Note: this review is a translation of my original review of the movie I've seen in 2009. Since it was one of my first long reviews I've decided to translate it for everyone's benefit. I will do series of re-edits for the films that actually were reviewed in French in the first moments of this blog.
Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
A newcomer to a fancy ballet academy gradually comes to realize that the staff of the school are actually a coven of witches bent on chaos and destruction.
Largely inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s oeuvre, Suspiria is Dario Argento’s most widely known film. The Italian director is recognized for his contribution to the Horror genre. Still working today, the quality of his later work left much to desire. Argento may have repeated himself along his career but his early construction of frames and inspired montage put him at the forefront of the Italian Horror genre. Few cinephiles remember that he is one of the two writers who penciled Once Upon A Time in the West. The other scenarist was no other than Bernardo Bertolucci. A gossip fact is also worth mentionning, Dario is the father of underestimated belle-laide Asia Argento.
A young American woman, Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) joins a prestigious ballet school in Germany. The story is paced with a slow raise of tension and violence, filled with strange incidents and murders. The mystery will lead Suzy to discover that the school is more than just a dancing hall. It is a coven of evil leaded by witches. The simple plotline of this film flows well and Argento’s aesthetics serve appropriately the violent murders and their mise en scène is without a doubt some of the best and most inspired he has done since his debuts.
Argento’s strength is also to deliver Horror with style and superb design. The imagery is likeable and as we often hear about his filming of the violence: he shoots beautiful murders. If it’s possible to say that it is quite right. Juxtaposed with the wonderful photography, the music by Goblin brings depth and an unsettling ambiance. Another interesting fact is to know that Goblin actually composed their music prior to see the movie.
However, just as Ed Howard’s, much more potent that mine, take on the movie points out:
The film never seems to be actually about a coven of evil witches who run a ballet school, even though that's a fair description of its plot. Suspiria is rarely constrained or dominated by its plot; at times it seems almost plotless, more of a mood than a story.
We are left with a very impressive execution of amazing skills with a lack of content and motives. Put in perspective, Darren Aronofsky’s batshit crazy Black Swan was loosely inspired by Suspiria while being a much more superior film in the use of actors, plot, and the storytelling in general. However, Argento’s movie is the obligatory entry in Giallo Cinema and will lead any Horror film buff to much obscure films in the subgenre. Worth a look.