Monday 10 December 2018

Mubi Monday: Suspiria (1977)

It may seem paradoxical to say so but I've always thought that perfect films don't have to BE perfect. They just have to work perfectly for you. If you want to recommend Kangaroo Jack as your favourite film, and you genuinely see it as a perfect film for you, then it's a perfect film, despite the imperfections. I know that Jaws isn't a perfect movie (although, come on, it's nowhere near as imperfect as a Kangaroo Jack) but it is to me. It's my favourite film of all time, no matter how many scenes show how fake the big shark can look, or how the underwater footage rarely matches the supposed size of the "real" creature. It just doesn't matter. I am drawn into that film from the opening moments and I am absolutely wrapped up in the entire experience until the very end of the end credits.

That opening paragraph is a long-winded way to avoid upsetting people when I start saying that a lot of individual elements of Suspiria are far from perfect. The acting isn't great, even from the beloved leading lady (Jessica Harper), the script is a load of codswallop at times, and there's very little logic to be had for those who need such things. Not that any of that matters. Suspiria still manages to be a perfect film because it's a phenomenal marriage of sound and vision that contains at least two of the best set-pieces in the genre (one being the very opening sequence).

Here's the plot, for the little it matters. Harper plays Suzy Bannion, an American woman who turns up to attend a prestigious dance academy in Germany. She soon starts to realise that the place is a bit odd, and other girls start to disappear (due to them being killed by mysterious, unseen, forces).

Written by director Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi, the script may not be all that memorable when it comes to the dialogue but it works well when hinting at the Three Sisters mythos that Argento would also use for some other movies. And the words come second to the visuals, which are no less than stunning.

Eye-searing reds complement deep blacks, whether it's the decor or the bright blood spilling out of victims. You get other colours too, but it's the reds that imprint themselves on the mind most vividly. This is such a gorgeous movie that, yes, almost every frame could be removed and hung up as a painting. It's one of the most beautiful movies you will ever see and easily remains the most gorgeous horror movie ever painted on film.

Then you have the audio work, layering on the atmosphere and chills. That classic score by Goblin is every bit as good as you've heard it is and the sound design throughout is flawless (not counting the dubbed dialogue), from footsteps being listened to by lead characters to breathing emanating from invisible observers, making it seem like the building itself is the main presence, and the moments that feature shattering glass and pierced flesh.

If you have still not seen this then change that as soon as possible. If you recently saw the remake and thought it better than this then I encourage a revisit. You may still prefer the new take on the material but it's worth reminding yourself of just how absolutely gorgeous and chilling the original is.


You may want to shop around, but here is one disc version of the film.
Americans can pick up this edition.

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