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.) ...

8 Comments:

Anonymous Daniel said...

Fascinating! Only giallo I've seen is Argento, and have yet to place him (and his films) really within the context of their times. I'm too interested in his metaphysical mise-en-scene to get there yet! What inspired this recent viewing of "genre" films, Mubarak?

1:33 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Hi Daniel - Actually, I watch a lot more genre films than this blog may indicate. But (as you know) I rarely write about them, mostly because writing on such films doesn't come as naturally to me, and also there are always other films that actually need some light beamed on them. So this was a learning exercise (more so than usual...)

3:31 PM  
Blogger Mubarak Ali said...

Also - Argento is essential here, but if you are interested in gialli, you must also try and see Fulci's films from this period (and if you see just one, make it Don't Torture a Duckling).

3:50 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Who will pay to make a movie, without a defined genre these days?

8:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's funny how we are living a tru gialio obsession almost at the same time - a few monts ago i was immersed in that italian genre, and those Argento's and Fulci you named are really major achievements. Good to have company in these, and yours is one of the best i could find.

josé

9:41 PM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

This is very interesting. I agree with it. I think Italian genre films in 1970’s are full of memorable mental images, though some of their screenplays or stories may have some weak points. For example, I think PUZZLE (1974, Duccio Tessari, A-) is boring as a thriller, but what I like the most in this film is the mental image of “something” which flashes into the hero’s mind from time to time, and I also like the romantic aspect of this film. The beautiful mental images in these Italian genre films set them apart from films from other parts of the world. I like genre films from other countries, too, but maybe for different reasons. I like some American films such as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974, Tobe Hooper) and I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1970, David E. Durston) for their rawness. And I like some Spanish films such as WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976, Narciso Ibanez Serrador), TO LET (2006, Jaume Balaguero), and THE BABY’S ROOM (2006, Alex de la Iglesia) for their stories or screenplays. I like the Australian genre films of Greg McLean for their beautiful scenery. But it’s hard to find genre films from other countries which are full of memorable mental images like Italian films in 1970’s. Having said that, I have to say that MURDER OF THE INUGAMI CLAN (2006, Kon Ichikawa) has some memorable mental images, too.

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