Friday, 2 February 2007

A question

This morning I was at the University library, reading some things on Argento. One thing that struck me again was how whenever we (i.e. the Anglophone audience) read something about the giallo film in relation to the slasher, it is invariably with cause and effect somewhat mixed up: The American form, though historically later, is taken as the norm / reference point, from which the Italian one deviates, when it is really more the other way round.

So, I wondered, was there anything written in Italian at the time the American slasher film was emerging which looked at the way it deviated from the giallo as norm / model / reference point?

That, for instance, Friday the 13th took the template of A Bay of Blood but substituted a sexual subtext for an economic one, maybe because class based identity politics have never been that important in the USA as compared to Europe and “they” (i.e. Americans) seems to have more problems with sex than “we” (i.e. Italians / Europeans) do.

Or has the interplay always been so convoluted that any attempt to find a point of origin will inevitably fail or entail reifying the fluidity of the giallo into an for once and all essence?

Even if there is no answer, it is an interesting question, I think...


Whiggles said...

Sounds like the foundations of a really interesting study. You're absolutely right that the slasher is always taken as the norm, mainly because the studies we, as English speakers, are familiar with, are invariably written from the perspective of Hollywood films, or in this case independent American films, being the standard, with anything different being seen, often incorrectly, as an offshoot.

I'm currently trying to put together my PhD proposal, and what I'm struggling to do at the moment is come up with a unique (or at least unusual) perspective. I'm not particularly interested in spending the next four years of my life comparing gialli to slashers (mainly because I'm not a huge fan of slashers), but that's the sort of interesting role-reversal that would make an excellent starting point for a really interesting thesis. Hopefully someone will write it one day.

K H Brown said...

One of the things I find with the Italian cinema generally is the problem of taking it on its own terms, because so much of our theoretical vocabulary for discussing film stems from elsewhere. It's not that it's wrong, just often inappropriate and with a lack of contextual grounding.

Come to think of it, it's also one of the things I find interesting about looking at US and European horror-type cinema from a specifically British position, because "our" attitudes to sex and violence seem to be torn between the two larger approaches - are we part of Europe, pursuing the special relationship, or specifically and singularly British? (And, indeed, theoretically, do we want to follow Continental fashions or the Anglo tradition?)

Returning to the films, one thing I'm starting to wonder is if we, as fans / critics of the giallo, aren't maybe starting to elevate in the same manner as noir, such that the thriller is devalued. I'm looking at one of the books on my shelf - a dictionary of gialli, polizieschi and thriller and wondering where the boundaries lie.

It's also something I wonder about the pre-Argento giallo - how did critics in Italy describe The Girl Who Knew too Much or Blood and Black Lace at the time of their release. Were they gialli or thrillers and if they were gialli, what did this mean in 1962, 63, 64

I suppose it's the whole problem of defining a genre, compounded by the difficulties of applying Hollywood genre theory to non-Hollywood cinema (something I've also been thinking about in the context of Japanese cinema - Jidai geki and Gendai geki as overarching genres, maybe like fiction and documentary - and Chinese - generation as alternative organisational schema to genre)

I'd be interested in knowing about your studies / proposal and, indeed, in reading your dissertation on Fulci, Martino etc. if you've a PDF or whatever of it BTW.

Also just found your review of the French Sette note in nero disc after writing mine - keep up the good work :-)

ID said...

Here in Spain we are mediterraneans and we wrote about that matter in some books. If you can read spanish, search for "El giallo italiano. La oscuridad y la sangre". (

And thanx for your work here, I love it!