Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Opera"(1987)d/Dario Argento

I've recently noticed that,strangely enough,I've yet to review an Argento film here,so I deducted that I should probably start with my favorite one(fellow yob Nigel was the only one to guess it,big surprise there),an excellent introduction for anyone looking to feast upon the maestro's body of work,and perhaps his last great giallo.Centered around the notorious Shakespeare play,Macbeth,Argento's production befell several mishaps on the set,including the death of one actor,fueling the legendary notion that the play itself is cursed.Whether you believe in such things or not,here lies Argento at his very best.Nearly every shot is a lush visual feast for the eye,with several innovative camera tricks employed that came to become signature stamps for the director,known worldwide as the "Italian Hitchcock".There are ample inventive gore set pieces,enough to satisfy the most fickle splatter fanatic,and a shroud of mystery,suspense,and tension envelops each frame of this masterpiece.The unforgettable pins taped under the eyes came from Argento,who had grown annoyed by audiences looking away during the scariest moments of his films,jokingly suggesting the theatergoers tape pins under their eyes,so they were forced to view everything he had created.Though he has shown a noticeable decline in the years following this entry(to what degree,of course,is arguable),Argento remains the standard upon which all future genre directors be judged against,his rich catalogue of brilliant,visually stunning films stand as testament to his cinematic genius,rarely rivalled to this day.If you're unfamiliar with his films,I strongly encourage you to sit down and take him in,which may take repeat viewings,especially where this entry is concerned."I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself And falls on th’other."
Betty(Christina Marsillach),opera singer plagued by nightmarish visions,and a bitch on heat.
Betty(Marsillach)is unwittingly thrust into the spotlight during a new production of Verdi's Macbeth when the opera singer she's been understudying is suddenly hit by a car.Unfortunately,this sudden fame draws the attention of a sadistic black gloved killer who ties the young girl up,forcing her to watch his murder spree with strips of tape with sewing needles pasted under her eyes,identical to the methods of the shadowy figure from her oldest nightmares.After the opera's premiere(during which an assistant eats neck-skewering coat hook death),one of the stagehands,Stefano(William McNamara)is brutally slain with a huge knife before Betty's very eyes;the hooded killer cuts Betty's ties afterwards,freeing her,his hands sexually exploring her body for signs of arousal at his heinous crime.The distraught diva runs to the arms of Marco(Ian "Jubilee","Chariots of Fire" Charleson,in his final role),the opera's director who's been taking a merciless beating in the press over his horror movie-esque approach to tackling Verde's cursed opera,using garish sets,fog machines,and a number of trained ravens.Meanwhile,the killer breaks into the costume department and slashes Betty's wardrobe to ribbons,killing several ravens in the process.The next day,Betty and Giulia(Coraline Cataldi-Tassoni),the production seamstress discover an actual bracelet sewn into the dress,as the woman tries to repair the damage from the night before.Just as she's about to read the engraved dates on the jewelry,the killer abducts and binds the young singer,forcing her to watch him perform an amateur tracheotomy on Giulia with a huge pair of fabric shears when she accidentally swallows the bracelet in the struggle with the madman.Afterwards he frees the terrified girl and disappears once again.
One helluva good stabbing.
One of the detectives(Urbano Barberini) puts a guard on Betty's door,but the girl accidentally stabs the cop(Michele Soavi in a cameo),while her vision is blurred by eye drops,allowing the killer to arrive at her apartment,where he fires a bullet directly through the peephole in the front door into the eyesocket of her agent(Daria Nicolodi),killing her instantly(!!).The young singer escapes through an air vent with the help of a little girl who lives on the same floor.At this point the director dreams up a plan to catch the killer at the next performance using the uncaged ravens to seek him out in the audience.The large squawking detectives manage to do just that,pecking one of his eyes out(!!!) in the process.Horribly disfigured,and outed for the world,the killer abducts Betty once again,locking himself into a room in the operahouse with her,blindfolding and hogtying her into a chair with a pistol while he douses the place with gasoline,urging her to shoot him.She frees herself from the binds as the room is engulfed in flames from which Marco rescues her with optimum timing.She retreats to Sweden with Marco,who has returned to directing movies again,but Betty senses that evil has followed her into the lush green mountainside.Who is the maniac and why has he singled out Betty in his own violent subconscious production.I'll leave the answers to this and other questions that arise to be answered by you,dear readers,when you screen this excellent blood-soaked whodunnit brilliantly crafted by the best in the business.
This is sexy for so many reasons,not least of which being Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni herself.
Dario,who modelled the director Marco character after himself,claims that Marsillach was the hardest actress he's ever had to work with.The role of operatic diva Mara Czekova was originally meant for Vanessa Redgrave,but when she dropped out,the character was rewritten as a minor one.Despite the many setbacks,the maestro went on to successfully base his giallo around Macbeth,stating,"...I felt I had started with "Macbeth", so I had to finish. And anyway, there could be no ravens in Cosi Fan Tutte."After completing this film,he went on to direct genre fare like "Due Occhi Diabolici" with George A. Romero,"Non ho sonno","Il Cartaio",two episodes of the Masters of Horror series before unveiling the third of his Three Mothers trilogy,aptly named "La Terza Madre" on the world in 2007.His latest work is 2009's "Giallo",and he has co-written the screenplay for David Gordon Green's upcoming remake of Argento's own classic,"Suspiria"(1976),yet another classic,in my humblest estimation that should never be tampered with.I'll never understand what goes on in the heads of those Lazio supporters toiling away at the bottom of the Serie A table,for the life of me...Milano siamo NOI!Today's film stands as not only one of the greatest horror films ever made,in my opinion,but as one of the greatest films,period.Check it out for yourselves,and if you don't feel the same about it,I'll let Asia and Fiore carry out the penalty phase against me.Well,I'd do that,regardless...


Tower Farm said...

We rarely review Argento movies, either, and the reason is simple: there's so much going on it's impossible to know where to start! Love this write-up, though...you've inspired me to give my "Deep Red' review another chance.

"Opera" is a good one -- there are some nasty, brutal setpieces. This may, in fact, be the last really good Argento movie, other than "Trauma" -- which we at TF believe it very underrated.

Nice work, as always!

beedubelhue said...

Thanks Billy!Glad I could be of some inspirational mettle to you guys over there.You dig Trauma,eh?I'm gonna have to revisit it,I just remember being greatly disappointed with the final project,after being excited to the gills about it prior to actually seeing it.Perhaps time will soften my views.I've decided to go ahead and tackle the movies that I thought wouldn't get any justice here,myself,figuring,if I could turn some people on to the classics that I love to watch,well,that's all that matters,really.Can't wait to see your Profondo Rosso!


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