Saturday, September 05, 2009

Death Paintings by Dario Argento

What would happen if Bonnard (or Heller-Burnham) decided to paint the Texas Chainsaw Massacre? The result might be something like Dario Argento’s Suspiria, a cult classic dating from the mid 1970s. The average horror movie has, as its foundation, two elements: death and the revelation of secrets. Suspiria expands upon this to include two other key elements: space and color. Ultimately, it is Argento’s use of space and color that lifts Suspiria out of the realm of the banal and into the realm of art. The most stunning cinematographic moments in the movie seem to revolve around corpses and death scenes; Argento crafts gorgeous “death paintings” from gore, blood, and lurid lighting. He also repeatedly evokes Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. In short, this movie is a visual feast, and almost every shot has a painterly quality. So much so, actually, that (for me at least) it’s a little hard to take in all at once. The only criticism I have of this gem is that it sags in the middle. But it would be pretty hard to beat either the first or the last fifteen minutes for pure ambience, gorgeousness, tension, and death painting ecstasy.

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