News / 13 July 2023

Dario Argento Retrospective At Melbourne International Film Festival

Presented by Istituto Italiano Di Cultura, Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) will host a retrospective of Italy’s maestro of the macabre, Dario Argento, with eleven features and his half of the Edgar Allan Poe anthology TWO EVIL EYES, all restored in 4K by Cinecittà.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)
[L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo]
Sam Dalmas is a struggling writer, living abroad with his girlfriend Julia and makes ends meet by writing manuals about the preservation of rare birds. One night, he walks past an art gallery and witnesses a brutal attack committed by a figure in a shiny black coat, wielding a knife. Haunted by what he has seen, he decides to help the police detectives on their hunt for the perpetrator, who has already murdered three other victims. Soon, Sam is sucked into a freakish world involving a cat-eating artist and a neurotic pimp, and becomes the killer’s number-one target.
The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971)
[Il gatto a nove code]
When a mysterious break-in occurs at the Terzi Institute for genetic research, the only thing amiss is the glaring lack of stolen goods. But these apparently low stakes soon escalate wildly, as someone with everything to lose begins eliminating ‘loose ends’. After Franco, a blind crossword-puzzle devotee, learns that intrepid reporter Carlo is on the case, he and his young niece Lori feel compelled to pay him a visit. Can this ragtag crew spy what everyone else is missing and unmask the killer?

Four Flies on Grey Velvet
[4 mosche di velluto grigio]
Roberto, a drummer in a rock band, is being watched by a mysterious man. He follows the shady figure into a theatre, where a struggle ensues; Roberto accidentally stabs the knife-wielding stranger. The tussle is photographed by a masked witness, who begins to torment Roberto, and soon a cast of offbeat characters – from a flamboyant detective, Roberto’s wife Nina and her alluring cousin, to a friend named “God” and a parrot called “Jerk-Off” – progressively intensify Roberto’s guilt.
The Five Days (1973)
[Le cinque giornate]
Set against the backdrop of the 1848 Italian Revolutions, this politically charged action-comedy stars pop icon Adriano Celentano as a hapless thief liberated from his Milanese prison cell by a stray cannonball as the Austrian army lays siege to the city. Misadventure ensues as he crosses paths with a naive baker on the hunt for a brigand turned revolutionary and the country plunges into bleak and bloody civil unrest.

Deep Red (1975)
[Profondo rosso]
When a psychic is brutally murdered in her apartment, English jazz pianist Marcus – a resident of the same building – teams up with Gianna, an Italian tabloid journalist, to solve the murder. As the pair pursue various leads, the meat cleaver keeps swinging and more bodies begin to drop. The musician becomes a suspect, then a target. Is Marcus in over his head?
Suspiria (1977)
Argento’s beloved classic fuses the refined and graceful movements of ballet with the bloody horror and melodrama of Italian giallo. Suzy is an American dance student who arrives at a prestigious academy in Germany on the same night that another pupil is violently murdered. An intrigued Suzy investigates, and after maggots rain down in the dormitory, the mystery begins to unfold – leading to more grisly killings and frightening revelations.

Tenebrae (1982)
American crime writer Peter Neal is greeted in Rome not only by a cavalcade of attentive journalists but by two detectives investigating a homicide. A woman’s throat has been slit, mimicking a scene from his latest novel, whose pages were also stuffed in her mouth; the police have a hunch this first victim won’t be the last. As the bodies pile up around Neal, they begin to suspect the true murderer may live close to home.
Phenomena (1985)
Jennifer Corvino, the daughter of a famed American movie star, is sent to study at the Richard Wagner Academy for Girls in Switzerland. Once there, she finds herself in the path of a serial killer targeting teenage girls. Naturally, her tendency to somnambulate and her telepathic connection with maggots and flies will prove useful in solving the murders – especially after she teams up with a forensic entomologist and his chimpanzee nursemaid.

Opera (1987)
Theatre folks consider it a curse to utter the title of Macbeth while staging a production of Shakespeare’s historical tragedy, a superstition shared by their opera colleagues. Giussepi Verdi’s reimagining of the play is similarly haunted by freak deaths and suspicious near-misses. Dario Argento embraced this spooky drama, wielding operatic flourishes for his extravagantly staged 1987 masterpiece that pits a naive young soprano understudy, thrust into the limelight, against a masked killer stalking the Parma Opera House.
The Black Cat
Part of the 1990 horror anthology TWO EVIL EYES that Argento conceived and realised alongside George A. Romero. Rod Usher is no stranger to the dark and gruesome; he’s frequently called on by local police to document horrific crime scenes. But when his girlfriend Annabel, a violinist, brings home a black cat, Rod starts to unravel. Increasingly convinced the feline is out to get him, he commits a brutal act that propels him into a horrifying guilt-induced nightmare from which there is no return.

The Phantom of the Opera (1998)
[Il fantasma dell’Opera]
You probably think you know this story, but Dario Argento’s 1998 version has way more rats and telepathy. In it, an orphaned outcast who finds refuge among the rodents in the caverns beneath the Opéra de Paris grows up to become a genius composer. Having seduced beautiful young opera singer Christine, he promotes her career using a combination of threats and gory sabotage. But when the aristocratic Raoul also falls for Christine, the Phantom takes this rivalry to Gothic extremes.

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005)
[Ti piace Hitchcock?]
Giulio is a Rome film student obsessed with the work of Alfred Hitchcock. He spends his time watching movies and spying on his attractive neighbour, Sasha, who he discovers frequents the same video store as him; there, she captures Giulio’s attention when she tries to borrow a Hitchcock film that is also sought by another customer. When a murder is committed in the building across from his, Giulio finds himself drawn deep into the investigation and at the centre of his own old-fashioned thrill ride.

MIFF runs from August 3 to 20 and you can find the full program online