Saturday, September 20, 2008

genre, testimone oculare, memorable images

Truth-seekers : the eyewitnesses of The Girl Who Knew Too Much and The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.

"It should be understood then that the giallo is something different to that which is conventionally analysed as a genre. The Italians have the word filone, which is often used to refer to both genres and cycles as well as to currents and trends. This points to the limitations of genre theory built primarily on American film genres but also to the need for redefinition concerning how other popular film-producing nations understand and relate to their products. This introduction to the giallo, therefore, begins from the assumption that the giallo is not so much a genre, as its literary history might indicate, but a body of films that resists generic definition."
- Gary Needham

The more films I see from this "body of films", the more I realise just how permeable the borders existing between the gialli really are. One often hears of there being one or two prototypical films and the films that followed them to be stylised variations (the prototypes being Mario Bava's noirish The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), "the first true Italian giallo", with its haunted testimone oculare, or perhaps his subsequent Blood and Black Lace (1964), with its experimentations with colour and lurid violence on bodies), but that would be denying the strongly imagistic nature of the individual films that followed: their reliance and perpetual insistence upon memorable - at times, intense - images that eclipse narrative (in retrospect, one recalls who the killer is revealed to be in a particular film through the one or two big imagistic clues which lead the heroine to the answers); the importance placed upon them acknowledged within the film itself through diegetic paintings, photographs, materialised mental imagery and hallucinations, which function as origins of madness [The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (Argento, 1970), The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Miraglia, 1972)], objects of confusion and terror [The House With the Laughing Windows (Avati, 1976), Lizard in a Woman's Skin (Fulci, 1971), Deep Red (Argento, 1975), Seven Notes in Black (Fulci, 1977), Death Laid an Egg (Giulio Questi, 1968)], and ultimately, vessels of resolution [most of the above films along with two more key Argento's: The Cat O'Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (both 1971)]. A significant motif that attests to these films as being part of "a cinema of memorable images, in the tradition of expressionism" (Sylvain L.) ...

death will come and it will have your eyes

Superimpositions, reflections, impressions, phantoms, light, such harsh light!, gleamings, memorable images from La Donna del lago (Lady of the Lake, Luigi Bazzoni/Franco Rossellini, 1965), a companion to Giulio Questi's Death Laid an Egg (1968) in its interesting use of sound and somewhat tangential approach to the developing style of Italian giallo films, a black-and-white sibling of Bazzoni's subsequent classical giallo in colour, Giornata nera per l'ariete (The Fifth Cord, 1971), which, visually at least, is the equal of La Donna del lago...

(With Peter Baldwin, Virna Lisi, Valentina Cortese; photography by Leonida Barboni.)

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