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Dario Argento

Dario Argento

L. Andrew Cooper
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Dario Argento
    Book Description:

    Commanding a cult following among horror fans, Italian film director Dario Argento is best known for his work in two closely related genres, the crime thriller and supernatural horror, as well as his influence on modern horror and slasher movies. In his four decades of filmmaking, Argento has displayed a commitment to innovation, from his directorial debut with 1970's suspense thriller The Bird with the Crystal Plumage to 2009's Giallo. His films, like the lurid yellow-covered murder-mystery novels they are inspired by, follow the suspense tradition of hard-boiled American detective fiction while incorporating baroque scenes of violence and excess. _x000B__x000B_While considerations of Argento's films often describe them as irrational nightmares, L. Andrew Cooper uses controversies and theories about the films' reflections on sadism, gender, sexuality, psychoanalysis, aestheticism, and genre to declare the anti-rational logic of Argento's oeuvre. Approaching the films as rhetorical statements made through extremes of sound and vision, Cooper places Argento in a tradition of aestheticized horror that includes De Sade, De Quincey, Poe, and Hitchcock. Analyzing individual images and sequences as well as larger narrative structures, he reveals how the director's stylistic excesses, often condemned for glorifying misogyny and other forms of violence, offer productive resistance to the cinema's visual, narrative, and political norms._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09438-5
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Dario Argento: Doing Violence on Film
    (pp. 1-5)

    Dario Argento’s films push the limits of visual and auditory experience; they offend, confuse, sicken, and baffle. Never complacent, Argento approaches each work as an experiment, and over more than four decades of filmmaking, his commitment to innovation has produced a broad range of styles applied almost unwaveringly within two closely related genres—crime thriller and supernatural horror—with results that are sometimes brilliant, sometimes muddled, and sometimes both. The films are not to everyone’s taste. Their violence is often so extreme that even hardened horror veterans will avert their eyes. The extremity goes beyond gore, reaching previously unrecorded levels...

  5. Against Criticism: Opera and The Stendhal Syndrome
    (pp. 5-23)

    Accusations of sadism have condemned people who create and enjoy horror fiction, no matter the medium, for as long as horror fictions have existed, or at least since the Marquis de Sade put his stamp of approval on Matthew Lewis’s eighteenth-century splatterfest novel The Monk (Cooper, Gothic, 48). Contemporary critics who want to frame horror’s viewers as sadistic voyeurs often turn to Laura Mulvey’s foundational 1975 article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” later incorporated into her book Visual and Other Pleasures, which explores “the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form” (14). Using the films of Alfred...

  6. Against Interpretation: The First Five Gialli
    (pp. 23-73)

    Ready for release in 1969 but held back until 1970, Argento’s directorial debut, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, entered the cinema world under the shadow of a film that had hit a decade earlier, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Hitchcock’s work demonstrated that films focused on maniacs who kill beautiful women could reach artistic heights and also thrive outside the B-movie circuit, and in doing so, it redefined the thriller and horror genres. For years, producers around the globe searched for the movie that would be the next Psycho and the director who might be the next Hitchcock. If a thriller...

  7. Against Narrative: The Three Mothers Trilogy and Phenomena
    (pp. 73-127)

    Argento’s early gialli are set in Rome, which appears not as the ancient city of the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Square (the Vatican), and dozens of other landmarks recognized around the world, but as a modern city of tall buildings, concrete, and asphalt. It is recognizably Roman to people who know the city well but sufficiently nondescript for Argento’s international audience to feel like it could be anyplace. As a result, American and British characters such as Sam Dalmas, Marcus Daly, and Peter Neal fit their surroundings as well as anyone, which is to say sometimes well and sometimes not at...

  8. Against Conventions: From Trauma to Giallo
    (pp. 127-148)

    With the exception of the Three Mothers trilogy, Argento has not subjected his films to the parades of sequels typical of horror’s masterworks. The Internet Movie Database reports that plans for a sequel to Phenomena got close to production in 2001, but the project got scuttled because of Argento’s contractual obligations. Similarly, the movie that became The Card Player (2004) was planned as a sequel to The Stendhal Syndrome, but since Asia Argento was unavailable to reprise her role, it was rewritten as a stand-alone. Although Argento’s works have few sequels, the highly repetitive conventions of the giallo, some of...

  9. Interviews with Dario Argento
    (pp. 149-154)
    Dario Argento, Élie Castiel and Stephane Derderian

    Élie Castiel, “Dario Argento,” Sequences: La Revue de Cinema 167 (November-December 1993): 8–9.

    ÉLIE CASTIEL: Your cinematic career began when you assisted Sergio Leone with Once upon a Time in the West. Did this first experience in film influence your career?

    DARIO ARGENTO: First of all, I’d like to correct your claim. I didn’t begin as an assistant for Sergio Leone, but rather I cowrote the script for the film you mentioned, with the collaboration of Bernardo Bertolucci. As for the influence of this experience, it’s clear that early connections leave their marks. If you watch Once upon a...

  10. Filmography: Feature Films and Television Directed by Dario Argento
    (pp. 155-172)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-180)
  12. Index
    (pp. 181-186)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 187-191)