(2022, Italy)
2 stars  

directed by: Dario Argento
starring: Ilenia Pastorelli, Asia Argento, Andrea Gherpelli, Mario Pirrello, Maria Rosaria Russo, Gennaro Iaccarino, Andrea Zhang, Ivan Alovisio, Fabrizio Eleuteri

choice dialogue:

“Before you there were three victims ...""

- the police warn Diana she was targetted by a killer.

slash with panache?

[review by JA Kerswell]

Dario Argento's BLACK GLASSES is not quite as bad as some of his more recent output, but that's not really saying much. For those of us still holding a candle for the one-time 'enfant terrible' of Italian genre cinema, the flame grows ever dimmer with each misfire – and he all but extinguishes it with this latest effort. Argento's most recent return to the giallo genre is mostly a faltering misfire that fails to thrill or even tantalise visually. Pedestrian is never a word I thought I could use to describe one of his films, but it is sadly apt here.

  Dario Argento's BLACK GLASSES starts off promisingly enough with a portent of doom. Sadly, it turns out that it is the audience that is doomed ...

That's not to say that the premise of BLACK GLASSES didn't have promise. It starts well enough, with a solar eclipse (long seen as a portent of disaster). The phenomenon is watched by high class escort Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli), who later complains to a client that she needs to temporarily wear dark glasses because she damaged her eyes looking at the sun (again something of a premonition). Meanwhile, a killer in a van has been murdering sex workers in Rome (originally the film was set in Venice) by cutting their throats with a garotte. Diana nearly falls victim to the maniac after fleeing a client after refusing to be fisted (!). The mysterious assailant gives chase to her; causing Diana to loose control of her car and crash into another vehicle. The crash kills one of the parents of a young Chinese boy (Chin played by newcomer Andrea Zhang) and leaves the other in a coma. Diana also wakes from her accident in hospital to find herself blind. Something that the doctor tells her will almost certainly be permanent.

Diana tries to adapt to her new life with the help of Rita (Asia Argento) – a social worker assigned to her. Feeling guilt for the crash, she visits Chin in an orphanage and tries to make amends. However, she is surprised when he turns up at her flat and begs her not to send him back. The unlikely pair find themselves not only wanted by the police looking for the young boy, but also the killer who is intent on finishing his murderous work …

As I already said, the premise had potential. Indeed – as a bizarre buddy movie – it is tantalisingly ludicrous enough to nod back to the kind of eccentric plotting that so delighted fans of Argento's classic films from the 1970s and 1980s. However, what could have been an effective giallo retooling of WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967) – where a blind Audrey Hepburn is menaced by a trio of thugs in her apartment – becomes something far more mundane. I won't spoil the identify of the killer in this review, but it really doesn't matter. The killer's identity is revealed at the half-way point; effectively robbing the film of any mystery element. The killer is given no motivation at all. There is no surprise or revelation – much like the film itself.

  BLACK GLASSES: Sadly squanders an intriguing premise.

Ilenia Pastorelli is simply OK in a role that would have benefited an actor with a greater range (she first gained fame in Italy as a contestant on the reality show Big Brother in 2011). Diana is a cipher of a character who only elicits sympathy because of what she has been through. Andrea Zhang, as her young sidekick, veers from good to dreadful. Dario Argento has long said he has no interest in actors beyond being props for his stories. It seems that the film could have really benefitted a director who helped these central characters flesh out their roles beyond merely being chess pieces in a suspense piece. It wouldn't be so bad, but the film is rarely suspenseful. Surely a thriller should at the very least be thrilling? The last half of the movie has Diana and Chin stumbling around an almost pitch black countryside, which could almost be a metaphor for the film itself looking for a plot.

On the plus side BLACK GLASSES looks good courtesy of slick, if anonymous looking, cinematography by Matteo Cocco. However, those hoping for the kind of visual inventiveness of Argento at his height – or even when he has been coasting in more recent years – will be sorely disappointed. His visual playfulness has all but been abandoned in favour of the functional and linear. Only a brief POV of a running dog or an overhead shot of Diana at an airport, as people scurry around her, has any kind of echo of Argento of old. Even the effects of gore legend Sergio Stivaletti seem perfunctory. Argento used to display an almost childlike glee at how far he could take the violence in his movies. Here it feel little more than a tick box checking exercise. He even recycles one of the most shocking moments in one of his earlier, classic films featuring a dog attack – but to much lesser effect here. DAFT PUNK were originally mooted to provide the soundtrack, but Arnaud Rebotini is a worthwhile replacement and his music veers from abstract, muted church organ to a pounding techno bass that gamely tries in vain to get the action going.

BLACK GLASSES had long been in gestation and had originally been envisaged as a follow-up to the director's SLEEPLESS (2001). A film that was not without its problems, but is a far more spirited affair than this one. It is based on a 2002 screenplay by Dario Argento and Franco Ferrini (reuniting after the 2001 film) that was shelved when the production company filed for bankruptcy.

I suppose we should be thankful that Argento is still making movies. Sadly, BLACK GLASSES feels like a film made by a once great director who is now running on fumes and is simply going through the motions without any great enthusiasm. But why? Luis Brunel was in his 70s when making challenging and surprising movies such as THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEIOISIE (1972). Has Argento got one last great movie in him? Despite the evidence here hope springs eternal ...

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BODYCOUNT 7   bodycount!   female: 4 / male: 3

      1) Female has throat slit
      2) Male dies from injuries sustained in a car crash
      3) Male hit by van
      4) Female stabbed to death
      5) Female strangled with rope
      6) Female dies from injuries sustained in a car crash
      7) Male has throat ripped out by dog