Friday, June 3, 2011

Suspiria (Argento. 1977) * Perfect Film

"Bad luck isn't brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds."

I am not very interested in the horror genre. That is why I love the 1077 Films to See Before You Die. Through this list, I have been introduced to a variety of amazing films that I would have otherwise ignored. I almost feel privileged over the viewing of my latest horror-lister, Suspiria. Remember my sub-list that I have been keeping up with, Jake’s 10 Perfect Movies? Well, this Argento masterpiece has managed to make the cut at a strong number eight. Everything about this film works, and it was a fantastic cinematic experience.

Suspiria works as a horror movie as much as it works as a psychological thriller. It tells the story of a young American dancer named Suzy who moves to Europe in order to attend a famous dance academy. Though strange things are happening at an alarming rate, Suzy does her best to grow comfortable with her new surroundings. It does not take long for the audience to figure out what is going on at this dancing school. As Suzy meets new people and sees new things it becomes obvious that the school is run by an underground coven of witches. How do we figure that out? Dario Argento tells us almost immediately.

I cannot help but be reminded of Roman Polanski’s masterpiece, Rosemary’s Baby. This is another film that centers on a coven of witches without any regard for the twist ending. Rosemary is not unlike Suzy. They are both young, naïve, in unfamiliar territory and have to rely on others for basic needs. What separates the two of them is Suzy’s ability to overcome her adversaries. And though Jennifer Harper’s Suzy is an interesting character, Suspiria is a greater success on an artistic level.

Upon first glance, Suspiria is a film that uses breathtaking color schemes. The settings look eerily exotic with heavy primary colors, especially red. In one of my favorite shots we see Suzy dumping a glass of red wine down the sink. The red of the wine is thick like blood and manages to pop against the porcelain backdrop of the sink. These are the uneasy contrasts that Argento is dependent on to help create his fantastical horror world. He has already given away the ending, the least he can do is force emotional discomfort with sophisticated color misbalance.

Another perfect aspect is the chilling, and now famous, musical score. This can be credited to Mr. Argento, and also a band called Goblin. Together they created a score that gives the viewer a frightening sense of urgency. This is the type of music that is usually reserved for your worst nightmares, but Suspiria blends it in with hide-your-eyes tunnel shots and quick cut edits. The music demands your attention, and the anamorphic camera work is a perfect complement. Every moment of peace is interrupted by what sounds like a demented jewelry box tune. Gosh, just thinking about it gives me the chills.

My favorite thing about Suspira is the famous opening murder scene. It takes less than twenty minutes for the audience to know what they are in for with Argento. He is not shy about blatantly introducing characters for the sake of violently killing them off. If you are weary after the opening murder, Argento has you directly where he wants you. I thought it was brilliantly paced and tastefully violent. That combination is a rarity for the horror genre.

One thing I would like to address is Suspiria’s standing as a “cult classic”. I am not a fan of that term because it now automatically implies that the film is not up to any artistic standards. This is not the case with Argento’s horror spectacle. Though it did take the conventional route to cult standing with midnight showings, DVD releases and references in popular culture (Juno (2007), Scream 4 (2011)), this is a film that reaches above the majority of cult rubbish that the average filmgoer has seen.

Shot in a significant style and crafted to the point of horror perfection, Suspiria is a perfect movie. Entertaining. Scary. Chilling. Beautiful to look at, but hard to watch. This is one that you should seek out…

Suspiria: A+

Jake’s 10 Perfect Movies:

10. Pulp Fiction
9. No Country for Old Men
8. Suspiria

My Next Film...The Color of Pomegranates (Parajanov. 1968)

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