Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Film Review: DEEP RED (Dario Argento, 1975)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 126 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Goblin, Gabriele Lavia, Luigi Kuveiller
Tag-line: "When was the last time you were REALLY SCARED!!!? PSYCHO? The EXORCIST? JAWS? Now there's DEEP RED."
Best one-liner(s): "Come on, Tarzan, why don't you try me? ...Indian wrestling!" [She then clearly assumes typical arm-wrestling stance, NOT Indian wrestling, which Webster's defines as "a form of wrestling in which two opponents, lying supine in reversed position, lock their near arms, raise and lock their near legs, and attempt to force the other's leg down." Gotta love Argento- this is the same guy that refers to bulimia as anorexia in TRAUMA.]

Four reasons why DEEP RED is an enduring masterpiece, not just as a giallo, but as something that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the other magnum opuses that emerged from the cinema of the 70's:

#1. The visuals. DEEP RED pops and astounds in a manner that puts other filmmakers to shame. Whether it be incredible camerawork that was only possible because they were shooting non-synch sound, magnificent closeups with precise tracking, or exquisite architecture framing the scenes, Argento hits every shot out of the ballpark. And even though it lacks the sustained lighting of SUSPIRIA, I still might name this as Argento's most beautiful film. Every lesson he learned from Bava is on display here, and it is visually breathtaking.

#2. GOBLIN. In their first collaboration with Dario, Goblin shines, crashing onto the scene as a combination of ELP, J.S. Bach, and 70's hardcore bass lines. They would later evolve into Italo Disco of similar weight, but here they are perfect. I think anyone would be ecstatic to have this stuff be their theme music.

#3. The banter. Daria Nicolodi and David Hemmings cultivate a genuinely amusing relationship, with arm-wrestling and awkward Italo-British tension. The fact that it's done with Hawksian zest reminds the viewer that all too often, banter is utter crap or detrimental to a story.

#4. The ornately crafted mystery. Argento keeps a flawless balance between the heroes, background characters, and the audience, with each knowing more and less than the others at any given time. Layers of mystery are peeled away visually (writing on a steam-covered mirror, a walled-in room, a buried mural) so that YOU viscerally discover the answers along with the characters. And the icing on the cake is the fact that a crucial clue divulging the killer's identity is hidden in plain view at the start of the picture, and not unveiled, Agatha Christie-like, at the end as a deus ex machina letdown. It holds you in its grasp until the final, absurdly abrupt moment... "You have been watching...DEEP RED."

-Sean Gill

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