Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Dario Argento: I began as a film critic, and worked at Paese Sera for some years. However, I wasn't cut out for this sort of work: I wasn't very informative, I was mainly guided by my passions - something a true critic ought to avoid. It was the period when Westerns were coming out and everyone wrote, " It stinks!" whereas I'd write: "It's marvelous!" This played badly at a serious daily paper, at a time when the Corriere or Messaggero or Stampa would classify these films as B movies, at best. So I moved onto to dance and music reviews instead. But it still wasn't for me, so I went to work writing screenplays, a year and a half in all. In this capacity, I realized ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. Dealing with a film with a choral structure, Bernardo and I worked out a system of dividing up the labor; we'd write the scenes best suited to our respective sensibilities, and then later we'd knead them together (amalgamate them) trying to give it a unity. Sergio would listen to us, opening his mouth every so often to correct us, and given that he was a master of the genre we hung on his every word. He often referred to the great American films. On his suggestion, we saw JOHNNY GUITAR, THE SERCHERS, VERA CRUZ an infinity of times. I have the greatest affection for Sergio, I consider him my master, even if I could care less about the human side of the people I work with. Leone charmed me when, for example, he described precisely the dolly shots for a certain scene. It was like listening to Dante declaim his verses. Bertolucci and I really hit it off, we shared our cinema indigestions, both of us were truly committed film fanatics, always in the dark watching movies, or else talking over what we'd seen. The screenwriting phase lasted six months. It doesn't sound like much now, but at the time it seemed an eternity. I didn't follow the actual work on the film at all. In his writing, Leone had a sadistic streak, but it was a playful, prankish sadism. You know, maybe the role Bertolucci and I played was to give his ideas a harsh, truly ruthless edge. The times were changing, and perhaps "avvertivamo questa nuova necessita." ("We warn these new needs.")

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