DAMIANO DAMIANI, 1922-2013
A lot of artists are sometimes trapped by their race and/or their heritage; auteurs outside of America that make superlative and innovative films are often quoted as “French director” or “German expressionist” and sometimes these people would just for once like to hear “director” or “expressionist” as a sole description, leaving the nation of origin out. Race, for many of these artists, shouldn’t matter. And this was the case for Damiano Damiani, a versatile and groundbreaking filmmaker, who passed away March 7th at his home in Rome age 90.
Damiani was a fan of American cinema and the mystique of Hollywood was a source of inspiration for his mostly Italian films. Film critic Paolo Mereghetti described him as “a Hollywood impressionist and the most American of Italian directors!” His films were distinctly unique, driven by ferocity and ambition and visually sumptuous and almost always perverse in style and content.
Damiani transformed quietly sophisticated Glenda Jackson into a repressed nun in THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, he led bandit Klaus Kinski towards meaningful revolution in the much celebrated Spaghetti Western A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL and he directed DJANGO superstar Franco Nero in gritty urban crime thrillers HOW TO KILL A JUDGE and THE DAY OF THE OWL.
Celebrated for his visceral and extremely socially aware films, Damiani injected these fast and furious gems with political insight with acute inter-personal psychological edge. As director Pasolini once stated, “These films stick with you, they really leave an impression. These message movies are made by someone who is a bitter moralist hungry for old purity.”
But for me personally, and for many horror fans alike, the one film that really had struck a nerve is Damiani’s one horror film – the superlative and criminally underrated AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION. With it’s genuinely creepy menace, it’s perpetual relentless no holds back, it’s sickly sleazy front held together beautifully by great style and breathtakingly brutal and honest performances by the likes of Rutanya Alda, Burt Young, Diane Franklin and the reclusive Jack (whatever happened to?) Magner this is a fan favorite and a perfectly realized motion picture.
Thank you Mr. Damiani for delivering one of my most treasured childhood memories, where this seven year old suburban monster-kid stayed up late to watch your movie about a troubled Italian American family being tormented by that infamous unholy Long Island abode. RIP.