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‘Dark Glasses’ (review)

I was planning on taking a girl I had been flirting with in my Senior Class to see the movie Suspiria when it opened in 1977.

All I knew about it was it was a horror film with Joan Bennett from TV’s Dark Shadows but this girl had been a DS fan, too, so she agreed to go. Something happened and we ended up not going, though, and after Graduation, I never saw her again.

I never saw Suspiria, either.

Well, not until about 35 years later, anyway. It was my first Dario Argento movie—my first giallo movie—and became an immediate favorite.

Since then, I’ve seen a number of the Italian filmmaker’s movies. They’re known for being sophisticated, artsy, gory, sometimes with unusual titles, and always with classy musical scores. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Tenebrae, and now, for his first new movie in a decade, we get…Dark Glasses.

Okay, so it doesn’t sound particularly scary.

The title refers to the fact that the film’s protagonist, a call girl, is blinded early on in the movie and thus wears dark glasses…which she actually already did anyway, though, for reasons I never quite understood. She has a beautiful seeing-eye dog and, for much of the picture, a seeing-eye Chinese boy, too.

Both sidekicks come in handy when she finds herself stalked by a killer, someone she had inadvertently set on her own trail for reasons that only make sense in order to further the plot. When it comes out late in the film, it’s almost laughable. The over-the-top violence that very quickly follows the revelation actually IS laughable, and it all leads to a rather unlikely, anticlimactic, and oddly forlorn ending.

What works is the atmosphere Dark Glasses sets up, with a genuine giallo feel. There’s some striking cinematography and a score that is both modern and yet recalls familiar Italian horror scores of the ‘70s. There’s some token nudity (another staple of this type of picture) and a bucket or two of particularly red blood.

Best of all is the performance of Ilenia Pastorelli as perhaps the most resourceful movie blind lady since Audrey Hepburn in 1967’s even more atmospheric Wait Until Dark. The actress demonstrates more depth than the role even calls for as she struggles both to accept and excel in her new circumstances. Of necessity, she catches on to everything too quickly, but the intensity of her acting had just the right level for me.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough to recommend the film. There actually seems the germ of a good plot in there somewhere but, unfortunately, the aging master has given viewers a meandering opening, then  just bits and pieces of familiar genre tropes, all leading up to a frustrating “happy” ending.

If Dark Glasses proves to be Dario Argento’s final film, at age 82, it isn’t going to hurt his legacy any. But if you haven’t yet seen the man at his best, may I recommend 1977’s Suspiria?

Dark Glasses is currently streaming on Shudder.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Conchita Airoldi, Laurentina Guidotti,
Brahim Chioua, Noémie Devide, Vincent Maraval
Written by Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini, Carlo Lucarelli 
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring Ilenia Pastorelli, Asia Argento, Andrea Gherpelli, Mario Pirrello,
Maria Rosaria Russo, Gennaro Iaccarino, Xinyu Zhang

 

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