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[Critique film] Sunglasses: Maestro’s Sleepy Return

There are more emotions on stage than on screen.

The Italian director Dario Argento was recently honored with a major retrospective at the French Cinematheque in Paris. The opportunity to see some of his greatest works in restored versions such as The Frissons of Anxiety (1975) or Suspiria (1977), but above all to attend a preview of his new film Okhiali Neri or Sunglasses for an international market. And this in the presence of the Maestro himself and his daughter Asia Argento, who on this occasion seemed as eager to speak openly about the film as they were about themselves.

At this moment of emotion in the presence of the audience, it is difficult to explain the feeling of discomfort, which, however, will be reflected in the footage broadcast subsequently. On the one hand, communication between father and daughter is punctuated by anecdotes, sometimes funny (his participation in Whirlwind, Gaspar Noe’s latest film), sometimes more intimate (Asia talks about her childhood memories with her father) and, on the other hand, On the other hand , we can only see a certain end of an era, when Dario Argento (still 81 years old) seems to be reduced and muttering to the point that his daughter seems to be sometimes forced to reorient him so that the session does not become too messy.

Despite the respect we have for the genius of the transalpine giallo, we must admit that for many years his cinema has leaned more towards the turnip than the virtuosity of its golden age. And unfortunately, it will not be Sunglasses that will bend this downward slope, despite a noble attempt to return to its basics: gore and poetic thriller.

But, since good intentions are not always enough, we have to admit that if on the stage Argento seemed to us reduced, then on the screen he literally collapsed.

blind film

Ever since the very disappointing Mother of Tears (2007), we’ve been used to being on our toes when Argento releases new footage.

A scalded (black) cat with a fear of cold water, we don’t particularly want to endure another Dracula 3D (2012) of sinister memory, however the latter, despite its many flaws, had a dwarfish side to it that could still elicit laughter. In the case of Sunglasses, we would be closer to the Giallo movie released in 2009, and both of them share the same desire of Dario Argento to return to his glory hours with the foundations on which his career is built.

Unfortunately, a cold shower awaits us again, despite a rather successful opening with a magnificent eclipse foreshadowing the drama that will fall on the protagonist of the story. The heroine, played with a certain authenticity by Llenia Pastorelli, whose seductive figure perfectly matches this role of a prostitute with a big heart. In fact, it’s even the only character that is a bit constant while the rest of the cast remains transparent, whether it’s Asia Argento as a devoted friend whose death surprises no one, or a Chinese child whose parents died in that same motorized attack. , depriving the heroine of sight.

A child who has to move, but who is only annoying throughout the movie. As for the killer, he turns into an unwitting grotesque, as he turns out to be predictable and uncharismatic, ultimately owing his ability to annoy only the fact that his targets are stupid, with the exception of the dog, which will prove to be more useful. to intrigue than his human counterparts.

The victim is ready to be hit by a car wearing dark glasses Dario Argento

TV movie in the cinema

In fact, it is at the moment of the first murder that we understand that something is wrong (or no longer so). Of course, the film is, as usual, graphically demonstrative and violent, but it is also flat and without relief. Where is the first-person assassin who was only suspected to exist until he drew his blade? The dark glasses would look more like a lewd pervert jumping out of a grove than a vague, elusive threat. Basically, the script is too heavy to cling to, while the almost inherent feminization of the cast rudely supports the post#MeToo subtext, which Asia Argento’s presence only further emphasizes.

In terms of form, transalpine cinema has never been uncommon for revealing minor flaws such as rough mounting hardware or lack of direction from the actors, and it didn’t spoil our enjoyment because it often made up for its wanderings with “beautiful photography and great visuals.” courage.

In Sunglasses, this photo often turns out to be ugly, with a few exceptions, such as the shots in the woods. As for visual audacity, apart from a few baroque shots of the most beautiful effect, they also remain more than limited. Add to all this that while the score is not unworthy, the absence of the Goblin band is keenly felt and no scene ever transports us as much as in Suspiria or The Phenomena (1985).

To sum it up, we often get the impression that we are watching a TV movie than the next brainchild of the man who revolutionized anxiety in movies.

Illenia Pastorelli in

And after ?

At the end of the session, when the lights are turned on again, most of the audience gives a standing ovation. Neither Dario nor Asia Argento stayed until the end of the film to listen to it, and at the time of this writing, it seems clear that the film will not be released in French cinemas due to the lack of a distributor.

So a mistake on our part or the general hypocrisy of the journalistic audience? Or just a sign of awkward respect for the director, who gave so much to the cinema that it would seem shameful to upset him today?

While the answer belongs to everyone, it is clear to us that if the Sunglasses title did not include Dario Argento’s name, it would never have been eligible for any media coverage.

And then? Should we definitely refuse to return the Maestro’s film, which revives his former talents, or continue to hope? Hope gives life and we wish him well, but perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that the past has sadly ended.

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