Despite 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
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 gialli—Tenebrae in particular—are marked by the detective's inability to contain his or her own transgressive drives.
Visions of deformity
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.
A dangerous mind
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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Talking heads, unruly women and wound culture
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.
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.
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."
Further 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.