Tune into the Pictures Part 3: Enter Goblin
Italian cinema was mostly rubbish, and now its gone. We got the best of it though, and when it worked in the postwar era when some of the greatest directors, actors, writers, musicians and cool funky folk of all time cranked out serious art. If you have a soul, these names are a roll call of bliss: Fellini, Antonioni, Leone, Corbucci, Solima, Bava, Pasolini, Rossellini, Bertolucci, Visconti, Petri...A nation brimming with a new self confidence and loads of talent combined with tax breaks meant a decent whack of magic came from the sacred Boot of Europe. But the bulk of it was binworthy, either dumbass "sex" "comedies" less funny than a case of scabies on a corpse, or else imitations of popular American genres that either Hollywood couldn't make enough of or had dropped.The UK, when it had a film industry more than a toxic combo of light costume nonsense, Politically Correct posing and retarded faux yoof yoghurt, did the same thing. Hammer woke up when Hollywood slept on classic gothic horror and cranked it out as long as they could, cooler than the original. Italy did that first with the Western in 60s, and then the Hitchcock thriller and Dirty Harry police flick in the 70s before drowning in a sea of gore, tits, and Mad Max rip-offs until it died all together. Unspeakable brilliance such as Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty, which you must see and feel on the biggest screen possible ASAP, have been very rare in the last 30 years. I went to Cinecitta for work a while back, and the massive studio complex looks like the theatre of dreams left abandoned that it is. Weeds grow through fake trains, plaster Roman ruins moss up and giant toy tanks rot slowly in the Roman air. The great School that trained most of the Gods mentioned above sits waiting for demolition and conversion into flats or a supermarket.Italy also has been good at claiming for a time discredited genres of music. Prog is usually a four letter word, at least by the mid-70s. Just like "Disco" became in much of the West by the 80s. So when Moroder left genius and Donna Summer behind to make electrofied cock rock, obscure Italian producers bested him with commercially cynical but often artistically brilliant efforts. Prog ended up the same way. Just as the remains of Yes and ELP ended up making ice musicals and concept albums no-one asked for about themselves dressed as wack Wizards, the needy Italian film industry offered a way for geniuses left behind by the changing times to make a living.A band of profoundly funky Italian prog practitioners called Oliver, then Cherry Five amongst other things turned up in London in the early 70s looking to become the next GeneyesELPwhatever. They cut some demos, met some long haired drug zombies with cash (or not) before realising that the Coming of Glam meant it was time to go back home. Signed to cult Italian label Cinevox, Goblin (which already was Pignatelli, Simonetti and Morante in reality) got roped in to the latest project of gore stylist par excellence, Dario Argento.Dario Argento is a Mediterranean parallel, and opposite, of John Carpenter. A total genius that had a run of perfection from 1970-1987, Dario was a proper film brat. Son of legendary producer Salvatore Argento, Dario began as a critic before working with Bertolucci on the story for Once Upon a Time in the West. His first film, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, took Mario Bava's improvement on the Hitchcock formula into a new space of modernist cool and elaborately staged violence. This is the Giallo genre - named after the cheap yellow paperbacks of saucy horror tales you can still buy in Italy. It is usually seen as the source of the "slasher" genre but this is as unfair as saying fine sushi is the source of all crabtstix. It is unreal - as are the other two "animal" Giallos that followed - Cat O' Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet. A visual artist until he burnt out and became criminally shit, Argento didn't care much for dialogue, acting and plot. What painter does? Instead its all style, atmosphere and SOUND. Ennio Morricone, the go-to man for a great soundtrack did the animals with panache. Don't sleep on them. Dario then made the mistake of making a garbage war comedy of some kind that bombed before setting out on his Giallo masterpiece of 1975, Profondo Rosso (Deep Red).And that's when Goblin entered his world, making it even cooler.Deep Red's soundtrack became a bit of a contentious clusterfuck, so Dario decided to set Goblin, who at that stage were just playing, not composing, the music a challenge. One night to compose, one to record. The result is dark bliss that defies any words.Dario's next picture, Suspiria, heavily influential on the recent Black Swan, involves witches in a ballet school. That doesn't matter compared to the fact he used the last real, three strip Wizard of Oz vintage Technicolor kit in the world to compose a painting that moves and bleeds off the screen. A painting incomplete without a very avant garde experimental, atmospheric symphony of sex from Goblin that again would be obscene to describe.Goblin suffered the usual bummers after that, members leaving and things sucking. Flashes of brilliance can be heard in soundtracks for other films like Contamination, and the LP proper Roller is also likely to rip through your mind like an atomic switchblade. Criminally, Argento then turned to the remains of Keith Emerson to score his still superb semi-sequel to Suspiria, Inferno. Keep your eyes on the screen and you will bliss out, your ears will be unoffended but uninspired though, sadly.For the best of his last three films worth more than bitter vomit, 1983's Tenebrae, the core bit of Goblin, credited as Pignatelli/Simonetti/Morante took the Italo and Electro sounds of the clubs and mashed them into a magnificent nightmare. Since then, comebacks, jokes and silence - as is always the way.As Argento lost interest in sound, music, style and colour - all that was left to see were pathetic plots, wooden actor/model types and stage blood. No better than 18 rated episodes of The Bill made by a university Goth society. Even Carpenter never fell that far down the bog and into hell.Yet if Hell, death, dreams and nightmares of any kind are scored by Goblin at their best, the worst fates imaginable are pure ecstasy.