Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Images for the masses

A few months ago was published La Dolce Morte, an interesting study of Giallo by Mikel J. Koven. All the more interesting as there's hardly anything serious which was ever published on the genre - long considered a mediocre body of work not deserving of any in-depth analysis by cinema critics.

Which is the angle Koven chose for his book: Giallo was ignored or despised by critics because they were using the same filter to look at these films as for the 'officially artistic' cinema production. This, reckons Koven, was a complete misunderstanding of the initial intentions of this particular cinema, crafted for 'Terza visione' audiences: popular, working-class spectators going to the movies for pure entertainment purposes, very much so like they would consume TV now.

Having set his point of view as Giallo being 'vernacular cinema' that has nothing to do with the art house, Koven then gets into a very detailed analysis of the main themes of the genre, which makes the reader think that paradoxically, he would love Giallo to be recognised as artistic cinema.
Even though Koven's point of view is very relevant and casts a new light on the genre, he can be caught in many occasions using himself a similar method as the one used by traditional cinema critics: analysing the storytelling and the key elements which build gialli's screenplays to serve his main purpose: demonstrate that the genre was not as basic as it could look in the first place. To the point of sometimes over-intellectualising it.

But Giallo is not a cinema of storytelling.
It is a cinema of "memorable images", in the tradition of expressionism, and as such it is closer to painting than litterature. Like these images that struck the killer's disturbed brain in many gialli and triggered their appetite for murder.
The best examples of the superior importance of memorable images over storytelling are "Blood and Black Lace" and "The New York Ripper" which almost reach abstraction in their gratuitous, extremely graphic violence, and where scenario is secondary to the visual effect they're trying to produce.

So we need more books on Giallo.
Books which use semiology as a tool to make these images speak, beyond the scenario.
Books talking about the memorable images. Books made of these memorable images.

Because it's the images that best tell the story of Giallo.

"La Dolce Morte, Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo film", despite showing no image, remains a very interesting first attempt at analysing the genre, that the true Giallo amateur will find here.

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