Review: Dario Argento: Panico

I’ve got a cold, which means isolation and streaming stuff on Shudder. I’m a big fan of Dario Argento, so I decided to catch the new documentary about him.

If you have no idea who Argento is, this isn’t worth watching. Also you should go watch Deep Red, Suspiria, and Inferno right away, in that order. But if you, like me, do know who Argento is…well, this documentary is still pretty skippable.

It’s got two problems: one is that it’s a hagiography, so the director has no interest in exploring any conflicts or controversies, which is nice, I guess, but doesn’t make for very interesting viewing.

But that would be okay if this were a documentary focused on Argento’s work. I’d love to hear more about his creative process and how he influenced other filmmakers, but there’s precious little of that here because this movie is trying to be about Argento’s life and work, and so it ultimately fails to deliver anything good on either front. We know he writes in hotels. Guillermo Del Toro provides some good insights, but Gaspar Noe and the insufferable Nicolas Winding Refn don’t offer much in the way of coherent analysis.

Asia Argento provides some interesting tidbits—it was hard to shoot sex scenes with her dad behind the camera (I shouldn’t wonder!) but she felt intimidated to say anything (which kind of goes against the movie’s depiction of Dario and daughters Asia and Fiore as a perfect little family.) Also she says he didn’t talk to her for two years because she was directing her own movie and was unavailable to star in The Card Player. This is definitely a weird relationship, but those little bits of information are all we get.

Cristina Marsillach, the star of Opera, is on hand to tell us that the shoot wasn’t at all traumatic for her and she felt supported by Argento the whole time. I believe her, but the absence of Jessica Harper, Jennifer Connolly, and Irene Miracle made me wonder if they had different stories to tell.

In short, this movie is a mess that won’t really give you any new insights into Argento the person or Argento the director, so why bother?