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An ab­so­lute aes­thete, he’s come to be known for sen­sual sun- kis­sed films such as Call Me By Your

Name or A Big­ger Splash. But this au­tumn Ita­lian di­rec­tor Luca Guadagnino is back with a ma­gis­te­rial re­make of a hor­ror mas­ter­piece – a contem­po­ra­ry adap­ta­tion of Da­rio Ar­gen­to’s ce­le­bra­ted Sus­pi­ria. Star­ring Da­ko­ta John­son in the main role, with Til­da Swin­ton as the di­rec­tor of a Ber­lin dance com­pa­ny, the mo­vie – which was ex­clu­si­ve­ly pre­sen­ted at this Sep­tem­ber’s Ve­nice Film Fes­ti­val – gives dance, un­der the gui­dance of cho­reo­gra­pher Da­mien Ja­let, a ma­jor role, using it as an oc­cult lan­guage that be­comes the ins­tru­ment via which we en­ter the su­per­na­tu­ral. Nu­mé­ro caught up with Guadagnino and Ja­let to take the pulse of this am­bi­tious mo­vie. A re­make of Sus­pi­ria, Dar io Ar­gen­to’s 1977 hor­ror-film clas­sic?

What an idea! It cer­tain­ly re­quires the ca­libre of Si­ci­lian di­rec­tor Luca Guadagnino ( Call Me by Your Name, A Big­ger Splash) to at tempt the exer­cise. His re­make more or less fol­lows the ori­gi­nal sto­ry, fea­tu­ring a young Amer ican in­gé­nue cal­led Su­sie Ban­nion who joins a ra­ther si­nis­ter dance com­pa­ny, where she soon dis­co­ver s the evi l being wrea­ked by oc­cult forces that pro­gres­si­ve­ly be­come ever more in­sistent. The ori­gi­nal film, ca­den­ced by a screa­ming sound­track from Ita­lian prog- rock band Go­blin, cut to the quick by sty­li­zing the vio­lence to the ex­treme and by playing with the pho­bias that young wo­men have about their bo­dies with res­pect to non- consen­sual in­tru­sions. An un­for­get­table and dis­tur­bing sen­so­rial ex­pe­rience, it was all red and pink, knives and bites, images that see­med as though sla­shed, and was clear­ly in the tra­di­tion of the Ita­lian gial­lo hor­ror- film genre be­gun by Ma­rio Ba­va et al.

For Guadagnino, Ar­gen­to’s

Sus­pi­ria was like a blow to the head

when he first saw the film as a tee­na­ger, and he has ne­ver for­got­ten it. He ap­proa­ched his re­make wi­thout fear or re­proach, stret­ching out the main nar­ra­tive, gi­ving grea­ter space to se­con­da­ry cha­rac­ters – no­ta­bly a psy­chia­trist who now has a cen­tral role – and free rein to his per­so­nal ob­ses­sion for bo­dies and their li­mits. But that doesn’t mean you’ll find the conque­ring sun- kis­sed sen­sua­li­ty of Call Me by Your Name in this new Sus­pi­ria; ra­ther bo­dies are constrai­ned, wrung out, pier­ced all over, but al­so ex­press their po­wer and ma­jes­tic po­ten­tial. While Ar­gen­to sim­ply used it as a ba­ck­drop to take his nar­ra­tive el­sew­here, dance oc­cu­pies a cen­tral role in this new film, with cho­reo­gra­phy by the Fran­coBel­gian Da­mien Ja­let. It’s dance that struc­tures our re­la­tion with the main cha­rac­ter, played by a flam­boyant Da­ko­ta John­son, but al­so with the part played by Til­da Swin­ton, who is per­fect in her por­trayal of a dance di­rec­tor whose out­ward­ly gla­cial de­mea­nour conceals a sim­me­ring in­ter­ior. An ex­tra­or­di­na­ry se­quence that links dance to the phy­si­cal ex­pe­rience of death and the des­truc­tion of the bo­dy haunts the me­mo­ry long af­ter the film is over.

With a run­ning time of two and a half hours – an hour more than the

ori­gi­nal – this new Sus­pi­ria so­me­times gets car­ried away with its own am­bi­tion, flir­ting with the over- the­top. But the over- the- top is al­so its sub­ject mat­ter, and Guadagnino is a past mas­ter at fal­ling on his feet, ow­ning his pen­chant for the ba­roque and sho­wing that he can go all the way with his fan­ta­sies – right up to a glo­rious blood- soa­ked apo­theo­sis set to the mu­sic of Thom Yorke, who re­prises his noise- mu­sic ten­den­cies f o r the f i lm. But , above al l , Guadagnino seizes the op­por­tu­ni­ty to film an al­most en­ti­re­ly fe­male world in which vio­lence comes from the abysses of his­to­ry and where a fas­ci­na­tion for womb- like sym­bols is ag­gres­si­ve­ly in evi­dence. It’ll take some time to di­gest this film and

In­ter­view by Del­phine Roche, por­trait by Pao­lo Zer­bi­ni

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