Re: Re : RARA-AVIS: Re: Giallo novels (correction)

From: Sean Shapiro (
Date: 31 May 2008

Giallo when it comes to books, as astute rara avians have pointed out, is a generic term for crime novels. But the films that bear this name are a little different from 'ordinary' crime films. They started out as conventional mysteries inspired by Edgar Wallace and Agatha Christie and that whole school of whodunit (hence the name 'giallo') but, thanks to directors like Mario Bava (compare his early mystery 'The Girl Who Knew Too Much' with 'Hatchet for the Honeymoon' and you can see what I mean), they turned into something different. The plots became bizarre, the murders brutal-often elaborately staged setpieces-the lighting stylized and artificial, the sets opulent and stylish, the characters cynical or psychologically damaged (dream sequences and hallucinations are common) and suspense was emphasized over mystery-the solutions to the mysteries often being so bizarre as to stretch credulity. (Including sometimes going with the supernatural explanation. Imagine an episode of Scooby Doo where the ghost could be real and it could kill Velma. That's the thrill you get from watching a giallo.) They have been compared to slasher movie but I would say they are slashers with PHDs. The characters are adult and sophisticated. Not screechy teens.
  If you say that noir and hardboiled are mysteries that are credible-hence the grittiness, the flat reportorial style, and the neo-realism
(even if it's sometimes 'lite') then you would have to say that giallo are incredible mysteries-hence the gothic and baroque touches. I know I could read gothic and baroque novels, but giallo films are still closer to their source-crime and mystery-than straightforward gothic. They are closer to Poe than to Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker, let's say.
(And as for Italian crime. At the moment it is going through quite a healthy phase. I have recommended Gianrico Carofiglio before and I'll do so again. Fans of harboiled and noir will eat him up with a spoon.)


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