Monday, July 14, 2014

IHW: HANGING SHADOWS- Perspectives on Italian Horror Cinema (The Rise of the Italian Independent Horror Filmmakers Supplemental)

Hanging Shadows: Perspectives on Italian Horror Cinema is an eclectic documentary as created by Paolo Fazzini featuring some pretty important people in the world of filmmaking in Europe. Fazzini directed Mad in Italy, a movie we also are covering during Italian Horror Week, which is a work of fiction based on true events. For our purposes today we are going to examine a composite of some of the greatest voices in Italian Horror through its golden age during the 60’s, 70’s and 1980’s. There are plenty of big names here folks, speaking Italian about Italian Horror pictures that they helped to create. Perhaps their perspective on their work and the last twenty years of filmmaking in Italy would open a few eyes to why we have seen a decline in the production value and output of a once great moviemaking country that was rivaled by few in terms of gratuity, creativity and daredevil artistic expression.

My understanding of this release is that it was previously for educational purposes and not widely available to those of you who were not in film school. Elite Entertainment has released it on DVD, and while the content of the interview and visits with some of Italian Horror heroes are truly moments to be treasured, the basic transitions between scenes, titles and introduction captions are really difficult to watch. How many times does Dario Argento’s name need to “bounce” at me from the screen? I know who he is. You only had to tell me the first time. Each crew member is introduced a number of times to the point of redundancy. Yes this is an “informative historical view” but it doesn’t have to feel like a bad lecture hall in a community college. It can feel as well put together as the films of the directors whom are the focus of the documentary.

To say that Hanging Shadows is a study of a group of filmmakers doesn’t necessarily feel accurate either. What you have here is an amalgam of interviews that generally follow no pattern save for a few stories that are told from multiple perspectives. There is no linear, historical look at the works of the great Italian filmmakers though most of the greats are touched. A few didn’t quite make the cut I’m afraid and of course then a few have passed on. There is a story to tell that will follow these filmmakers through their life and mutual interactions with each other, but this feels more like a “collected interviews” documentary as opposed to a complete concept.

Of course the interviews that you do get are impressive and that’s why I will recommend this documentary. You can create the narrative around it and provide some kind of interlaced story if it helps you to enjoy hearing the voices of classic Italian filmmaking on screen.

Interviews include:

Dario Argento (if you don’t know who this fellas is you’re really in some Deep Red), Lamberto Bava (director of Demons, Ogre, Macabre, A Blade in the Dark, Graveyard Disturbance), Michele Soavi (director of Cemetery Man, The Church and Stage Fright) Ruggero Deodato (of Cannibal Holocaust infamy, House on the Edge of the Park and The Last Cannibal World) , Sergio Stivaletti (who has famously done effects work on Demons, Demons 2, Cemetery Man and Opera among many others), Franco Ferrini (writer on Phenomena, Demons 2, The Church and Trauma), Luigi Cozzi (Director of The Killer Must Kill Again, Hercules and Contamination), Antonio Tentori (writer of Cat in the Brain, Three Faces of Evil and Dracula 3D), Roger Fratter (a newer Italian Horror director who put together Abraxas and Flesh Evil), Vittorio Giacci (documentary creator), Dardano Sacchetti (writer on Demons, Bronx Warriors and The Beyond among many others), Giannetto De Rossi (makeup artist for countless movies including The Beyond, Zombie and Let Sleeping Corprses Lie), Massimo Iaboni (sound department for A Woman in a Lizard’s Skin, Don’t Torture a Duckling and Black Emmanuelle) and Antonella Fulci (daughter of Lucio Fulci).

The disc contains two separate spotlights for two departed filmmaker of note: Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava. While the regular film does hone in on both filmmaker the separate entries is a nice way to pay respect to two of the greats who could not speak on their own behalf.

Two moments really stand out to me. One is when Dario Argento starts discussing the current state of Italian cinema, the lack of budget and the inability to get financing in Italy. The documentary as a whole agrees with this stating numerous times that the minute you mention a “fantasy” movie, producers think you are trying to make a big Hollywood budget film. This documentary was shot nearly ten years ago, but the state of Italian cinema hasn’t changed even with the renewed interest in Giallo, cannibal films and Italian Horror soundtracks (and of course Goblin). Perhaps may favorite part of the film was listening to the interview back and forth where Ruggero Deodato and Lamberto Bava discuss working together on Cannibal Holocaust and the infamous “snake bit” incident. While Bava was a young second director on Cannibal Holocaust he came from Italian Horror royal blood. He had been tasked to handle a scene involving snakes in the middle of the jungle. In the process he was bitten by snakes that had been milked and rendered moderately harmless that very morning. This was still a terrifying moment for a young filmmaker and working alongside on of the soon to be legends of Italian Horror no less. Each of the men tell the story in their own way which mesh into a perfect recant of the infamous incident. It’s charming. Friendly.

If you are new to Italian Horror this is a great primer course, a way to understand some of the choices made by the folks who worked on the films we have grown to love. This is a wide swath of the filmmakers that matter, talking about horror in their own words. It’s obvious why it was perfect for educational curriculum, but perhaps even more important now for a new class of Italian filmmakers who have been unleashing their new brand of Italo-Horror on the world. There are lessons here for every filmmaker and watcher of film as well as great stories of hope and encouragement (something every artist needs).

You can order Hanging Shadow in Italian with English Subtitles and please overlook the transitions and filmmaker introduction credits. It runs about 60 minutes long with the aforementioned extra features. It may have a low production value, but the info contained within is absolutely priceless.

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