Tag Archives: argento

motheroftears

Mother of Tears

2007 / d. Dario Argento
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The final chapter in the Three Mothers trilogy, the film has Argento’s usual penchant for boobs and blood, but is stylistically worlds apart from the first two films (SUSPIRIA and INFERNO). Argento fans may dislike the polished look, but it boasts enough bodily trauma and lewd lesbian action to keep anyone entertained.

suspiria

Suspiria

Written & Directed By: Dario Argento
Starring:
Jessica Harper
Stefania Casini
Flavio Bucci

Anyone who knows me, or has read any of my other reviews, knows that I consider myself to be quite the Argento fan. And why wouldn’t I be — he is an undisputed master of the horror genre with an original style and a flair for creating incredibly memorable and intense death scenes. One doesn’t have to be an Argento fan however, to have an appreciation for — what is arguably his greatest cinematic achievement – Suspiria. Boasting stark colours, brilliantly chosen sets, and amazing cinematography, Suspiria was the beginning for a trilogy of films that took 30 years of Argento’s life to complete.

So what, you ask, makes Suspiria so great? A difficult question to answer for sure, since there isn’t just one thing that made it successful; rather a unique combination of elements that contributed to the masterpiece we hold so close to our twisted hearts. High among these elements would certainly be Argento’s painstaking attention to colour — his stark contrasts comprise a great deal of what we refer to as his style. It is easy to identify an Argento film from the rich blues and reds which are prevalent (often in the same scene) throughout the film. It is also noteworthy that Suspiria was the final film to be shot in Technicolor before the processing plant was closed. Furthermore, Argento’s brilliant choice of sets is also what adds to the often surrealistic atmosphere of his films: symmetry and patterns, coupled with creative angles and filming techniques lead to one unforgettable scene after another. Argento is a director who doesn’t waste film. Instead, you are left with the distinct impression that every scene; every second was shot according to his genius master plan.

Suspiria, largely inspired by Thomas De Quincey’s Suspiria De Profundis, tells the story of an American girl (Jessica Harper as Suzy Banyon) travelling to Germany to attend a prestigious ballet school. Once she arrives, brutal murders and bizarre scenarios rapidly unfold, ultimately drawing her into a hidden world of dark magic and witchcraft. Having so far withstood the test of time, and making it’s way onto numerous “best of horror” lists (Entertainment Weekly ranked it 18/25 and added that it had the most “vicious murder scene ever filmed”, Bravo listed it as 24/100, and critics from the Village Voice named it the 100th greatest film of the 20th century), it is clear that Suspiria is widely recognized as a gem in the horror genre.

Ignoring for a moment the visual aspect to the film, it would be unfair not to draw attention to the soundtrack. It has been said on numerous Halloween behind-the-scenes featurettes that when people went to see John Carpenter’s classic in the theatre, during particularly tense moments they would be seen covering their ears. His soundtrack, which is generally recognized as being one of the most simple yet effective soundtracks in the history of horror films, contributed greatly to the terrifying impact and high tension of many of the scenes. The same can be said for Claudio Simonetti’s soundtrack to Suspiria — a soundtrack which, in my opinion, certainly rivals that of Carpenter’s. Combining traditional instruments with electronic elements and eerie vocal effects, the music is as relentless and shocking as the images the film displays. Yet another example of how all the components came together to create a genre classic.

It would be unfair, and pointless, to continue talking about the film. This is a film that is meant to be seen, and heard. It is the perfect introduction to the works of Dario Argento, and is the best example of why he is considered one of the greatest horror directors of our time.

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Stendhal Syndrome

Written & Directed By: Dario Argento
Starring:
Asia Argento
Thomas Kretschmann
Marco Leonardi

As great as weekends are, there’s another night of the week that I look forward to: Monster Movie Mondays. These nights consist of a selection of diverse people coming together, armed with essentials (generally pizza, beer, and occasionally 3D glasses), and a desire to watch good horror films. Sure, the group isn’t always the same (sometimes there’s only three or four of us sitting around my small apartment) and we don’t all like the same types of horror films (my motto might be “keep it sick, keep it bloody, and keep the gore flowing” but it’s certainly not everyone’s) but it always makes for a memorable get-together. It didn’t take long, however, before we decied to try and create themed movie nights. It also didn’t take long before we decided to have an evening entirely devoted to the horror classics of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento.

I can remember the first time I saw Suspiria – many years ago when I was lurking horror forums trying to expand my knowledge of horror, two names continually emerged: Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. I was fortunate enough to find a copy of Suspiria (having no real experience of foreign horror films I had no idea what to expect), but without a doubt I’m glad that it was the first Argento film I saw. In my mind, it’s still the best movie he’s made — certainly the most profound and shocking. And don’t get me wrong, I consider myself fully an Argento fan — I just mean that Suspiria is so good, it casts a dark shadow across the majority of his other films. All of that said, Argento is consistent in that he has a style all his own (love it or hate it) and Stendhal Syndrome is pure Argento.

As with other reviews, I hate delving too deep into the plot for risk of ruining any details (those looking for plot synopses alone should instead frequent the IMDB) but essentially the film explores and seeks to capture the effects of the illness from which the movie derived it’s name: the Stendhal Syndrome. Named after the 19th century writer Henri-Marie Beyle (better known by his pseudonym Stendhal), the Stendhal Syndrome is a psychosomatic condition which can induce dizziness and even hallucinations when exposed to art. The person afflicted with this condition in the film is Anna Manni (played by the director’s daughter, Asia Argento) who finds herself in Florence in pursuit of a brutal serial murderer and rapist (Thomas Kretschmann). Needless to say, in typical Argento style the film is filled with an enormous amount of uncomfortable scenes, generally involving the abnormally sweaty sociopath assaulting, mutilating, or murdering women. More plot than this is really not essential.

Argento himself has stated that he experienced Stendhal Syndrome as a child; when climbing the steps of the Parthenon in Athens he was placed into a daze which lasted for hours. In 1989, author Graziella Magherini released her book “La sindrome di Stendhal“, which Argento immediately identified with and sought to translate to film. Argento intended to direct a follow-up sequel, but when it came time to do so his daughter Asia was unavailable. Thus, he was forced to change the main character’s name to Anna Mari, and the film was released under the name The Card Player.

While the film is generally remembered for it’s graphic visual effects, it is interesting to note that Stendhal Syndrome was the first Italian film to employ the use of CGI. Although in this reviewer’s opinion, the film would have been better without certain CGI moments (the early computer effects were used to create out-of-place, pseudo-C.S.I. scenes). But in addition to being a forerunner in CGI, the film also employs an effective plot twist that has been used again in recent horror films.

Overall, Stendhal Syndrome is recommended, but not as an introduction to Argento. It may put some people off, and is certainly not for the squeamish or easily offended.