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September 06, 2016



Dario Argento - 1982
Synapse Films BD Region A

I'm not sure why I chose to revisit Tenebrae when I did, but it was sometime in late September of 2001. What I do remember is that after the lingering malaise following 9/11, there was a sense of catharsis, particularly with the scene in which John Saxon gets killed in that very sunny, very public square. Maybe it was a sense of acceptance that even the most random, violent deaths can occur in sunshine.

In the academic study of giallo, Italian Horror Cinema, Karl Schoonover discusses the political aspects of Tenebrae, mentioning "global capitalism" and "neoliberalism". I doubt that Dario Argento had any kind of political agenda in mind. And as it is not mentioned, I am also sure that Schoonover was unaware that Argento was intending to have Tenebrae take place in a post-apocalypse near-future, and yet, when one considers the politics that contributed to 9/11 and my own reaction to the film after that one event, the connections seem a bit less tenuous.

Some of this goes to the heart of Tenebrae as well as Argento's films in general which are often based on understanding or misunderstanding what one sees. For the few who are not familiar with this film, it is about an author of mystery novels, visiting Rome, who finds himself caught up in a series of murders that appear to have been inspired by his newest book. The new blu-ray is the most complete version of the film, and it looks and sounds great. Whether it's Argento's best film might be subject for dispute. I just have sound coming from my television, no special speakers, and was taken aback by the hearing the main theme by Simonetti, Pignatelli and Morante, which might provide an idea of how good the audio portion is here. And visually, those red shoes of Eva Robins (as credited here) really pop on the screen.

Beyond the expected visual and audio upgrading, there are the supplements. The documentary, Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo is something of a career survey of Argento, but also discusses the connection to film noir and the German krimi films. Mentioned is an earlier Italian film that remains relatively unknown, Pietro Germi's The Facts of Murder from 1959 as a proto-giallo preceding the films by Mario Bava that are usually credited as the first in the genre. Among the talking heads are Maitland McDonagh, Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Alan Jones, Luigi Cozzi, Ruggero Deodato, Umberto Lenzi and Argento himself. McDonagh also provides a full-length commentary track that points out some of the illogical moments (why is Anthony Franciosa bicycling from Manhattan to JFK Airport?), and offers some humorous thoughts on the fashions, as well as discussing Argento's motivations for making Tenebrae. McDonagh also discusses how Argento's films have often been unavailable in any form unless one knew where to find a gray market version. It would not surprise me if McDonagh and I had VHS tapes of a couple of those films from the same source.


Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 6, 2016 05:41 PM