Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

11 July 2008

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (aka. L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo), dir. Dario Argento (1970)

NIKKI says:
Well, this officially becomes my second favourite Argento flick after the brilliantly awesome Profondo Rosso. The reason I loved this one so much? Because I understood everything that was going on. That's unusual with Argento. Often there's so much subtext going on, and concentration on frightening visuals that the plot gets left a bit behind. (I think Argento himself has said that plot and acting talent are the least focused on ingredients in his pictures.) Here, though, the film is plot-heavy with great actors and decidedly light on thrills and effects. It's clearly early Argento (his debut as a director, I believe), and its just great.

Tony Musante (the great and tragic Schibetta from Oz) plays a guy who witnesses a fairly harrowing murder inside an art gallery. He spends the rest of the film searching for the murdered in the black suit, hat, and gloves. The killer taunts him, kills others around him, and he must hunt deep in his memory to piece together just what he really saw at the museum.

The whole thing about memory and the mind playing tricks is fascinating. So, not only have you got Argento telling a story, he's doing it with a message. Just what do we see when we view events from afar? How can we ever be sure that what we're seeing is the truth? What is truth when it comes to reliance on memory and sharp-moving visuals? This is a really great exploration of those themes, and it's tense and scary when it needs to be, bloodthirsty at just the right moments, and packed with interesting characters.

It's truly one of his best movies. The development of the artist is so obvious in this one, down to the black gloves, the close-ups on the eyes, and the spurting blood. Old Dario is always the best, and this just proves that.


STEVE says:
On the back of the DVD packet, Argento is said to have "single-handedly created the Giallo genre". Just think about being the one who created a genre. That's pretty fucking cool. Romero and Zombies, Stoker and Vampires, Bava and Giallo. Sweet.

This claim, however, is almost immediately disputed on the commentary track by Alan Jones and Kim Newman. It's Mario Bava, they say, who created the genre, but Argento - and specifically this film - was the first to make use of it after all the rules were laid out.

Either way, I don't like to think of Giallo as a genre. I think of it as a style, like Film Noir, something that happened organically and only classified in retrospect.

Even if he didn't create it, Argento clearly knew how to use the style, and this movie has it in spades - unlike some of his later work in and out of the Giallo mold. At some stage Argento became less interested in story and more in shocking visuals, and I think Giallo - whether a genre or a style - was the poorer for it.


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