At first pass, ‘Suspiria’ is a gorgeous work of art and a confusing mess

“Suspiria” – Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” (1977) is a divisive, arthouse horror film that plays long on style, sound and shimmering imagery of neon pinks and greens, but short of scares.  Inside this Munich dance studio, mysteries rule the nest of long hallways, staircases and dark secrets in hidden rooms.  Not entirely palatable, it’s a one-of-a-kind experience that deserves accolades for its unique presentation.

Director Luca Guadagnino (“I Am Love” (2009), “Call Me by Your Name” (2017)) took on the Herculean task of heading a “Suspiria” remake in 2018 and succeeds in capturing both the spirit of Argento’s film and making his version his own.  Guadagnino’s picture runs 2 hours and 32 minutes, a full hour longer than the original.  It is set in 1977 Munich as well and features the same dance studio (or at least it looks the same from the outside), and a coven of witches run the place and teach dance steps.  Although the picture focuses on a green newcomer, a red-headed American named Susie (Dakota Johnson) who tries her best to find her footing (pardon the pun), Guadagnino spends a significant amount of time over Dr. Josef Klemperer’s interest in the studio, his cloudy past and various dives into politics and disasters in the news.  Past and present.

Meanwhile, his camera spins and twists inside the TANZ Academy, as simmering, sinister whispers between Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), Miss Tanner (Angela Winkler), Miss Millus (Alek Wek) and others point towards a brooding boil at the upcoming Volk dance.  Most of the young women are generally faceless, with Susie taking top billing, but the instructors, led by Blanc, seem ready to unleash their looming, deeper experiences of depravity.

“Suspiria” (2018) dances between arthouse horror and pure gore, and lives within a sophisticated hypnosis of alarming metaphors and sick, stark Paganism.  It’s a bizarre concoction that works as a masterclass visual achievement but suffers from disjointed storytelling.  At times, it’s a convoluted mess. There’s a significant chance that many moviegoers will walk out of “Suspiria” with dizzying headaches of disbelief, shock and confusion.  Guadagnino’s creation leaves a lasting mark, even though it’s feels impossible to completely comprehend what it all meant.   This critic walked out of David Lynch’s “Mullholland Dr.” (2001) with a similar feeling for very different reasons, but his film is considered genius.  Perhaps, Guadagnino’s film resides within the same spaces, however, as I stand here in 2018 after one viewing, I cannot quite see it.

⭐⭐1/2  out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Image and Trailer credits: Amazon Studios

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