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Theme Tuesday - Dario Argento - Suspiria

For the month of October, the master of Giallo, Dario Argento, will be my focus, a director whose filmography I have only grazed the surface of.

The influence of Dario Argento’s Suspiria cannot be underestimated. While there is much in this film that pulled from previous sources, not the least of which, was Argento’s own work, the images and the tone of this film have influenced countless films, often those made by exploitation filmmakers. The obsession with graphic violence may have started with Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, but you could bet your ass that Carpenter, De Palma and Tarantino were thinking more about Suzy Bannion bathed in three-strip Technicolor more than Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway riddled with machine gun fire. It is a film in which every frame is well-considered, lit and staged to within a inch of its life.

The film is definitely over-directed, but you could also say that it maximizes the effect of the film medium. The dance academy screams “murder house!” with its red walls and large scale (done so that the actors looked like children),and the Goblin score is like a broken creepy-ass music box that would make even the most mundane setting chilling. If good 3-D had been a feasible practice, Argento would have been all over that gimmick, since he definitely has sight and sound covered. Unlike his previous films, it also has the benefit of a sympathetic performance from Jennifer Harper who often is the secret weapon in films by overblown auteurs (Phantom of the Paradise comes to the mind). Argento even said that he regretted that Italian audiences would not get to hear what Harper’s voice sounded like since most Italian films were dubbed into whatever language they were playing in.

Suspiria is probably best appreciated as an art installation piece because even despite the great sense of mystery that Argento evokes, the story itself isn’t much and is, in fact, barely present. Nevertheless, any cinephile needs to include this in their filmgoing experience because so much of modern filmmaking makes sense in the context of this movie.

 

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