Suspiria (Guadagnino, 2018)

Probably at the end of the year the movie that will hold the most drastically different places on my ranked lists of Favorites and Bests will be Suspiria (2018), during which I mostly wanted to die, but which I think is probably a good or at least very notable movie in terms of concept/vision/execution/sheer audacity. Hard to say for sure though as I was cowering behind my fingers for 25-30% of it!!!! I knew, I knew as soon as I read the shocked reactions to that clip they showed critics back in April that I was going to spend this swamped with nauseous adrenaline, but still had the idiocy to skip dinner to instead spend 150 minutes locked in horror and agony, then limp home to get maybe five hours of sick shivery sleep, which is the story of how Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria wrecked my health for like 24 hours. A powerful film experience! Thanks I hated it!

So I’m very surprised to find myself wanting to fight people for dissing this movie in the wrong way. I’m not even dissing it myself, I’m just saying that I, personally, should have learned my lesson from Black Swan and noped out of the gruesome supernatural dance horror, because I respect but cannot fucking handle that shit. And so far I haven’t seen any critics with a bone to pick over how many bones…break, break so appallingly horribly and screamingly as dancers are cracked and twisted into demented drooling knots. Which is right, they are right to not fault it for that because that’s what this movie is, it’s gore—you don’t fault comedies for being funny you don’t fault gore for being harrowing. No, what critiques I’ve seen have been for artistic reasons, and that’s the place where I go from Suspiria victim to Suspiria stan, because while I did not at all want to go where this movie was going to take me (gore town), the thing I did like very much was the road it took to get there.

Mostly what I mean is that some critics are calling this movie a plodding, self-serious, pretentious art film, and that is wildly off to me if pretentious still means what I think it does, which is, yeah, plodding and self-serious—eye rollingly aloof while also vaguely neurotic and labored because the movie is trying too hard to be something. But even though I watched this wracked with dread, I still thought it seemed so relaxed in itself? Suspiria may stress me out, but it’s not stressed about its own identity. It’s really just having a good time being arty and ghastly during the German Autumn. There is a scene in this where Tilda Swinton wears an elaborate heavy silk caftan with iron grey hair spilling down to the middle of her back while she sits eating chicken wings and talking to Dakota Johnson about growing up in a Mennonite community in Ohio, like that is what I mean. It’s not like there are deliberately written jokes, maybe just a couple, but this movie is consistently funny in that way that’s only because you can tell the cast and crew were enjoying themselves. Suspiria sincerely enjoys the booms of the Baader-Meinhof Group terrorizing the streets of 1977 Berlin while Chloë Grace Moretz with a big overcoat and unhinged eyes informs her elderly psychologist (also played by Tilda Swinton, because enjoyment) that the witches that run the modern dance academy “will hollow me out and eat my cunt on a plate.” Hah oh my god what? you ask yourself with a soft startled huff, and the movie just laughs in return and asks if you’d like to see a cold, blocky marble foyer from above while rain pours down outside.

Which brings me to the other critique I rebuff: people calling the look and palette dull, instead of the best ’70s beiges since Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The aesthetics of this movie are certainly not Argento’s insane neons, but oh man this is gorgeous post-war European bleakness. Old Bauhaus modernism and dilapidated art deco, all scummy taupes and mauves and lichen greens in watery light. Thom Yorke mourning in the background over piano, every article of clothing an absolute look and a half, maybe a quarter of the dialogue or more in German or sometimes French. I mean, in so many basic ways Suspiria is a thousand yard stare over a howling abyss away from last year’s Luca offering Call Me By Your Name, but at the same time, a surprising amount of evidence that this is the same filmmaker…mood-forward, clothes-forward, polyglottal, alt multi-instrumentalist on the score….

Anyway I definitely prefer one of them in my head and not the other, please Gott take it away, my evenings are still troubled.

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