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Argento: Cinema Nel Sangue (Argento: Cinema in the Blood), A Cinema Retrospective Honoring Italy's First Family of Film Ingenuity, Comes to MAD This Spring

New York, NY (January 27, 2012)

—Cassevetes, Coppola, Huston—these are the names of America’s multigenerational filmmakers. In Italy, that name belongs to Argento.

In recognition of the Argento family’s contributions to world cinema, the Museum of Arts and Design celebrates their four decades of achievement with Argento: Cinema Nel Sangue (Argento: Cinema in the Blood), a two-month retrospective of screenings, running from March 23 to May 25, 2012.

Argento: Cinema Nel Sangue (Argento: Cinema in the Blood) showcases the accomplishments of the Argentos, a notable Italian family of directors, producers, writers and actors. From this one household has come a startling range of movies in multiple genres. Throughout this body of work, the hallmark of the Argento name has been artistry through innovative cinematic techniques and approaches.

The origins of the Argento output began in the 1960s with progenitor Salvatore Argento. His sons followed him into the family business—Claudio, as a producer, and Dario, first as a writer. Then, with his father and brother as producers, Dario branched into directing, his approach to the giallo instantly earning him—and the family—both international acclaim and a signature style. (“Giallo” is both the Italian word for yellow and name of the Italian thriller film genre, named after the the yellow paper of pulp murder novels, which was extremely popular in the 1970s. Known for stylish slasher scenes, expressive use of music, and a whodunit element, giallo became one of the most influential genres of Italian cinema.)

MAD’s Argento: Cinema in the Blood will show a range of the Argentos’ giallo motion pictures—some classic, some rare, and many in 35mm prints, including Dario Argento’s, “The Three Mothers Trilogy.” Dario Argento co-wrote the second film in the Mothers Trilogy with Daria Nicolodi, his longtime collaborator, the mother of their daughter, Asia, and a frequent actress in his movies. Now 36, Asia Argento followed her parents into the movies as both actress and director, as well as screenwriter. Her work in front of the camera and behind it supplies other offerings in MAD’s Argento: Blood in the Cinema, including her semi-autobiographical 2000 film, “Scarlet Diva,” which she wrote, starred in and directed, and which was produced by her uncle Claudio.



Argento: Cinema Nel Sangue is a film series presented by The Museum of Arts and Design. Film screenings will be held in the Theater at MAD, at 2 Columbus Circle.

All film screenings $7 MAD Members and Students with Valid ID, $10 General

Argento: Cinema Nel Sangue is organized by Jake Yuzna, Manager of Public Programs.

Argento: Cinema Nel Sangue is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Glasstress New York: New Art from the Venice Biennales on view from February 14, 2012 – June 10, 2012.

Glasstress New York: New Art from the Venice Biennales is made possible by the Cordover Family Foundation, Shintaro Akatsu School of Design, Berengo Studio, Venice Projects, The Amb Way, and the Inner Circle, a leadership support group of the Museum of Arts and Design. The catalogue is made possible through the generosity of Goya Contemporary Gallery, Suzi Cordish, and an anonymous donor.


Friday, March 23, 2012, 7:00 pm
Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die (Se tutte le donne del mondo)
1966, Dirs. Henry Levin and Arduino Maiuri
With Mike Conners, Dorothy Provine and Raf Vallone
Digital Projection, 106 min

Marking Salvatore Argento’s debut as a producer, “Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die” skewers the spy films that, thanks to James Bond, attained huge popularity in the 1960s. CIA operative Kelly (Conners) goes up against vile Brazilian industrialist Mr. Ardonian (Vallone), who is scheming to sterilize humankind via satellite and then repopulate the world with offspring he plans to have with a bevy of kidnapped females. Adding to the wink-wink absurdity: An arsenal of wacky spy gadgets and a hoity-toity MI-6 agent, played by Provine.



Following his stint as a newspaper columnist for Paese Sera in Rome, Dario Argento transitioned into film as a writer, notably on Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West,” for which he collaborated on the story with Bernardo Bertolucci in 1968. Three years later, Dario took director’s reins himself on “The Bird With the Glass Plummage,” produced by his brother and father. In his very first film, Dario proves himself a sure hand in the giallo style, propelling it—and the Argento name—to world-wide recognition.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012, 7:00 pm
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L’uccello dale piume di cristallo)
1970, Dir. Dario Argento
With Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall and Enrico Maria Salerno
35mm, 89 min

Burned-out American novelist Sam Dalmas (Musante) witnesses the murder of a young woman in a Rome art gallery. Feeling there is some vital but buried clue he just can’t manage to jog from memory, Dalmas plunges into his own investigation. Sleek, tense and sophisticated, “Bird with the Crystal Plumage” boasts a cinematic maneuver that typifies Dario Argento’s daring and innovative approach to movie-making: A camera is dropped from a window to film a fatal fall. 

Friday, April 13, 2012, 7:00 pm
The Cat o’ Nine Tails (Il gatto a nove code)
1971, Dir. Dario Argento 
With James Franciscus, Karl Malden and Catherine Spaak
35mm, 112 min

In Argento’s follow-up to “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage,” Franco Arno (Malden), a blind ex-journalist-slash-crossword-puzzle-pro, overhears an intriguing conversation between two men in front of a medical institute notorious for shady genetic studies. When Arno later learns one of the men has died, he teams with journalist Carlo Giordani (Franciscus) to unravel the murder. Meanwhile, the killer has amped the body count, and knowing they’re probably next in line, the amateur sleuths frantically look for a way to stop him.

Saturday, April 14, 2012, 3:00 pm
Four Flies on Gray Velvet (Quattro mosche di velluto grigio)
1971, Dir. Dario Argento 
With Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer and Jean-Pierre Marielle
35mm, 104 min

This final installment of “The Animal Trilogy” follows the ordeal of rock-and-roll drummer Roberto Tobias (Brandon) after he inadvertently murders a disturbed stalker in a knife fight. In the moments after, Tobias notices a masked figure taking pictures of his gruesome deed. When the photos turn up in his mailbox, Tobias sets about tracking down the extortionist, all the while being trailed by a bizarre toy puppet and practically tripping over new dead bodies. Long overlooked, mostly because of the limited availability of prints, “Four Flies on Grey Velvet” is presented in a rare 35mm print.



“The Three Mothers Trilogy” cemented Dario Argento’s reputation as a virtuoso in the horror genre. This cinematic troika revolves around the exploits of three witch sisters: Mater Suspiriorum (Mother of Sighs), Mater Tenebrarum (Mother of Darkness) and Mater Lachrymarum (Mother of Tears). In the 11th century, the wicked trio commanded an architect to design magnificent edifices from which each could rule the world, each in her own evil way. From the varying design of each film, Argento drew on architecture as a manifestation of malevolence. He also enlisted the progressive rock band Goblin for a score that broke new ground in the audio representation of the supernatural on the silver screen.

Thursday, April 19, 2012, 7:00 pm
1977, Dir. Dario Argento 
With Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini and Joan Bennett
35mm, 98 min

Spotlighting the youngest of the three mothers, Mater Suspiriorum (Mother of Sighs), “Suspiria” follows young ballet student Suzy Banyon (Harper) on a creepy path of discovery: The German ballet academy in which she just enrolled is run by a coven of murderous witches. Co-written by Daria Nicolodi, Dario’s longtime collaborator and mother of their daughter, Asia, “Suspiria” was the last European film to be shot in Technicolor. Fully exploiting its unique ability to capture lush, unearthly colors, “Suspiria” merged elaborate sets, vivid lighting and a score by Italian prog-rock group Goblin for what is widely considered Dario Argento’s masterpiece.

Friday, April 20, 2012, 7:00 pm
1980, Dir. Dario Argento 
With Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, and Eleonora Giorgi
35mm, 107 min

Young poet Rose Elliot (Miracle) notices that her apartment building is weird, even for New York City. Terrified, she begs her brother Mark (McCloskey) to come visit her, but upon doing so, he cannot find her. However, he does discover that her building is filled with whispering corridors, secret rooms, and mysterious figures, including the Mother of Darkness, who holds the secret of his sister’s fate. Through the bold use of color, arresting soundtrack by Keith Emerson and wild special effects by Germano Natali (who also did them for “Suspiria”), Argento crafts an atmospheric second chapter in “The Three Mothers Trilogy.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012, 3:00 pm
Mother of Tears (La terza madre)
2007, Dir. Dario Argento 
With Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeno and Adam James
Digital Projection, 102 min

In the final and belated installment in “The Three Mothers Trilogy,” Asia Argento stars as a conservator at the Museum of Ancient Art in Rome who stumbles upon an urn containing the remains of Mater Lachrymarum. When Sarah unwittingly unleashes the witch, Rome becomes overrun with riots, murders, and other iniquitous events that seem to portend the End of Days. Guided by her dead mom, played by Asia’s real-life mother Dario Nicolodi, Sarah endeavors to escape the witch’s clutches and at the same time save the world. Claudio Simonetti, formerly of Goblin, did the score.

Thursday, April 26, 2012, 7:00 pm
Deep Red (Profondo rosso)
1975, Dir. Dario Argento 
With David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi and Gabriele Lavia.
35mm, 126 min

Elegant visual tableaux and movie-magic trickery serve the tale of a hatchet killer in “Deep Red,” a lush whodunit hailed as a masterpiece of giallo. After American pianist Marcus Daly (Hemmings) witnesses the violent murder of a psychic in a Roman piazza, he becomes haunted with the notion there is a single clue he is overlooking that could lead to the madman’s capture. With a haunting score by Goblin, an ever-intensifying buildup of suspense, and a growing pile-up of dead bodies, “Deep Red” strongly inspired other horror filmmakers, including John Carpenter, who cites the film as a major influence on his own classic, “Halloween.”

Friday, April 27, 2012, 7:00 pm
1987, Dir. Dario Argento 
With Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson and Urbano Barberini
35mm,107 min

Set in Parma’s Teatro Regio during a production of Verdi's “Macbeth,” “Opera” is as infamous for the real-life misfortunes that plagued the filming as for its chilling scenes and elaborate production. After the actress playing Lady Macbeth is injured in a hit-and-run, her young understudy Betty (Marsillach) assumes the role. To her horror, she becomes the obsession of a masked killer, who demonstrates his perverse love by tying her up and forcing her to watch the brutal murders he commits.

Although fraught with tumult—including the death of Argento's father Salvatore during the production, the exit by Vanessa Redgrave from the project before filming began, as well as on-set bickering between Dario and his former girlfriend and collaborator, Daria Nicolodi—“Opera” became the director’s most successful feature, attracting more than a million ticket buyers in Italy alone. Nicolodi also makes an appearance in the film, which has a soundtrack by Claudio Simonetti (of Goblin) and Brian Eno.

Special Q&A with star Coralina Catadli Tassoni

Saturday, April 28, 2012, 3:00 pm
1982, Dir. Dario Argento 
With Anthony Franciosa, Guiliano Gemma and Daria Nicolodi
35mm, 110 min

Taking its title from the Christian ceremony of gradually extinguishing candles (tenebrae means “darkness” in Latin), this film marks Dario Argento’s return to giallo after “Suspiria” and “Inferno.” When the American horror writer Peter Neal (Franciosa) visits Rome to promote his recent work, he is distressed to learn there’s an at-large killer whose M.O. is to recreate the ghastly atrocities depicted in the novelist’s writings. Himself a focus of the manhunt, Neal teams up with Detective Giermani (Gemma) to prove his innocence and stop the killer. The film’s inventive cinematographic use of cranes for long, uninterrupted takes and the lush lighting make the film a giallo classic.

Friday, May 11, 2012, 7:00 pm
1985, Dir. Dario Argento 
With Jennifer Connelly, Dario Nicolodi, and Donald Pleasence 
Digital Projection, 110 min

In her first starring role, Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly plays a young girl with a bizarre gift: She can communicate with insects. She is also a somnambulist, and while sleepwalking, witnesses the murder of a classmate. Part dark fairy tale, part crime thriller, “Phenomena” uses adroit cinematography, including some of the first uses of Steadicam in Italian filmmaking, to forge a dreamlike mood that straddles the waking and unconscious worlds.

Saturday, May 5, 2012, 3:00 pm 
1993, Dir. Dario Argento 
With Christopher Rydell, Asia Argento and Piper Laurie
Digital Projection, 106 min

The city of Minneapolis stars as the location in Dario Argento’s first feature-length American project. After a short-lived escape from a psychiatric hospital, a young anorexic woman Aura (Asia Argento) is caught and brought back, just in time for a string of murders to befall past and present hospital workers. The serial killer beheads each victim but does so only on rainy days. Aura enlists her friend David (Rydell) to hunt the killer—and discovers a loathsome family secret in the process.



Thursday, May 17, 2012, 7:00 pm 
Scarlet Diva
2000, Dir. Asia Argento 
With Asia Argento, Jean Shepard and Selen
35mm, 91 min

Asia Argento’s first feature-length directorial work, produced by her uncle Claudio, “Scarlet Diva” is a semi-autobiographical work exploring the life of an actress who is viewed as much as a sex object as serious actress. Anna Battista (Argento) suffers a life filled with abusive relationships, drug use, decadent parties, awards shows, sleazy agents and creepy fans. “Scarlet Diva” offers an unblinking look at that rarified realm.

Friday, May 18, 2012, 7:00 pm
New Rose Hotel
1998, Dir. Abel Ferrara
With Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe and Asia Argento
Digital Projection, 93 min

Based on a short story by science fiction legend William Gibson and directed by cult filmmaker Abel Ferrara, “New Rose Hotel” stars Asia Argento in futuristic tale of corporate espionage. Working for two of the largest corporations in the world, Fox (Walken) and X (Dafoe) plot to pit the two companies against each other and reap a fortune. The key ingredient to their nefarious scheme: Sandii (Argento), a young Italian girl hired to seduce the director of one of the companies. The kink in the plan: When X demonstrates to Sandii how she can ensnare the businessman, he himself falls for her.

Thursday, May 24, 2012, 7:00 pm
The Last Mistress (Une vieille maîtresse)
2007, Dir. Catherine Breillat 
With Asia Argento, Fu’ad Aït Aattou and Roxane Mesquida.
35mm, 104 min

In this costume drama by French director Breillat (“Fat Girl”), Asia Argento gives a tour-de-force performance as La Vellini, the titular “last mistress” of young libertine Ryno de Marigny (Aattou). When Ryno decides to settle into marriage, he visits La Vellini to break off their relationship. La Vellini, however, is not so eager to let him go, and her volatile reaction causes unexpected consequences for all involved.

Friday, May 25, 2012, 7:00 pm 
On War (De la guerre)
2008, Dir. Bertrand Bonello 
With Mathieu Amalric, Asia Argento and Guillaume Dépardieu 
Digital Projection, 130 min

French leading man Mathieu Almalric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) stars as Bertrand, a filmmaker in a midlife crisis. Looking for an idea for his next picture, he accidently locks himself in a coffin and spends the night in an empty funeral parlor. New experiences like that are just what his life is missing, Bertrand decides, and he soon chances on another good source for them: The Kingdom, an urban commune whose inhabitants, led by Uma (Argento), dress in animal apparel and engage in unconventional consciousness-expanding rituals.


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