Suspiria – Film Review

The 1977 original Suspiria is hailed as a horror classic.  I think it’s outdated, disengaging and dull, however I was very keen to see the new reimagining of the story, for three reasons.  The first being because it’s directed by Luca Guadagnino, who due to his last film Call Me by Your Name, is now one of my favourite people working.  The second reason being Dakota Johnson, who is stunning in everything she pops up in, and deserves more credit on screen.  And the third reason being that the film has been marketed incredibly well, and since the first trailer I’ve been excited for its release.  The film on a basic level is about Susie Bannion (Johnson), an American who travels to Berlin to audition for an esteemed contemporary dance troop.  She gets in, because it’s clear that she’s a bit of a prodigy, and quickly she becomes the centre of the school, a school that is run by witches.   

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Where to even begin with this?  Actor, comedian and now podcaster (Films to be Buried With) Brett Goldstein tweeted after seeing the film that he found it strange that reviewers were giving it three stars.  He said that by the films design you could only give it a one, or a five, you either were amazed or repulsed.  As much as I like Brett, he’s wrong, the film is very meh, but I’m not sure it would even reach three stars for me.  Let’s start positively though, well to an extent anyway.  The film is very long, about 2 and a half hours, so it could probably lose a few scenes, but what I will say is that I was never bored.  Similar to the original, there’s a sense that something horrid is around the corner and it’s edging towards it.  It’s a slow advance, yet the story is intriguing enough to keep your attention.  What the film lacks however, is direction.  I’m still not sure what Guadagnino is trying to say with it all, and the only real (and thin) takeaway is that those responsible for the Holocaust should feel guilt, and those who weren’t shouldn’t?  This underlying theme isn’t fed badly into the film, and I disagree with the critics who say that it is, but it wasn’t effective.  Perhaps this was because the choices from the main character were so obtuse, and misdirecting.  Dakota Johnson plays her well, being both soft and intimidating in her face, and tough to decipher, which I liked, yet ultimately her character became pointless whilst being the main point of the film.  I’m aware that doesn’t make much sense, but this review may end up a bigger question mark than the movie.  And not an interesting question mark, more like watching my cat torture a mouse in front of me then him waiting to be applauded when the mouse is finally dead. 

Stylistically, the film is pretty dry.  Guadagnino has ditched the painted, florid beauty of Call Me by Your Name for a washed out, grim palette of greys and browns.  The original was all about striking imagery, and pop colours, whereas the new one is about the sadness of blandness.  There is some exceptions – the dance scenes were lovely to look at, and the highlight of the film, the gore and violence were beautifully putrid, and in the second to final act Guadagnino dives head first into some devilish imagery, which was entertaining.  That climatic satanic scene was actually really funny, and when I watch this film again in the comfort of my home, I won’t be afraid to laugh more at some of the ridiculous things that happen.  A strange stylistic choice was to cast Tilda Swinton in ‘at least’ two roles, one being an old German bloke in coats of make-up.  It’s obvious from the start that it’s a young actor in the role, but I had no idea that it was Swinton until my friend told me after the film, and it’s another ‘???’ moment.  I mean obviously Swinton is fucking great in the film, and the character was quite sympathetic to follow round, but Swinton playing the role added nothing, and meant nothing.  Her other character’s (Madame Blanc) relationship with Susie was a solid part of the film, so having her as the other part was unneeded.   

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The friend I went to see the film with said that he’s starting to like the film more, now he’s thought about it and read a bit on it.  I have no desire to think about it, because I don’t think the film is profound in any way, however I do want to watch it again, as it may be one of those where it takes repeat viewings to appreciate it.  And I do hope that I grow to enjoy it more, because the intentions of the filmmakers seem admirable.  It was just a bit empty, and lacking something.  Maybe if Thom Yorke had made a better soundtrack (other than one song) the spaces in between the film would have been better.  His efforts were totally disappointing, and so was the film.   

 

Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket? 

This is a tricky one, because you definitely get your money’s worth.  What I would say is that the film is hard, and gruesome, so general audiences might want to stay away, because nothing of substance comes from that unpleasantness.

Isle of Dogs – Film Review

Wes Anderson is a weird filmmaker in that his latest film is his best one.  The Grand Budapest Hotel is an accomplished piece of work, and will be still loved fifty years from now.  Before that his films have been too quirky and plastic for their own good (doesn’t mean they’re not brilliant), and so going into Isle of Dogs I didn’t know what to expect.  I saw the film at the Glasgow Film Festival for its UK premiere, and the producer Jeremy Dawson introduced it.  There then followed a little funny video message from Wes Anderson and a few members of the cast.  Without it even starting, it was clear the creation of this film had been a labour of love.

The narrative at its core is very simple.  It’s Japan and dogs are banished for various reasons.  They are ditched on ‘Trash Island’ where they struggle to survive.  One of the dogs left there is owned by Atari, a young boy who decides to travel to the Island to find his lost friend.

This film is beautiful and there is no other way to describe it (but I’ll try to anyway).  The visuals and art direction are utterly sensational, and Anderson has really outdone his perfectionism.  Each gorgeous shot is layered with the right colour balance and framing.  With each moment he and the animators are being aesthetically intuitive.  It’s unbelievable how well crafted the animation works with the designed sets, and the movement of characters and camera flow incredibly smoothly.  Anderson appears to have mastered the stop-motion animation with such detailed beauty.  The grandeur scenes in the Japan city are spectacular, and I would happily put each wide shot on my wall.  We expect this visual flair from Anderson, but there’s something special about this films presentation, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

Like the rest of Anderson’s work this film is very funny.  The humour is dark, but also cute at times with the classic mixture of deadpan dialogue, unreal characters and cinematic comedy.  As I’ve said it’s a visual treat, and no less in the way it makes you laugh through the way it looks.  Oracle the Pug (Tilda Swinton) is a particularly hilarious character, with her design and her visions.  And the rest of the cast bring something to the expertly tuned dialogue.  Bryan Cranston is wonderfully gristly in his dark horse (but dog – Chief) role, Ed Norton is optimistic and adorably naive as the master-loving Rex, and Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray are wry but still hopeful as their sidekicks Boss and Duke.  There’s also a nice outburst of life and emotion injected in a human role from Greta Gerwig as Tracy, as well as a determined turn from young Koyu Rankin as the hero Atari.  I could go on and on about the cast because they are all superb but special mention goes to Scarlett Johansson as Nutmeg, who is always her best when we can only hear her voice.

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From my first viewing, I can’t find a scratch or fault with this film.  It is of course about much more than a boy searching for his dog.   However there is a blissful honesty with that central tale, and splendid likeability of the characters motives.  The film has a slight morbidity to it, though I never found it miserable. I loved every second, and I cannot wait to see it when it comes out in full release at the end of March.  It has the same sort of completion and joy that Grand Budapest has, with a sense that Wes Anderson now has a god-like control over his unique style.

 

Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?

Yes it is worth several of them.