Dario Argento: Master of the Macabre

Dario Argento - A Master

Dario Argento: Master of the Macabre

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"The process of writing and directing drives you to such extremes that it's natural to feel an affinity with insanity. I approach that madness as something dangerous and I'm afraid, but also I want to go to it, to see what's there...to embrace it. I don't know why, but I'm drawn." - Dario Argento

It is said that Dario Argento's first memory is sitting on the knee of Sophia Loren. Not a bad way to begin one's life and career in film. Dario Argento is, to put it quite simply, the foremost Italian director of innovative and surreal thriller and horror movies. As a writer, producer, and director, Argento for years has provided unsurpassed and highly-stylized visions to shock, horrify, amaze, frustrate, and even confuse us. The son of Salvatore Argento, a major movie producer of the 60's and 70's, and Elda Luxardo, a well-known photographer, Dario Argento began his movie career as a film critic for the Rome daily Paese Sera. Asked to work with his great maestro, Sergio Leone, Argento segued to filmmaking by scribing the story for the rightfully revered spaghetti western, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), and developed the script with Bernardo Bertolucci. Later to be praised by many as "the Italian Hitchcock," Dario Argento's first three celebrated nightmares, The Bird of the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat with Nine Tails (1971), and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972), led to his not only being recognized as a master, but also laid claim to his own particular brand of filmmaking--the "giallo" (or "yellow"--in Italy the "color of fear") shockers, a term derived from the yellow covers of the penny-dreadful horror/thriller paperbacks that were sold in Italy.

In 1975, Argento constructed another vision of horror, generating terror amongst movie house audiences with Deep Red, the film that many critics consider to be his masterpiece. From there, he went on to create his classic supernatural tale of witches in an all-girls school in Rome, Suspiria (1977), later to become one of his most recognized works and a favorite of film fans for its astonishing use of sound design and musical composition. Setting his mischievous sights towards international audiences, Argento went on to help devise George Romero's timeless Dawn of the Dead (1979). This launched a most exciting decade, as Argento conjured up the supernatural thriller, Inferno (1980); the sophisticated, disturbing Tenebre (1983); Phenomena (1985)--released as Creepers in the U.S. and starring Jennifer Connelly and Donald Pleasance; and one of his most shocking films, Opera (1987), set in Parma's Teatro Regio, which will long remain legendary amongst gore fans because of its famous scene where the murderer carves open a victim's throat to acquire some incriminating evidence that's been swallowed. Argento once again collaborated with George Romero on Two Evil Eyes (1990), writing and directing the episode, "The Black Cat". For Trauma (1992), he used, for the first time, his young daughter, Asia, as leading actress. The Stendhal Syndrome (1996), marked his return to working as a director in Italy, followed by The Phantom of the Opera (1998).

Never one to shy away from darkness, never one to permit his audience to miss one second of utter terror, and never one to fail to astonish and exhilarate his audience, Dario Argento has always proven to be the consummate artist: creating imagery, utilizing music and sound, and understanding the fear in us all. He is truly a master of the macabre. Don't miss the exciting screenings of Dario Argento's films during the festival: Suspiria (1977) Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) arrives at her new school to study dance. Unfortunately, she may have some trouble with the curriculum when she comes face to face with a coven of witches. One of Argento's most famous films, Suspiria is one not to miss and will certainly leave grooves in your armrest. Suspiria to be followed by a special award presentation to Dario Argento. Inferno (1980) Searching for the "Mother of Darkness" in New York, a woman finds a lot more than she bargained for. With its now-famous underwater sequence, Inferno spins a tale of suspense and terror. Tenebrae (1982) Considered one of his best films, Argento's Tenebrae finds a mystery writer in Rome on a book tour. While there, he tries to unravel the case surrounding a series of murders where the victims have had pages from his books stuffed into their mouths. This is another unique chance to see a film in its original version--uncut and uncensored. The Bird of Crystal Plumage - Tribute Screening. - Mike Rabehl