Dario Argento (Italy, 1940)
Dario Argento was born in Rome, to a family immersed in the visual arts: his father, Salvatore, had a crucial role in the introduction and the popularity of foreign films abroad, thanks to his work in public relations at Unitalia, the government office dedicated to film promotion, and his Brazilian mother, Elda Luxardo, was a famous fashion photographer. After a career as a film critic for newspaper “Paese Sera”, Argento would be attracted to the director's chair after co-writing, with Bernardo Bertolucci, the script for the classic «Once Upon a Time in the West», by Sergio Leone.
In his first film as director, with the thriller «The Bird with the Cristal Plumage» (1970), Argento grabs the baton of giallo from the hand of Mario Bavo, taking the genre to whole new levels, with an emphasis given on elaborate murder set-pieces with a high level of graphic violence. The success at the box-office had some critics labelling him the “Italian Hitchcock”. The following films would pursue the challenge of what was acceptable to show in terms of violence: «The Cat o' Nine Tales», «Four Flies on Grey Velvet», and «Deep Red». The latter would introduce what would become a trademark of Argento's films: the sound of progressive rock band Goblin.
The baroque masterpiece «Suspiria» (1977) made Argento into a global cult director and would be a strong influence on horror films all around the world, especially in the USA. His imagery, technique, and camera movement, would be refined over the years, in the following films: «Inferno», «Tenebrae», «Phenomena», and «Opera».
In 1978, Argento helped financing George Romero's zombie classic «Dawn of the Dead», and also started producing films for some of his countrymen, such as Lamberto Bava, Michelle Soavi, and special effects master Sergio Stivaletti. With films produced by his brother Claudio, and his then wife Daria Nicolodi as protagonist, Argento would widen his family's participation in his works shooting with daughter Asia, in several of his films starting with «Trauma» (1993).
Argento never stopped working in the genre. He would continue to shot gialli in Italy, and in the US, invited by Mick Garris, directed “Jennifer” (2005) and “Pelts” (2006), two of the most violent episodes of the TV show “Masters of Horror”. He finished his “Three Mothers” trilogy in 2007, with «Mother of Tears».
Alan Jones, director of Frightfest and a critic that wrote extensively about Argento, including two books, uses a sequence from «Opera» to describe the experience of watching one of the director's films: a girl has to keep her eyes opened due to the needles that someone glued to her eyes, being forced to witness the most horrifying scenes.