Dark Glasses Movie Review
Written by Stephen McClurg
Released by Shudder & IFC Midnight
Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini
87 minutes, 2022, Not Rated
Premiered on Shudder on October 7th, 2022
Ilenia Pastorelli as Diana
Asia Argento as Rita
Andrea Gherpelli as Mattea
Mario Pirrello as Chief Inspector Aleardi
Maria Rosaria Russo as Inspector Bajani
Gennaro Iaccarino as Inspector Baldacci
Xinyu Zhang as Chin
Even though It’s been a decade since we’ve gotten a Dario Argento film, the reputation of his output from the ‘60s to the ‘80s has continued to grow. Likewise, so has the contention surrounding his work after that. Maybe that’s a false dichotomy since his work has always been contentious. For every person that finds Argento a genius, someone else finds him nonsensical, even repugnant. Either way, I’ve gone into the later films with an open mind, but have been disappointed until now. Though far from the ecstatic nature of prior films like Deep Red (1975) or Suspiria (1977), Dark Glasses is a middle-of-the road thriller, which puts it far ahead of the director’s most recent fare.
Argento flexes traditional Giallo muscles here rather than pursuing supernatural horror. The setup could be from any movie in the genre: someone is killing prostitutes in Rome and our protagonist is the next target. While fleeing the murderer, Diana (Illenia Pastorelli), an escort, is blinded in a car accident that also kills the father and seriously wounds the mother of a Chinese boy named Chin (Xinyu Zhang). Diana begins working with Rita (Asia Argento), a therapist teaching her how to move through the world without sight. While Diana helps the boy come to terms with life potentially without his parents, she realizes the killer is still stalking her. The usual dopey detectives stumble around and the viewer knows they offer little to no protection. Who will win the eventual showdown between a now blind Diana, young Chin, and the murderer?
For certain Argento fans, there will be some fun and familiar images and scenarios: dog and other random animal attacks set to electronic music (our leads end up standing in a nest of nonpoisonous water snakes that not only bite, but also strangle!), the black-gloved killer, blind characters, inept detectives, and people inhabiting an uncanny world near, but not quite our own. The murders are bloody, excessively so, and the camera uncomfortably lingers. In the past, Argento’s kill scenes exploded in spectacle and pioneering effects work, but here they loiter in suffering. One argument for these scenes could be made that he is trying to be less sensational, and violence should be disturbing. More so than other Argento fare, the movie attempts a critical view of how women are treated by men. Another argument against these scenes could be a matter of poor editing.
Pastorelli and Zhang carry the movie and have an odd, yet appealing chemistry. There is the potential for further tales of the blind escort and the young orphan buried in there somewhere, maybe part Odd Couple (1968) and part Lone Wolf and Cub (1972). As with most Argento films, it’s difficult to tell if Pastorelli’s performance is uneven or perfect for the character. Diana is more complex than other Argento heroines, but still fits some of cinema’s prostitute clichés. Given the sensational, sometimes scandalous, flair Asia Argento has in roles and in life, the revelation here is how understated her performance is as she fills a role similar to the ones Daria Nicolodi, her mother, used to play in her father’s films. This made me even more excited to see Dario’s own acclaimed acting in the new Gasper Noé film Vortex (2021).
Similar to other Argento movies, Dark Glasses provides plenty of plot sequences and dialogue that don’t make sense, but they also don’t allow for the big payoffs they did in the past. If Asia’s understatement is a surprise that works, one does miss the flair of earlier Argento camerawork. Most disappointing is an eclipse sequence in the beginning that sets up an enigmatic atmosphere but doesn’t go anywhere. The scene itself though, like the rest of the film, is done well. The film looks great and there are even a few images that hint at Argento’s visual power. It’s all more professional than visionary.
For a certain kind of fan growing up in the VHS era, Argento movies were events. First of all, just finding a movie could be difficult and may involve driving around or making calls to shops in multiple cities. With the price of the cassettes at the time, the notion of buying one was absurd for most of us. My excitement for an Argento movie was like the anticipation I had for Hitchcock. Even if I didn’t like the movie, I knew I would see something I had never seen before. At some point, and it’s likely different for each viewer, that quality of the films disappeared and more of the weaknesses came to the forefront. I’m with him all the way until Inferno (1987). After that, the films become notorious for more of what they lack than what they have. But to his credit, as far as what a movie like Suspiria does, there’s not much like it. Could someone capture that energy and fierce stylization again? Ultimately, I will see the next Argento film, which is the best review I can give for this one.
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