Suspiria ★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I'm still not quite sure what to make, or what I made of Guadagnino's Suspiria '18, which sort of feels like a mark in the film's favor, as it had two strikes against it virtually right off the bat: the first being the fact that remaking the original film felt........unnecessary, and secondly that the opening scene, with Chloe Moretz bouncing and babbling around her therapist's office and setting the plot in motion, went on forever and was interminable.

So when the film cut to its protagonist, Dakota Johnson's (ex-amish?) Suzy Bannon leaving the farm and arriving in Berlin where she her acceptance was framed in Hollywood-Happy-Ending sort of terms, I was skeptical. And I kept the movie at arm's length through a good chunk of that opening act (tricks like the constant cutting away during Johnson's addition scene, where we couldn't see how she was dancing would have infuriated me a lot more if I were a dance expert, I have to say)--but that distance gave me time to wonder about the Berlin setting, and the contrast between the news headlines and the witch academy--the balance between Swintons, and their respective roles. I wasn't sure if it was that Guadagnino was trying to say something about the difference between the political realm and the secret realm, or contrast different ways of dealing with time and history, but it was interesting to speculate on, and then the scene where Olga exits happened, and THAT was really effective. It's not a scary movie, but it is an unsettling one (I like a good dream sequence, and Guadagnino shoots the heck out of his). Without getting too spoilery, one of my main complaints was Johnson's portrayal of Bannon as kind of a bland cipher (although I liked Mia Goth), but that seems to have been deliberate--for reasons?

That was even the case with Thom Yorke's soundtrack, for me. I noted it during the opening credits, and thought 'this should be interesting' - and then for long stretches of the first hour and a half, it was an anti-Greenwood, fading into the background and being generally totally unmemorable, and then during that 'Volk' dance sequence/public performance the music came roaring back into my sphere of attention and everything seemed to click and it was genuinely an 'OH HELL' moment.

So I'm thinking about it while I drink my coffee, and I'm still not sure if the film is just twenty minutes too long, or if there's a lot of subtext being snuck in, thematically. It doesn't seem like the terrorism noise ever really connects directly to the main plot of the witches, but on the other hand, both Swinton's Mme Blanc and Dr. Klemper are haunted by loved ones who refuse to disappear from their lives, and that they eventually bend over backwards to appease, at risk of their own destruction. And there's an emphasis on generational change here, that had me mentally adding 25-30 years to the characters and thinking about how old they'd be in the 21st century. Guadagnino's a sneaky director, and he had me on guard here, up until the climax and epilogue--and I was genuinely surprised--it doesn't really compete with original Suspiria's ending, although it is definitely just as memorable--and while it addresses a number of seeming plot defects from earlier in the movie, it raises, ah, a number of additional questions, particularly about witch society and Johnson's character.

The epilogue I found strangely lovely and surprisingly gentle, though. There was an odd sense of learning and growing from the experience, both on the supernatural side of things, and the natural side (long-suffering Ms Sesame never catches a break, I suppose) and I am a sucker for films who use flourishing greenery as their final shots--in the end, I was left wondering if this was more of a historical parable about guilt and why bad things happen, or more of a horror movie for witches. And I'm still kicking that around, which is a good sign I guess. I have a feeling a rewatch could swing my opinion either way, so while I can't fully embrace this, I don't want to dismiss it, and that feels like a victory for the film.

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