I know I say this a lot, but with another year rolling around, I find myself falling further into deficit as far as movie watching and having clever comparisons/pairings turn up. That doesn't mean I'm out of flicks to show... not by a long shot... but it does mean that the cleverness of the pairings may taper off a bit. This week, for example, I just decided to try and cover a neglected master whom we've only touched upon once before with Suspiria. Yes, this week we're emptying the pantry... piling up the pasta, tomatoes, and lots of garlic. Then we're stepping back, and watching a True Italian Master at work.
The Cheeky Red: Profondo Rosso aka Deep Red (1975, 126 minutes) As we've noted before, the "giallo" film is a uniquely Italian genre best described as bloody, sadistic, voyeuristic thrillers, usually centered around a mystery serial killer. While essentially invented by Mario Bava (The Girl Who Knew Too Much), the most recognized giallo director is easily his student, Dario Argento, and Profondo Rosso, his masterpiece, is generally regarded as the best film ever made in the genre. (Argento even named his shop in Rome after it.) The film centers around an American Jazz musician living in Rome who happens to witness a spectacular and very bloody murder by an unseen assailant. From that point, his efforts to identify the killer (with the assistance of a plucky female journalist) drive the story forward, but the real attraction is in the craft of the flick. Suspense is expertly built, the framing and imagery grows increasingly surreal and absurdly violent. It even contains one of the most honestly freak-out-WTF-jump-out-of-my-chair moments I've seen on film since they opened that closet door in House. A genuinely puzzling mystery and probably the best employ of a memory device Argento used first way back in The Bird with Crystal Plumage: that of a scene observed, but not correctly interpreted.
NOTE: Very long. If we get started late, the second feature may be switched to something shorter.
The Bold Chianti: Opera (1987 107 minutes) Whereas Profondo Rosso is generally regarded as the best giallo ever made, Opera is considered to be the last good giallo Argento assembled. Perhaps a little indulgently, Argento plotted this film around a horror director attempting to break through into legitimate theater with an avante-garde production of Verdi's opera Macbeth. (Argento has complained about his inability to get people to see him as anything but a horror director. Fulci similarly confronted this in his own delirious manner with Cat in the Brain.) Centering around the opera's understudy after she takes over the lead role of Lady Macbeth, we againg have a muder mystery. Another unseen serial killer is on the loose, apparently a fan of the young diva, but weirdly obsessed with making the young woman witness the deaths (literally) of all her loved ones. Admittedly, the story frequently reaches to absurd lengths in order for the plot to work, but the film is well shot and the unveiling of the killer is one of the more spectacularly fun (if a bit silly) ones in recent memory.
WARNING FOR BOTH FILMS: Very Italian. In other words, not particularly progressive...