Friday, January 12, 2018

Review: 'Opera' Blu-ray

Evaluating a Dario Argento movies requires its own rule book since his methods are so unlike anyone else’s. In a movie such as Opera, he may liberally borrow from horrors past ranging from The Birds to Halloween to A Clockwork Orange to (of course) Phantom of the Opera, but his films are always entirely his own no matter how referential or how successful they are. Opera is no Suspiria or Deep Red, but it is still one of Argento’s more successful pictures despite its absence of logic and ridiculous musical choices. While the latter undermines Argento’s purposes as he renders his most shocking scenes comical by scoring them with awful heavy metal tunes, the former just adds to the dreamy unreality that is one of his more appealing signatures.

Opera finds the soprano starring in a production of Verdi’s Macbeth being stalked by a masked killer. Instead of targeting the life of the singer (Christina Marscillach), he merely forces her to watch while he slays other folks in her theatrical inner circle. He ensures her peepers remain open by Scotch-taping rows of needles under her eyelids. If you’re like me and have a thing about your eyes, these scenes are almost impossible to watch (oh, the irony!).

Like any Argento picture, Opera is not a matter of plot. It is the sum total of Argento’s audacious flights of fancy and weirdly poetic extreme violence. We get plenty of this stuff with a disorienting opening filmed in the first-person pov, a gory raven raid on an opera audience, and of course, that vicious gimmick with the needles. An extended scene that finds the heroine trapped with the killer in her own apartment and escaping through an air duct with a little girl out of a Lewis Carroll story could be the most masterfully suspenseful set piece in a career littered with them.

Scorpion Releasing brings Opera to blu-ray with a meticulous 2K scan. I know, I know—4K is the ideal way to go, but this is still a very attractive presentation with barely a speck of dust and organic, lively textures. This is particularly important since the film is so textural whether lingering on red velvet, the gnarly twine of a thick rope, or the pearl-like ring around a raven’s eye. There are also two bonus interviews—a previously issued 21-minute talk with Argento and a brand new one with actor William McNamara. McNamara has a relatively small role in the feature, but his interview is still nicely illuminating as he explains the circumstances that led to the audacious pov of the opening scene and his reaction to having his voice dubbed by a British actor.
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