Thursday, November 1, 2018

This year's MOTHER! AWARD goes to Luca Guadagnino's re-imagining of SUSPIRIA

After this past Tuesday's South Florida critics' screening of SUSPIRIA -- the remake/re-imagining by Luca Guadagnino of the 1977 Dario Argento movie of the same name -- several of us were chatting about the film, and mentioned how it reminded us in some ways of last year's uber-divisive movie, Mother! This current Suspiria, we agreed, is as likely to be nearly as divisive, with the negative feedback perhaps stronger than the positive.

There are a lot of reasons for this, starting with the remake's enormous and uncalled for length. The original ran 97 minutes, this one lasts 152.

Both films' plots send a young and talented dancer to a famous European dance academy that doubles as a witches' coven. But Signore Guadagnino, pictured at left, has used all that extra time to gussy-up his movie with a bunch of themes and ideas that go nowhere and never add up to more than mere poorly-thought-out excess.

The director, along with screenwriter David Kajganich (based on the original by Argento and Daria Nicolodi), tosses in everything from family dysfunction, Baader-Meinhof terrorism, psychotherapy, guilt and shame to World War II and The Holocaust, some sort of coming apocalypse, a modern dance recital, satanic rites, and enough guts and gore to fill a dozen so-so slasher movies.

Worse, none of this ever really coalesces. It just piles up rather conspicuously, as the two-and-one-half-plus hours wear on. "What the fuck was he thinking?" may frequently occur to you along the way, about the fellow who earlier gave us much better movies, including I Am Love, A Bigger Splash, and Call Me By Your Name.

Guadagnino does possess a visual eye, at least, so there are compensations to be had now and then. And he has rounded up another first-rate cast -- even if he uses them rather poorly. Almost no characterization can found anywhere here. Even the usually fabulous Tilda Swinton (above) can barely bring to life Madame Blanc, the school's choreographer. Swinton fares much better playing the role of Dr. Josef  Klemperer (below), credited to Lutz Eberdorf but now known to be Swinton in some excellent make-up.

Although the leading role and main draw would seem to be Dakota Johnson (below), who plays the "star" student, Susie Bannion, you may find yourself, as did TrustMovies,

more interested in Mia Goth (below), who plays Susie's friend, a plucky but unlucky young dancer named Sara. Ms Goth works wonders with very little, while Ms Johnson proves pretty drab and one-note throughout.

In the film's opening, Chloë Grace Moretz (below) gets a nice scene as one of the academy's more frightened students, but then disappears from the proceedings until returning a good deal later as pretty much a corpse.

Yes, there's a bunch of meaningless scribbles and symbols, and eventually that maybe longed-for ritual so the blood can spurt and splatter.

The weirdest and most effective scene (for those who appreciate extremes) is probably the one early on in which a dancer (Elena Fokina, below) alone in another room is somehow pummeled, jerked, beaten and scrunched to death via Ms Johnson's oddball dancing. Go figure.

Some of us older viewers might take pleasure in seeing a few of Europe's noted actresses -- Germany's Angela Winkler (below, left),  France's Sylvie Testud and Holland's Renée Soutendijk (below, right) -- playing supporting witches. Winker gets the most screen time, while Testud and Soutendijk are utterly wasted.

Fans of the original film's star, Jessica Harper, can see her do a small cameo as the good doctor's dead wife. Otherwise, wait for all the climactic blood-letting and see what you think. I could only roll my eyes and mutter, "Oh, please" and then "So what?" All this is not just grueling but noticeably ugly, just as is the junky-looking poster for the film, at top.

From Amazon Studios, the new Suspiria opened in our cultural coastal cities last week and hits South Florida this Friday, November 2, at some of the local venues. To find the theater(s) nearest you, try clicking here, and I think some of these may appear....

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