The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970)

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After the enormous disappointment of Deep Red, I was reluctant to jump back into Argento’s work. Silly I suppose, but I am a very silly girl. I was wrong to make such a rash judgement, because The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is exceptional.

Though it never reaches the stylistic highs of Suspiria, the film is a joy to watch. It seems to brim with ambitious and beautifully executed shots and set pieces. Colours, especially red, jump right out of the screen and channel a sort of visual hysteria that I love so. The film is a perfect nightmare, and it captures nearly everything I search for in great horror.

The plot is rather simple, a writer witnesses an attempted murder and soon finds himself drawn into a complex serial killer story. Women start falling left and right, and even he becomes an unwilling victim of the crazy on the loose. The police are at a complete loss, and the only clues to go by are strange sounds on a recording and a mysterious and disturbing painting.

The characters themselves are not the vessels of horror, or emotion… which is an intriguing concept, at least from a North American perspective. Though, whereas I found the performances in Deep Red grating, they are somewhat pleasant here. Again, hardly orchestral, but that’s the point. They are a part of the scenery and obvious move the action from one set piece to the next. There is an anxiety to the mystery itself, but much of it derives from the apparent madness and aimlessness of the murders themselves.

I’m really struggling here to pin down why it is this film impressed me so much. I feel like I’m working with vague ideas and concepts, that are quite shallow and almost unjust to the craftsmanship that Argento & company display. It is just a living nightmare…

One response to “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970)

  1. Sometimes Italians do it better.
    I love Suspiria but if I choose a second film of him for sure we bill this, slow pace but more “reality” and genius moves of camerawork.
    The third it will be “Non ho sonno” (2001)
    Italian has a long trandition in terror.
    Aldo Lado’s “Who Saw Her Die?” is a perfect giallo, for example.
    I am not Italian.

    Have a nice day.

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