Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Review - Opera (1987 - Dir. Dario Argento)

I quite like a bit of Dario - although in recent years I seem to be veering more to the Fulci style of horror - but this is not one of my favourite Argento films. I saw it in a cut form a long time ago and thought about how great it must be uncut. And it is better. But it's still not one of Dario's best.

Betty (Christina Marsillach) is an opera singer who is forced to watch a murderer going about his deeds. Then she becomes the subject of his dastardly intent. It's a giallo then, with all of the trademark giallo action. In a minor twist on the sub-genre the killer wears protective latex gloves over the top of his black leather gloves. Obviously a killer who likes to keep his murdering gloves in a pristine fashion. Red herrings about the killer's identity are throw around with wild abandon and it all comes to a suitably preposterous end. 

So are the death's any good? That's what you really want to know. Well, they're not too bad. They are made better by the fact that Betty has to watch them with a row of pins sellotaped under her eyes. Dario always stages some good killings and these are no exception. One romantically inclined fellow tries to woo his lady friend by offering her some tea: Rose, Jasmine or Mint. What no Tetley's? He deserves to die the filthy little purveyor of comedy tea. And die he does in a very brutal fashion. Good. (Funnily enough a lot of this was cut out from the version I first saw.) Another death makes brilliant use of an ultra high speed camera, a peephole and a gun, and manages to kill two birds with one stone. Iconic stuff indeed.

Now we get to one of the problems with Dario - his childlike giddiness when it comes to new technology. At times, this is his strength and in the above scene it works for him very well, but in Opera it seems as though he has just got his hands on a brand new shiny steadicam and can't wait to use it. A lot. The endless POV shots get increasingly tiresome and wreck any tension that could have been created with a tad more restraint. Conversely, there is a stunning (for the time) shot of a Raven's POV as it comes circling down in an opera house. I suppose I've got to learn to take the rough with the smooth.

Giulia. Not quite in the same league as Mary's dad but her acting is so overly dramatic she could well pass as a professional dancer. This is exacerbated by the excessive dubbing. Italian film-goers are supposedly used to watching dubbed films but this veer into Eurotrash territory. The theatre manager is one of the prime culprits.

Throw in a baffling Peter Pan-esque killer, terrible non-Goblin soft rock ditties and some unpleasant scenes of ravens being ragged about or slashed at and you'd think that I didn't like Opera. (Admittedly, the raven scene is nothing compared to the cat and mouse scene in Inferno. Perversely, there's a film that was actually better in its cut form.) The problem is that I'm always comparing it to Suspiria, a way better film. Taken on its own merits it's a pretty fun film, and better than the later Argento films. Go with the Eurotrash voices, enjoy the killings, gloss over the bizarre motivations and you shouldn't go too far wrong.

(NB Opera contains strong scenes of opera. Viewers of a sensitive disposition beware.)


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