Sunday, November 06, 2005

Time-travelling on a jet

Part of the charm of Giallo is that it is dated. Clearly attached to a specific time: the 1970s.

Even though its themes are quintessentially Italian (references to religion, family, the place of women...), Giallo's imagery highly draws on the 1970s' international style: fashion, design, music, everything is an almost perfect encapsulation of this period, which could explain its worldwide appeal and why it's so easy to relate to it more than 30 years down the line.

This is to me the "materialistic" dimension of Giallo: it puts at the forefront of its cinematography all the concrete signs of international modern living of the times.
This typical 1970s contemporaneity is best illustrated by the recurring presence of international travels in the scenarios, through an a posteriori naive fascination for planes and airports. For an obvious reason: international travelling was becoming more accessible and one of the most high-profile symbols of the modern western society: just remember the Boeing 747 mythology.

Countless gialli start or end or are structured by travels on glamorous planes, giving birth to a new figure: the stranger caught abroad in a twisted plot, allowing for multiple points of view on cultural interactions. This is best shown in films like "The girl who knew too much", "The bird with the crystal plumage", "The case of the scorpion tale" or "Short night of the glass dolls", just to name a few.

Perfectly embracing the 1970s' modernity and spreading violence into it like a virus, no surprise Giallo could only then disappear with this decade.

Read Gary Needham's interesting article about the figure of the stranger & post-colonialism here.


Whiggles said...

It is indeed strange just how much the giallo is tied to such a specific time period. A lot of it, I think, is due to the fact that it is very difficult to tie down just what makes a giallo a giallo and, for many people, the fashion and architecture of the early 1970s is a major component (so it is possible to claim that post-70s efforts like Non Ho Sonno, Occhi di Cristallo and Opera are not, strictly speaking, gialli). In the past, I've seen Suspiria, Don't Look Now and Blow-up described as gialli, a label that I do not agree with at all. It just goes to show how open to personal interpretation this genre is.

Which film is the screen capture above from, by the way? I don't think I recognize it.

Sylvain L. said...

This is the central question of the "filone", a moveable definition that escapes formal limitations.

I actually consider Blow-Up as a film heading towards giallo - it is not part of it, but there are obvious links with the genre, as I talked about earlier.
As to Suspiria, it would be the opposite: a film moving away from giallo - a logical move from Argento after "Profondo Rosso".
It's interesting because both films can be positioned just before and after Giallo.

As to the picture, it's in fact not coming from any movie, but I thought it illustrated well this imagery of modern international travels. Hope you liked it...

Sylvain L. said...

A message I received from Robert, who hasn't got a blogger account, so here it is:
"I like your post mentioning the fascination with planes and such, it's one of my favourite giallo conventions. have you seen eyeball? it's bookended by two plane scenes, wonderfully score by nicolai's easy themes + a wonderful scene of a gloved hand grabbing a pan am bag (that shot says it all i think!)."

Robert also runs a group on giallo, which you can find here: