An Eye for Horror
= Highest Rating
his films or hate them, there can be no argument that Italian
director Dario Argento is a visual stylist par excellence.
work in the medium of cinema has gone on to inspire and influence
a host of filmmakers from all across the globe. From the black-gloved
killers of his gialli murder/mysteries to the baroque, nightmarish
dreamscapes of such supernatural thrillers as Suspiria
his films portray a world that springs
from a distinctly European, aesthetically-centered mind, one
profoundly influenced in its formative years by the writings
of Edgar Allan Poe. If you're attuned to his particular wavelength,
then watching the best of Argento's movies never fails even
with repeated viewings to invoke visceral and even subconscious
reactions. "Welcome to my nightmare," says the Italian
maestro of the macabre, and we willingly plunge into the darkness.
Argento: An Eye for Horror is a
documentary film spanning the director's nearly 40 year career.
Originally made for European TV in 1997, it has apparently been
recently updated to incorporate footage of Argento and his crew
shooting scenes for Sleepless
wrapped in 2000 and was released in theaters on the continent
in early 2001. (The film reaches American shores on Dec. 18
via DVD.) Using standard techniques, the documentary interweaves
clips from some (but definitely not all) of Argento's films
with a well-written narration. The balance of the program is
rounded out with interview segments. Among those participating:
Argento biographers Maitland McDonagh and Alan Jones, directors
John Carpenter, George Romero and William Lustig, special effects
artist Tom Savini, composers Claudio Simonetti (of Goblin) and
Keith Emerson (Inferno),
actors Jessica Harper, Piper Laurie, and Michael Brandon, former
collaborator and leading lady (both on and off-screen) Daria
Nicolodi, daughter Asia Argento, and, of course, the man himself.
Even '70s shock rocker Alice Cooper weighs in on his love of
Goblin's groundbreaking Suspiria
Though his early days as a movie critic and
screenwriter are touched upon, the natural focus of the documentary
is Argento's filmography, beginning with the 1969 giallo The
Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Unfortunately,
it seems the producers of An Eye
For Horror were unable to procure
the rights to clips from almost half of them, so that much of
Argento's work is quickly brushed over with only a few stills
displayed if anything at all. His non-director credits, notably
as producer/co-writer for films helmed by Lamberto Bava (Demons)
and Michele Soavi (The
Church), are barely mentioned.
To its credit the documentary takes a more psychological approach
to its subject than would be the standard practice. McDonagh
(who is female) and Carpenter effectively dispense with the
notion that his work is misogynistic in its depictions of violence
against women. And Argento's daughters, Fiore (who as a teen
was 'decapitated' in Phenomena)
and actress/model Asia (The
Stendhal Syndrome, among others), provide intriguing insights
into the somewhat less than normal psychology of their father.
While apparently an eccentric (if not downright odd) fellow,
Argento himself comes across as a likeable person totally committed
to his vision, regardless of its commercial success or failure.
For diehard Argentophiles this documentary
will not reveal anything new. Fans will likely already have
most of his films on DVD, and a number of these
those released in the States by Anchor Bay contain
featurettes that cover aspects of his career in deeper detail.
But for those new to the darkly mysterious and often shocking
vision of Dario Argento, this disc should serve as a useful
overview of the fantastical treasures that await them.
The "Blood 'n' Guts" icon is for a few squishy scenes
culled from various Argento films, notably Harvey Keitel's "bowels
first" impalement from Two Evil
Eyes. The "Bare Flesh" icon refers to Asia Argento's
topless scene from Trauma.
one would expect with an hour-long documentary this is a bare
bones release lacking in any of the conventional "extras".
Picture and sound quality are quite good for this sort of endeavor,
though one must take into consideration that the quality of the
film clips shown isn't going to match that of the remastered versions
of the films themselves (those currently on DVD, that is). There
was one interview segment, however, where the background music
threatened to overpower the person speaking.