Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Suspiria" (1977)

Dario Argento’s films don’t quite work for me. They tend to be stories that struggle with cohesiveness, or at times seem downright unintelligent. One gets the impression—as is the case with many visually driven filmmakers—that he had a few good set pieces in mind and then strung them together without much thought to a plot. More problematic is Argento’s emphasis of violence, particularly toward women. His mystery stories are Giallos; where the concern is not with solving a puzzle or achieving justice, but rather depicting as much disturbing violence as possible.

“Suspiria” is the one standout. Not that it has a more compelling plot, nor is it tied together any more cohesively. Aesthetically speaking it is something to behold. The colors are some of the most vibrant ever filmed, and every scene is strangely beautiful. And the score—as strange and experimental as it is—has a place among the best scores of all time.

The story almost manages to work because the crazy, inexplicable attacks on the women in the film are attributed to evil itself. They can be bizarre and surreal because they are not bound by logic or even physics but are the work of supernatural forces. In the end the story is nothing more than a fairy-tale set in modern times, where the heroine has to courageously face and destroy the evil witch.

Argento went on to film two more stories in his witch trilogy, with diminishing returns each time. The second film, “Inferno” has one good set piece in a submerged basement, but not much else. The third entry, “The Mother of Tears” is pretty dreadful.

With Argento one does not get a commentary or reflection on the nature of evil, and barely a sense of good VERSUS evil. He wants to create a reaction in his audience and merely employs evil to achieve it.

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