Opera North Blog

Sheer delirious extravagance: Halloween week at the Howard Assembly Room

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The glorious gothic interior of the Howard Assembly Room comes into its own with a series of spine-chilling film screenings, performances and events for Halloween week.

On the night itself (Monday 31 October), Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 masterpiece of psychological horror Don’t Look Now returns to the big screen. As a serial killer stalks the labyrinthine alleys and murky canals of baroque Venice, a married couple (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) are shaken by visions of their late daughter and a terrifying premonition. Voted the greatest British movie of all time by a film industry panel, Don’t Look Now’s unsettling atmosphere and bold innovations in cinematic storytelling remain shockingly effective today.

Following guerrilla gigs at the Vatican and Buckingham Palace, Cat’s Eyes bring their gloriously sinister baroque pop to Leeds for the first time on Wednesday 2 November as part of Beacons Metro 2016. On their 2011 debut the duo of Faris Badwan (The Horrors) and operatically-trained singer and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira spliced saturnine post-punk with sixties girl-group sounds. Their soundtrack for The Duke of Burgundy matched the film’s homage to cult seventies cinema with a lavish concoction of Morriconesque menace and Broadcast’s harpsichord-laden reverie. The first single from their latest critically-acclaimed album, Drag is a pitch-black psychodrama accompanied by its own video nasty, and their fully-fledged live show is bound to be an unforgettable experience.

Promising an all-out, nerve-shredding audio-visual onslaught, Dario Argento’s lurid Italian horror classic Suspiria is screened with the original soundtrack performed live by Goblin on Friday 4 November.  Arriving at a prestigious dance academy in the Black Forest, an American ballet student stumbles on the supernatural background to a series of horrifying murders. Viciously violent and exquisitely shot, with influences as diverse as German Expressionism and Disney, Suspiria is a prime example of the gruesome, operatic “giallo thriller. Both film and soundtrack were hugely influential, and American horror maestro John Carpenter once admitted to Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti that he “stole” many of the Italians’ sonic and visual tricks.

Dr Alan O’Leary, Associate Professor in Italian Cinema and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds, explains:

We often talk about films as if we were talking about books. We fixate on the plot, or we wonder what the 'message’ is. We ask silly questions like 'what’s it about?', 'what happened at the end?' and so on. But films are first and foremost an experience: a sensual (rather than intellectual) experience of sound and images—of music, movement, bodies, colour, voices, violence, noise...Irresponsible filmmakers have always known and celebrated this. Hitchcock was perhaps the greatest bad teacher in this respect, but among his most irresponsible followers have been the makers of the Italian giallo films.

In the giallo—and Suspiria is a masterpiece of the genre—sound and image are playfully and sadistically in excess of the stories they tell. The audiovisual means are designed not to relate ‘information’ but to impact on the body of the spectator.  To experience live the audacious rock soundtracks of Goblin from the films of Dario Argento is to be confronted with the sheer delirious extravagance of cinema at its most reckless.

Saturday 5 November brings a more wholesome seasonal event to the venue in the shape of Remember Remember: A Shadow Puppetry Workshop. Children and their families can discover the wonders of light and shadow by creating a variety of shadow puppets inspired by Bonfire Night.

Tickets for all events at the Howard Assembly Room are available from the Box Office on 0844 848 2727 or online at howardassemblyroom.co.uk.

Image: still from Suspiria, dir. Dario Argento, 1977

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