'Master of horror' Argento brings 3D Dracula to Cannes
Horror came to the Cannes Film Festival this week, courtesy of Italian cult director Dario Argento who said that his 3D Dracula is "a man for our times".
One of Quentin Tarantino's biggest inspirations, the 71-year-old with deep-set eyes said he was inspired by his nightmares and found the vampire count fascinating as a wild bisexual with a modern outlook on the world.
"It's an experiment with Dracula. What fascinates me about the character is his way of seeing reality, his bisexuality... his wild nature," said the director of the film that premiered out-of-competition at midnight Saturday.
"I thought of him in a slightly different way, certainly romantic but also ferocious. I adapted him a bit to my techniques and my way of doing cinema."
3D technology will make Dracula "even scarier" because it makes the action "more convincing," said Argento, speaking in a horror museum and store he owns in Rome named Profondo Rosso (‘Deep Red’) after his 1975 classic.
"I needed a system to provide a new, more modern image of the vampire," said the director, his eyes lighting up. Argento is a technological pioneer who was among the first to use steadycam and computer-generated images in his films.
"It's a great discovery. Basically it's a hologram. It adds depth to the image. You can see the different angles and what's happening behind and not just a series of flat pictures," said the man dubbed ‘The Magician of Horror’.
Asked about the current fashion for books, films and television series based on vampires, he is dismissive: "That's a trend. I made a historical classic."
Argento said the film is also intended to coincide with the centenary of the death of Irish author Bram Stoker, whose 1897 novel Dracula told the story of the vampire's attempt to move from Transylvania to Britain.
The film is shot in a mediaeval village in the Piedmont region and a castle in the Val D'Aosta region in the Alps in northwest Italy, and not in Transylvania where he said finding a location would have been tricky.
"When they're not abandoned, the castles have been turned into bed and breakfasts and the mediaeval villages have been destroyed," he said.
Audiences will be able to see his interpretation of the blood-addicted count when it goes on general release later this year.
Argento said he was very inspired by the film Horror of Dracula from 1958 starring British actor Christopher Lee.
"It was the first vampire movie I ever saw. I was very impressed by Lee's bloody mouth and his furious face," he said.
The son of a cinema producer and a fashion photographer, the once shaggy-haired Argento started out as a film critic for a newspaper.
He turned his hand to screenwriting and worked together with Bernardo Bertolucci on Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West" with Clint Eastwood.
His directorial debut was The Bird With the Crystal Plumage which came out in 1970 and became a huge box office hit. He has since made around 20 films.
For Dracula, Argento said he worked together with Luciano Tovoli, the same director of photography as for his seminal 1976 film Suspiria about a coven of witches in a ballet academy in order to bring "shocking colour" to the film.
Calm and affable in contrast with the cruelty and violence of his films, Argento said he is "very grateful" to Cannes festival director Thierry Fremeaux for granting him a premiere.
Asked whether Dracula could be compared to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Argento laughed and added mysteriously: "There is definitely something about Italian politics, but I'm not going to be the one to say it."
Reviewers have called the film a flop after the Cannes screening, with The Hollywood Reporter saying it is a tired rehash that adds little to the canon aside from such outré touches as having Drac shapeshift into a swarm of flies or a giant grasshopper in one howler of a scene. The report said the film is "utterly lacking in imagination or suspense, [and] this inane effort is strictly for hardcore Argento cultists".