Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dario Argento Poised for a Career Resurgence

Film director Dario Argento, whose name is almost always preceeded with the words "Italian horror maestro," has made the last in his "Three Mothers" trilogy. The first was his masterpiece Suspiria (1977), his second, Inferno (1980), and now, after 27 years, is The Mother of Tears. This is the chronological equivalent of Return of the Jedi coming out this year.

It was worth the wait. The film belies Argento's 67 years— it's a youthfully energetic film sure to widen his cult status. The University of Southern California (USC) presented The Mother of Tears on Friday night as part of a tribute to Argento, with screenwriters Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson present. Gierasch gave an introduction in which he amusingly described how he lucked into the screenwriting job, a longtime fan who, through a loss in translation, went from asking Argento for an autograph, to landing a trip to Rome to co-write the movie.

The Mother of Tears does not try to mimic Suspiria (the tragic flaw of Inferno) and could easily stand on its own. And listen, Argento's films in general try my mainstream sensibilities to the breaking point, but there is something to his work and particularly the first, and now the third, of this trilogy.

Screenwriter Gierasch stated that there is an attempt being made to get The Mother of Tears into this January's Sundance Film Festival in anticipation of its US premiere. I suspect that the film will get a decent amount of play— at least a little more than one week at the Nuart in L.A. and the Angelica in New York— and might lead to a few screening series of Argento's films next year.

The "Three Mothers" trilogy:

Suspiria (1977): Atmospheric “fairytale” is at one with the groundbreaking horror films of its day, yet outdistances them with its striking visuals, shocks, and brilliantly maniacal musical score (if in exchange for a looseness of thematic resonance, other than the psychology of audience manipulation), creating an unsettling tone that is a combination of sound and image perfectly matched to make the viewer unsure of what they’re seeing and hearing.

Inferno (1980): All of the elements, as elements, that made Suspiria so fascinating are on display— the striking art direction/ cinematography, the mystery, the shocks, the unusual score— but each of them is drastically less effective, and even a richness of recurring motifs can’t save this entry from being a parody of style only worth the effort as a bridge between the trilogies' better two-thirds.

The Mother of Tears/La Terza Madre (2007/08): Energetic and ambitious film delivers crowd-pleasing (albeit frequently misogynistic) shocks and suspense and a journey narrative that taps into our innermost desire for the horror image.

Argento's imdb listing.

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