Anaemic re­make lacks bite

Waikato Times - - Entertainment -

Suspiria (R16, 152 mins) Di­rected by Luca Guadagnino Re­viewed by Graeme Tuck­ett ★★★1⁄2

If you’re not sure whether you have seen Dario Ar­gento’s 1977 Suspiria, then you prob­a­bly haven’t. It’s not a film eas­ily for­got­ten, no mat­ter how much you might want to.

Ar­gento’s Suspiria is a blood­drenched fever-dream of a thing, shot with al­most in­de­cent amounts of artistry and flour­ish, pos­ses­sor of one of the most cult scores of all time, rest­ing on a creak­ing foun­da­tion of sheer gyno­pho­bia that is fi­nally – thank­fully – start­ing to make it all look a bit lu­di­crous and laugh­able.

So why, other than as a tech­ni­cal ex­er­cise in look-how­clever-I-am, would Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name) want to re­make it? Suspiria is its own un­re­peat­able mo­ment in cinema his­tory, surely?

But Guadagnino has pro­duced more of a homage and a com­pan­ion piece to the orig­i­nal.

The film opens in 1977 (the year the orig­i­nal was re­leased) with a seem­ingly in­no­cent young Amer­i­can woman (Dakota John­son) turn­ing up at a pres­ti­gious Ber­lin dance acad­emy to au­di­tion. Im­press­ing the school’s mes­sianic head (Tilda Swin­ton, in one of three roles she plays), she moves into the school’s dor­mi­tory, makes friends and be­gins classes.

At which point, Suspiria de­parts re­al­ity like a freight-train cartwheel­ing off a bridge.

Guadagnino keeps the orig­i­nal film’s themes of witchcraft and wor­ship, but also throws in Holo­caust guilt, the Red Army Fac­tion ter­ror cam­paigns and a cou­ple of in­ter­minable ses­sions with a psy­chol­o­gist (also Swin­ton), all pre­sum­ably in an at­tempt to de­code and ex­pand on what­ever he thinks Ar­gento’s orig­i­nal was ‘‘try­ing to say’’.

The re­sult is a film a full hour longer than Ar­gento’s, but with less im­pact and fewer truly mem­o­rable mo­ments.

What was ra­zor-sharp and luridly grue­some in 1977 is over long and a lit­tle flac­cid this time. There are mo­ments of real power – an early se­quence show­ing one dancer be­ing con­torted to death by an un­wit­ting other is stun­ningly ef­fec­tive and deeply hor­rific – but too of­ten this film is mud­dled, long­winded and im­pen­e­tra­ble.

On the plus side, this Suspiria looks stun­ning. Guadagnino adopts an au­then­ti­cally shonky chore­og­ra­phy for his zooms and crane shots.

For view­ers weaned on the seam­less and soul­less com­put­eras­sisted moves that mod­ern CGIheavy film-mak­ing de­mands, it might all seem a bit am­a­teur­ish, but this is how cam­era move­ment used to look, be­fore tech­nol­ogy sucked the life and joy out of the noble art of the dolly grip.

The sound­track, by Thom Yorke (Ra­dio­head) is sim­i­larly worth the price of the ticket alone.

Any film from Guadagnino de­mands to be seen, and Suspiria is no ex­cep­tion. But I kind of wish all this ef­fort and skill had been ex­pended in the ser­vice of a truly new story, not a project that in­vites com­par­i­son to an of-its-time unim­prov­able orig­i­nal.

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