hitchcock for specializing in suspense is to accuse him of being the least boring of filmmakers,” wrote Francois Truffaut. His enthusiasm for the thriller in the hands of a skilful director, however, isn’t universally shared. It may take lot of nerve to deny Hitchcock’s greatness, but the thriller is still a low-rent genre; everybody’s surprised when one actually turns out to begreat,not just entertaining or pretty good or even great for a thriller. For all that highbrow critics and scholars have their reservations,auteurthinking has filtered down to the mass-market writers and the movie-going public...

    • THE CAT O’NINE TAILSand FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET
      (pp. 59-90)

      The worldwide success ofThe Bird With the Crystal Plumagesimplified the financing of Argento’s second film, whose title -The Cat O’Nine Tails -may well be the most irrelevant he ever concocted, thoughFour Flies on Grey Velvetprovides stiff competition. The picture that was “nine times more suspenseful” thanThe Bird With the Crystal Plumage -or so claimed the copywriters who conceived the American advertising campaign - was set against a backdrop of genetic research and industrial espionage, but its underlying thematic concerns are very much in line with those of its predecessor: the almost limitless...

    • LE CINQUE GIORNATE and DEEP RED
      (pp. 91-122)

      Having made threegialliin as many years, Argento began work - again with Luigi Cozzi - on a film that was to be a substantial change of pace. Before the film’s release, Cozzi offered this account inPhotonmagazine:

      Four Flieswas still being edited when Dario began work on his next film, to be titledThe Five Days of Milan [Le cinque giornate].It’s a comic venture set during a revolution that took place in 1848. As I write this, shooting has just been completed and the film is slated for release at Christmas 1973. Dario chose to...

    • SUSPIRIA and INFERNO
      (pp. 123-158)

      When a dream becomes a nightmare, the average dreamer just wants to wake up and shake off the cold grip of night terrors. But the history of horror literature is full of dreamers who carried over their nightmares to the waking hours, then committed them to paper. The three most famous examples gave usFrankenstein, DraculaandDr. JekyllandMr. Hyde.

      Mary Shelley was vacationing in Switzerland with her half sister, lover (later husband) Percy Bysshe Shelley, his friend, the mad-bad-and-dangerous-to-know Lord Byron, and Byron’s high-strung companion, Dr. Polidori. Her dream gave her the material with which to rise...

    • TENEBRAE and CREEPERS
      (pp. 159-196)

      “The mechanism ofTenebraeis like that of a mass, an ancient rite. You sacrifice yourself, and your dark aspect is crucified at the ceremony’s conclusion,” Argento toldStarfix’sChristophe Gans. “Tenebrae” means shadows, darkness;Tenebrae,a film of cold, clear light, is suffused by a darkness darker still than the night or the patches of shadow in which the cinema’s monsters and bogeymen traditionally hide. Argento’s invocation of the notion of ritual is not a specious one in this respect. The idea of the horror film as cathartic spectacle or rite of passage (explicated by J.P. Telotte in his...

    • OPERA and TWO EVIL EYES
      (pp. 197-222)

      Opera -also calledTerror at the Opera -is more than the subject of Argento’s tenth film: it’s also the key to its stylistic conceits. Beginning withDeep Red,Argento’s films followed a clear arc of ever-increasing visual extravagance and stylization. EvenCreepers,whose icymise-en-scènelacked the lushness of the films leading up to it, represented a logical step: it’s visually cold, but it’s extreme in every respect: extremely violent, extremely dumb, extremely weird. ButOpera...well,Operais operatic; in Argento’s hyperbolic words, an “aria of violence beyond imagination.” It’s not so much that the violence is...

    • TRAUMA AND THE CHANGING FACE OF HORROR
      (pp. 223-230)

      Argento repeatedly denied commercial motives when asked aboutTrauma’sAmerican cast and locations. “I make my pictures for myself, from what I see and imagine,” he claimed. “I cannot make a picture for anyone but myself. That’s why it seems to me so terrible when they try to censor my pictures, to cut them. I believe always that the filmmaker must speak with his own voice and hope that when the people come to his movie, they see something they can recognize.

      “I think also that the expectations of American and European audiences used to be different, say twenty years...

    • EPILOGUE
      (pp. 231-234)

      In the final analysis films are films and dreams are dreams: no-one can reasonably deny that they’re the end results of different processes, with different life-spans, frames of reference, and spheres of influence. And yet there are respects in which they resemble one another, and horror films - more than any other genre - flirt with the patterns of enunciation associated with dreams. In this respect you can hardly resist the temptation to speak of Dario Argento’s films as dark dreams of death and night and blood, to borrow Yukio Mishima’s rapturously apt phrase.

      Argento can be fairly articulate about...

    • AN INTERVIEW WITH DARIO ARGENTO (circa 1985)
      (pp. 235-250)

      But many Europeans do - in France especially. I think sometimes thatallFrench directors are former film critics. Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer... and the same is true in Italy.

      Bertolucci, Pasolini, me; you can name many people who have gone from writing about movies to making them.

      Writing about film is like being a student, like University. It’s a good way to start - you examine pictures closely, you learn the work of different directors. Then after a certain number of years you finish your studies and you’re ready to make films yourself.

      In America it’s totally different, because...

  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 251-251)
  6. THE FILMS OF DARIO ARGENTO
    (pp. 252-280)
  7. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 281-294)
  8. Backmatter
    (pp. 295-295)