Suspiria (2018)

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Direction: Luca Guadagnino
Country: Italy / USA

Italian Luca Guadagnino, auteur of powerful films such as I Am Love (2009) and the critically acclaimed Call Me By Your Name (2017), makes his first move in the horror genre with a botched remake of Dario Argento’s 70s cult film Suspiria. Working from a screenplay by David Kajganich, who has previously worked with the director in A Bigger Splash (2015), Guadagnino had a gifted cast at his disposal, featuring Dakota Johnson and Tilda Swinton as protagonists, and Mia Goth and Angela Winkler in strong supporting roles.

The fiction takes place in 1977 Berlin, to where Ohio-born Susie Bannion (Johnson) moves definitely in order to join the prestigious international dance academy headed by the sinister Madame Blanc (one of the three roles of the amazing Swinton). Two influential dancers, Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Olga Ivanova (Elena Fokina), left the school psychologically affected with recondite occurrences. The former is missing; the latter was victimized by an invisible entity with virulent dance impulses. In the sequence of their absences, Suzie becomes the new protégé of the inscrutable, vampirelike Blanc. She can feel a dark force pushing her while working in the dance room and regularly affecting her dreams.

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Practically speaking, the school is under the orders of a witch society, a rare phenomenon that piques the curiosity of Dr. Klemperer (Swinton), an experienced psychotherapist who started to pay better attention to what his patient Patricia kept saying. He decides to visit the premises after meeting with the incredulous Sara (Mia Goth), one of the dancers and Patricia’s best friend. What he finds is as much bizarre as it is inextricable: esoteric rituals filled with magic, possession, and illusion.

The geometric architectonic configurations and muted colors that compose the 35mm-shot frames are relevant and propitious to the film’s ambitions; however, Guadagnino’s practices are overlong, stiff, and risibly gory in the final minutes. I got numb-brained while trying to understand why a director of this caliber would want to spoil the enchanting gothic tones previously created with a nasty sequence of human heads blowing up in blood.

Suspiria is mediocre at its best, presenting very little substance and lacking interesting character development. The songs by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke provide short moments of pleasure in a film to be quickly erased from memory.

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Call Me By Your Name (2017)

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Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Country: Italy 

The praiseworthy dramas of Italian director Luca Guadagnino always give us something to think about and to remember. Usually, the mature stories he addresses are set in his country of origin, involving local and foreign characters, whose experiences are unhurriedly depicted with a true heart and a non-judgmental posture.

If the British Tilda Swinton was the star in the previous installments of his Desire trilogy, “I Am Love” and “The Bigger Splash”, the American actor Armie Hammer was the one to appear in the bold final installment, “Call Me By Your Name”. 

Hammer is Oliver, a handsome 24-year-old anthropology doctorate who arrives at the Northern Italian countryside to intern for six weeks with professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), a summit in the field.
The year is 1983, and the sun abundantly bathes the beautiful villa of the Perlmans. All the members of this American Jewish family are excited to receive the also American Jewish Oliver, with the exception of the 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet), the professor’s eldest son, who sees his privacy compromised and his comfort dimmed. Besides sharing the bathroom with the guest, he was politely forced to offer his room either. It’s perceptible that Elio is a bit annoyed by Oliver's arrogance and carefree posture. However, on the other hand, he becomes very attracted to this man, whose sociable nature, self-confidence, and irresistible charm have a magnetic effect on him.
 
Both the adult and the teenager flirt with girls. The older one with the local Chiara (Victoire Du Bois), and the younger with his girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel), a Parisienne around his age, who is experiencing love for the first time. But the compulsive seduction game between the men keeps happening as their desire grows without dissimulation or fears. This is naturally depicted rather than forced.

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Despite having sharp eyes, Elio’s lenient parents don’t meddle directly in their son’s affairs. They seem inattentive and a bit detached, with the housekeeper, Mafalda (Vanda Capriolo), assuming the authority and rebuking Elio whenever he deserves.
Yet, this initial perception has proven to be false, since the couple, aware of the special bond between their son and their guest, suggest they take a farewell trip to Bologna.
 
The drama is filled with raw emotions and evinces an incredible honesty in terms of storytelling. The filmmaking style, evoking the wonderfully languid cinema of Eric Rohmer and Bernardo Bertolucci, reflects, even more, the vivid three-dimensionality of the characters. Guadagnino did an amazing job with John Ivory’s script, an adaptation of André Aciman’s novel of the same name, and was granted with superior performances by Chalamet and Hammer in order to bring to the surface any emotional complexity that their words couldn't express. 

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s cinematographer, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, opted to shoot in 35-mm to accurately capture the sexual awakening of a young man, who, at the end, becomes inconsolable, suffering violently with the loss of his first true love. Who hadn’t been there?

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