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Dario Argento - Legendary horror filmmaker
March 2000 - Fairmont Hotel - Cinequest 10 Film Festival - San Jose, CA

Thanks to Cinequest San Jose Film Festival that Italy's premiere "horror-meister" Dario Argento finally had the opportunity to come to the San Francisco Bay Area. He gave a press conference in which he described the processes of his cinematic ideas as well as some distribution business ends. As it turned out, Dario was happy to be in Northern California and found it "marvelous."

Getting right into the business end, Dario expressed his unhappiness with major studios buying his work, only to cut and chop scenes at random with seemingly no real purpose. Studios would tell him that, when mostly longer dialogue was cut, that it was "too intelligent" perhaps and didn't need to be there. Keeping in mind that Dario is mostly associated with blood and gore films, it would seem that they might want to keep some of the more cerebral aspects in just to flavor the films. Most Dario fans would much prefer to keep the films in tact to go along with Dario's original vision, seeing that he is known for being an original stylist of his genre, much as Alfred Hitchcock or other directors are associated with particular styles. Dario said that they would sometimes cut out, say 35 minutes for no reason. "It's not 5 hours long. This is only 1 hour 40 minutes. They would cut 25 minutes or more. I'm thinking, 'Why? It doesn't work.' Why do you buy the film and then cut?".

When talking about the public releasing market, Dario still had the same baffling amazement at why studios and/or distributors would cut scenes to shorten the films for video. He does like the DVD format because it is the only one that (usually) releases films in their entirety, the way the directors intended.

When asked if he ever had problems with Italian censors, Dario said, "Of course, with them, the French, British, every country, except in Japan. In Japan does not exist censorship anymore. The company [there], when buying the film, has more respect for the filmmaker and doesn't cut anything."

"Here, you have two different types of censors. You have the censor that comes from government and the government cuts the film because it is no good for young [people]. So, they cut some scenes. The second censors come from companies in the industry who cut the film just because they have strange ideas, or they just wake up in the morning, drunk, and they cut."

When asked what the biggest complaint was, by the censors, and what they actually cut out - the sex or the violence, Dario said, "Of course the violence and some sex. Especially the dialogs. 'Too long'. They think it goes on too long. People just cut with no respect."

After the press conference, we had a chance to ask a few questions of Dario in person.

K2K: I wanted to ask you about a recent film of yours, the "remaking" of the Phantom Of The Opera. It wasn't really true to the original story. Why? What was the deal with him being saved by the rats?
DA: It was pretty close to the original story. I put something that had no explanation in the book. He [author Gaston Leroux] doesn't explain what [had] happened to the boy [Michael Crawford]. I just put this as the explanation for it.

K2K: How old was Jennifer Connolly when you worked with her in Phenomenon?
DA: Thirteen.

K2K: How was it working with her?
DA: Good. Very good. Young girls of 13 or 12 are great actors. My daughter, her first time, she was 13 and she was good.

K2K: Are they going to be releasing all your films uncut anytime soon?
DA: I hope so, one day.

K2K: Where do you get your inspiration for a lot of your scenes in the way that you shoot them? Like in The Stendahl Syndrome where the bullet rips through the cheek and tongue.
DA: My nightmares. My dreams.

Written and photo © by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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