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View Full Version : Euro Horror Director of the Month - Month 1(Feb. 01) - Dario Argento


Jason25
02-10-2001, 04:38 AM
I thought it would be cool to have a new feature called the Euro Horror Director of the Month. I thought we could discuss all details of this certain director all month long. Opinions?
Anyways, I thought it would only be fair to pick Dario Argento as the 1st Director awarded this distinction. Dario certainly has made a huge impact in this category.

napalm68
02-11-2001, 06:05 AM
Yeah, Argento is pretty good. Although he does seem to reuse ideas in films.

I like his camerawork a lot, especially in Deep Red.

I must say I find his filming his daughter in less than savory circumstances a wee bit disturbing though.

DVD Connoisseur
02-11-2001, 01:16 PM
Argento is a very talented director - his eye for detail and innovative techniques, coupled with genuine atmosphere in his movies, makes him "the master of horror" (IMHO).

I love sitting down and watching an Argento movie. The films are escapist with their lovely settings but also full of suspense and shocks. For me, Opera is Argento at his best...the movie is atmospheric, it contains great music and has some of the best set pieces I've ever seen. Deep Red and Tenebre are classic thrillers...superb. As I've said before, Stendhal Syndrome is a hugely underestimated movie - this will be seen as a classic in 20 years time. At the moment, it's "newness" seems to be working against it.

Where as directors such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter seem to have lost their edge, I would say that Argento has maintained his brilliance. I have yet to see his latest film but I am sure it will be innovative and refreshing compared to 99% of the current horror fodder served by the studios.

The Chaostar
02-11-2001, 06:25 PM
I agree on Stendhal 100%.
I was lucky enough to see the film in cinema (in it's one and only screening here in Greece) and I found it amazing, his most mature work to date. The Phantom was also interesting with it's fellinian "arty" atmosphear, but not for everyone's taste, I must admit that.

napalm68
02-12-2001, 07:35 AM
DVD Con - Carpenter lost his edge? Vampires was a damn fine film. I can't comment on Hooper, as I can't think of anything more recent than TCM2 of his that I've seen...

AceRimRat
02-12-2001, 08:03 PM
I've seen only a few Argento films, but he's quickly shot to the top of my list of directors whose films really hold my attention because of their imagery.

Plots/characters are well-drawn enough to keep your attention, no different from most horror films, I guess, but the cinematography and imagery is what separates him from others, IMHO.

Thank goodness for those nice widescreen AB discs, huh? :D

Paff
02-12-2001, 08:21 PM
RE: Argento's influence on others.

Unfortunately, I now have to take statements like that with a grain of salt since Lloyd Kaufman (in the intro to Stendhal Syndrome) talks about Suspiria being an obvious influence on The Toxic Avenger. What??!? How so? In that they are both motion pictures?

But another director who uses Argento as an influence is the guy who made Idle Hands. Don't know his name, don't feel like looking it up on IMDB. That's a commentary well worth listening to, 'cause the guy really knows his horror. He openly talks about some scenes being lifted directly from Suspiria and Tenebrae. (the latter especially). But there's also talk about Dead-Alive, Re-Animator, and Cannibal Ferox. One of my favorite commentaries, and better than the movie itself (except for Jessica Alba)

DVD Connoisseur
02-12-2001, 09:31 PM
Originally posted by napalm68:
DVD Con - Carpenter lost his edge? Vampires was a damn fine film. I can't comment on Hooper, as I can't think of anything more recent than TCM2 of his that I've seen...

I love Carpenter's early work but I wasn't too impressed with some of his more current works (In the Mouth of Madness, springs to mind). However, I have yet to see Vampires. I may be eating humble pie yet!

;)

Paff
02-12-2001, 11:07 PM
Is an Argento/Carpenter comparison even fair?

Carpenter has done so many diverse films, it's only surprising he hasn't made MORE disappointing films. There's been Sci-Fi (Dark Star), Crime (Assault on P13), Slasher (Halloween), Ghost Story (The Fog), Action (Escape From NY), Alien/Monster (The Thing), the list goes on...

Argento, on the other hand, has mostly made Giallos. There's been a few diversions (Suspiria, Inferno, Phenomena, Two Evil Eyes, Phantom), but he's made several films all with similar themes. He's even re-used several themes more than once. A fan like myself could call it "thorough", yet a critic could just as easily use the word "repetitive"

Look at some similar Argento themes:
What did I see or not see?: Bird w/CP, Deep Red, Trauma
The effects of trauma on later life: Bird, 4 Flies, Deep Red, Tenebrae, Trauma, Stendhal
Behavior affected by Art:Bird, Deep Red, Stendhal
Weird Science: Cat O Nine Tails, 4 Flies, Phenomena, Stendhal

And this doesn't even include the theme of Obsession, which could almost be in every film.

Argento's body of work is living, breathing, always developing and moving ideas forward. Carpenter almost has to re-invent himself with each film.

I like both. But with Carpenter you have to look at each film on a case-by-case basis, yet Argento is best viewed as a whole. For that reason, I do prefer Argento, but I still see comparing the two to be more than slightly unfair.

DVD Connoisseur
02-12-2001, 11:35 PM
Paff, I agree with your comments. I wasn't aiming to compare Argento with Carpenter directly, I was just making a point about my feelings of consistency in Dario's films. When I sit down with an Argento movie, I know I'm going to be transported to a dark, fantastical world. I meant no offence to Carpenter fans - I am one myself. Apologies for my ambiguity. :p

mutleyhyde
02-13-2001, 01:05 AM
Hey guys, isn't Carpenter considered like a god in Europe? I only bring this up because of the comparison to Argento, and vaguely remember hearing something about Carpenter's legendary status in Europe. I wonder how Argento, and the Italian film community in general, regard Carpenter. He's been bashed left and right since the early nineties here in the U.S.. It seems to me that that Europeans reward diversity in ones works, whereas we Americans are less patient. Hell, I don't think I've seen any Carpenter since Starman. Maybe I'll have to rent Prince of Darkness, Vampires (I actually only heard it sucked), and In the Mouth of Madness, and give him a fair late 80's - 90's shake for myself.

As for Argento, he rules. No other Euro director has kept my interest as he has (well, except for Sergio Leone, but we're talking horror here). However, it does take a certain mind to comprehend what he does, or how Europe does film in general. When I was first getting into Argento, my friends all quickly got bored with him. I feel these friends just didn't have vision, or an open sense of perspective. They only wanted movies that just had action, action, action, and got instantly bored with anything that had any atmosphere. Hey, that's okay too. I love Predator, Aliens, From Dusk Till Dawn... I just like to be held in suspense too. I think that's why I took to Hitchcock at such an early age, or maybe it's because of him that I have my appreciation of suspense and style. Argento certainly has suspense and style to spare, and it's all twisted in his own unique way. To me Argento's films are always new and exciting. :)

Argento Fan 2003
02-13-2001, 02:26 AM
Originally posted by Paff:
Is an Argento/Carpenter comparison even fair?

Carpenter has done so many diverse films, it's only surprising he hasn't made MORE disappointing films. There's been Sci-Fi (Dark Star), Crime (Assault on P13), Slasher (Halloween), Ghost Story (The Fog), Action (Escape From NY), Alien/Monster (The Thing), the list goes on...

Argento, on the other hand, has mostly made Giallos. There's been a few diversions (Suspiria, Inferno, Phenomena, Two Evil Eyes, Phantom), but he's made several films all with similar themes. He's even re-used several themes more than once. A fan like myself could call it "thorough", yet a critic could just as easily use the word "repetitive"

Look at some similar Argento themes:
What did I see or not see?: Bird w/CP, Deep Red, Trauma
The effects of trauma on later life: Bird, 4 Flies, Deep Red, Tenebrae, Trauma, Stendhal
Behavior affected by Art:Bird, Deep Red, Stendhal
Weird Science: Cat O Nine Tails, 4 Flies, Phenomena, Stendhal

And this doesn't even include the theme of Obsession, which could almost be in every film.

Argento's body of work is living, breathing, always developing and moving ideas forward. Carpenter almost has to re-invent himself with each film.

I like both. But with Carpenter you have to look at each film on a case-by-case basis, yet Argento is best viewed as a whole. For that reason, I do prefer Argento, but I still see comparing the two to be more than slightly unfair.

I like your classification system but Suspiria can fit in the "what did I see...?" category or you can classify Suspiria, Inferno, and Phenomena as Fantasy/Supernatural. Suspiria and Phenomena are two of my favorite Argento films (Phenomena is actually my all-time favorite film) because they have that fairy tale, dream-like "away from home" feeling and they're both gloomy yet colorful at the same time.

napalm68
02-13-2001, 02:55 AM
mutleyhyde - Yeah Carpenter is considered an autuer in france...

It is impossible to compare Carpenter and Argento. Yes, Carpenter can NEVER be accused of doing the same thing twice (with the exception of the Escape films. Even with the Halloween series, he only directed the first one, and with number three, was trying to get them to go down a different trail, rather than some embarassing unstoppable monster franchise.

Although I like Argento, there are too many plot ideas just plain reused - Ie, the momentary glimpse of the killer at the start of BWTCP and Profundo Rosso leaving the lead wondering what he saw for the rest of the film; The killer being a
<--------------SPOILER-------------->
disgruntled mother and getting decapitated right at the end in Profundo Rosso and Trauma...

And I thought In the Mouth of Madness a great film, personally. I am too embarassed to watch either Memoirs of an Invisible Man or Starman, though :)

On a film making point of view, Carpenter is a master of widescreen. Argento is great at widescreen, although his films never seem to be shot anamorphically, and vary in aspect ratio. Carpenter's are always 2.35:1 anamorphic (with the exception of Dark Star).

But Argento is a definite master of the camera in motion, and closeup filming. Deep Red has some pretty great examples of this, especially one tracking shot I recall where the camera makes a smooth sudden left hand 90 degree turn, moves forward, makes a 90 degree right turn, without breaking pace.

Paff
02-13-2001, 03:02 AM
Busted. Suspiria totally does that "What did I see?" thing.

And while it's not a major plot point, it does come up in Tenebrae too (when the kid realizes he missed something in Christian Berti's murder)

It's not an exact classification of course, just an observation about similar themes.

And like I said, it's the recurring themes that make me enjoy Argento so much. Stendhal brings up ideas first introduced in Bird, a film made 27 years prior. There's no ONE answer to the questions Dario asks, and since he goes over things more than once, even HE doesn't have a clear cut answer.

mutleyhyde
02-13-2001, 03:14 AM
Yeah, and what about that great continuous shot in Tenebrae, where he starts at the one window and works around the outside of the house/apartment to the others. An incredibly classic voyeuristic shot. You should try Starman though. It's been years, but I remember liking it. I had no conscious idea that it was Carpenter though, untill I checked IMDb for that last post. I also have my reservations about Memoirs, but what the hell? It's got Chevy Chase, whom I've always liked, and JC. I think I will check it out after all :) .

napalm68
02-13-2001, 05:36 AM
Someone would have to release a loaded edition of Starman and Memoirs to convince me to buy it (ie, Memoirs with a Chevy Chase and John Carpenter commentary)... :)

Yeah, that shot in Tenebre was pretty good. Funnily enough, when I watched Tenebre, my friend and I both thought it was an earlier film than Deep Red - Deep Red appeared to be a much better made film.

The Chaostar
02-13-2001, 05:41 AM
We must remember something.

Argento's style was nothing sort of a revelation when it first came out in the public. BIRD , CAT and FOUR FLIES have cinematic techniques that none ever thought to use before his arrival in the horror scene. Remember the "bullet through the arm in slo-mo" scene in FOUR FLIES (filmed in 1972!), the elevator finale in CAT or the inventing POV shots of BIRD. Let's not talk about SUSPIRIA, which has immensly influenced Francis Ford Coppola on One From The Heart that uses the exact lighting schemes. Look at Tarsem and his Cell. I met Tarsem at the Venice Film Festival this year where I got him an interview for the greek MAXIM I write for, and he told me that Argento was a definite influence for him. Burton talked in the same vein about Argento on the making on Sleepy Hollow.

While I really like some Fulci, or Lenzi, or even Rollin films, I cannot say the same things for any of them.

AceRimRat
02-13-2001, 08:14 PM
Originally posted by napalm68:
mutleyhyde - Yeah Carpenter is considered an autuer in france...


Yeah, but so's Jerry Lewis. :D

On a completely different note, one of the things I like about Argento (so far) is that even though all the films I've seen seem very similar in a lot of ways, they're all unique. Like in Phenomena, the girl's control of insects puts a whole different spin on the stalker theme. Or in Tenebre, the way the killer switches gears (don't want to give anything away). So even though, say Deep Red has a similar "gotta remember" idea to, say, Tenebre with the kid trying to remember what he saw, the two films handle the issue completely differently.

How do the older Argento films (the animal ones) compare to the more modern ones (Deep Red through Opera, which I understand is sort of considered his prime)? I've only seen the ones AB has released from the "prime" era (DR, Tenebre, Inferno, Phenomena).

Paff
02-13-2001, 08:51 PM
Originally posted by AceRimRat:
How do the older Argento films (the animal ones) compare to the more modern ones (Deep Red through Opera, which I understand is sort of considered his prime)? I've only seen the ones AB has released from the "prime" era (DR, Tenebre, Inferno, Phenomena).

The "Animal Trilogy" is hit-or-miss. First of all, widescreen and uncut versions of Cat O Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet range from exceptionally rare to non-existant. None of them have the incredible style that began with Deep Red, but you do see the beginnings of the "Argento style".

Bird With the Crystal Plumage is by far the best of the three. And above all, it contains what is possibly his most coherent plot, even to this day. That is a must-have for the collection. It's very similar to Deep Red in that it's about a foreigner in Rome who witnessed an (attempted) murder, and struggles with what he saw or didn't see. Artwork is important, the same as Deep Red, only it's more how art affects a person rather than how a personality affects art. And finally, both sides of the art/personality coin are shown in the incredible The Stendhal Syndrome, also essential viewing for the Argento fan.

I'm not a huge fan of Cat or 4 Flies, though I'll keep my mind open when I get to see them in their proper form.

napalm68
02-18-2001, 11:12 AM
I just saw a great quote regarding Eurohorror directors, from Inside Out Film (http://www.insideout.co.uk/films/a/anatomie.shtml):

Ruzowitzky "just doesn't quite have the panache (Argento, Bava) or the attitude (Buttgereit, Fulci at his best) to bring it off".

(this is from a review of the German film Anatomie)

I think using Panache to describe Argento, and Attitude for Fulci about says it all. :)