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When in Rome: Movies from the Italian Capital
Posted August 09, 2010 to photo album "When in Rome: Movies from the Italian Capital"
As part of Movie City Rome, Nick Dawson takes a trip through cinema history and examines the different ways filmmakers have portrayed the Italian capital on the big screen.
Slide 8: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
In 1970, 30-year-old film critic and screenwriter Dario Argento directed his first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, and transformed the streets of Rome into the setting for a new, compelling form of horror film. Argento’s work is referred to as giallo filmmaking, a term that describes a stylish horror or psychological thriller employing bold colors, graphic violence, nudity, striking music, and elements of melodrama and Grand Guignol. (Ironically, the word is not used by Italians, who simply call these films “thrillers.”) The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is about Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American expat writer living in Rome who is struggling with writer’s block and considering leaving the city when he witnesses a man in black leather attacking a woman in an art gallery. Sam is prevented from leaving town by the police, who believe the assailant he saw is a serial killer, and soon finds that he and his girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) are the ripper’s next targets. Argento’s use of Rome was, as Roger Ebert explains, specifically designed to show the audience less than they will be comfortable with: “We keep following the hero into dark rooms, dark alleys, dark parks, dark corridors and dark basements. And that makes us very uneasy.” Shot at the Incir De Paolis Studios (now simply called Studios) in the Portonaccio quarter of the city, the movie also has a major plot point which revolves around the city’s zoo, where the titular bird resides.