Kinoeye:  The fornightly journal of film in the new Europe

Vol 2
Issue 12
24 June

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Assault on the senses
The horror legacy of Dario Argento

"In its sheer enigmatic weirdness, Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977) serves to remind us that no film is ever really a text, but always an experience." Adam Simon*

Dario ArgentoDespite the originality, diversity and eccentricity of his work, Dario Argento's name is synonymous with Italian horror—and increasingly with horror cinema in general. The controversy generated by his films has been matched only by the interest they inevitably provoke and by their often overwhelming audiovisual design. In this two-part Kinoeye special, eleven scholars shed new historical, formal and theoretical light on the "Argento experience."

Part two: 1981 to 2002

Dario Argento's Tenebrae (Unsane, 1982)Transgressive drives and traumatic flashbacks
Tenebrae (Unsane, 1982)

Creatively and convincingly blending together a variety of psychoanalytic approaches and theoretical insights, Xavier Mendik here reveals the extent to which Argento's gialliTenebrae in particular—are marked by the detective's inability to contain his or her own transgressive drives.

Dario Argento's Phenomena (1985)Visions of deformity
Phenomena (1985)

Phenomena is an example of body-horror in Italian cinema which specifically targets adolescent anxieties about newly-awakened sexual desires and the shame that stems from physical deformity. Donald Campbell, President of the British Psychoanalytical Society, looks at the film in detail.

Dario Argento's Opera (1987)A dangerous mind
Opera (1987)

In this detailed formal and stylistic analysis, Michael Sevastakis makes evident Argento's neo-Expressionist sensibilities and shows how the director's use of the camera at times approaches a "visual equivalent of Poe's elegantly wrought prose."

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Dario Argento's Trauma (1993)Talking heads, unruly women and wound culture
Trauma (1993)

In its exposé of American soullessness as a product of a "wound culture" that substitutes pop psychological diagnoses for interrogation of gender inequities and real social lack, Argento's Trauma makes beheading a metaphor for contemporary life. Linda Badley explains.

Dario Argento's La sindrome di Stendhal (The Stendhal Syndrome, 1996)Female subjectivity and the politics of "becoming other"
La sindrome di Stendhal
(The Stendhal Syndrome, 1996)

As Colette Balmain argues, in La sindrome di Stendhal Argento shifts from his earlier critique of "masculine epistemology" to a more direct engagement with the politics of female identity.

Dario Argento's Non ho sonno (Sleepless, 2000)Trains of thought
Non ho sonno (Sleepless, 2000)

In this early analysis of Argento's latest giallo, Reynold Humphries praises Non ho sonno for its complexity of plot while finding fault with the director's uninspired direction and over-emphasis on gore. As he explains, Argento once more interestingly employs the distinctly Lacanian strategy of "leading us astray precisely by telling the truth."

Dario ArgentoFurther reading and viewing
Dario Argento resources online and in print

An extensive bibliography of electronic, print and video resources on the Italian horror master, compiled by Steven Jay Schneider and Frank Lafond.

Assault on the senses: The horror legacy of Dario Argento
Guest editor: Steven Jay Schneider

With thanks to: Nick Dawe (Dark Dreams), Alan Jones, Frank Lafond and Francine Esposito.

* Adam Simon, "Suspiria." In Understanding Film Genres: Film through Genres, Genre through Films, ed Sara Pendergast, Tom Pendergast and Steven Jay Schneider (New York: McGraw-Hill & Co, forthcoming 2003).return to text

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