Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Freud Slips: And Interview with Dario Argento Supplies me with Further Support for why I Dislike the Influence of Freud on Film Theory

So I was reading Movie Maker magazine and I began the article The Horror Within: An Interview with Dario Argento by Bryan Reesman*. Three-quarters of the way through the article something happened, I read “Over the years people have questioned whether Argento dislikes women.”(Film Comment p.72) Remembering when I studied Argento’s Suspiria I shudder at memories of tutorials with students blabbing for half the time of “mommy issues,” and Freud. It was unfortunate to me that besides talking about the film's cinematography or music, we spent more of the class talking about the objectification of women, and the abject and blah, blah, blah. Just because a film is labeled a horror and has women either as protagonist or supporting characters doesn’t mean ones mind should automatically turn to repression and neurosis, or the favorite the Oedipal complex. Now I don’t want to critique the article or anything but I do want to mention a simple comment made by Argento and what, more importantly, one of his female protagonists said about her role in his latest film. And how it is notions like this that should give this generic autopilot to Freud in film theory less slack and maybe allow new modes of thinking about women in horror a lift.

Firstly Argento’s speaks directly to the notion of this supposed, “dislike of women.” He says: “I like women…My daughter has been in four of my films now—of course I like women. For me, it’s a bit embarrassing when I’m [working] with men. It’s difficult for me, but with women I’m very comfortable. My mother was a famous still photographer in the 1950s and 1960s, and she photographed and specialized in women—Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Maria Montes—the most famous actresses of the time. I watched her work year and years. I watched how she put light on the face and the body to make them look better. For me, this became an instinct to have good, wonderful women in front of the camera.”(Film Comment p.72) I mention this merely because I have a particular trust in an artist, insofar as know I will never be an expert on their motives. I am first and foremost when it comes to someone’s work an observer, this doesn’t put me in any priority in saying what I think he was trying to say, I am merely saying how it makes me feel. So for those that want to speak all scholarly saying things like “obviously his has some mother issues.” I am going to take Argento’s word for it and tell everyone to try again next time.

Secondly one of the most refreshing things I’ve heard in a while about film is what one Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni said about her role in Argento’s newest film. She states: “I could not be more spectacularly loved. As Dario kills me, I am given rebirth. As an actress, as a woman, I am granted eternal life—immortalized on film. It is a moment of love. As a woman, I have the power; without me there is no death. And for this he is grateful.” When I read this a grin stretched from one cheek to the other, now I am no feminist but what else could be more empowering then the sentiment above?

I don’t see why so many people feel the need to stake their claim by bashing someone else’s. Why do we continually time after time bounce into Freudian mode? How can you not feel like your going backwards? Freud’s theories are the most debated because they stand on very shaky ground so why continue to base your opinions upon them? Why not stake your claim and plunge right into the heart of something that is palpable and connected to style? I am saying this because, simply, it would be nice to hear something different, it would be nice to hear a bit more about the mechanics and techniques of filmmaking instead of this constant prattle about Freud and the same old how the shot of a women’s ass is objectifying her. It’s not that I am against thinking and discussing about an artists motives and meanings. But for a change I would like to hear a bit more about how these meanings are grounded into in an artists form and allow the latter to govern the former for a bit and maybe if we throw away the Freud for a while we might notice something else. I think this would allow for a more diverse commentary on an artist’s body of work or a singular opus, call to further build the richness of film theory, and encourage, inside and outside of theory, fresher thinking when it comes to the cinema.

P.S. I would like to add that to my great surprise Argento's new film, Giallo, stars Adrien Brody as an Italian detective, an extra bonus for why I can't wait to see this movie.

* I can't find this article just yet online but when I do I will put up the link.

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