Reading Material: The Argento Syndrome
As a fan of Dario Argento myself, I feel as if Derek Botelho wrote The Argento Syndrome just for me. Although Maitland McDonagh’s Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds is arguably the definitive book on the director famously dubbed (and derided) as “the Italian Hitchcock,” Botelho’s has the edge for pure entertainment value. Both books are musts for the filmmaker’s followers, as each takes a different tact.
While Botelho curiously fails to delineate Argento’s films on a year-by-year timeline, he covers Argento’s directorial efforts chronologically. Whether largely or nominally giallo (with one sex comedy sticking out like a sore penis), each movie merits its own chapter, from 1970’s wildly influential The Bird with the Crystal Plumage to 2012’s imperfect but harshly judged Dracula 3D.
The result? A thoroughly winning, armchair-style examination of a distinguished career, supplemented by wonderfully stylistic illustrations by Micha Maté to introduce each chapter and interviews of key players when the author could get them. Bonus points are due to Botelho for including Argento’s TV work, particularly 1973’s four-episode Door into Darkness anthology series, and for actually having something to say. Sadly, many indie film books lack this latter element, opting instead for fanboy service instead of genuine introspection.
Published by Bear Manor Media in a oversized paperback format as splashy as the director’s saturated colors, The Argento Syndrome sports a nifty design that complements the text. Only one thing bugged me about Botelho’s book: the chapters in which he recounts his face-to-face meetings with Argento and his famous daughter, Asia (xXx). These come off too starstruck, which I’m guessing was not the first-time author’s intent; the problem is not a fatal one because he calls Argento’s turds when he sees them, so his objectivity appears to remain intact. —Rod Lott