"With the health crisis, cinemas have emptied like churches"

“With the health crisis, cinemas have emptied like churches”

Dario Argento and Asia Argento, at the Réégina Louvre Hotel, in Paris, on July 6, 2022.

He wrote, in the 1970s and 1980s, one of the most sumptuous pages of horror cinema, with elegant and poisonous nightmares named The chills of anguish (1975), Suspiria (1977), Infernos (1980), Darkness (1982) or phenomenon (1985). He continues today, against all odds, to shoot giallo, these famous Italian thrillers with outbursts of ritual violence, like his latest opus, Black glasses (2022).

If the label of the genre has sometimes masked his true contribution, Dario Argento, 81, is now recognized as a great creator of forms, a refined esthete, keen on architecture, painting and opera. Someone who erected his films like great cathedrals of dread, cages of hauntingly colored stained-glass windows. A more secret subset opens up at the heart of his work: the six psychic fairy tales he shot with his daughter Asia Argento, a 46-year-old volcanic actress, major figure in international auteur cinema, also director of ‘an intimate and bubbling triplet (Scarlet Diva, in 2000, The Book of Jeremiahin 2004, Misunderstood, in 2014). The Cinémathèque française, in Paris, receives together the father and the daughter for a retrospective of the master of the giallo running until July 31.

How does the tour of your films, restored by Cinecittà, go?

Dario Argento: I just came back from New York and Lincoln Center, where they have just been shown. Of my twenty films, seventeen have been restored, including four in 4K [standard technique de haute définition numérique]. At the Italian Cultural Institute, a meeting with the public took place, moderated by film historian Rob King, who studies my works. He said that I had been shooting films for fifty-three years. giallo, that’s more time than John Ford had devoted to making westerns!

How do you each view the other’s work?

Asia Argento: I watched Dario’s films when I was little, even too little: I was 5 years old when I saw The chills of anguish. More than formed, I would say that they have de-formed me, in the sense of a counter-initiation. They shaped my aesthetic sense, forged my nonconformist behavior as an artist, convinced me to take a hyperpersonal path. Dario has always been an example for me: his work, his way of speaking in interviews, his way of presenting himself to the world, without ever trying to please others. The stubbornness he put into giving shape to his ideas, his obsessions, his nightmares. Without ever compromising.

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