Few suspense or horror films are as stylish or beautiful as Dario Argento's 1975 film Deep Red. With a saturated Art Nouveau production design and a driving rock score by Goblin, the film resembles Argento's even greater follow up, Suspiria. But Deep Red is a wonderful film in its own right in a more realistic setting with a teasing stab at gender phobias.
Well, the setting isn't entirely realistic. This place looks pretty fantastic:
I don't know, maybe this was a real diner, but it pretty clearly looks like it's meant to emulate Edward Hopper's famous painting Nighthawks. With the "Blue Bar" sign, it seems to evoke 1940s America in the middle of this Italian film with an English star--David Hemmings as Marcus Daly, a wealthy pianist.
His tortured soul colleague, Carlo (Gabriele Lavia), works at the diner and he points out to the always cool and composed Marcus how lucky he is not to have to play piano for a living. After the two have finished talking by the fountain, Marcus witnesses the murder of a psychic named Helga (Macha Meril), who's pushed through a nearby window.
The murder victim has a pretty striking taste in art, as one of the police officers remarks to Marcus:
At the crime scene, Marcus meets Gianna (Daria Nicolodi), a reporter who attaches herself to Marcus and undercuts his masculinity at every turn. In a couple very funny scenes, she gives him rides in her absurdly decrepit little car in which the passenger seat invariably sinks below the driver so Marcus has to look up at her at all times.
She even beats him at arm wrestling at one point.
Meanwhile, Carlo seems to be on a downward spiral and Marcus visits him at his lover's apartment, a thin young man. Marcus really doesn't seem to care that his friend his gay and he remains supportive but one gets the feeling at this point that Gianna and Carlo are the two prime suspects for the killer's true identity; will the killer be crazy because he's gay or because she's a feminist? The answer, fortunately, isn't quite so regressive though Carlo's fate takes the film into a truly odd, grotesque comedic tangent. I hope it doesn't arise from homophobia on the filmmaker's part but there's nothing explicitly there say so except the very inexplicability of what happens to Carlo.
The fact that we know Gianna is physically stronger than Marcus contributes to the tension pretty effectively. At all times, we know if she does turn out to be the killer, she could probably overpower Marcus.
The film also features an effectively strange murder scene in which a woman accidentally stabs her pet bird with a knitting needle. Another couple sequences has Marcus investigating a gorgeous Art Nouveau mansion accompanied by a great Goblin jam.
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A slowly dawning paper peels the wall.
A mirror made important moves insane.
Divided masks can love no kingdom all.
A story's written by the steam in pain.
A platinum electric brain attacks.
The plans in string were wrought and dashed at night.
In storm, the hands were caught in cataracts.
On board, you see the shadows shape a wight.
A pumpkin cracked beneath a floating grin.
The weight of shadows pulled the porch to dust.
The telling wrappers gleam in pail and bin.
The clouds have gathered now in dark'ning rust.
A freezer bulged above the wash and sighed.
A heady dream has spiked the inky tide.