Thursday, August 2, 2012

My 100 Favorite Films of All Time #100: Opera

There is a reason why Dario Argento is considered one of the more influential directors of our time. There’s also a reason why the general American movie audience hasn’t recognized him as such. That would be Opera.

Opera is not the best Argento film, but it does exemplify the problems the director has in reaching American moviegoers. An Argento film is more a nightmare than a narrative. He understands the beauty of violence, and he isn’t afraid to make a film feel disjointed in order to get his point across. There is no hand holding, and he often seems to care more about a shot than a plot. When you watch this film as an Argento fan, you are aware of all these things, and if you understand that, you are a bit in awe because what you are seeing is so symbolic and has so much depth to it (much like another of my favorite films of his, The Stendhal Syndrome) that once you are done watching it you can’t help but be impressed by what it has done. Unfortunately, to get there, you have to really be involved in the film, and you have to process what you are seeing … and then you have to remember it. This is not the type of thing the average movie viewer is going to invest time in doing, especially when they think they are watching a standard horror movie, which is what this seems like at first.

The plot is of the stalker/slasher variety. Getting to its conclusion, however, is like boarding a thrill ride designed and run by bath salt addicts. Witness the bullet through the door scene that is so genius that it really must be seen to be believed. Marvel in the film’s iconic shot as the young star is forced to watch a murder. And how is she “forced” into such a situation? She has rows of needles taped under each eye so that to blink brings pain. It’s an iconic image that is often used to sell the film. It is sublime. All of this was incredible, but it only works as a whole if, as I mentioned before, you were really paying attention because unlike the run-of-the-mill slasher film, this has some very heavy messages about violence and sexuality behind it.

I was swept up in this film’s insanity. I also recognized its faults … and promptly ignored them. I watched this already familiar with Argento and his work, and knew what to expect. As usual with Argento’s films, I was enthralled by the violence that appeared before me. The murderer was putting on his show … his own opera, and we, the viewers, were forced to watch. Film lovers got it. Directors got it. The casual viewing audience considered it a toss-off … some with valid reasons. Others had the standard Argento complaint of: “I just don’t get it.” What they didn’t get was that you are meant to experience this film as Betty, the film’s main character. In that sense, it works amazingly well … and it doesn't need to tape needles under your eyes to get you there.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this film to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.