Toil and trou­ble

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria fails to cast a spell

Esquire (UK) - - Culture -

One film mag­a­zine used to con­clude each re­view with “Should you see it?” fol­lowed by “Yes” or “No”, pre­sum­ably as a con­ces­sion to the time­poor who strug­gled to digest the ex­haus­tive 200-words of re­viewer opin­ion. Once (we for­get the film) the ad­vice was “Yes and No”, the self-de­feat­ing un­help­ful­ness of which has made us chuckle ever since.

Sadly, it comes to mind with Suspiria. It’s a deeply odd film. In many ways it’s meant to be: a re­make of Dario Ar­gento’s 1977 hor­ror about an Amer­i­can bal­let stu­dent who joins a Ger­man dance school only to dis­cover it’s run by a coven of witches, it has achieved cult sta­tus thanks to its unusual aes­thetic (lots of pri­mary colours, pri­mar­ily blood red), prog rock sound­track and campy oc­cult plot.

Now it has been re­made by Luca Guadagnino, aes­thete di­rec­tor of lush, man­nered up­per-class fam­ily dra­mas, no­tably I Am Love and the Os­car-win­ning Call Me by Your Name. An odd choice, then, but Guadagnino says he has been “ob­sessed” by the film since he saw it alone aged 14 and has waited over 30 years to have a go him­self. His ver­sion, he says, takes “moth­er­hood” as its theme and pits the ac­tion against the 1977 Ger­man Au­tumn, adding a spooky Thom Yorke sound­track. Guadagnino favourites Dakota Johnson (stu­dent Susie Ban­nion) and Tilda Swin­ton (top witch Madame Blanc) star. He’s also added a sub­plot in­volv­ing an el­derly Ger­man psy­cho­an­a­lyst, al­legedly played by an ac­tual el­derly Ger­man psy­cho­an­a­lyst and first-time ac­tor — un­til Swin­ton blew the whis­tle that this was also her, heav­ily made-up and wear­ing a pros­thetic pe­nis and tes­ti­cles.

Guadagnino’s cast in­cludes 38 women and three men. He calls it the most per­sonal film he’s made. It looks gor­geous and shiv­ers along on a storm of win­tery malev­o­lence. One

bone-break­ing scene is likely to stay with you for­ever. The last 40 min­utes are com­pletely nuts. But for all the love and de­tail lav­ished upon it, you do won­der what the point is. Suspiria gets in­side your head yet re­mains some­thing of a head-scratcher. Should you see it? Un­for­tu­nately our best an­swer is “Yes and No”. —

Suspiria is out on 16 Novem­ber

Dakota Johnson, Mia Goth and Olivia An­cona star in the reimag­ined Suspiria

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