Love him or hate him, there's no denying that even after his death, Lucio Fulci remains one of the most interesting filmmakers in the horror genre. That, of course, is putting it rather mildly. His films tend to be short on plot and long on total gross-outs and shocks. Ask anyone about, say, Zombie (aka Zombi 2) and there's a good chance you won't start talking about the story- you'll start talking about the underwater zombie vs shark fight, or the scene where a piece of wood goes through a woman's eye. You may not remember the character's name, but you'll remember the scene in City of the Living Dead where that character pukes up her own guts.
When horror fans are subjected to scrutiny for non-fans, the question that begins the barrage is often "How can you watch that stuff?" I consider myself to be a lite Fulci fan- that is, I really like some of his films, don't like others, and in the end, probably haven't seen all that much. Still, when I think about Fulci, I find myself asking "How can he make that stuff?"- not in a judgmental way, or a way meant to imply that he shouldn't be making these films, but rather that I'm fascinated by someone who would. Fulci's extreme approach to horror is doubly fascinating considering all of the work outside the genre, from westerns to comedies and everything in between. You'd think someone whose horror work is so hardcore would focus exclusively on that genre.
I don't know anything about Fulci, really, beyond his reputation as a hardass director and a misogynist. Does the latter stem from his actual beliefs and behavior offset, or is it simply fallout from the violence against women in his films? I figured that the documentary Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered, Volume One (2009) should give me some insight and answer more than a few questions I have about this complex, enigmatic filmmaker.
Paura sets out to provide answers to only one question: What is your fondest memory of Lucio Fulci? Answers are given by men and women who fall into one of three categories: accomplices, peers, and victims. The interview clips aren't assembled into a cohesive whole as much as they're plopped onto DVD. You can choose to "play all", or simply jump to the response by a particular person. Each is introduced by a written mini-bio that lists his or her relationship to Fulci (ie, which films they collaborated on) over the same ten-second loop of Fulci-inspired (or, more to the point, Fabio Frizzi-inspired) music. I was glad I opted for the "jump around" approach, as listening to that loop for each of the near-90 interviews on the disc would have driven me mad.
I introduced some friends to City of the Living Dead the other night, and their response to scenes like the maggot storm and the aforementioned guts-puking-uppening was "Oh, those poor actors". By all accounts, Fulci's actors endured more than a few hardships during the making of his films- not just having, say, maggots whipped at their faces, but also the unpredictable temperament of the director himself. Given all this, I decided to jump in by checking out the "victims" section. I began with Catriona MacColl, who'd worked with Fulci on more than one occasion, and who I'd just seen in City of the Living Dead. Surely she'd have some insights.
And she did, as she talked about a photograph of Fulci that she feels is symbolic of the director: he sits on the memorable bridge used in The Beyond, sitting in his chair with his arms folded. According to MacColl, it's very representative of his isolation and his defiance. She hinted that she had much more to say about the man, but "you wanted my fondest memory". How frustrating!
As the subjects are answering the one question, the clips tend to be brief. The level of revelation about Fulci is quite varied: Cinzia Monreale of The Beyond gave a terrific, lengthy answer discussing the man's roughness, rudeness, and humor. They got along well and she found him amusing. On the other hand, Adrienne La Russa, titular star of Beatrice Cenci, shared a mutual enmity with the director. She told an amusing story about how she wouldn't do nudity in the film, so Fulci hired a less-than-flattering body double for her as payback. If that's her fondest memory of him...but alas, curiosity about the rest of the relationship is not to be satisfied on Paura: Volume One. Then there are responses that perhaps should have warranted the addition of a "deleted scenes" section. Barbara Bouchet's fondest memory of Don't Torture a Duckling is simply the fact that Fulci hired her, while director Bruno Mattei doesn't say much more than "I liked him".
Paura is indeed a noble undertaking, and Fulci fans will find much to love. With seven years of filming and more than 100 of the director's colleagues interviewed, the mountains of footage surely comprise an unwieldy, intimidating beast for Paura director Mike Baronas. Unfortunately, I don't that this beast was wrangled in the most effective manner. I don't feel I know Lucio Fulci much better than I did before I gave the DVD a whirl. Sure, some of the anecdotes are interesting and on more than one occasion it's said that Fulci should have been more recognized as a filmmaker, but his lack of diplomacy stifled his career. I wanted to dive into that idea. I wanted to get a real idea of this curious man. The limitations presented by the format simply don't allow for this. I imagine that Volume Two may feature everyone's "least favorite" memory of Fulci, and that will probably provide more insight into his nature. Still, the material would have been best served as a straight-up biography of the man, or perhaps a walk through his work in horror where more questions are asked and answered at once. As a companion to other, more in-depth works about Fulci, Paura is undoubtedly invaluable; as an ignoramus taking in the film on its own, however, I feel like I'm standing at a party where I don't know anyone. Like maybe they're all speaking Italian and laughing at inside jokes while I nervously sip my Riunite on ice and blankly smile. When oh when will I belong?