A couple of days ago, the Powers That Be at Paracinema asked me if I would be interested in representing them at the Giallo Fever! festival here in New York City. My first reaction was yes, absolutely, I would love to.
My second reaction was, wait, what is giallo?
You see, I have a bit of a confession to make. I don’t know anything about the genre. Despite a strong affinity for classic horror films, I never quite got around to watching any films by Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci. Sure, I had a copy of Suspiria on my shelf at home, but it was always one of those movies that didn’t quite weigh up against whatever TV on DVD I had borrowed from a friend. At this point in time, my entire knowledge of the genre can be summed up by the fact that giallo is Italian for yellow, and references the color of the pulp novels that were popular in Italy during the 60′s and 70′s. At least, I think that’s correct. I could look it up, but the point of this article is not to be factual and correct, but rather, to demonstrate my ignorance to the world at large. It’s important to convey where I’m starting from.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. There is one thing that I know about giallo films: many of them were scored by the prog-rock band Goblin, and Goblin is amazing. A few years ago, I was volunteering at a local public radio station in Juneau, Alaska as the host of a weekly radio show on film soundtracks. I had maybe a dozen regular listeners, but it was a tremendous amount of fun, and the desire to keep pumping fresh music into the rotation forced me to be branch out. On Halloween of 2010, I put together a Halloween show, which ran twice as long as my normal show. I spent a few days researching what horror movie soundtracks would fit into the show, and the band Goblin kept coming up. So I added a few of their songs to the show – the Suspiria and Zombi theme songs, if I remember correctly – and was instantly in love. My favorite thing about using Spotify isn’t the access to my favorite popular artists, but access to movie soundtracks and scores.
So there are my two bits of knowledge. Yellow book covers and awesome prog rock. I’m a volunteer, and I still feel overpaid.
However, starting from scratch presents me with a unique opportunity – I will be able to spend the next two and a half weeks learning as much as I can about the genre of giallo, and you will be along with me every step of the way. For those of you who are already fans of giallo, this will be an opportunity for you to watch in real-time as another person is added to your ranks. And for those of you who, like me, know very little about the genre, this will be an opportunity for someone else to do your homework for you. The current plan is to begin with a bit of research and go from there. I currently have the following books and articles on my shelf:
La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film (Mikel J. Koven)
A History of Italian Cinema (Peter Bondanella)
“‘Didn’t you used to be Dario Argento?’ The Cult Reception of Dario Argento” (Russ Hunter)
Once I have familiarized myself with the academic and historical context of giallo films, I will post another write-up here at Paracinema that will provide you with my summation of the genre, based only on the books. Key indicators, themes, typical cinematography, that sort of thing. Once the foundation has been laid, I will then be diving in a few of the more celebrated giallo films that did not quite make the cut at the festival. Thoughts on them will be published, both here and on Twitter. Essentially, my job is to go from idiot to expert in only 21 days, and be ready to give you the kind of coverage of the festival that you deserve.
And your job, dear readers? Your job is to spread the word if you see fit. Tell people about Giallo Fever!, raise awareness about their Kickstarter page, and do that whole Twitter and Facebook voodoo that you do so well. You should also feel free to recommend any articles or website that cover giallo films that you like, or recommend movies for me to watch during the festival. Leave anything you like in comments and I’ll get to it as soon as I can. I may not exactly be proud of my ignorance, but starting from scratch is not without its benefits. I’ll absorb it all.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some reading to do.