Starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Grace Moretz, Angela Winkler, Mia Goth
mother! [sic] was the most hated (and the most walked out of) movie of 2017. This year’s Suspiria may twice as hated with twice the foot traffic demanding a refund. Italian director Luca Guadagnino had already started this his fifth feature with Tilda Swinton before his surprise success and acclaim over last years Call Me By Your Name. It’s being described as an art house “stream of consciousness” thriller, which equates to the average viewer will hate this film. If you like movies where you learn something about society, yourself or others; you won’t find that in this Guadagnino’s remake of the 1977 film. In fact, most of you won’t even be entertained. Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek really sums it up well, “This new Suspiria is bland, grisly, boring and silly. There is nothing poetic or erotic about it.”
“You really shouldn’t be here at all,” Miss Tanner (Winkler) tells auditioning Susie Bannion (Fanning) from Ohio. It’s 1977, a divided Berlin and bombs in the distance of the mysterious dance studio Susie has traveled so far to be a part of. Inspired by the revered Madame Blanc (Swinton) the company works on unusual and contorting dance routines that are only for the daring and extreme. Two young girls have recently gone missing from the company, one of which was seeing an elderly local doctor, Josef Klemperer (also Swinton) who begins nosing around the renowned Tanz Dance Academy in Freiburg to find out what is actually happening to these girls. Meanwhile, Susie has mesmerized the curators and is quickly elevated to the star of the ensemble. That’s when things begin to get strange as violent sounds begin coming from below.
Guadagnino gets so completely caught up in style and symbolism that he forgets there is a paying audience expecting something more accessible.
One of the students attempting to leave refers to the company as “a box of rabies”. One of Swinton’s many characters (she plays three total) laughs at this inference, but it won’t take audiences long to feel similarly. Running at two and half hours, the entire first half (comprised of three acts) is a slow moving narrative that offers characters, scenarios and asks lots of questions. Before the real violence begins, I suspect many ticket buyers will have checked out physically by leaving the auditorium or fallen asleep. There is little in the way of acting or directing that compels the audience to become invested in the unfolding plot. Footage shown at this year’s CinemaCon prompted walkouts, and that’s from people attending a work event.
Guadagnino gets so completely caught up in style and symbolism that he forgets there is a paying audience expecting something more accessible. It’s difficult to understand how such a failure can come at the same hands who made one of the best films of the decade last year. Johnson was the weakest element about Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, and it’s clear he has become obsessed with the actress here. The pacing is Suspiria’s biggest problem, even mother! seemed to move more swiftly, but the two are comparable in that both are infuriating experiences of directors who are not practicing restraint when they should. There is little to admire here, even those who have found it more enjoyable have a hard time articulating what exactly they admire about it. If you are still curious, I would advise proceeding with Advil and patience.
Suspiria is at times so bad it becomes laughable, but then quickly goes right back to being simply infuriating.