Gialloween Day 18: Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Four Flies on Grey Velvet is an important milestone for me. While it’s true that Bay of Blood and Strip Nude for Your Killer were the first giallo films I watched, Four Flies was my first Argento film and the first film I saw were everything “clicked” for me. The other two films introduced me to the visual style of the genre. The women, the sets, the murders, so on and so forth— they introduced me to the visual what that defined the genre.
As with most Argento films, this film is captivating to look at. Unlike the other two films and previous entries in his Animal Trilogy, Four Flies also uses its style as a tool to depict how it feels to be the victim and killer. I’ve yet to find a giallo that better captures the feelings of paranoia, fear, confusion, and rage. It is one of the films that best outlines the internal why behind the giallo.
A rock musician Roberto becomes wrapped up in a murder and is witnessed by a masked figure. Pieces of the crime turn up near his home and people close to him begin to wind up dead. The musician turns to friends and a private investigator to uncover the truth before he loses his life and sanity.
During my first viewing of the film, it was the visuals that caught my attention the most. The scene opens to our main character rehearsing with his band. A great prog rock tune soundtracks action shots of the musicians. The rockstar look is transferred through the film, down to the clothes, hair and especially Roberto’s swank ass house. It is the most 70’s looking of Argento’s gialli and the coolest one with its emphasis on the rock musician form. Bookending the film we also have a great visual set piece that happens during the climax of the final act and really ends the animal trilogy with a bang.
Subsequent viewings exposed the nature in which Argento portrays the mental anguish from our characters. Many of the scenes of are presented in a dream like manner. Time and place seem to be fluid, amplifying the confusion and paranoia of the characters. The color palette of the film is mostly blue, grey, dark greens/browns, and black. Many scenes are also filmed in little lighting to give an overwhelming sense of darkness to further the effect.
There is a recurring dream of a beheading in Saudi Arabia that can be used to summarize the way Argento has made Four Flies and its intended effect. A two step process, the executioner takes a long pointed dagger and jabs it into the nape of the neck. The victim seizes with pain and rigid surprise. Immediately after, the executioner swings a much larger sword to cleanly decapitate the head. Argento’s dagger in this film is the way he makes both the characters and audience tense with the focus on depicting paranoia and anxiety. The use of vibrant style and extravagant set pieces is the sword that completes the act, leaving everyone breathless.