Photographer Peter Schlesinger taps into the dark side of Italian cinema for the Pre-Fall 2018 book, ‘Disturbia’, shot at key locations from the films of giallo master Dario Argento. Author Joshua Lyon behind the Instagram account @dying4it explores the mysteries within and talks with Peter about the relationship between beauty and horror.
It’s impossible to overstate the influence that director Dario Argento has had on the world of horror. His name is synonymous with giallo, the filmmaking style best visually represented by a straight razor grasped in a black leather glove, and his 1970 debut, ‘The Bird With the Crystal Plumage,’ cemented a spot for him in the genre. Subsequent films like ‘Deep Red,’ ‘Suspiria,’ ‘Inferno,’ and ‘Tenebrae’ revealed a cinematic master with a near-forensic attention to detail—music, set design, and clothing are meticulously developed, and the precision in his world-building contrasts beautifully with the violent chaos that ensues.
Photographer Peter Schlesinger took a cast dressed in Alessandro Michele’s Pre-Fall 2018 collection to several of Argento’s favorite filming locations in Rome’s Quartiere Coppedè for a book titled ‘Disturbia’ (which also features pages from Argento’s original ‘Inferno’ script, complete with hand-scribbled notes). Specific scenes in Argento’s films inspired certain shots, like a sinister taxi driver eyeing his passenger from the rearview mirror—near identical scenes appear in both ‘Suspiria’ and ‘Inferno.
Not all of the images are so literal though. In ‘Inferno,’ the snake (a creature found curled on many Gucci prints) lures a woman into an underwater ballroom filled with danger. In ‘Disturbia,’ however, the only serpent present is sculpted in stone, seen behind a model whose wary eye never strays from his. She’s the heroine here, and far too clever to fall for his tricks.
In fact, for all the menace lurking in ‘Disturbia,’ no one appears to be in too much danger. Turbans and fleece-lined jackets nod to the era of Argento’s doomed characters, but youthful details like a sweater of multicolored stars and decaled caps from Gucci’s collaboration with Major League Baseball point to a bold new generation that refuses to become anyone’s victim.
Were you a fan of giallo before working on this project?
I’m more attracted to Hollywood noir movies, which are pretty dark, than to horror. Of course they were black-and-white, whereas Argento is so deeply into color. My photography has always been in color, so it was quite exciting to explore the mood of Argento. His movies can be gory, but they are so stylized that they feel more like a modern take on ancient myths, which can also be very gruesome.
Why do you think the horrific and the beautiful often coexist so well?
I think it has to do with storytelling and exploring the way we deal with mortality, loss and desire. Mixing the horrific and beautiful can sometime unveil the subconscious.
What is your favorite Argento film and why?
I’ll go with ‘Suspiria’ with Joan Bennett, whom I love. She brings to it an air of noir Hollywood. Plus Alida Valli was great in it, and the film has all the Argento hallmarks.