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Dario Argento

Dario Argento

Dario Argento (born September 7, 1940, Rome, Italy) is a film director and screenwriter well known for his work in the typically Italian giallo genre, and for his influence on modern horror and slasher movies.

Argento is the son of film producer Salvadore Argento and Brazilian fashion model Elda Luxardo. He started his career in film as a critic, writing for various magazines while still attending high school. He did not attend college, electing rather to take a job as a columnist at the newspaper Paese Sera.

While working at the newspaper, Argento started screenwriting, and soon did work for Sergio Leone, collaborating with Bernardo Bertolucci on the screenplay for the spaghetti western classic Once Upon a Time in the West. Soon after its release in 1969, Argento wrote and directed his first movie, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which was released in 1970.

He concentrated almost exclusively on the 'giallo' (Italian for 'yellow'), a genre named for the yellow coloured paperback novels, which followed the suspense tradition of hardboiled American detective fiction while incorporating baroque scenes of violence and excess. While Mario Bava is credited with inventing the 'giallo' film, Argento's obsession with developing the genre has earned him widespread recognition as an 'auteur' director.

He continued working in the giallo thriller genre for his two next movies, The Cat of Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1972). He then turned his attention to TV, directing two TV dramas in 1973 before returning to thrillers with 1975's Deep Red, a violent mystery/thriller which inspired a number of other directors to work in the genre.

His next movie, Suspiria (1977), an extremely violent supernatural thriller, is considered by many to be his absolutely best work. Argento planned for Suspiria to be the first of a trilogy about The Three Mothers, three ancient witches residing in three different modern cities. The second movie of the trilogy was 1980's Inferno, but he so far has not completed the trilogy. In an interview at the 2003 Trieste Film Festival, Argento reportedly said that he was working on the third movie of the trilogy, to start filming in August 2004.

After Inferno, he returned to more conventional giallo thrillers with Tenebre (1982) and Phenomena (1985), which was one of Jennifer Connelly's first movies, and also showed Argento's predilection for using new technology, with its many prowling Steadicam shots. Both these movies got lukewarm receptions, and Argento took a break from directing to write two screenplays for Mario Bava's son Lamberto Bava, Demoni (1985) and Demoni 2 (1986).

Opera followed in 1987, and was, according to Argento, a very unpleasant experience. Set in Milan's La Scala opera during a production of Verdi's Macbeth, the movie was beset in real life by misfortune that Argento was starting to suspect were caused by the traditional curse on Macbeth. Argento's father died during the production, lead actress Vanessa Redgrave dropped out of the project before filming began, Argento's long-time girlfriend and collaborator Daria Nicolodi broke up with him, and the cast and crew were plagued by minor accidents and mishaps. The movie was not well received, but still showcases Argento's skill with color and composition, and features some truly breathtaking camera movements.

His works always include a profusion of allusions (both obscure and obvious) to other films, literature ranging from the Greek classics to current popular novels, politics, film/literary theory, as well as his own films. Argento's dense network of allusions, combined with his notorious negligence of plot, his bizarrely detailed mise-en-scenes, his obsession with gore-filled death scenes, and his unpredictable and roaming camera angles, has proven particularly resistant to critical interpretation. Little 'serious' academic work on Argento has been published; the two most notable publications on Argento is Maitland McDonagh's auteur study, "Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento", and a collection of poster art and critical essays, edited by Chris Gallant and entitled Art of Darkness. While critical work on Argento is unfortunately limited (and often out of print), he has acquired a cult fan base in Italy and the rest of the world; film reviews and interviews are regular subjects of interest in fanzines and internet discussion groups. One significant factor in Argento's lack of recognition in the United States is the generic boundaries which do not recognize the 'giallo' form -- his films are often marketed as slasher trash or simply horror, only occasionally making the art house or college cinema circuits.

Argento's major influences include Mario Bava, Sergio Leone, Alfred Hitchcock, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Federico Fellini.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2004.

Dario Argento Facts

BirthdaySeptember 7, 1940 (83)
BirthplaceRome, Italy

Selected Filmography

Masters Of Horror: Jenifer
Argento's Dracula
Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Two Evil Eyes
Masters of Horror: The Complete First Season
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