Phenomena (Integral Cut) ***/****
Phenomena (International Cut) ***/****
Image A Sound B+ Extras A+
starring Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Donald Pleasence
written by Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
directed by Dario Argento
by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. There's an extraordinary quality of dreams attached to Dario Argento's Phenomena. It's the mist that diffuses the light, the sudden foehn windstorms that whip up the trees at night, the logic that links scenes together by theme as opposed to narrative. It's a naturally beautiful film, its photography of "Swiss Transylvania" almost aggressively lush and somewhat at odds with Argento's reputation for extreme, some would say forced, artificiality. I would argue that the way nature is shot in this film is so hyperreal it's actually as surreal as the constructed mindscapes of his more obviously surreal work. Whatever the case, that's not the only expectation Phenomena upends, as, continuing from Tenebrae, the auteur seems to be working out what he's described as a terrible experience (the production of Inferno) and dealing with the fallout and expectations afterwards. Indeed, by all reports, Argento was unusually energized and enthusiastic about this project, and that invention, lawless and largely lacking in any sort of guardrails, is obvious and bracing--even as he, at this point in his career, relies perhaps overmuch on recycling his greatest hits. Still, early on, he has a young woman stand in a classroom to declare "screw the past," which plays as something of a punk mission statement for the singular Phenomena.