Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Deep Red (1975) - Dario Argento

David Hemmings plays Marcus Daly, an expat flared white suit/black shirt combo wearing music teacher, living it up in some unnamed Italian city. One night he witnesses a murder, and from then on is plunged head on into Argentoland. There's twists aplenty, the strangest set of characters since Dickens hung up his quill, the odd red herring, comedy that is embarrassingly unfunny and more than enough to make you think afterwards that none of it makes any sense. That's pretty much the long and short of Deep Red, it contains all those things we love about Argento at his best, bizarre intensely beautiful architecture, Daria Nicolodi, a Goblin soundtrack, gore and of course black leather gloves hacking away at victims. All of this is shot through with Dario's distinctive sense of style, beautiful steady dolly shots, frames within frames, gorgeous rich colour schemes and of course that almost dreamlike style in which his stories unfold. Even if by the time the film finishes and the killer is unmasked it makes about as much sense as an episode of Midsomer Murders.

After the success of his animal trilogy Dario decided the time was right to have a stab (I do like a good pun me) at a different genre. Choosing comedy he made Le cinque giornate, which promptly tanked at the cinema. That was the last time he would direct anything outside of the genre that had made his name. He returned to horror with what most consider to be his best two films, this and its follow up Suspiria. Although confusingly in Japan after Suspiria's success, Deep Red was released as Suspiria 2, even though both films have absolutely bugger all to do with each other. Those crazy Japanese eh?

Anyway what you really want to know is how good are the killings, right? Er, I was just joking, but without coming across as Henry Portrait the different ways Dario comes up with to off his creations are always a huge part of the enjoyment of his films. This film utilizes the idea of killing folk via means that the viewer can identify with. So apart from the obvious stabbings, after all everyone has cut themselves with a knife even if they haven't quite had a cleaver rammed in their back, causing them to fall forward through a window and impale themselves on the broken shards of glass. There are a few more elaborate means that Dario employs, so we get death by boiling water, death by repeatedly hitting your mouth against a hard object (in this case a mantelpiece and a table) and so on. We're even treated to the sight of a clockwork dummy running out from the shadows, very odd bit of the film that.

Of course the weird thing about Argento is that while his visuals are gory they aren't particularly scary. You'll be watching it through your fingers, but only in the same way you would with Jackass. Dario isn't all that good at making the viewer jump either (the exception in this film being that bastard aforementioned dummy), so drink hot drinks safe in the knowledge they won't end up in your lap. The other thing Dario likes to do is crank up the prog rock Goblin soundtrack anytime there is any hint of something naughty happening. This is one of the better Goblin soundtracks too, even if one of the main themes does crib liberally from Tubular Bells. So to sum up this is a great film to watch if you are new to the world of Argento, and if you're not then you've already seen this, multiple times. One quick word of warning it's worth seeing the longer version of this film, although portions of it don't have an English soundtrack so it reverts to Italian in these spots. Well worth the effort.

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