L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo
DVD - Image A Sound A Extras B
BD - Image A Sound A Extras B
starring Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, Eva Renzi, Enrico Maria Salerno
written and directed by Dario Argento
by Walter Chaw Dario Argento's uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown's The Screaming Mimi (brought to the screen once before in 1958 by Gerd Oswald), The Bird with the Crystal Plumage marks the "Italian Hitchcock"'s directorial debut as well as the moment at which the Italian giallo genre gained international currency. Though the genre's invention (named after the yellow/giallo covers of Italian penny dreadfuls) is credited to compatriot Mario Bava (see, especially, his astonishing Blood and Black Lace), Argento's scary polish and cunning for film language bridged the cultural, mainstream/arthouse gap with agility and audacity. He's not just borrowing from Hitchcock, he's filtering the Master's work through his own sensibilities. Argento did for the slasher genre with his "supernatural" pictures like Suspiria and Inferno what Sergio Leone did for the Western, making them dirtier, sexier, rhythmic, and more acceptable to the literati; and he does here for the police procedural/neo-noir a similar kind of post-modern hipster reinvention. But it's not merely an intellectual exercise (in fact, the obscurity of the clues (its title at once revealing the identity of the killer and referring obliquely to the red herring of The Maltese Falcon) makes deciphering the procedural improbable at best)--rather, it's the visceral nature of the exercise that delights. It's Argento's revelry in one part in the unrelieved nihilism and delicious confusion that would characterize the best of the '70s' paranoia cinema--and in the other part, in the joy of great genre filmmaking.