Suspiria ★★★★★

You can’t even be bothered to respect your own lies.

Twisted of me to rewatch this on Argento’s birthday, but I’m heading back to my lonely lodgings in the city tomorrow after an extended weekend at home and this felt like the right comfort movie. I already said most of what I felt needed to say in my overblown last review, but you know: bodies crushed and mangled by history, gruesome abjection and sexuality, the substratum of fascism beneath every facet of modernity, the sadism of power and art, memories of atrocity, terrorism, return of the repressed, all that wonderful stuff. This is really obvious but one of the things that formed a particular highlight to me on this viewing is the film’s pervasively grim view of the family unit: whether it’s Susie’s Mennonite mother wasting away in her bed or the monstrous Helena Markos rotting in the subconscious mütterhaus of the tanzakademie, the family—just like an authoritarian political regime or even an artistic collective—is exclusively figured as a site of predation and intergenerational domination-cum-possession from which the process of liberation is necessarily excruciatingly painful and perhaps impossible, doomed to failure in repetitive cycles of trauma and violence that have become so deeply engrained that they’re built into the very foundations of identity, and so on and so on and so on. But as always what sticks with me in Suspiria is less the thematic content (though I do find it compelling) and more its dense atmosphere of bodily dread and cruelty, the numerous eerie flourishes with which it embellishes its massive, lumbering project. A starkly haunting moment: Olga casting a forlorn gaze out the window on her way down the staircase, unknowingly descending to her execution. She looks out onto a wider world no less divided than the little one she hopes to flee. Two women consort at the base of the Berlin Wall, their bright umbrellas a small point of color against the grey rain and concrete. Then, from a distance, Olga through the window, her face blurred by glass and water, terribly small and helpless behind the frame of the casement. Us out here, and her beyond reach, all alone, in there.

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