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Italian director Dario Argento’s newest film, ‘Dark Glasses,’ is not his best work

A woman with straight brown hair and a red blouse looks up at the sky while wearing sunglasses.
Shudder
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Shudder
Dark Glasses, Actor Ilenia Pastorell as Diana

Italian writer and director Dario Argento made his first film over fifty years ago, and over the years, he became famous, particularly among lovers of horror movies.

Argento’s latest work, Dark Glasses, is his first movie in ten years, but KUNC film critic Howie Movshovitz says the movie is not his best.

For his fans, a new film by Argento is an event. He made his reputation as a master of horror films mostly in the 1970s with films such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Suspiria, but he’s both written and directed several films since then.

Some think his later movies have lost their edge, and while I am no expert on Argento’s work, his latest feature, Dark Glasses, does not seem to be the work of a master.

After a promising and unsettling start with people in Rome observing a solar eclipse, Dark Glasses switches to a young prostitute, murdered in a grisly way, as she leaves an appointment at an expensive hotel.

A small crowd watches her writhe and die, and no one offers help. Shortly after that, another young prostitute, Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli), angers Matteo, a grubby client, when she tells him to take a shower first because he stinks.

Diana: Well, what were you doing all this time?

Matteo: I stank, huh? See you, slut.

Soon after that exchange, a white van rams her car and drives it into another, killing a Chinese couple and blinding Diana. The young son of the Chinese couple survives, and he spends much of the film with Diana.

A blind woman — in film and life —is more vulnerable than a woman with sight. It's not a new tactic for movies to savor the predicament of a blind woman, typically young, who is beset by a malevolent male figure whom she can't identify. That's what happens here.

You won't wonder long over who that assailant may be, and the threat is constant throughout Dark Glasses, but the movie commits other kinds of assaults on Diana as well.

The young male doctor in the hospital informs her coldly that she will likely be blind permanently. He stands at the foot of Diana's bed, gives her the bad news, and then simply says "goodbye," without a moment of compassionate discussion of future treatment or mention of assistance.

The police mistreat her and seem more interested in blaming her for the disappearance of Chin, the Chinese boy, than in figuring out who's trying to kill her.

An earnest view might be excused for thinking that Dark Glasses takes pleasure in its assaults on this young woman and maybe has it in for women in general. Diana's caregiver Rita also suffers from a lurid murder.

The film exploits Diana's body. She goes around in a series of mini skirts that show off her long legs, even when an actual person [in her situation] would [probably] dress differently.

Late one night, as Diana and Chin run for their lives through a forest, they wind up in a creek overrun by water snakes. You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to get the point, as underwater shots show snakes curling around Diana's bare thighs.

Her behavior can be inexplicable. She and Chin spend a lot of time fleeing the person who's out to get her. While much of that time is at night and in places where one might try to be stealthy, Diana never seems to get that her shrieking, moaning, and yipping could give an evil pursuer clues to where she might be.

The movie makes her look and sound like a fool or a dope —you can't take her seriously. In the last third of the movie, I wondered if Dark Glasses was actualy a spoof on horror pictures.

It isn't comedy — at least intentionally — but the late-night chase with Diana howling away comes off as pointless, certainly not horrifying and [instead is]the work of a filmmaker unaware that his film is turning into a series of silly, repetitive events without much punch.

Howie Movshovitz came to Colorado in 1966 as a VISTA Volunteer and never wanted to leave. After three years in VISTA, he went to graduate school at CU-Boulder and got a PhD in English, focusing on the literature of the Middle Ages. In the middle of that process, though (and he still loves that literature) he got sidetracked into movies, made three shorts, started writing film criticism and wound up teaching film at the University of Colorado-Denver. He continues to teach in UCD’s College of Arts & Media.