Saturday, 20 July 2013

NZIFF Film Review: 'NZIFF Presents Goblin Plays "Suspiria"' (2013).

"Susie, do you know anything about... witches?" This question is at the heart of Suspiria. This 1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento. It is the first of the trilogy Argento refers to as The Three Mothers, followed by Inferno and The Mother of Tears. In a stormy night, a newcomer and American dancer Suzy Bannion arrives in Freiburg coming from New York to join a famous, expensive and fancy ballet academy for three years of training. But she gradually comes to realize that the house and its staff are actually indeed a coven of evil witches hell-bent on chaos and destruction.

Suspiria is noteworthy for several stylistic flourishes that have become Argento trademarks. The film was made with anamorphic lenses. The production design and cinematography emphasize vivid primary colors, particularly red, creating a deliberately unrealistic, nightmarish setting, emphasized by the use of imbibition Technicolor prints. It was one of the final feature films to be processed in Technicolor. The title and general concept of The Three Mothers came from Suspiria de Profundis, an uncredited inspiration for the film. There is a section in the book entitled Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow. The piece asserts that just as there are three Fates and three Graces, there are three Sorrows: Mater Lacrymarum, Our Lady of Tears, Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs and Mater Tenebrarum, Our Lady of Darkness. Scriptwriter Daria Nicolodi stated that Suspiria's inspiration came from a tale her grandmother told her as a young child about a real life experience she had in an acting academy where she discovered "the teachers were teaching arts, but also black magic." This story was later confirmed by Argento to have been made up.

Italian prog rock band Goblin composed most of the film's musical score in collaboration with Dario Argento. Goblin had previously scored Argento's earlier film Deep Red (1975) as well as several subsequent films following Suspiria. Like Ennio Morricone's compositions for Sergio Leone, Goblin's score for Suspiria was created before the film was shot. It has been reused in multiple Hong Kong films, including Yuen Woo-ping's martial arts film Dance of the Drunk Mantis (1979) and Tsui Hark's horror-comedy We Are Going to Eat You (1980).

Suspiria is lavish, no-holds-barred witch story whose lack of both logic and technical skill are submerged in the sheer energy of the telling. Ultimately, the film fails mainly because it lacks restraint in setting up the terrifying moment, using close-ups and fancy camera angles gratuitously and with no relevance to the story. The movie's distinguishing feature is not the number or variety of horrible murders, but the length of time it takes for the victims to die. This is a technique that may have been borrowed from Italian opera, but without the music, it loses some of its panache. The film is shot in vivid colors, at some striking angles, and the background music is Verdi rather than heavy metal. But the script and acting are largely routine.

Simon says Suspiria receives:

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