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Dario Argento Chats Gothic Imaginings

As Winter closes in, what could be more appealing than snuggling up in a darkened cinema to watch some of the best old school horror movies. Luckily, over the coming months, the British Film Institute will be throwing open its doors – and its archive – to reveal a storehouse of dark imagination. Featuring over 150 titles and around 1000 screenings the BFI’s Gothic Season runs until 31st January 2013. FilmJuice’s Christa Ktorides was at the BFI Southbank to chat to Italian horror Director, Producer and Screenwriter, Dario Argento about his own contribution to the Gothic genre…

Dario, you’re here as part of the Gothic season at the BFI. Are there any films in particular that you feel deserve a place in the season? Apart from your own!
Night Of The Living Dead. I saw for the first time, I remember, in Rome. A friend of mine said “there’s this marvellous film”. So we went to see it, but at the time … it was not a big success. After ten years, it was a classic. But, when we went to see it the first time in theatre … people … were stunned. The film was revolutionary! In everything: the story, the zombies, everything! It was something we’d never seen before … the political message inside … it’s one of the perfect classical films in the world.

George (A. Romero) is in town too, at the moment. Are you planning on meeting up with him at all?
Yes, of course! Yes, big friends! We do lots of films together. We have a long story!

Suspiria (main picture) is playing as part of the BFI’s season. What is it that you think makes that film so special?
It’s one of my most famous films … yeah. The film is special for me: like Night Of The Living Dead for George. I do many films, but …for me, that was unforgettable …. It was a fairy tale for me, and because of that, I shot it like a fairy tale. I … found Technicolor film stock – very old, very old! – in a laboratory in the States. And then, also the story is like a fairy tale … but also it’s a nightmare! It’s like a nightmare because some parts of the film are so surrealistic, so unbelievable. It’s come from, really, my unconscious mind – my dreams.

Are dreams the basis for many of your films?
Yeah! Dreams, yes. Basically all my films! Freud for me is a great genius. After him, everything changed. Picture painting, music: everything changed. He discovered the sexuality, the unconscious, and then discovered the dreams – how the dreams are important in our life. For me, it’s the same. Dreams are important because every film of mine is… [like] a dream. [Always] surrealistic … strange. Some sequences are very long, like a nightmare, like in a nightmare when it’s impossible to get out, to escape.

Why do you think people still love to be scared? Why do you think people still love horror movies?
Yes. People like be scared more than before. Maybe because the situation, the social situation, has changed. Young people especially … Old people, are too scared [by life], they don’t want to be scared. [But] young people are stronger!

As someone so famous for making Giallo films, do you feel obliged to keep up with where they’re going now?
I don’t see that there are any new Giallo films.

What about Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Amer and The Strange Colour Of Your Bodies Tears?
Yes. OK. Of course! But this is not a real Giallo! It is a French way of Giallo!

You don’t consider them real Giallo? Why is that?
Giallo is … something … that’s mine. It’s my way of making a film. It’s so personal. The style is something difficult to reproduce. [People may] say “we do Giallo”, yes, yes, but the product, the result, is not Giallo. It’s just a French way of Giallo!

What are your feelings about horror film, in general, now?
Pfft. The best horror films now come from Asia. Some are very good. Because … they don’t forget the psychology … the soul … but American horror films, I don’t like! Eighty percent are the same story. Ten young guys and a female go into a forest, go in a house … in the house they have ghosts, devils, an evil presence … then they die and the film finishes! Same story! No psychology, just special effects. Most people, now, forget the fear. It’s just special effects with explosions: BANG! BANG! And the people … forget the fear, like the master Alfred Hitchcock taught us. Fear is something difficult to do. You need to keep calm to see the possibilities with the camera, with movement, with the story. Fear has disappeared from horror films today.

So what was the most recent horror film that you did enjoy?
I was in South Korea, for a festival. I saw many films and met many directors, very interesting new directors. I also saw a film from France, Amer – that was very good. Another, Martyrs … not very good, but interesting!

What do you find scary then? What would scare Dario Argento?

After Dracula, would you work in 3D again?
Yeah. Not sure. You must have the right story to do it. 3D is a complicated technology. It’s very expensive. You must do films expressly thinking about 3D. I did Dracula in 3D because I had an idea to do Dracula many years ago. Dracula in the castle, the village, Mina, all the things we know … but when I discovered the new 3D technology that [allowed the viewer to] come inside the screen … [that was] marvellous!

Would you never consider converting any of your older films into 3D then?
No, no! Absolutely not!

The rumour of a Suspiria remake comes around every now and then. It still hasn’t happened yet, luckily, but what is your opinion on it?
My feeling is … don’t do it. But nobody’s called me. Nobody’s asked me… I was the director of the film, and nobody’s asked me. It’s unbelievable.

Would you want them to consult you on it? Or would you rather have nothing to do with it?
No. Suspiria is … done. It’s finished. If you want to make films, do another story. Please. Do another story. Because it’s just for money. Money. It’s not for art, but money!

The BFI Gothic season goes on until January. Do you think it’s important for audiences to come and see the films like that, instead of on TV at home?
Yes, because … on that screen it’s so… It’s different. On the big screen you are in the dark, with the other people, you have an emotion, like Freud says. Freud says film is like a psychoanalytic séance. You’re in the dark, you have a transfer into the screen. This transfer is important: into the screen, the story, the characters, in the dark, alone – it’s marvellous.

What else do you have in the pipeline?
In Italy, I’ve just finished directing an opera – Macbeth from Verdi – on stage. It was a great experience! It goes to Stockholm next. Then Paris. It’s interesting because I put in, on the stage, the special effects of a movie. For the first time there are special effects, blood, young girls naked! Everything is my style! I was very satisfied.

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