At 81, Italian horror maestro Dario Argento is busier than ever.
The director of a series of cult chiller classics from the 1970s, including ‘The Bird With Crystal Plumage’, ‘Suspiria’ and ‘Deep Red’, was in Cannes last July with his acting debut in “Vortex” by Gaspar Noe, about a pair of old lovers. Argento was also celebrated last year with a new book by Italian critic Steve Della Casa and a retro at Lincoln Center in New York. This spring, he will be honored with a big show at the Italian National Cinema Museum in Turin.
More importantly, having returned to the director’s chair after a decade, Argento is back with “Dark Glasses,” which he describes as a classic thriller, or giallo, as the violent crime genre is known in Italy.
“Dark Glasses,” set in present-day Rome, will be screened on February 11 as part of a special Berlinale gala, marking Argento’s first time in Berlin as a director, although he was part of the jury for the festival competition in 2001.
The picture is about a serial killer who strangles prostitutes with cello strings and pursues a luxury escort named Diana. But there is a twist. Diana is blinded in a car accident with the killer and receives help from an orphaned Chinese boy. A social worker played by Dario’s daughter, Asia Argento, also comes to the rescue.
It was Asia that created “Dark Glasses”, 20 years after its creation.
Argento was to direct the film in 2002, produced by Italian tycoon Vittorio Cecchi Gori, who went bankrupt while doing location scouting. So he put the script away in a drawer.
Then one day, Asia was looking for material for her autobiography, says the filmmaker. “She was looking around my house for papers and notebooks and she found this script that she hadn’t really heard of.”
Asia read it, loved it and said, “Dad, you have to make this movie”, and involved the Wild Bunch of France, in particular its co-founder Vincent Maraval, who entrusted its physical production to the Italians Conchita Airoldi and Laurentina. Guidotti.
In addition to starring in the picture in a supporting role, Asia is its associate producer. But she was also instrumental, along with Noe, in getting French techno composer Arnaud Rebotini (“BPM (Beats Per Minute)”, “Blair Witch”) to score the film after Daft Punk allegedly dropped out because they broke up. .
Twenty years later, “Dark Glasses” is “a little different from the original, but it has the same wild, crazy spirit,” said Argento, who reworked the script and also shot the film during the pandemic.
As the protagonist, Argento chose Ilenia Pastorelli, who had a decisive role in Gabriele Mainetti’s genre “They Call Me Jeeg”.
Casting a Chinese boy to play Chin, the orphan who becomes Diana’s eyes blind, was more complicated. Eventually the production found a “very mature” boy named Xinyu Zhang (pictured above with the maestro) in Milan, which is home to Europe’s second largest Chinese population.
The tender rapport between Diana and Chin in “Dark Glasses,” which features plenty of Argento’s signature gore, gore and trauma, marks something of a departure.
“The maternal relationship with the child, which protects her and becomes her guide; it’s new,” Argento said, adding that this dynamic “pushed me to make a better movie.”
In terms of visuals, the director chose the young Berlin-based Italian cinematographer Matteo Cocco, winner of the Italian David di Donatello award for filming Giorgio Diritti’s “Hidden Away”, which premiered in Berlin in 2020 .
And Sergio Stivaletti, who has worked on all of Argento’s films since Jennifer Connelly’s 1985 starring “Phenomena,” handled the special effects for “Black Glasses.”
“Dark Glasses”, which is sold by Wild Bunch, will be released in Italian theaters by Vision Distribution on February 24.
But now Argento just wants to enjoy the in-person Berlin premiere of his new giallo.
Always rebellious, he even hopes that Rebotini will manage to find a Berlin nightclub where he and some German musicians can play some pieces of the film during an after party, even if parties are not officially authorized by the festival this year.