Opera (1987) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
comments in white:
Opera (1987) is a rather typical
Dario Argento effort. It is the story of a young diva who is
being stalked, and those around her murdered. She places the blame
partly on the opera they are performing, Macbeth, which is known as a
bad luck opera. Argento mixes opera with grunge music in a very odd
soundtrack, and the film is his usual slow paced effort with
over-the-top gore and an abundance of camera and lighting techniques.
There is no doubt that Argento knows how to shoot film and light
scenes, but his films are an acquired taste.
|The DVD transfer is top notch, and the special edition is loaded with extras. I have to admire Argento for one thing. He makes his films exactly the way he wants to make them. I find myself enjoying moments, but usually not the entire film. The genre is Italian shock horror, and this is a C+.||
comments in yellow:
No matter how much you like Dario's films, you will find yourself whispering and muttering because of some of the disappointing elements which exist side-by-side with moments of sheer genius. I guess you can take consolation in that Dario's filming concepts are rarely ordinary. They don't always work, but you can't accuse him of being run-of-the-mill.
Even the most demanding film purists can't help but admire some of the craftsmanship he displayed in this film. These include: the erotic close-ups of the blades, the pinned eyelids (the killer forces the diva to watch his murders), the shots of the opera house, the ravens' eyes, the one raven with red highlights in his feathers, the ravens actually solving the crime, the art design, the stage design of the opera, the POV cams (especially the raven cam), the peephole murder, and the vertiginous camera movement. There is great tension in some of the scenes, notably when the diva and the little girl escape through the a/c ducts, and when the diva runs through the curtain-shrouded corridor, leaving us to wince every time she pulls a curtain aside. You can watch this film and see monumental talent on display. In his best moments, Dario maintains a level of horror and suspense on a level with Hitchcock or De Palma or anyone else. Furthermore, if you love opera, this has some of the art form's very best music in the score, not just Verdi during the actual opera-within-a-film, but many other great works in other scenes, including Puccini's Un Bel Di, for example.
If you love hard-driving heavy metal, the film also has plenty of that during the actual violence. That's kind of a Dario trademark. I think it works in that context, but many disagree.
And then there is the plot, which is straight out of The Big Book of Horror Cliches, and the completely bizarre ending, which is anticlimactic, unnecessary, and almost unrelated to the rest of the film. People always want to prattle on about how genius and insanity are sometimes indistinguishable. In Dario's case, they are inextricably woven together. He clearly has the genius and imagination to devise lasting moments, and to think of things we never would have thought of. Unfortunately, he lacks the lucidity to distinguish between things people don't do because they don't have his imagination and things which people don't do because they are capable of rational thought. There's nothing unusual about that. Geniuses are used to the fact that they don't think like the rest of us, so it is difficult for them to distinguish between "things that are different because I am the only one smart enough to think of them", and "things that are different because I am the only one insane enough to think of them"
By the way, Dario may have set the single film record for the most separate POV cams in this movie. Some of them make perfect sense and are dazzling
while others are just plain odd for the sake of being odd
If you like this sort of thing, you will enjoy this film. It is one of the supreme achievements of the Italian Splatter School, which is a literary tradition dating back about two millennia before the invention of cinema. The tragedian Seneca, tutor to the insane emperor Nero, was as controversial in his own time as Dario Argento is in ours. As a dramatist, Seneca was criticized for many of the same "faults" (lurid violence, insane rants), and praised for many of the same virtues (originality, style, intelligence) as Dario Argento. The controversy hasn't really disappeared.
|Given his sporadic
brilliance, I always thought that Dario would one day make an
unsullied masterpiece, a work that would reach out far beyond his
usual cult devotees and become the supreme mass market horror film. It
never happened, and it apparently never will. His recent film, Phantom
of the Opera, demonstrates none of the talent he once possessed,
and is stupefyingly bad on an Ed Wood level. It is artistically
without merit and technically inept. In fact, it is so bad technically
that you could make a better movie with a camcorder and your PC. The
lip-synching is bad, the lighting is bad, the dancers are out of step
with the music, etc. It has every possible fault a movie could have.
So forget that movie and rent this one instead. The older trip to the
opera is not really based on the Gaston Leroux story, but is very much
in line with what Leroux might have written if he had conceived the
story in 1987. Opera features an guileless young opera singer pursued
by a madman, it explores sexual obsession, lost innocence, and a
childhood trauma. As the critic Michael Felsher wrote
Opera is a must-see for genre lovers and film scholars, the very apotheosis of the Italian Splatter Film. In general, it is grandly entertaining in a deliberately over-the-top way that only that school of film could produce. If Vince McMahon staged MacBeth, hired Brian De Palma to film it, and asked Andrew Lloyd Webber to score it, it would be a lot like this.
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