Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Understanding comics / understanding Argento

Last night I reread Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. While some of his insights, such as the importance of panel shape, size, position and boundary (or lack thereof) are specific to his medium, making the book something approaching a Lessing-style Laocoon of the medium, others intersect quite nicely with film. His discussion of the possible transitions between frames, for instance, seems to offer something akin to a comics version of Christian Metz's grand syntigmatique, while his subsequent breakdowns of different comics into which of these transitions they appears to have affinities with the kind of neo-formalist analyses of David Bordwell and the so-called Wisconsin School.

So, I hear you ask, what the hell does this have to do with the giallo and Dario Argento, beyond that vague fumetti-gialli connection? On the surface, not a lot - here he goes again, trying to show off his knowledge and instead only proving his sciolistic tendencies - but it got me thinking about some of those stylistic tropes that seem to be general to gialli as a whole against those that are more specific components of individual filmmakers' practices.

Though just about everyone uses subjective camera, for instance, Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci seem to have different preferred devices for changing out point of emphasis / attention. Argento will often, for example, cut to an object in medium shot then again, almost immediately, to the same object in close-up; whereas Fulci is more likely to edit within the frame by racking focus from foreground to background or vice-versa; and Bava to achieve the same end through a zoom. While these are tendencies rather than absolutes, it would, I think, be very interesting to see a statistical breakdown of who did what, when, on a case-by-case basis.

Anyone up for it :-)

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