Give your soul to the dance.
ActorsStarring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Elena Fokina, Sylvie Testud, Renée Soutendijk, Christine Leboutte, Małgorzata Bela, Fabrizia Sacchi, Jessica Harper, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jessica Batut, Alek Wek, Vincenza Modica, Vanda Capriolo, Brigitte Cuvelier, Gala Moody, Anne-Lise Brevers, Sara Sguotti, Halla Thordardottir, Olivia Ancona, Marjolaine Uscotti, Sharon Campbell, Elfriede Hock, Iaia Ferri, Clémentine Houdart, Charo Calvo, Stephanie McMann, Majon van der Schot, Maria Bregianni, Josepha Madoki, Navala Chaudhari, Karina El Amrani, Doris Hick, Mikael Olsson, Fred Kelemen, Greta Bohacek, Joel-Dennis Bienstock
Let’s get the unpleasantries out of the way first; no, I have not watched Argento‘s giallo masterpiece – one of the more significant contributions (by way of reputation more than film merit) to cinema. So, I haven’t watched the 1977 original and I know that the hair-power “Suspiria, 1977” can swallow this outing (some may use the word sacrilegious) whole and spit out a more entertaining film than the 152 minute long, stylized, a grandiose modernization of the original. But that isn’t saying that the remake by Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name, 2017) is any less effective; it goes to the extent of adding to the plot and maneuver the trappings of the original in a way that has every potential to make Dario Argento (and Pasolini) proud.
I realize, I really do, However, I haven’t watched Argento’s film and this one, although a tad bit too long, did manage to cause much distress, so much so that for a major part of the re-make, I forgot to have fun, to appreciate the Flavian set design, to value the well-choreographed, a checkered floor of visual telling and also for me to admire the devil is in the detail (or in this case the details are with Mother Nature, who holds it close to her bosom with filial piety, never letting go until all hell breaks lose) performances. Guadagnino’s grand story telling style reminded me of many films of giallo-yore; the sudden zoom in, the tight spaces, the extreme close up, the dark corners, the low, Raimi-framing (The Dutch Angle) and the angular shots, lingering on a face that could be a forceful twist; all of it put there just to make Tilda Swinton look bad; however she lends to this project her otherworldly, peerless, and exquisite presence, pushing the Fifty Shades of Grey actor, Dakota Johnson as Susie and the lessons of submission, dominance, power, and sexuality learnt in the past to a terrific, strict disciplinary jump, use. Similar lessons were dispensed to Patricia (Chloë Grace Moretz), earlier in the film, behind the camera and look what it did to her.
The camera shows to us an open hand in a tilted frame and we hear Madame Blanc (Swinton) repeat one word again and again and the volume raises with each new demand to jump, “higher“; all to a point where the space below her and the resounding philosophical tenor is branded on to our protagonist’s brain.
This is a film about witches living in open spaces that could become that mirror scene from Enter the Dragon, 1973 with a snap of the fingers. And you thought only Thanos could snap (like actually snap) like a boss. Guadagnino is trying for the film to be something that it simply cannot become; likable. It is mystifying, the dream sequences are replete with sordid visuals of the acid kaleidoscope variety, the coven is threatening and the strong visuals bring a sense of authority to the film, which is a facade that it manages to build until the house of cards comes down hard as the third act, or in this case, when the words: “The Borrowing“, flash on the screen.
Suspiria is insane, it is maddening and when push comes to shove the feverish undertone can be felt as Susie stumbles upon something quite peculiar and decides to keep to herself. And then Sara finds Patricia under the The Grand Hotel Campo dei Fiori in Varese; where the film was shot. Very Pascal Laugier, I say – the amputee bouncing towards Sara and the Godforsaken creatures in the basement are truly what nightmares are made of.
Fashionably choreographed and creating a full flavored atmosphere of dread and trepidation, this viewer was beginning to get intrigued (it was replaced by pristine terror) until Guadagnino decided to watch Salo, 1976 in between filming this complicated and slick as heck film and made things difficult to not just watch but to accept.
The mothers reminded me of the three story tellers and the pianist; the girls look and act just like how the human being is treated (reduced) in the unforgiving, filthy and brilliant lesson of Pasolini. It is never a good thing, even in horror, to be associated to Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. The latter is an embryonic and an inherent study in deterrence; from everything celluloid. Pasolini’s magnum opus is such that having even a remotely likeness to that beast is baneful and pernicious. If the mythos were such; to deter the audience, to make them hate the film and inversely admire it subconsciously? It does not work; it only distances the audience instead of taking them in a tight grasp and not letting go, for there is a difference, a fine line, you may say; the dissension of art masquerading as a impediment towards a much needed catharsis and full blown nihilism, and then some.
Horror must be everything stated above but in the end the consumer is overwhelmed by the principles of Guadagnino’s Suspiria – the cold is biting, and the dementia, real. All of it is rather uncomfortable and that could be because it appraises the encumbrance that femininity causes in an otherwise natural setting.
However ironic it may all be, the discordance of the harmony, when the motives are clear; it is as if Guadagnino has tread forbidden territory and the brutality shows from the very beginning, when the viewer first, quite early on in the film, literally gets a distorted view of horror itself (a scene that is hard to forget) and; my guess is, shifts in the seat and knows that this one is here to take – it will not give, the source is such, the Red Army Faction setting/opening, the blatant abuse of power, the Jungian scripting of events, the big guilt and corruption running rampant are just too close for comfort. Themes that make us remember the dark side of history. It is not something that will cause a stir in the heart, instead, this will grow on its viewers like wall shrubs and creepers. Not a good thing, no ma’am; not right away.
The frantic, hysterical, appalling, desiccate & oxidizing film is akin to something that is a pulverized mixture similar to frit. Yup, that intense and panic inducing!