Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Some subtleties

While Argento's writing is of variable quality, he has a knack for the short, multi-layered line of dialogue:

The Card Player: "I know everything about you"

Opera: "I don't think it's wise to use movies as a guide for reality? Do you, Inspector?"
/ "That depends upon what you mean by reality"

One I'd never thought about until now was the headmistress's insinuation in Phenomena, that Jennifer Corvino, after the flies incident, is some sort of devil-spawn via "Beezelbub, the Lord of the Flies"

Doesn't Lord of the Flies also relates quite nicely, via William Golding's novella, to the petty cruelties and bullying of the other girls towards Jennifer?


Michael Mackenzie said...

Something that I find intriguing about Argento is that, despite being very much the auteur and having a reputation for being a bit of a control freak, he is often open to allowing actors to ad lib or rewrite their own dialogue, particularly if they are native English speakers. Liam Cunningham singing "O Danny boy" in The Card Player, for example, came from the actor himself. Likewise, a line like "As soon as I got sick, your pal Olga threw me out of her place" in Suspiria sounds suspiciously to me like something Jessica Harper came up with, since I can't imagine an Italian with a tenuous grasp of English coming up with something so colloquial. I suspect what you describe as the "variable quality" of Argento's writing stems from this tendency to delegate aspects of the dialogue writing to his cast where appropriate.

Anonymous said...

I have to say, allwing Cunningham to come up with that bit is probably the best argument against allowing actors to improvise I could come up with - thought it was an embarassing attempt to provide some "Irish flavour" by Argento, but having Cummingham come up with it makes it even worse.

Don't think the Golding comparison works btw. (other than on a very superficial level), aside from the problem of who's bullying whom and for what reasons, Golding also refers to no one in particular, resp. the inner beast in everyone of us, whereas Phenomena goes out of its way to celebrate (or at least examine) the merits of individualism and posits the theory that there isn't an identical core or potential in everyone of us.

coffeebaker said...

Not to derail this thread, but speaking of odd dialogue choices: I have to assume that it was Tony Musante's decision to do a WC Fields imitation in his first few lines of dialogue in BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. I still find it disconcertingly inappropriate, after probably 20 viewings of the film, particularly since it comes before we've heard Sam Dalmas say much at all. Argento presumably knew Field's voice from his films - would he have been dubbed in Italy? - so he also presumably okayed it. I can't imagine it being scripted!

If you didn't know who W.C. Fields was - and presumably a higher proportion of viewers each year don't - then it must seem an inexplicable dubbing anomaly, or something :-)