The horror-meister
Article by Michela Greco

"Luca Guadagnino is a gentleman and an intelligent filmmaker; I hope he doesn’t mangle my film." Before a rapt audience of students at Milan’s IULM University, Dario Argento went all out in a masterclass in which he addressed many aspects of his filmmaking career, without being able to get around the inevitable curiosity mounting over the remake of his Suspiria that the director of I Am Love is filming in Varese. The talk with the Italian horror-meister was one of the closing events of the 26th Noir in Festival, which screened the restored version of Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet, and wrapped up with the premiere of David Frankel’s Collateral Beauty.

On the remake of Suspiria: "The road to this project was a veritable odyssey: the rights to Suspiria were acquired by one group and the film was supposed to be directed by an American filmmaker, but the first script was awful and also the next few tries were duds. So the rights reverted to the previous owners, including Luca Guadagnino, an old friend of mine, a true cinephile and connoisseur of film: he decided to direct it himself, though I don’t know if that was wise…he doesn’t seem the best fit for this kind of film. It had been years since we talked when he called me a few weeks ago to invite me on set in Varese. All I knew about the project was hearsay…I thought it over and decided not to go. I’d rather not see the way the whole thing’s changed."

On establishing a dialogue with young people: "In the past few days I’ve held masterclasses in Paris and Turin, in large rooms full of kids. It may well be that the rising generation appreciates the issues I deal with in my films and the way I deal with them. The kids can sense that I’m sincere when I express my views."

On psychoanalysis: "Fellini once said, ‘My work is a rambling session with a psychotherapist.’ I can really identify with that. I get a great deal of my inspiration from my past and memories filtered through what is an unreliable memory. I show my dark side, my hidden, brutal feelings; I delve into the deepest reaches of my subconscious."

On the family: "In this day and age, I feel that the family lies at the root of our worst instincts. My killers, in fact, always have a family trauma in their past."

On Opera: "Lately my films have been rediscovered. In France the original version of Opera has been re-released, not the one with fifteen minutes cut out that came out in Italy, which I found appalling: the most shocking, most powerful scenes had been cut. That film underwent a persecution, and the French were happy to see the uncut version."

On film scores: "I really wanted Deep Purple to write the score for Four Flies on Grey Velvet, but they were touring at the time and couldn’t do it. I never told this to Morricone, who eventually wrote the music himself; he would have been enraged. For Deep Red I wanted Pink Floyd, so I got in touch with them and they said they would have loved to do it, but they had other commitments. I have worked with artists like Brian Eno and Keith Emerson, but I’ve also rubbed elbows with many other brilliant musicians."

On fairy tales: "I happen to be writing a collection of fractured fairy tales for adults, but it’s going slowly: I’ve only written two stories in one year."

On political horror movies: "I worked on one of the most political films ever made, Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which is one of the strongest statements out there against the consumer society. In any case, everything is political, and in my films there are always a load of symbols….even if it isn’t blatant, my films, too, are political."