Interview with Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni

Independent, daring and fiercely intelligent, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni has not only acted as a dark muse for numerous filmmakers throughout her career, she is also an artist in her own right. Consistently exploring painting, music, performance and writing as ways to more fully understand and express herself, what sets Cataldi-Tassoni apart from other artists, is her astute directness and uncompromising gravitation towards subjects that many other artists would only shirk from – these, she embraces openly and confronts unflinchingly.
Not content to use one form of art as a means of expression and self exploration, Coralina also writes and performs her own music; music that is imbued with the same idiosyncratic style, innate melancholy and evocativeness that seeps from her paintings. And then of course there is her film work with Italian horror Maestro Dario Argento, who has cast Coralina no less than four times in his films. Coralina has claimed that she comes to life in her various death scenes in Argento’s films; she also kindly made time to chat with Behind the Couch about her film career, her work as an artist, her music and her forthcoming biography.

From what I have seen of your artwork, it is quite dark and abstract. Is it fair to say that you are drawn to the darker side of life, artistically?

Being drawn to darker subjects is something I believe happened at an extremely young age. My bedtime stories where tragic and dramatic. They were opera librettos. The people coming and going in my household were like real opera characters come to life. I would do my homework under my father's piano and hear all the truest stories of life. Some were very tragic. It was kind of like being allowed into a psychiatrist's office to eavesdrop all day. I learned at a young age that people give hurt and get hurt.
My life has taken many roads, and a few very long and winding ones have been obscured by my darkest thoughts and by those of others. I am never more familiar with the darker side of my life as when I step with one foot out of hell. Who knows, maybe I am scared of stepping with both feet out. Maybe being drawn to the darker side of things makes me feel in control. In control of death.

How would you describe your art? What are your main influences?

My art is autobiographical. I am influenced by the faces of people I’ve met; those I know now and those that I will some day meet. Visions. I am influenced by the music I choose to play on my stereo before I begin to paint. Over and over - I keep that thought - until the painting is done. I keep the thoughts that I always obsess about. The ones I dedicate all my art to: to those people and things I have loved, I still love and to those I pray I will never love again.

What ideas and themes capture your imagination the most as an artist?


How long have you been involved with writing, recording and performing music?

I love music more than anything. I have been writing for 10 years.

What inspires you when you compose music?

This creative process is no different from my painting, really. It just happens that I use another instrument. But the thoughts are the same, all the same sounds in my head, just laid out in a manner people can actually hear them; not just see them. I believe everything and everyone has a sound. My memories, my voice, the voices of others, situations, objects, cities, streets, rain, moon, smiles, toys, pebbles. Everything. Everyone and everything are notes. Sounds. I feel them. I hear them. I translate these sounds in the way I hear them. My songs are translations of these sounds.

Click here to visit Coralina's myspace and listen to some of her songs...

I would imagine that with your art work and music you put yourself in quite a vulnerable place; because it is the very essence of yourself that you open up for people to glimpse. Is this a fair statement?

No matter what form, I am always vulnerable. I like being vulnerable. Every form is the essence of myself. It is like speaking more than one language. Sometimes I choose to use an Italian word to express myself rather than an English word, or vice versa. But they are all coming from me.

How did you come to meet and work with Dario Argento?

I guess if one lives in Italy, auditions in Italy, as a consequence, one works in Italy. I met Dario in soul for the first time, while watching Deep Red on TV as a little girl late one night. I would meet him in person a few years later. He wrote the character of Giulia in Opera for me. Opera was like coming home, returning to all those years I spent in opera houses. The smells, the sounds, the music...

You’ve worked in the horror genre quite profusely – does this again indicate that you connect somehow with the dark side of art and expression?

No, I just connect with these particular directors and they connect with me.

What film makers do you most admire and why?

I like elegant and classy filmmakers that have the courage to be themselves. I like to be infected by courage.

What do you say about the allegations of misogyny hurled at Argento?

Well, I personally cannot complain. When he kills me, we both come to life. We give each other life. I do not think hatred breeds life.

You’ve been murdered quite graphically a couple of times on film now. What is this experience like? Is there a cathartic element involved?

I doubt any death can prepare me for my real death some day. Also, I do not think it is cathartic. It is what it is. Tragic, disturbing and sad. What I can say is that I would rather die in an Argento movie than not. What would be even better, is if I could die in an Argento movie but in real life live forever. But who knows? Maybe this is the closest way of achieving my goal of immortality.

What do you think of horror films today? Can any comparisons be made between current offerings and the films of years gone by?

Today too many of them are just about grossing me out. I think there is this huge misconception about me and my interest in horror movies. I like stylized visions and emotions. Intelligent movies of words, faces, thoughts and camera work that makes me think. My thoughts like to be moved around, shuffled, placed, misplaced and found. Not frozen by disgust - that is boring.

BTC: Can you tell me about your recent short film The Dirt?

Claudio Simonetti (Goblin) and his sister Simona, offered me this role. I am forever grateful for their trust in me. I play a photographer who is obsessed with wanting a child. She has many secrets, but not as many as the strange plant that grows in her apartment. The Dirt has been going around the festival circuit and I recently won for Best Actress in a Professional movie at Fright Nights Film Festival in Austria.

How did your forthcoming biography, Coralina: A True Life, come about?

Journalist and writer Filippo Brunamonti, who has followed my career for years, was in New York and approached me with his idea of writing my life story. I accepted because I knew I could not be in more talented and caring hands than his.

You collaborated with Mariano Baino, (Dark Waters), on the trailer for the autobiography. Is film directing something you’d like to experience in the future?

A few months ago I would have told you no. But after experiencing the writing and directing of the trailer with Mariano, I cannot make that statement any more.

You were invited to compile a top-10 list of your Favourite Tragically Romantic Heroine Deaths in Opera. It seems that Italian art-forms are rife with depictions of the demise of beautiful women – what do you think draws Italian artists (including Argento of course) to this mysterious link between sex and death?



Anonymous said…
More apologies for misogyny. Love how the blogger has to patronize this woman by referring to her "intelligen(ce)". Lots of stupid, submissive women claim they are "coming to life" while being abused and of course, most of the rest of us in the audience are anything but "come to life" when this garbage is on the screen and spread throughout our culture. Just pathetic.
James Gracey said…
Hi Anon. Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment.

I didn’t intend to patronise by referring to Coralina as ‘intelligent’. Interviews I’d previously read with her were quite erudite and, given the subject matter she usually (passionately) discusses (art, expression, sexuality, death, cinematic violence) it seemed an apt adjective. This interview is but a small contribution to a much wider conversation regarding violence in cinema. If anything it demonstrates there are other opinions, other voices, and while they may hold views different to your own (which by the way I’m not belittling or dismissing) they’re no less valid. What better way to broaden that conversation than by talking to someone whose work with Dario Argento has been specifically cited as problematic, and by asking her how she feels about it?? Coralina is not taking on the role of a spokesperson, she is simply talking about her own experiences and sharing her own thoughts.

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