Suspiria ★★★

Upon first inspection, Suspiria did not, shall we say, meet my expectations. A lot of folks got pressed because Guadagnino's film bears minimal resemblance to its colorful forebear from which it takes both its concept and title. That never bothered me per se, as its clear this film represented a unique vision of the original and thus exceeded the need to compare the two. The movie I couldn't stop comparing it to was the one I had just seen theatrically, Gaspar Noé's nightmare dance party, Climax. That experience left me wanting another round, and that led me into the arms of this project.

I was immediately taken aback by several things, notably the drab color palette and what I felt was, quite honestly, lackluster dancing. I had such a specific notion of what this might be that I was really bewildered by what it was. I still haven't totally wrapped my head around the vision behind this movie, and I think that's attributable to the movie's sort of half in-half out approach to its political ideas. It's a thematic hodgepodge where everything is generally interesting, but it never has enough focus to be compelling conceptually. Instead the film is driven by characters with the ideas rolling naturally downhill from the story's dramatic beats. To that end, I think this is immensely compelling. There were two things I badly underrated on first watch, and the first was the value of the psychological drama which is frequently both gripping and unnerving.

The other underrated quality was this damn cinematography. Those who have seen some of Weerasethakul's films are already familiar with Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's shooting, but this is absolutely marvelous. I can't believe with kinetic moves, frequent and electric push ins that I was ever thinking about colors. The visual language of this film is bold, dynamic and frequently beautiful in its abject ugliness. The tension between the two is the tension of the film and the one inside the human body, the topic seemingly at the core of its every notion. Inside the oppressive marble walls of the Dance Academy are sensitive souls inside of delicate bodies, and the movie both delights and despairs in contorting and ripping them to bits.

I still stand by my assessment that stronger dancing talent would improve the film, as would a bit of a thematic "sharpening," but overall it's a chilling horror film. The performances are roundly captivating, and the technical craft is always at a level that enhances everything that works well within the narrative. And the finale, while I wish it were a bit more musically inclined and dance-oriented, is completely without restraint. It's a fitting punctuation for a wild and unique cinematic experience.

Zachary liked this review