MC: The goal was to share Argento’s creations with American students because there is a relationship between American culture and his works. Argento took an important heritage from American culture. For example, Edgar Allan Poe was a very important author for him. We thought it was sort like an interplaying of culture — Italian and American culture. On one side, Argento received the imaginary world — the fantastic world — of Edgar Allan Poe. By the other side, his original creation had an influence on horror films in America. So it was sort of a full circle.
GB: And the more I think about it, Argento’s films featured a lot of general horror themes, such as the subject of morality, the point of view of total darkness, psychedelic color and the psychological aspect of human beings and existence. In Argento cinema, there’s a constellation of topics and aesthetic views. There’s a reason for presenting this kind of artwork to UNC students.
MC: For sure, we think Argento deserves more recognition. Even in Italy, he’s not celebrated enough. He’s known as a famous filmmaker, but he’s not on the star system of classic Italian filmmakers like Fellini or Leone or Antonioni. He’s celebrated more in France. In France’s cinema culture, he is very well celebrated.
GB: He’s even more well known in America than in Italy. However, in America, he’s known as a horror film director, but not as a creator of new imaginary worlds in horror films.
DTH: What impact did Argento have on the horror genre?
MC: When we re-watched Argento’s films, we see that his films are a dedication to the '70s. When you watch his films, you notice how he moves his camera to really anticipate the horror. Argento’s way of moving the camera — using the subjective camera, the killer’s point of view and matching the colors together — is very original. You can recognize Argento’s signature. The way he moves the camera creates fear and suspense. At the same time, you see that the films of the '70s were also directed in a specific way that creates the sense of fear — all through the camera. This was how we felt when re-watched his films last year. It’s also interesting when I found out that Argento’s first film, “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage,” — it’s also the film that we screened last week — is one of Tarantino’s favorite films of all time. It’s very strange because it’s not really a famous film. When we saw it again, we actually were quite amazed by the quality of the images of the moving camera and the revolutionary ways of creating cinema.
GB: There’s a sort of cross-fertilization between film directors and the international framework of horror, especially with the interplay of subjective camera. There’s a communication between different culture, different film directors and different aesthetics.
DTH: “Suspiria” is the first film in a trilogy that Argento refers to as “The Three Mothers.” On the list of screenings, you are playing the first two films, “Suspiria” and “Inferno.” Why isn’t “The Mother of Tears,” the final film of the trilogy, being screened?
MC: The reason was we wanted to focus on the ‘70s. Even though “The Third Mother” completes the trilogy, the style of the film is very different because Argento has changed through the decades, so his aesthetic has changed, as well. This was one of the reason why we preferred to keep the focus on this decade, the ‘70s. Even if we lost the third film of the trilogy.
GB: We did keep the first trilogy: “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage,” “The Cat O’ Nine Tails” and “Four Flies on Grey Velvet.” It’s his first trilogy, and it’s about animals. In this first trilogy, Argento shaped his same aesthetic, and then he developed his aesthetic to an extreme with “Suspiria” and “Deep Red.” With “The Third Mother,” like Michele was saying, there was a transformation about the aesthetics. Maybe “Suspiria” presented another level of '70s aesthetics by Argento.
DTH: Why did you choose end the film screening series with John Carpenter’s “Halloween”?
MC: It was really interesting to see the period of cinema in the '70s. The films that we’re screening were all films of the '70s, including Carpenter’s “Halloween.” Carpenter said this film was inspired by Argento. Carpenter was able to grasp the Argento’s style and make it his own, especially in the way he portrayed the reality of human madness, killing and murder. I think when he said took inspiration from Argento, he was talking about this period of time where you can see the aesthetic emerge, a way of making film aesthetically and in our point of view. Carpenter’s “Halloween” shares the same feeling in the emergence of the same style.
GB: And utmost fear. Another reason we chose to screen Carpenter’s “Halloween” is because the screening is the day before Halloween. We want to stress the crossing between Italian culture and American culture and these common feelings of horror.