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us title: Opera
italian title: Opera
year: 1987
director: Dario Argento
composer: Claudio Simonetti
full details: IMDB
overall score: 68

Bottom Line: Must-See
A quintessential example of the genre.

WARNING: Spoilers Below

score analysis

By 1987 the Giallo was certainly a stale format. Slashers and zombies took over the horror genre and the whodunit aspect of these films was pushed aside in favor of suspense and gore. But despite his attempts to branch out, Dario Argento loves to make Gialli. Opera is his 6th entry into the genre and although there are a few exasperating moments, Argento is still very much on top of his game in this film.

As a fledgling horror film aficionado, I first became interested in Opera through its iconic and unsettling image of the eyes with needles under them. And while it might be appropriate to surmise that this film was the inspiration for many of the "torture porn" films of the modern age of horror, Argento simply uses this technique as the film's main gimmick. The killer's bondage/voyeur tactic is only employed twice in the film, but it's very effective. The audience cannot help but imagine what it might be like to be Betty and the macro close-ups of her eyes are genuinely squirm inducing.

Argento does a lot of experimenting with Opera including the jaw dropping bullet-through-the-peephole scene and some very effective POV shots including the circling ravens and the perfume down the drain. In fact, I might even go so far as to say that Opera features some of the best camera work of Argento's career.

All of these devices aside, we still have an interesting Giallo to unravel. Unfortunately the film falls a bit short on the GialloScore and it's the first Argento film to score below 80. Of particular importance to the score is the date of the film (which postdates the genre's golden age by 12 years) and the eventual capture of the killer. These two changes rob the film of a whopping 15 points! In addition. many of the standards and signatures (most of which where established by Argento himself) are left out. 

Although no points were deducted, the film reveals the identity of the killer a bit early for the genre's standards. This was likely done to make way for the rather involved ending scenes which many people believe ruin the film (along with the lackluster soundtrack and the exasperating portrayal of Giulia by Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni). 

Argento apologists (myself included) will argue that no Argento film is without flaws and the merits of Opera more than make up for these problems. Sure, Argento went a bit overboard with the Freudian references, but I find that the final scenes work well enough for what they were intended to be. And if it really grinds your gears, I suggest turning off the film once Betty escapes from the burning room.

Opera represents the final days of Argento's relevancy. His slow but steady decline as an effective director begins with Trauma and the inclusion of his daughter Asia in most of the films that followed. So keep this in mind when watching Opera which may very well be the last great Giallo in the history of the genre.

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score breakdown

Hint: Hover over a score item for more details
Staples : 45/60
Italian Director10 points
Hidden Identity10 points
Black Gloves5 points
Amateur Detective5 points
Motivation: Psychological Trauma/Revenge10 points
Director > 15 points
Standards : 18/30
Body Count >= 34 points
Flashback Revelation3 points
Italian Location3 points
Suspects >= 34 points
Urban Location4 points
Signatures : 5/10
Chase scene1 point
Comic Relief Character1 point
Photography/Glamor/Modeling/Art1 point
Spiral Stairs1 point
Taunting1 point
Total Points : 68/100



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Published: 2015-05-04