Tag Archives: cinematic deconstruction

National Cinemas: Suspiria

suspiria

Update late 2018: Watching Argento’s film again in light of the remake, I’m struck by how thoroughly anti-psychological Suspiria is, and how seriously it suggests a more mid-to-late-century continental, European perspective of wider social-structural reality rather than, say, American horror cinema’s (or earlier European cinema’s) frequent equation of maturity with internal, individual psychology. Which is to say, while many viewers legitimize horror through a frame of psychological modernism – the ability to peer beneath a layer of reality to expose the psychological warp and weave of experience in the mind of one figure who doesn’t see the world as we do, or as according to some ultimate and inescapable “truth” – Suspiria almost never imagines horror as something from within.

Unlike, say, Rosemary’s Baby, it only seldom plays on the often enlightening but sometimes rote, automatic, manufactured “ambiguity” which validates horror from without by reminding us how it might be horror from within, a perspective which thereby resolves the terror of the knowable world by ensconcing the film in the mind of one person who is implicitly figured as delusory, an unreliable perspective on what would be an objective reality outside their mind. This perspective, wonderful though it can be, is often timid when it comes to more fundamental interrogations of social reality; it allows a film to preserve a “real” truth that one character simply may not be able to see, couching itself in a kind of medicinal American individualism which sees reality as either objectively true at a macro level or completely manipulable at the level of individual mind; the world effuses from within, and conflict is ultimately a question about how to reconcile individual creativity and perspective with the structural violence of society, often figured as limiting to individual consciousness rather than constitutive to it.

Suspiria, frankly, seems to resist any such ideological safeguards; it seems to be ontologically and epistemologically decomposing regardless of who is on-screen or whose “perspective” we are being granted. It oblique maneuvers intimate not a glimpse into one character’s warped mind but a flickering vision of a more fundamentally unstable reality, a world where occult speculations dance with modern materialism and problematize any resources – including the “it’s all in her head” frame I allude to above – we might dress the film up in so as to contain it. Argento, in this sense, is a more singular creature, and Suspiria a truly untamed beast in the annals of modern horror cinema.

Original Review:

Edited March 2016

It only seemed appropriate to open the post-Halloween month with a review of one of my absolute favorite horror films.

When I initially chose the four films to cover for my exploration of Italian cinema (as I choose to call my attempt to really just put up more reviews in the early stages of my writing loosely wrapped around some semblance of a theme), I concentrated primarily on the esteemed classics. And indeed, the Italian neo-realist movement in the late ’40s and the new wave in the late ’50s and ’60s (populated by the likes of Fellini and Antonioni) are two of the most densely-packed periods of filmic invention ever.  But then I realized something … the cinema of a nation isn’t defined by its most traditional paragons of greatness, but by all the films it produced, including its genre films. And few nations have produced more genre films than Italy, especially during the ’60s (Spaghetti Westerns) and the ’70s (giallo horror). Having already published a review of my absolute favorite Italian Western, Once Upon a Time in the West, I decided to return to my bread-and-butter, horror, to kick-start the month with some blood-red pizzaz. And if I was going to do Italian, it needed to be giallo. No, it needed to be THE giallo, a B-picture that not only defies conceptions of artistic veracity but recreates them to its own liking. Ladies and gentlemen,  Dario Argento’s Suspiria.
Continue reading

Film Favorites: Man with a Movie Camera

man-with-a-movie-camera-1929-003-head-superimposed-on-sewing-machine-1000x750Updated mid-2017

A scorching modernist manifesto where any sense of certainty is fully disarticulated and humanity – and perception – is entirely destabilized, Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera gets to swift work rebuilding humanity, and sight itself, as an elastic, workable construct being actively primed for new awareness and ushered into a bold, uncertain future.  It is the rare film that seemingly invents or explores further than ever before a new filmic technique in almost every shot. They cannot be counted on two hands: slanted angles, clipped editing, freeze frames, artificially slowed and quickened camerawork, superimposition, jump-cutting, split screens, impenetrably wide angles, painful close-ups, tracking shots, backwards footage, and just about anything you can think of. Continue reading

Midnight Screening: Wild at Heart

A question: Have you ever seen a movie that made you want so furiously to scribble down notes about its greatness while watching that you were actually annoyed that it kept you looking at the screen with its unapologetic greatness to the point of being unable to write anything down legibly? I ask in this form, of course, because naturally I’m only writing to people who would want to write down notes about movies while watching. Everyone else who could conceivably see this film will probably be turned off by how garishly oppressive and gloriously messy it is to have any interest in reading this. And they’d be completely right too, but I still like the film anyway.
Continue reading