Inferno Rosso: Joe D'Amato On The Road Of Excess

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Inferno Rosso: Joe D'Amato On The Road Of Excess
"A fascinating study of a man whose talent was never really recognised by the mainstream."

He began as a cinematographer and in none of his films - regardless of genre, budget or social acceptability - is it possible to miss that. Although Joe D'Amato (or, as he was known privately, Aristide Massaccesi) made a huge variety of films, often under less than ideal conditions, but all of them had a certain flair, a visual quality that elevates them and makes them immediately recognisable. It's a quality which won the director thousands of loyal fans who continue to remember him fondly over two decades after his death. This documentary by Manlio Gomarasca and Massimiliano Zanin sets out to tell the story of his career.

What makes D'Amato's fanbase different from most is that it's split into several different groups, many of them unaware of the others. The horror fans often know nothing of his spaghetti westerns or the post-apocalyptic science fiction. And then there's the porn - the good stuff, made early on with a genuine interest in its potential, and the desperate hardcore stuff, made to pay the bills - this latter, tragically, the only thing that most non-fans know him for. Gomarasca and Zanin demonstrate a remarkable breadth of knowledge across these genres and are supported by an impressive set of contributors: directors, producers, stars and more. D'Amat6o's granddaughter is among them and there's a personal aspect to the film which gives it real poignancy.

This won't be what some fans expect. Modern torture porn pales beside some of D'Amato's work. He was known for going to extremes, and some of his most notorious scenes are included here. Whilst they lack the power that they had in their original contexts, with proper build-up, they retain the power to disturb, even when accompanied by explanations of how they were shot. There is also some reflection on the impact of the director's intense working methods on actors, including one who sued because she was so traumatised by a particular scene. The film doesn't take sides here and is stronger for it, but it does make for uncomfortable viewing.

Rather than focusing overmuch on the controversies which contributed to D'Amato's notoriety, the film looks in depth at his work as a producer, from his ability to win over stars like Laura Gemser (who said she would never do another Emanuelle film before they met, but went on to do several) to his sharp sense of what would be the next big thing and his ability to carve out a niche for himself in emerging genres. There's a lot here that will be of interest to film history enthusiasts generally, whilst it really says something about D'Amato's perceptiveness, stamina and ability to put himself out there.

The film is plentifully supplied with clips from the full range of D'Amato's work and they're meshed together with fantastic editing by Alessandro Calevro. The result is an informationally dense film which nevertheless has enough energy to keep viewers engaged throughout. It's a fascinating study of a man whose talent was never really recognised by the mainstream, yet who built a name for himself time and time again and left a significant cinematic legacy purely by dint of his refusal to stop doing what he loved.

Reviewed on: 15 Sep 2021
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A documentary portrait of the famous film director.

Director: Manlio Gomarasca, Massimiliano Zanin

Writer: Manlio Gomarasca, Massimiliano Zanin

Starring: Lamberto Bava, Tinto Brass, Manlio Cersosimo, Joe D'Amato, Ruggero Depdato, Giuliana Gamba, Luigi Montefiori

Year: 2021

Runtime: 70 minutes

Country: Italy

Festivals:

Venice 2021

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