Probably the film that still defines today Italian director Dario Argento's reputation as a master of the Italian slashers known as giallo, Suspiria is a no-holds-barred, grand-guignol over-the-top trip on a psychedelic ghost train, a sublimely overblown statement of hyper-stylized form over almost non-existant function. Suspiria is the moment where Mr. Argento's stunning formalism tips the rushed script-writing of Italian poverty-row assembly-line production into a gloriously absurd celebration of transcendence through style.

     Bathed in over-saturated deep reds from the very beginning, the first film in the "Three Mothers" trilogy loosely inspired by Thomas de Quincey's writings turns a standard horror thriller tale into a deliriously visual objet d'art: an American ballet student (Jessica Harper) accepted in a prestigious German academy finds herself surrounded by macabre events a schoolmate attributes to diabolical witchcraft. The plot, devised by the director with his then-girlfriend, actress Daria Nicolodi, is however but a mere pretext for Mr. Argento to bring out his sweeping visual artillery of gliding pans, anamorphic distortions, saturated colour schemes, deafening psychedelic music and insanely prolonged, gory set-pieces almost dialogue-free. It leads into a garish, twisted fairy-tale where Red Riding Hood finds herself locked inside Hansel & Gretel's confectionery house with the Big Bad Wolf on the loose, washed out in freak waves of primary, almost fluorescent colours immaculately drawn by Luciano Tovoli's mobile camera. Raising schlock to high art, Suspiria is the peak achievement of an artist who never gave up on his status as a resolutely populist entertainer and has never bettered his formalism as he did here.

Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosè, Barbara Magnolfi, Susanna Javicoli, Eva Axen, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett

Director: Dario Argento
Screenplay: Mr. Argento, Daria Nicolodi
Cinematography: Luciano Tovoli  (colour by Technicolor, Technovision widescreen)
Music: Goblin with Mr. Argento
Designer: Giuseppe Bassan
Costumes: Pierangelo Cicoletti
Editor: Franco Fraticelli
Special effects: Germano Natali
Producer: Claudio Argento (Seda Spettacoli)
Italy, 1977, 98 minutes

Screened: DVD, Lisbon, August 29th 2012


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