Co­me­dian/writer/ac­tor/di­rec­tor/quin­tu­ple threat Brett Gold­stein tack­les Sus­piria. Ar­gento or aaaaaargh-gento?

Empire (UK) - - RE.VIEW -

IT HAD LONG been a dream of mine to be asked to do The First-take Club, and then one day, as I for­lornly swept the floors and dreamed of a bet­ter life, Em­pire emailed me and asked me to do it. As Gabrielle once said, “Dreams can come true, look at me, babe, I’m in The First-take Club.” They sent me a list of films to choose from and it turns out I had seen all but one of them, which is ei­ther a huge achieve­ment or a de­press­ing in­dict­ment of my life pri­or­i­ties. Any­way, the miss­ing one was Sus­piria [1977]. I had heard of it. And I do love hor­ror. But I had a Dario Ar­gento gap in my movie knowl­edge. I had seen none of his films. I’d vaguely heard he made art­house, colour­ful slasher films and liked killing beau­ti­ful women in dreamy ways.

I was per­form­ing a stand-up show at the Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val, and amaz­ingly, at the same fes­ti­val, there was a screen­ing of Sus­piria with the real band, Goblin, play­ing their orig­i­nal sound­track live. So I went with three comics and im­me­di­ately found a cer­tain type of au­di­ence that sug­gested a cer­tain type of film. I’m not one to make gen­er­al­i­sa­tions, but it seemed clear if you didn’t have a beard, you prob­a­bly wouldn’t be let in. We put a beard on our friend Rose, and in we went.

Goblin in­tro­duced the film and said, “We were very young when Dario asked us to score the movie. And we were very lucky. But then, he was lucky too ’cause we did a bril­liant job.” Goblin were not wrong. Ar­ro­gant, but not wrong. And so the film be­gan.

Um. Okay. So it starts with a woman who looks like Mar­got Kid­der ar­riv­ing in Italy dur­ing a storm. There is a lot of noise and as she ex­its the air­port we see a close-up of the locks on the door open­ing as if to say, “Uh oh, shit’s gonna get real un­locked now.” She then gets in a moody taxi and drives to a weird academy in a cas­tle in the woods. As she gets there an­other woman who looks like a red­head Mar­got Kid­der is leav­ing and scream­ing in the rain. Orig­i­nal Mar­got Kid­der just watches her run off and doesn’t even of­fer to give her a lift.

She goes to get into the academy and can’t. She gets back in the taxi and then she drives past an un­nerv­ing shot of Red Mar­got run­ning through the woods. Again, she doesn’t stop to of­fer her a lift.

Then we are fol­low­ing Red Mar­got and she is at her sis­ter’s house. Her

sis­ter looks like an older Mar­got Kid­der. They ar­gue. So far, I have no idea what is go­ing on. Then Red Mar­got gets creeped out by the sud­den Goblin mu­sic play­ing in her room. She doesn’t even have a ra­dio on her. She sees some eyes at the win­dow. Then she gets killed. In a very long, drawn-out way.

It is vi­o­lent and also weirdly not vi­o­lent. The blood is very clearly a light red paint. Ev­ery shot is like a paint­ing or a sculp­ture. Here she is beau­ti­fully hang­ing from the ceil­ing. Here she is with glass beau­ti­fully cut­ting her face up. Here she is beau­ti­fully dead and painty. It’s eerie and sort of sexy and dis­turb­ing, and also very arty and the mu­sic is like fuck­ing loud, scary River­dance. Also, the live gui­tarist was mak­ing all the “oooohhh” spooky noises into the mic which only height­ened the ex­pe­ri­ence.

The whole thing is dubbed which makes it al­most funny but also un­canny, ’cause ev­ery­one is even more creepy and oth­er­worldly as they are never quite in sync, both son­i­cally and emo­tion­ally.

Any­way, orig­i­nal Mar­got gets back in the academy and things slow down as we meet an SS of­fi­cer dance teacher, an old-age Mar­got Kid­der head­mistress and lots of stoned, bitchy bal­leri­nas who all look like Mar­got Kid­der. I reached a point when I was like, “Stop wor­ry­ing about the plot.” I mean, it’s there. Sort of.

When you lay the story out (bal­le­rina un­cov­ers a se­cret coven of witches), it does go from A to B to C. Al­though it’s pre­sented con­fus­ingly, it’s ac­tu­ally pretty straight­for­ward. As my friend Chris Lincé pointed out, “Next to David Lynch [who I love], Ar­gento is god­damn Robert Mckee.”

It is oc­ca­sion­ally scary and the whole thing has a strange, hyp­notic vibe. It’s all red and blue and dream­like, and like noth­ing else I’ve ever seen, which is all I ask for from cin­ema. On that level it com­pletely suc­ceeds.

I think I loved it. And it has stayed with me. I just would love to have been in a notes meet­ing with the ex­ecs on this film. “Quick ques­tion, Dario. I know you love her but… If Mar­got Kid­der isn’t avail­able, who do you want to play ALL THE PARTS?”

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