I have never been a huge fan of gialli (the plural form of ‘giallo’). In my very limited experience with the sub-genre, they tend to be plodding and boring, usually preferring style over story or action. Concerning Dario Argento in particular, I have seen Suspiria and Trauma, both of which bored me to tears. Yes I know, Suspiria isn’t a giallo and Trauma isn’t considered one of his best films, whatever. Despite my obvious minority opinion on the subject, Argento is considered one of the greatest Italian horror directors of all time and still makes movies to this day, his latest entitled simply Giallo.
In March of this year relatively unknown (in the U.S. anyway) British publisher Kamera Books released the simply titled book Dario Argento by James Gracey. From Kamera’s website:
The stylistic and bloody excesses of the films of Dario Argento are instantly recognisable. Vivid, baroque and nightmarish, his films lock violent deaths in a twisted embrace with an almost sexual beauty. Narrative and logic are often lost in a constant bombardment of atmosphere, technical mastery and provocative imagery. Its a body of work which deals explicitly with death and violence, all the while revelling in perversely alluring stylistics and shot through with an unflinching intensity.
Setting the tone with earlier gialli films such as The Animal Trilogy and Deep Red, Argento has steadily pushed the boundaries; through his elaborately gothic fairytales Suspiria and Inferno, right up to his more recent contributions to TV’s Masters of Horror compendium and the conclusion of his Three Mothers trilogy, Mother of Tears: The Third Mother. Along the way, his prowling camera work, pounding scores and stylistic bloodshed have only gained in intensity and opulence.
After a very informative introduction describing Argento the man, his influence on horror films and an overview of his works, you are treated to a very in-depth analysis of each of his films. Each chapter is entitled with the different series (Animal Trilogy, Darkness & Milan, Blood Runs Deep, etc.) and contains the breakdown for each movie in the series. The examination of each film is broken down by the credits, synopsis, background, comments, style and technical, themes, music and finally the overall verdict. Some readers may find this format a little dry, but the knowledge dropped by Gracey is impressive and very thorough. As someone who is not a fan of Argento, this book actually put a bug in my ear to check out his early work.
Pick up the book on the Kamera Books website if you are at all interested in Argento, gialli or horror in general.
About the author
James Gracey has written for Film Ireland, Alternative Ulster, Paracinema and Culture Northern Ireland. He has also contributed to Drowned in Sound, Twisted Ear and Eat My Brains.