I didn't think it was possible to fall in and out of love from one day to the next, but my short lived love affair with the films of Dar...

In and Out of Love with Dario Argento

I didn't think it was possible to fall in and out of love from one day to the next, but my short lived love affair with the films of Dario Argento prove that such a thing is possible.

I saw Suspiria years ago at a Halloween film festival alongside such fare as "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary", with my future husband. It impressed me as a weird film and left me with a sense of vague unease. I wasn't a horrror buff then, and I barely thought twice about it over the years, until I checked out a copy of the film from my local library. Thus my half-started relationship with Argento cinema was renewed.

I fell in love with the film's color, the weird atmosphereics and the terrifying sound effects. Each element of the film served to deepen the intrique of a coven of witches running a dancing school, an idea that might seem ludicrous otherwise, but in Argento's hands was terrifying.
The stylized blood, violence, stunning sets and genius composition turn Suspria into a form of horrifying high art. The way each victim meets their death is aesthetic perfection. The film's first two deaths are particularly striking and occur by hanging, stabbing and shrapnel. Even one girl's death from plunging into a room filled with barbed wire is terrifying simple and beautiful at the same time.

After watching Suspiria, I was hungry for more of the same, so I checked out the end of Argento's "Three Mother's" trilogy with "Mother of Tears" (2008). Big mistake. The same elements I had prized in Suspiria were either out of place or absent in Argento's latest foray into horror. For one, it looks like Argento opted for digital instead of real film, which takes away from the nostalgia of Argento's style. There is also the stilted acting which, while it would have been right at home in Suspiria, does not mesh with the film's modern feel.
By far my biggest complaint was the film's use of CG effects. Back in the good old days, before digital film and effects there was a limit to what a director could do to achieve his or her artistic vision. Money and technology limited what would appear on screen and so directors had to either do without or find innovative new ways of making that vision a reality. With the use of CG, Mother of Tears becomes a free for all, as Argento indulges all his whims and not just the good ones. For example, Mater Lacrimarum being crushed by a giant obelisk is way over the top and so is a scene where alchemists use special lenses to see the main character's psychic energy.

The Mother of Tears is just one of many examples (House of the Devil, anyone?) of how 70's and 80's concepts of horror and the films themselves don't translate into the new millennium. As for my relationship with Argento's films, who knows. Maybe another, older, film will renew the spark, but for now
I've lost that lovin' feeling.

5 comments:

  1. Meh. I liked Mother of Tears. Admittedly, some of it was cheesy as all hell, but still, I enjoy it. Of course, it's not Classic Argento, but I'll take new Argento over no Argento any day.

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  2. 'Mother of Tears' has an evil monkey, Udo Kier getting his head crushed and evil goth girls invading Rome. If that does nothing for you, then you don't have a pulse.

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  3. Haven't checked out Mother of Tears yet, but I share your hatred of CGI. A once useful tool has taken over and destroying the media. I hate that almost as much as the computer animated movies. I miss the good old days of hand drawing.

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  4. Scholar,

    Have you seen 'Inferno'? You may like that one better than 'Mother'.

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