Saturday, June 25, 2022

Argento at Lincoln Center: Do You Like Hitchcock?

Dario Argento is considered a Giallo master, but has also taken on classic staples of horror, including Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Poe, and to some extent the terrors of wax museums. It totally makes sense he would also try to channel Alfred Hitchcock, who basically started the whole slasher tradition. You can also see some precursor Giallo elements in Dial M for Murder, especially those gloves. The homages are pretty clever in Do You Like Hitchcock, which screens as part of the ongoing Beware of Dario Argento retrospective at Film at Lincoln Center.

Giulio is your stereotypical film geek, who often observes his sexy neighbors
Rear Window-style, especially Sasha Zerboni. As a result, he can’t help noticing Zerboni and another attractive woman bonding in the video store over Strangers on a Train. When Zerboni’s wealthy but controlling mother is subsequently murdered, at a time when her daughter was conveniently alibied, Giulio immediately suspects they arranged to “switch murders.”

Of course, his girlfriend Arianna (who really ought to be out of his league) thinks he is a nut. However, when an unseen stranger breaks into his apartment, Giulio realizes he might be on to something, so he starts obsessively snooping around both women.

The stripped-down simplicity of
DYLH really serves it well. Compared to Argento’s previous films, there is considerably less blood and gore in this made-for-Italian-TV production, but there are still all the hallmarks of Argento’s hallmark Giallo style (like the close-ups on gloved hands and tumblers turning in locks). Perhaps most importantly, Argento really gives us a full sense of the Torino neighborhood, very much like Hitchcock did for the building facing Jimmy Stewart’s apartment in Rear Window.

The twists Argento and co-screenwriter Franco Ferrini devise are not especially shocking, but the master’s execution is tight and effective. The suspense is definitely amplified by Pino Donaggio’s score, which openly evokes Bernard Herrmann. Elio Germano’s Giulio is such a blockhead, he will make just about any viewer facepalm, but Elisabetta Rocchetti is a terrific femme fatale playing Zerboni.

DYLH tribute lacks the grand operatic drama of Opera, but it is a fun little horror-thriller. Throughout it all, Argento riffs on Hitchcock in cleverly entertaining ways, while maintaining his own filmmaking identity. Highly recommended for fans of either auteur, Do You Like Hitchcock screens this afternoon (6/25) and Wednesday (6/29) at Film at Lincoln Center.