Monday, January 14, 2008

FGFC: Did she have to crush the bat?

It's no secret that taste is subjective. As they say, one man's garbage is another man's treasure. So it is too with movies. One man's favorite giant monster movie is another man's low budget, unwatchable exercise in futility. And, one movie fan's masterpiece is another ploddingly slow waste of two hours.

I'm not here to say that this month's Final Girl Film Club choice was 'a ploddingly slow waste of two hours'. No, not at all. In fact, speaking only as a fan of cinema, Suspiria is quite a good movie. It is not, however, my kind of movie.

Suspiria is, at it's heart, a fairy tale. Like Snow White, Suzy is on a quest to lose her innocence. No, not that innocence, the other kind. You know, the naivety about the world and how it works. And in much the same way that Snow White had to defeat her evil stepmother, who is herself something of a witch. And, in much the same way, Suzy must face off against the evil headmistress of her dance academy, who is also a witch.

Suzy lands in Germany and, upon passing through the doors of the airport, is hit with a gust of wind as though to show that she has been swept away into a new world. So, maybe this is more like Oz, and the headmistress is the Wicked Witch of the West.

Suzy finds herself in a world of captivating and dizzying color. Color permeates everything in a nightmarishly dreamlike way. So, maybe it's more like Alice falling through the rabbit hole.

I could sit here and do this all day and never pin it down. No, Suspiria is it's own story. While it draws, thematically, from other fairy tales, it is doing a disservice to the film and it's makers to write it off as simply a rehash of the familiar stories that came before it. The story is simple enough. Suzy must leave home to join a dance academy. She arrives the same night that another student is murdered. And, though she doesn't know it, Suzy must stop those responsible before they can do the same to her.

Also, she must speak with Udo Kier.

The first thing that the viewer notices is the over abundance of color. Every frame is so saturated by colors as to become unreal. It fixates the eye upon the screen and leaves the mind a bit uneased. It gives every things a fantastical feeling. Dreamlike. Nightmarish. It's too much, in a way, for the mind to take in. It becomes almost haunting in it's beauty.

Just like Udo Kier.
The framing and composition of each shot is amazing as well. Every shot looks like a masterpiece. Faces and bodies placed in perfect compliment or contrast to the scenery around them. At one point, after speaking with Udo Kier, Suzy has a chat with an authority on witchcraft. The scene is shown, partially, in a reflection in the glass behind them. In the reflection you see two of each character as if to imply that a choice needs to be made. A fork in the road. To believe in the fantastic story of witchcraft, or to stay in the rational world where that sort of thing can't exist. The next shot is the professor's head, shown at an upward angle against a blue sky. The upward angle tells us, off hand, of his position of authority. Suzy believes what he is saying. That his head is juxtaposed against the blue sky tells us that his head is in the clouds. Therefore, without being told so explicitly, we know that Suzy has made the choice to believe the professor's story about witches and covens.

I think that, as a fan of the cinematic art, it is hard to find fault with Suspiria. From a taste standpoint, however, it is much easier. This is where we get back to the subjectivity of taste. While I can't say that Suspiria was bad, or even unenjoyable, it certainly was not something I would seek out to watch on my own. The deaths were drawn out in a way as to border on annoying (not annoying like your little brother, just, I don't know...cringe-worthy. It was just over done, and from my understanding of Italian horror, this was probably quite tame. Let's just say I don't need gruesomeness and gore to be scared. What's implied is scarier than what's seen...) and there were large chunks of the movie where absolutely nothing was happening other than the images looking nice on the screen. That's why I do the FGFC posts though, isn't it? To watch things I wouldn't normally watch? Movies like The Initiation or The Hand?

Hmm...maybe that's what was missing for me...a 'the' in the title. Regardless, the cinematic art fan in my gives Suspiria a 9, the rest of me however gives it 7 nooses around the neck of dead dancers as they're dropped through a glass ceiling out of 10.

NOTE: Yes, I know. This marks the first (and thus far) only time a movie has received 2 scores. Marvel at the ambiguity....and Udo Kier.


Bloody Mary said...

I really admire the way you were able to articulate the same ambiguous feelings I had after watching this, and you pointed out some very interesting things I missed, including the young Udo Kier! And I really didn't go for the bat-bashing either.

AE said...

Yes, nicely done! Thanks for pointing out the details in the witch-conversation scenes -- that's fascinating. The movie was definitely more *interesting* to watch than it was *fun.*

Clay McClane said...

Suspiria is quite a good movie. It is not, however, my kind of movie.

Yeah, I hear that. It's a really interesting watch. There's a lot more there than meets the eye at first. But it feels more like a comment on movies than a movie itself.

But no matter what, you can't take away Udo Kier.

Unknown said...

Udo Kier, for having a minor role in so many of the movies I've seen him in, always seems to bring something interesting to the table. Maybe it's his eyes.

It's the kind of movie that, the more I think about it, the more I want to revisit it. I just didn't enjoy it enough to do that though.

Alexander of the Winding Way said...

Loved your analysis of Susie's scene with the professor. Thanks fro that. I might have to go and watch it with new eyes now...