Giallo

Berberian-Sound-Studio

Italian giallo films have made something of a quiet comeback recently. Restored blu-rays of Dario Argento and Mario Bava’s films are inviting renewed considerations of the genre outside the canonized Suspiria, and Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Amer presented a dedicated contemporary revisitation of the genre. Now consider British writer-director’s Peter Strickland’s sophomore feature Berberian Sound Studio, a densely atmospheric and wonderfully bizarre journey into the increasingly fevered mind of a sound effects engineer of an Italian horror (but don’t call it horror!) film in which is the film itself is never actually seen, but only heard.

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Dario Argento

The word “Giallo” is Italian for “Yellow” which was the color of the covers of old pulp novels from the Mondadori publishing house. It’s also the color of the urine that’s scared out of you while watching the best horror flicks. There are a lot of names associated with the film movement (which usually focuses on the very stylish, very violent removal of blood from someone’s body), but at the top of the list is Dario Argento (sorry, Fulci fans). The Italian filmmaker has delivered the truly bizarre and beautiful, making movies like Suspiria and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage amongst many, many others. He was also instrumental in bringing Dawn of the Dead to life and influenced a new generation of horror directors (not to mention leagues of fans). So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the master of Yellow.

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Berberian Sound Studio

The moment that the closing credits started to roll for Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio I looked to my right to tell my colleague that I don’t think I’d ever sat through a horror picture and felt absolutely nothing. Not until then, anyway. I think my heart pumped more in saying that sentence than it did at any moment watching the picture. I don’t know if that was the intention of the movie. I also don’t know if it was intended for the movie to be considered a horror movie. It’s a movie about the making of an Italian giallo film, but it more closely resembles a Lynchian psychological thriller. Only without the thrill part.

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Doing homage well is a difficult enough task, but creating a new film that harkens back to a certain genre or timeperiod provides a whole new set of issues. While there’s been a onslaught of grindhouse homages in the wake of Rodriguez and Tarantino’s double-feature Grindhouse, giallo has also seen a few entries. Perhaps the best or at least most widely recognized title was the Belgian film Amer, a fever-dream of a movie told in three parts. While Amer nailed the framing, lighting, color and soundtrack that epitomized Italian giallo films, it did so at the expense of story, featuring a fractured, blurred narrative. It’s a case of style over substance and while the style is certainly impressive, the substance is certainly missed. Last Screening is another film that wears its giallo influences on its proverbial sleeve, but it does so in service of the story being told. Sylvain (Pascal Cervo) is a bit of a loner. He spends his days working in a small cinema as a sort of one man band selling tickets, working the projection booth and acting as general manager. His nights are dedicated to more sinister passions, hunting down young woman and murdering them, taking a very specific item as a souvenir. Unfortunately, the theater isn’t doing so well and the owner has decided to shut it down. Sylvain takes almost no notice of this, continuing on as if nothing is happening, assuring the theaters’s few loyal patrons that the rumors about closing are untrue and […]

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A young girl terrorized by a mourning woman in black. A blossoming teen discovering the attention her body attracts from men. A woman stalked by a razor-wielding assailant in her childhood home. Clearly, this is a film about sex. Amer offers three distinct peeks into one woman’s life with minimal dialogue and maximum atmosphere in an exploration of innocence lost and sexual identity gained. Colored light splashes, indirect camera angles, and a heavy emphasis on images and sounds make this more of a sensory experience than a traditional narrative. It’s an ode of sorts to the Italian giallo classics of the past from Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and others, but where those films often triumphed style over a relatively weak story Amer uses style in place of any story at all. Viewers looking for anything resembling a traditional slasher film should look elsewhere, but those interested in a fresh, visually impressive film (albeit one with flaws) may want to seek this one out soon.

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Join us each week as Rob Hunter takes a look at new DVD releases and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which titles are worth BUYing, which are better off as RENTals, and which should be AVOIDed at all costs. And remember, these listings and category placements are meant as informational conversation starters only. But you can still tell Hunter how wrong he is in the comment section below. This week sees two titles worth buying that couldn’t be more different… DisneyNature: Oceans and the goofy and gory Japanese flick Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl. There are also several DVDs worth renting or avoiding all together including Assault Of the Sasquatch, Giallo, Predators, Please Give, Forbidden Lies, and more. Oh, and don’t miss the feel good release of the year in our first installment of “WTF Of the Week”… Forgive Me For Raping You. Click on any of the titles below to magically head over to Amazon.com and pick up the DVD. And don’t forget to check out Neil Miller’s hilariously titled This Week In Blu-ray for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!

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Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; the column that raises the issue of cerebral obesity and its underlying causes.

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Adrien Brody in Dario Argento

I’ve got a little treat for all of you horror fans out there, a first look at Adrien Brody starring in Dario Argento’s upcoming horror flick Giallo.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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