Time to Scream Your Lungs Out - A Brief Interview with Dario Argento
Dario Argento is back! His recent stints at Masters of Horror have re-energized and given him a new edge in bringing us the third and final film in the Three Mothers trilogy, The Third Mother (view trailer) aka "La Terza madre." He wants you to scream your lungs out and to feel terror once again while at the cinema! One of the main problem plaguing so many horror films today is one simple thing: you always know when to feel safe. There is rarely the kind of suspense anymore that causes audiences to slink way down in their chair or be on its edge with their hands gripping the armrests so tight, they could be ripped apart at any moment. Thankfully Mr. Argento is back with Third Mother, an apocalyptic end to his trilogy and a returning to his roots if you will, of all out horror - Dario Argento style! All hell is about to break loose.
Awhile back at the 25th Brussels International Film Festival, I was lucky enough to sit down and briefly talk with Mr. Argento about his Masters of Horror episode Pelts and on Third Mother. Perhaps the most important question to answer before we begin is, “well when can I see this movie?” The Third Mother (as just announced) will be screening at the Midnight Madness section of the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Fans of Mr. Argento should also note his very rare and special appearance at this years Rue Morgue Festival of Fear.
BLAKE: First I have to sincerely thank you for the giallo films you have made. I’m a huge fan of gialli and you have made some of my all time favorites.
ARGENTO: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that.
BLAKE: What led you to being a part of Masters of Horror?
ARGENTO: Masters of Horror for me it was very important. Because for a long time censors have been cutting my works. This makes me so sad, because many times they will tell me Television won’t like, so we have to cut, cut, cut! I was so sad. Suddenly the American producer contacted me about Masters of Horror and told me, “you are free, do what you want!” I say to him, “you know what is significant to say to Dario Argento is to say go and do what you want!” I wanted to do something with fury, something very hard, very strong and cruel. For a long time I forget what its like to be able to go all out and then I did it (with Masters of Horror). This experience caused me to start thinking about doing Third Mother, to do something similar, that was strong and to go all out.
BLAKE: For Pelts, what was it like working with John Saxon again?
ARGENTO: He’s great. He’s great. He called me from Los Angeles when I was casting there. So he called and he said “you remember me?” I said, “yes of course!” “Great please, I would like to work with you again!” I then said “Oh wonderful me too!”
BLAKE: Some have said Pelts sends a strong anti-fur message, your thoughts?
ARGENTO: No there is no message. I am not with the fur or anti-fur people. I describe the reality - something happens to people. People are all disgusting. There is something that is very black and very pale about pelts.
BLAKE: With Third Mother you seem to have it all – one of my favorite actresses in Asia Argento, a killer monkey, sexy witches, zombies and all hell breaking loose. What can fans expect?
ARGENTO: This is a little bit different because times have changed. Lots of terrible things have happened. In Inferno, I said the Third Mother is the most beautiful and the most cruel. Which is true, she is very cruel, very terrible. She is not Asia. Moran Atias is the Third Mother. The violence in this film is going to be very terrible.
BLAKE: There is rumored to be a very long take without a cut in Third Mother where Asia walks into a building?
ARGENTO: Yes five minutes and thirty seconds!
BLAKE: How hard was it getting the cut you wanted with that?
ARGENTO: It was difficult and technical. But it was good. It was difficult to light and also to get the actors to do something exactly. But we rehearsed it several times and in the end it was good.
BLAKE: How many takes?
ARGENTO: We rehearsed on a Saturday afternoon without a camera but with everybody there. Then on the following Monday we shot it with five takes. For the one that was the best take, the film finished in the camera five seconds too soon.
BLAKE: Oh no!
ARGENTO: Yes it was terrible.
BLAKE: Will you be able to keep all the violence in your final cut?
ARGENTO: For the moment, yes. I don’t know if some countries will want to cut anything.
BLAKE: Right, with each of them having different censorship issues.
ARGENTO: Yes, but one copy for sure will be uncut... the DVD!
ARGENTO: Yes a little bit like those other though Claudio’s personal style is very strong. We worked a lot around the story and the beginning of it. I think it is 1 hours and 25 minutes of music. It is very, very good.
BLAKE: What was it like working again with your daughter Asia?
ARGENTO: For me, after many years I have Asia and she is ready to do something with me. She knows very well my work. In other words it was very good to work with her. She is really inside her role, her face, her expressions.
BLAKE: Yeah, she has depth where a lot of actresses are just good at being types. Talk a little about the casting of Mater Lacrimarum (The Third Mother).
ARGENTO: It was difficult. We searched everywhere, in Israel, Morocco, France and in Italy of course. It took me five months to find a good witch (laughs).
DEEP RED, FOUR FLIES AND MORE!
BLAKE: What do you think of the Deep Red: The Musical?
ARGENTO: I don’t know it very well since I’m not involved. I hope its something good (laughs)! Claudio did the music so that so that is a good guarantee for me.
BLAKE: Who would have ever thought it would be turned into a musical someday!?!
ARGENTO: For the moment no. Maybe someday. Four Flies has a very important problem with this happening, a problem with its rights. Nobody exactly owns the film or its rights. Nobody. Not me, Paramount, or anyone else. The film is still somewhere in the middle of this.
BLAKE: Any updates on the Black Sunglasses project?
ARGENTO: No. We had a story and a screenplay and a financier with Cecchi-Gori. But then it was pulled down and then the screenplay disappeared. Everyone wanted money. So it seems finished (from ever happening).
BLAKE: Any projects in the works after Third Mother?
ARGENTO: No because I am not already finished with Third Mother.
BLAKE: So your very much still immersed in its world.
ARGENTO: Yes, yes. I for sure want to do something different. In recent times I do giallo, I do Masters of Horror, I do Third Mother. Next I don’t know exactly.
BLAKE: Though probably not something as different as say Five Days?
ARGENTO: No, no, maybe another horror.
BLAKE: Poe or Lovecraft adaptation?
ARGENTO: No something from myself.
BLAKE: Are there any films or filmmakers that have excited you in recent times?
ARGENTO: I think recently I accuse the directors to be slaves of the producer. Then they do films but the directors are not so important. Important are producers, actor, the distributor, every person that you can speak about, the DP and everybody. The director is the last person. Recently films are plastic.
BLAKE: So there are no films you have liked?
ARGENTO: No, because I don’t like the way they are made. Most are made just for the money and teenagers.
BLAKE: Thoughts on the current state of horror?
ARGENTO: In every country, Horror films are very important. In every country, terror is something audiences really like. I think there is now a renaissance of Horror.
BLAKE: Nowadays everyone knows too much when to be safe in a horror film. One of the greatest scares is in Tenebre, there is a moment where we are at the killer's house and a scare happens. We as the audience immediately relax because we know surely there will be a safe gap between it and the next big scare, but before we can even blink, BAM! Another even more frightening scare happens.
ARGENTO: This is because I am free. If I am not free, maybe the producers will say “no, no, you must please separate them more!” But I am free and I use all my craziness in film.
BLAKE: Would you say film censorship is getting better or worse?
ARGENTO: Worse. The new censors are much more cruel. Television censors are very strong and dangerous for all of cinema.
BLAKE: Companies like Blue Underground have been giving your films such loving home video releases.
ARGENTO: It has been very good, especially the last several years. Now they are preparing the Stendhal Syndrome that is complete with interviews and everything. The new copy of it will be good.
BLAKE: And lastly what are your thoughts on the Brussels Film Festival?
ARGENTO: This the oldest now and I think in the world in fantasy film. You have a Sitges t-shirt on (points at my shirt). Sitges now has changed. Now it’s general, there are many films and no horror. Brussels is still the most important with the best reputation.
BLAKE: I think with Sitges now, especially with Mike (Hostench) there, they are still very much firmly planted in their horror roots. You should come out to their 40th this year, because I'm sure you would very much enjoy it, even better than before!
If you’re a fan of Goblin's music for Tenebre, then you should definitely pick up the new album by Justice (MySpace profile), which features two rocking house versions of this song under the titles, “Phantom” and “Phantom Pt. II.”
The living, dead and even handymen are probably already waiting in line for tickets to the Midnight Madness screening. I would certainly say make plans immediately if you want to see it as space is limited and will go fast. I don’t know all the ways tickets can be bought and so forth for this, so perhaps people can post below the best way to get into the Midnight Madness screening, as you can be sure many horror and Dario Argento that have never been to Midnight Madness or TIFF will be trying to attend. Packages for Midnight Madness are available (view here).
During the interview in the background an extremely loud Jabba the Hut musical show was going on, that not only featured Jabba songs but many others from Star Wars. Talk about a surreal experience interviewing Mr. Argento while all that was going on (and the repeated evil laughs of Jabba’s little pet Fraggle Rock looking creature).
Special thanks to Terry Barhorst, Jr., Derek Botelho, Steve Guariento, Doran Gaston and Vincent Pereira for their contributions and support for this interview!
Now some of you may think I was holding off and waiting for Midnight Madness to release the announcement that they would be screening it, but I can safely say that I had no idea Colin wanted it. The last I heard from Mr. Midnight Madness himself, he was in some remote rain forest perfecting his snake fist technique. So unfortunately I had no way of knowing of his diabolically cool plans to screen Third Mother. I should also note in Texas we like to give people their own unique spaghetti western names. As such I think I should inform people that Colin’s spaghetti western name is Midnighto (which is sung like Django-OOO, but as Midnight-OOO).
Mr. Argento pronounces Asia’s name as “Aah-jaaaa.” He also mentioned there was no homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in Pelts (like some have speculated).
I’ve yet to see Third Mother myself but my expectations are certainly raised.