Deleuzean hybridity in the films of Leone and Argento
Brown, Keith Hennessey
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In this comparatively brief chapter I begin by introducing my central research proposition. I then introduce my corpus of films and establish their significance both in their own right and as somewhat representative examples of a broader area of cinema. Following this I introduce my corpus of theory. Throughout, I seek to position my research within its wider context, identifying precedents for the approach I will take, alongside the originality of the thesis as a whole. My central contention in this thesis is that the films made by the Italian directors Sergio Leone and Dario Argento between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s are distinctive instances of a Deleuzean hybrid cinema. Gilles Deleuze suggests that we can identify two main, contrasting forms of cinema. These are the cinema of the movement-image and the cinema of the timeimage. As a philosopher of difference, Deleuze tends to present the two cinemas as alternatives. This is enhanced by their most important respective manifestations. The movement-image is associated with classical Hollywood genre cinema, the time-image with modern European art cinema. Accordingly, a Deleuzean approach leads to two contradictory hypotheses on the nature of Leone and Argento’s films. On the one hand, that they are genre works (westerns, gangster, thrillers and horror films) suggests they are movement-image. On the other hand, that they are post-Second World War continental European films suggests they are time-image. My contention is that we can resolve this apparent contradiction by considering the films as including combinations of movement-images and time-images. This entails reading Deleuze’s theory somewhat against the grain, by suggesting the existence of a continuum between the two image regimes. Crucially, however, there are a number of precedents for using Deleuze’s ideas to investigate hybrid cinemas, with these also demonstrating the value of modifying or extending his theories. In addition, I would suggest that we can deploy notions of hybrid cinema as a means of exploring the career trajectories of certain directors, by considering the proportions and types of movement-image and time-image apparent over their filmographies. My main corpus of films comprises fourteen works by Italian directors Sergio Leone (1929-1989) and Dario Argento (1940-). The Leone films span the period 1964 to 1984 and are all westerns with the exception of his final film, which belongs to the gangster/crime genre. The Argento films span the period 1970 to 1982 and are all giallo thrillers or fantasy-horror films, with some overlap between these genres. The Leone films are A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Duck You Sucker (1971), My Name is Nobody (1973) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984). The Argento films are The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971), Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), Deep Red (1975), Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980) and Tenebrae (1982). The exclusion of Argento’s later films allows for a clearer and closer comparison to be made with Leone’s films, my contention being that the two directors were doing similar things in their respective genres during this time period. Argento also broke into filmmaking through collaborating with Leone upon Once Upon a Time in the West.