Archive for October 28th, 2010
There is a reason why Dario Argento’s 1976 masterpiece is held with such high regard, as there is nothing else quite like it. A stunning sensory feast for audio and visual delights. Cinematic art at its finest and by far most gruesome.
Suzy (Jessica Harper) is from a long family line of ballerinas, traveling to German to craft her art at the most famous and respected of institutes, she soon discovers her American values clash with that of the Europeans. After a student is brutally massacred, Suzy discovers there is more going on in this institute than ballet. Black magic by the hand of a coven of witches. A trail of vicious murders leads Suzy into their lair.
This is an outrageously good film, through the collective strange and original storyline, incredible cinematography, outstanding lighting and to top it off an ingenious score by Goblin. Argento collects the pieces and masterfully creates the visuals using the screen as a pallet to paint dramatic colour. Scenes awash with gels, red, blue and green. Perfect balance on all accounts. The set design is also of the most outlandish which creates a maze like feel to the institute. Suzy wonders along lush corridors looking for clues lit dramatically allowing every frame to be represented independent as a beautiful photograph.
The gore is also extreme but created and executed to artistic levels. Sara (Stefania Casini) ends up in a grave of wires, cutting and slicing her flesh. Later, here body is discovered by Suzy, laid out prepared and crucified and what a scene this is. Beautiful. The inicial murder, once again shows Argento’s liking for windows as the victim is first suffocated against glass by a beast like creature whose eyes where peering in through the pane. The window shatters. This is a familiar murder which Argento uses again and again as his entry gore moment in most of his movies, but here we are awash with glorious colour and framed perfection of the finished massacre, topped off with bubbling vibrant red blood. Another scene has a blind bloke attacked by his own dog, possessed by something, it viciously rips at his neck. A truly shocking moment as the dog chews up the flesh.
Harper is a perfect choice for the lead here allowing the film to build and grow around her character who is quiet and timid although questioning. Her scenes discussing Witchcraft with Dr Frank (the genre legend, Udo Kier) are beautifully paced and sympathetic to her loss and need for knowledge. A similar scenario in one of Argento other classics, Phenomena shows a different side to the American lead, (Jennifer Connelly) who is brash and feisty.
This is a gorgeous film. If you only see on Argento film, make it this one. I’m not sure Argento captured the essence from this one in any of his other movies. There is something quite special, magical and fantastical about this one which leaves it out on its own. There’s nothing else quite like it.