Bright Lights reviews Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds

By Erich Kuersten
Bright Lights Film Journal

McDonagh_Broken"As is always the case with studies of filmmakers who are still making movies," author Maitland McDonagh writes in her introduction to Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento, "this (book) can't hope to be definitive. What it can do is single out certain tendencies in Argento's work and examine them, while providing an overview of his films to date" (p. 34). Blogger-author-film critic, McDonagh's insight into the works of her controversial subject Italian horror director Dario Argento stays above the minutiae of close deconstruction in favor of an overview of his films from his debut, The Bird with Crystal Plumage (1968), through to Trauma (1992). Her gender and academic credentials (the book got its start as her master's thesis at Columbia in 1984) help in validating what some feminists dismiss out of hand as misogynistic excess due to Argento's notorious violence against women in the films, as in Carol Clover's Men, Women and Chainsaws. Having a female academic to guide us into these waters, one trained to spot misogyny swimming below the water level, seems more legitimate than, say, the typical nerdy Norman Bates-ish DVD collector. McDonagh plunges in with Broken Mirrors, and while the journey never achieves a madness in the prose equal to its subject, it does stay the course, unerringly, measuring out equal parts deconstruction, film history, cultural surroundings, and critical response, making Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds one of the few extensive books on the Argento oeuvre.

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