Berlin Review: Dario Argentos Dark Glasses

Dario Argento’s Berlin Film Festival Special Gala entry Dark Glasses plays out almost like a parody of his earlier work. Co-written with Franco Ferrini, it’s a lurid giallo about a killer slaughtering women in contemporary Rome. It lacks the suspense and style of Argento’s work in the 70s and 80s, while repeating various themes. 

Echoing the pianist in Suspiria (1977), the lead in Dark Glasses (or Occhiali Neri in its native Italian) is a woman who has lost her sight. Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) is a high class escort who has been chased by a killer and blinded in an accident during her escape. Arriving on her doorstep is Rita (Argento’s daughter Asia Argento), whose job is to help the newly-blind adjust to their condition.

Rita also functions as a way of creating unresolved lesbian tension (her name may or may not be an homage to David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive). In another nod to Suspiria, Diana acquires an Alsatian dog, closely followed by a Chinese sidekick named Chin (Xinyu Zhang) the young son of a couple caught up in the accident that blinded her. Diana and Chin supposedly develop a bond, but there’s scant characterization, dialogue or backstory to support this idea, especially when Chin has reason to blame Diana for his fate.

Meanwhile, the man in the white van is following them around. The chase scenes have potential cult appeal, but there’s little interest in the killer’s psychology.

While Dark Glasses is oddly coy about sex scenes, cutting from the bedroom entrance to the de-robing, Argento has no such compunction about sexualizing his female characters, and there’s an uncomfortable erotic gaze during attack scenes (if it is meant to be pastiche, it doesn’t work). So despite centering on a female character, this feels out of step with the contemporary mood. From the visual style to Arnaud Rebotini’s electronic score, most of it just reminds you how much better Argento was in the old days — and how many superior films have been inspired by him, from Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria to John Carpenter’s Halloween.

NB this review is from a non-final cut

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