Opera

Opera_Dario_ArgentoA Traviata Travesty? Dario Argento’s sweeping operatic horror is a masterpiece, and he’s a true virtuoso; when he’s on-point, there’s no better director.

Each and every scene is a painting, a picture — the vent/railing/conductor cut/pan up is magic.

The plot? It’s almost immaterial. Even a Dario Argento juicer infomercial would be something to behold.

Apparently, the curse of “the Scottish play” translates to operas as well. This reviewer was not aware that the hex has connections to the Verdi opera: in 1988, a man apparently committed suicide at the Met, plunging from the top balcony during one of its productions.

In Argento’s Opera, understudy Betty is concerned that her lead role as Lady Macbeth is tainted by that long-standing curse that’s rendered Shakespeare’s creation, “the play that dare not speak its name.”

And she’s right to be nervous. A floodlight falls as she’s belting out an aria in her debut, as behind the scenes, members of the crew are mysteriously dying. In one of the private boxes, an attendee is strung up on a hat rack, much more convincingly than in the prologue to Hospital Massacre! (See it and other weapons in our book Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons). Betty’s suddenly also haunted by memories of her dead Diva mom.

But she’s got bigger fish to fry, namely, a gloved, masked killer who is skulking about, variously trapping Betty, tying her up and placing needles under her eyes. Thus, she’s forced to be a spectator while he goes about his grisly business. In one scene, absolutely gutting a stage manager in front of her like a stuck pig.

opera_ARGENTOEver the self-promoter, Dario entertained a William Castle-esque stunt, easily as cool as John Waters’ Odorama, itself derived from Smell-O-Vision: handing out pins attached to tape, for audiences to reproduce Betty’s experience from their seats. Too bad it never materialized.

As in Tenebre, Argento goes after his critics with gusto (the production’s director gets critical drubbings usually reserved for Dario) and there’s beautiful bloodletting that’s unparalleled in cinema.

The hallways, the camera movement, the corridors, the stairwells, the basements, the rain…All under Argento’s gaze, these are rendered beautifully.

**** (out of 5)

4 comments

  1. While he did a few interesting things after, this is the last great Argento movie for me. He worked so well finding beautiful ways to subvert any technical restraints that it feels like CGI sapped some of his ingenuity.

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      1. I haven’t seen The Devil’s Honey, Door to Silence was the only movie of his that I found nothing to like in.

        I’ll always watch Romero’s movies, but I haven’t loved anything since the Laurel days. It’s gotten even worse over the past decade.

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  2. Indeed. Opera was the last time when Argento was ARGENTO…the unparalleled, virtuosic, maestro of horror. As you said, there were some interesting films made after Opera, but none were the stone-cold masterpieces of time’s past. I liken Argento to The Rolling Stones. In his/their prime, they were untouchable, but as they kept going, the magic became more sporadic. But we will always love and admire him/them because of those glory years (although it’s hard to find anything to admire about Dracula 3D).

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