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Dario Argento

Dario Argento (born September 7, 1940) is an Italian film director, producer and screenwriter. He is best known for his work in the horror film genre, particularly in the subgenre known as giallo, and for his influence on modern horror and slasher movies.

Early career

Argento was born in Rome, the son of film producer/executive Salvatore Argento and Brazilian-born photographer Elda Luxardo. He started his career in film as a critic, writing for various magazines while still attending high school.

Argento did not attend college, electing rather to take a job as a columnist at the newspaper ''Paese Sera''. While working at the newspaper, Argento also began to work as a screenwriter. His most notable work was for Sergio Leone; he and Bernardo Bertolucci collaborated on the story for the spaghetti western classic ''Once Upon a Time in the West''. Soon after that film's release in 1969, Argento began work on his directorial debut, ''The Bird with the Crystal Plumage'', which was released in 1970 and was a major hit in Italy. His directing style was influenced by Mario Bava, Riccardo Freda, Sergio Leone, Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Walt Disney, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, and Federico Fellini.

Giallo years

Early in his directing career, he continued to concentrate largely on the giallo genre (more precisely known as "thriller" in Italy, as the word "giallo"--Italian for ''yellow''-- usually refers to generic mystery works). The films, like the lurid yellow-covered murder-mystery novels they were inspired by, followed the suspense tradition of hardboiled American detective fiction while incorporating baroque scenes of violence and excess. Director Mario Bava is credited with inventing the giallo film; Argento's passion in developing the genre has earned him widespread recognition as the key influence in popularising giallo cinema outside of Italy.

Argento directed two further successful thrillers, ''The Cat o' Nine Tails'' (1971) and ''Four Flies on Grey Velvet'' (1972). Alongside ''The Bird with the Crystal Plumage'', these initial three films are frequently referred to as Argento's "animal trilogy". The director then turned his attention away from giallo movies, filming two Italian TV dramas and a period comedy (''Five Days in Milan'') in 1973 before returning to thrillers with 1975's ''Deep Red'', frequently cited by many critics as the best giallo ever made. The film made Argento famous internationally, and inspired a number of other directors to work in the genre (John Carpenter has frequently referred to the influence Argento's early work had on ''Halloween''). It also marked the start of Argento's long creative relationship with composer Claudio Simonetti and his Italian progressive rock group Goblin which was highly influenced by the mythical cult french band Magma.

In all of Argento's giallo films, Argento casts himself as the killers' gloved hands. However, in recent releases, he has stopped this practice.

Supernatural years

Argento's next movie, ''Suspiria'' (1977), an extremely violent supernatural thriller, is considered by many fans to be his best work, alongside ''Deep Red''. Freed from the constraints of the more conventional giallo format, ''Suspiria'' is a semi-surreal work of art, where plot and character become secondary to sound and vision. Argento planned for ''Suspiria'' to be the first of a trilogy about "The Three Mothers", three ancient witches residing in three different modern cities. The second movie of the trilogy was 1980's ''Inferno''. ''The Mother of Tears'' concludes the trilogy.

In between the two "mothers", in 1978 Argento collaborated with George Romero on ''Dawn of the Dead'', earning a producer credit on the zombie classic. Argento oversaw the European release of the film (where it was titled ''Zombi'') which was much shorter and featured much more of the score written and performed by Goblin.

After ''Inferno'', Argento returned to more conventional giallo with ''Tenebrae'' (1982). He then attempted to combine giallo and supernatural fantasy in ''Phenomena'', also known as ''Creepers'' (1985), which was one of Jennifer Connelly's earliest movies. ''Phenomena'' also showed Argento's predilection for using new technology, with its many prowling Steadicam shots. Both of these movies received a lukewarm reception upon release (although each has been re-appraised retrospectively).

Argento subsequently took a break from directing to write two screenplays for Mario Bava's son Lamberto Bava, ''Dèmoni'' (1985) and ''Dèmoni 2'' (1986).

From the late 1980s and through the 1990s

''Opera'' followed in 1987, and was, according to Argento, a "very unpleasant experience". Set in Parma's Regio Theatre during a production of Verdi's ''Macbeth'', the movie was beset in real life by misfortunes that Argento suspected were caused by the traditional "curse" on Macbeth. Argento's father died during the production, Vanessa Redgrave dropped out of the project before filming began, he had problems working with his former long-time girlfriend and collaborator Daria Nicolodi on-set, and the cast and crew were plagued by minor accidents and mishaps. The movie was again not particularly well received by fans or critics, despite showcasing Argento's skill with color and composition, and featuring some technically impressive camera movements (the ravens' descent in the Parma opera house is considered to be one of the director's most famous set pieces).

It is widely accepted that his 1990s career and onwards has failed to live up to his golden period between ''Deep Red'' and ''Opera''. A collaboration with George A. Romero on an Edgar Allan Poe anthology titled ''Two Evil Eyes'' (1990), a stab at a mainstream Hollywood production (''Trauma'' of 1993) and a version of ''Phantom of the Opera'' (1998) lost him many fans , but he continued to innovate. For example, his 1996 ''The Stendhal Syndrome'', in which a policewoman (played by Argento's daughter, Asia) who suffers from a dramatized version of the illness is trapped by a serial killer in an abandoned warehouse, was the first Italian film to use computer-generated imagery (CGI). Furthermore, the opening of ''The Stendhal Syndrome'' was shot in Florence, at Italy's famed Uffizi Gallery. Argento is the only director ever granted permission to shoot there. ''The Stendhal Syndrome'' was distributed in the U.S. by cult B-movie distribution company Troma Entertainment.

In the 21st century

Many saw 2001's ''Sleepless'', deliberately designed as a "comeback movie" with its strong giallo theme and numerous references to his earlier work, as a step back in the right direction. However, Argento's follow-up, 2004's ''The Card Player'', a giallo about a killer whose murders are conducted during Internet poker matches with the Rome police, earned a mixed reception: some fans appreciated the techno music score composed by ex-Goblin member Claudio Simonetti, but felt the film was too mainstream, with little of Argento's usual flourish.

2005 saw the TV broadcast of Argento's ''Do You Like Hitchcock?'', in which the Italian horror-meister paid homage to Alfred Hitchcock after decades of being compared to him by critics. Later that year, he directed a segment of ''Masters of Horror'', a Showtime television series. The story, "Jenifer", based on an old ''Eerie'' comics tale by Bruce Jones, was a departure for Argento, but provided him with some of his best critical notices in several years. Soon afterwards, Argento directed an adaptation of the F. Paul Wilson short story "Pelts" for season 2 of the series.

Concluding his trilogy

Argento finished the conclusion of his ''Three Mothers'' trilogy, ''The Mother of Tears''. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2007.

The film is set in Rome and centers around the titular third mother, Mater Lacrimorum. Argento and Jace Anderson share writing credits for this movie. A joint effort between the Italian Studio, Medusa, and the American Studio, Myriad Pictures (which made ''Jeepers Creepers'') financed the production of the film, allowing Argento one of the largest, if not the largest, budgets he has ever worked with.

Argento's daughter Asia was cast in the lead, along with Daria Nicolodi in a supporting role. Udo Kier, who appeared in Argento's ''Suspiria'', and Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, who appeared in three of his previous films, both have pivotal roles in the final ''Mothers'' chapter.

The Return of 'Giallo'

On 26 June 2009, Argento's latest movie ''Giallo'' premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The following month he announced that he had started working on the 3D remake of Profondo Rosso, but also this project failed. Because of the failed screening of ''Giallo'' in Italian cinemas, he decided to write a new movie.

Works and criticism on Argento

Maitland McDonagh wrote about Argento in ''Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento'' (1991). He is also mentioned in ''Art of Darkness'', a collection of promotional stills, poster art and critical essays edited by Chris Gallant. British journalist Alan Jones published ''Profondo Argento'', a compendium of set reports, interviews and biographical detail. A forthcoming book on the films of Argento, written by James Gracey, is to be published by Kamera Books in 2010.

In the documentary Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror, Argento described himself as a natural loner who often does not enjoy the production process because of the hours of social interaction that is required to make a film.

The director has acquired a cult fan base throughout the world.

Other work

He is involved in a horror memorabilia store located at Via dei Gracchi 260 in Rome named Profondo Rosso, after his classic giallo movie. In the cellar is a collection from his movies. The store is managed by his long time collaborator and friend Luigi Cozzi.


As director

* ''The Bird with the Crystal Plumage'' (''L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo'') (1970) (Also Writer)
* ''The Cat o' Nine Tails'' (''Il gatto a nove code'') (1971) (Also Writer)
* ''Four Flies on Grey Velvet'' (''4 mosche di velluto grigio'') (1971) (Also Writer)
* ''The Five Days'' (''Le cinque giornate'') (1973) (Also Writer)
* ''Door into Darkness'' (TV Series, Episodes ''Testimone oculare'', ''Il tram'') (1973) (Also Writer, Producer)
* ''Deep Red'' (''Profondo rosso'') (aka ''The Hatchet Murders'') (1975) (Also Writer)
* ''Suspiria'' (1977) (Also Writer)
* ''Inferno'' (1980) (Also Writer)
* ''Tenebrae'' (aka ''Insane'') (1982) (Also Writer)
* ''Phenomena'' (aka ''Creepers'') (1985) (Also Writer, Producer)
* ''Opera'' (''aka Terror at the Opera'') (1987) (Also Writer, Producer)
* ''Two Evil Eyes'' (''Due occhi diabolici'') (Segment, ''The Black Cat'') (1990) (Also Writer, Executive Producer)
* ''Trauma'' (1993) (Also Writer, Producer)
* ''The Stendhal Syndrome'' (''La sindrome di Stendhal'') (1996) (Also Writer, Producer)
* ''The Phantom of the Opera'' (''Il fantasma dell'opera'') (1998) (Also Writer)
* ''Sleepless'' (''Non ho sonno'') (2001) (Also Writer, Producer)
* ''The Card Player'' (''Il cartaio'') (2004) (Also Writer, Producer)
* ''Do You Like Hitchcock?'' (''Ti piace Hitchcock?'') (2005) (Also Writer)
* ''Masters of Horror'' (TV Series, Episode ''Jenifer'') (2005)
* ''Masters of Horror'' (TV Series, Episode ''Pelts'') (2006)
* ''The Mother of Tears'' (2007) (Also Writer, Producer)
* ''Giallo'' (2009)

As writer (not director)

* ''Scusi, Lei è favorevole o contrario? (1967)
* ''Every Man Is My Enemy'' (''Qualcuno ha tradito'') (1967)
* ''Heroes Never Die'' (''Les Héros ne Meurent Jamais'') (1968)
* ''Once Upon a Time in the West'' (''C'era una volta il West'') (1968) (Story)
* ''Today It's Me... Tomorrow It's You!'' (''Oggi a me... domani a te!'') (1968)
* ''Comandamenti per un Gangster'' (1968)
* ''Commandos'' (1968)
* ''La Rivoluzione sessuale'' (''The Sexual Revolution'') (1968)
* ''Cemetery Without Crosses'' (''Une Corde, un Colt'') (1969)
* ''Love Circle'' (''Metti una sera a cena'') (aka ''One Night at Dinner'') (1969)
* ''Probabilità Zero'' (1969)
* ''Legion of the Damned'' (''La legione dei dannati'') (aka ''Battle of the Commandos'') (1969)
* ''The Five Man Army'' (''Un esercito di cinque uomini'') (1969)
* ''Season of the Senses'' (''La stagione dei sensi''') (1969)
* ''Man Called Amen'' (''Così sia'') (1972)
* ''Demons'' (''Dèmoni'') (1985) (Also Producer)
* ''Demons 2'' (''Demoni 2'') (1986) (Also Producer)
* ''The Church'' (''La Chiesa'') (aka ''Demons 3'') (1989) (Also Producer)
* ''The Sect'' (''La setta'') (aka ''Demons 4'') (1991) (Also Producer)
* ''The Wax Mask'' (''M.D.C. - Maschera di cera'') (1997) (Story) (Also Producer)

As producer (neither writer nor director)

* ''Door into Darkness'' (Episode ''La bambola'') (1973)
* ''Dawn of the Dead'' (''Zombi'') (1978)
* ''Turno di Notte'' (TV Series) (1987)
* ''Scarlet Diva'' (2000)


Source: Wikipedia