Feb 4, 2011
Written June 9th, 2008:
Some people drink because it is the only way they can relate to others on a meaningful level, which is through a thick cloud of stumbling, arrogant solipsism. Others drink because the dog died, pickup truck is on cinder blocks, minorities, etc. Others because Hillary dropped out of the race and the cat knocked over the mug of soy latte all over the new Christgau tome and why can't everyone drive a Prius? I drink because of the disparity between Suspiria (the one who rammed it into me as an impressionable youth of questionable taste) and Inferno (my favorite Argento flick as questionable taste gives way to enjoying the smell of my own farts, buying my own bullshit, etc.) and the turgid pile that is Mother of Tears, which is to say that I am so far detached and lost in my own internal dialogue that no amount of arguments with the girlfriend, threats, late bills, drug classes, 12-step meetings, or loneliness can drive me to the bottle, but a terrible end to my favorite artsy-fartsy Italian horror trilogy? Bottoms up. regardless, in my current hungover state- which, in my opinion, is better than the intoxicated state of the previous evening, as it is far more indicative of reality in that one is sober-minded and aching in every conceivable manner, from gray matter to porcelain bowl, the entirety of life compressed into a two or three hour head-throbbing, gut-aching, ass-burning howl to a god that, if it exists, doesn't care, regrets banished to the back of the mind coalescing with the dull throb behind the eyes, life at it's purest and ugliest and most pointless. I think I have what it takes to evaluate Mother of Tears without wanting to drink it out of my memory (as was the case yesterday).
Dario Argento has made some bad movies over the years- more specifically, the last ten years, ever since the astoundingly awful Opera, also starring his talentless and grating daughter Asia, but MoT truly takes the cake by not only being a terrible, terrible movie, but a desperate one. This is not the work of the artist (loathe as I am to describe any commercial filmmaker or musician as such) who produced masterpieces like Suspiria and the vastly underrated Phenomena, but that of someone crass and cynical enough to think that graphic violence is why we watch his films. His work throughout the seventies and eighties was often graphically violent, but it isn't the violence that resonated with me in those works, it was the dreamtime imagery of Jennifer Connelly following a fly through the beautiful Swiss countryside in Phenomena, the loving pan of the killer's tools and talismans as Goblin's soundtrack blares in Deep Red, or the girl climbing through a window in Suspiria and landing in a room full of razor wire (the violence of the act itself dwarfed by the sheer nightmare logic at play). With Mother of Tears, Argento doesn't bother to create the fever-dream-of-a-well-read-child atmosphere of his best work, which should come as no surprise at this point, and it is my fault entirely for wandering into the theater on the strength of glancing at a spate of high Metacritic scores, which rated the film highly not for being a return to form, but rather for being "a treasure trove of seemingly unintentional hilarity. although lacking helmer's usual aesthetic panache, this "Mother" is a cheesy, breathless future camp classic" (Variety) and "silly, awkward, vulgar, outlandish, hysterical, inventive, revolting, flamboyant, titillating, ridiculous, mischievous, uproarious, cheap, priceless, tasteless and sublime" (New York Times). Author and Argento scholar (Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds is required reading for any Argento fan) Maitland Mcdonagh puts it best in her review, calling MoT a "crude, artless bogey tale", and rightfully lambasting critics for trying to position it as a camp masterpiece as "misguided and condescending."
That said, more misguided and condescending than any critique is Argento the filmmaker. With not an interesting idea, either technical or in terms of script, up his sleeve, the old "master" resorts to at least three scenes of young children being vivisected, tortured, thrown from a bridge. Are you fucking serious, man? In the 27 years between Mother of Tears and the second (and best, in my opinion) of the trilogy, Inferno, chopping up kids is all you've got? Well, there is the scene where the lesbian gets impaled with a phallic instrument...through the vagina...get it? she's a lesbian...sigh. In the past, Argento was without peer, a man etching out his own fucked up psychodrama all over the screen in the most lyrical, visually arresting way imaginable. Now, he seems to be competing with such brilliant cinematic "geniuses" as Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, throwing caution (and what had the potential to be the richest and most satisfying movie trilogy in history) the way of Fangoria coverage and what Argento thinks his audience wants. Do you really think that low of me, Dario? I sacrificed my early teen years to your films. I was a shut-in, a dweeb. Your films alone were all it took to keep me from trying to fit in, and ultimately I'm grateful for that. Maybe I should just relegate you and your oeuvre to that time and place; alone at home on December 31st, 1999 (the end was nigh) with nothing but a bowl of popcorn and the truncated Unsane at my disposal. Hell, it was my inane prattling about Argento's film and my lust for his talentless daughter (the true extent of my hero-worship, to those who believe I am anything other than a shut-in dweeb; a big-tittied version of Dario Argento is all that could get me up and running) is what first brought myself and my current-girlfriend together at about that same time. Fast-forward to last night, as I stumble drunkenly, hiccuping in a most merry melodies-esque manner about a Del Taco as my girlfriend screams at me. Whether it was that time of the month, my obnoxious behavior, or having had to endure (most of) MoT is up for debate, though all signs point towards the latter. Now she is refusing to talk to me, at least for the time being, and my guts have turned to jelly which will soon slosh from my ass into a most unfortunate toilet bowl in the most impolite way conceivable, but it sure beats having to sit and watch helplessly as yet another hero (stupid concept, I know) relegates himself to my snide dismissal. Let's just hope my girlfriend answers the phone at some point; if a shitty movie is all it takes for me to get shitfaced, I can't imagine how a real (country-music approved) problem will bode for my poor liver.
Observations as of February 04, 2011:
When I wrote this initial review, I had never actually finished watching Mother of Tears. My (now ex) girlfriend had stormed out in annoyance as the ending neared and I soon followed suit, leaving behind an audience of one confused elderly couple and an overweight and rather hirsute young gentleman wearing a Texas Chainsaw Massacre t-shirt. Not that I minded not finishing it. Having talked off my ex's ear about the brilliance of Argento for years only to subject her to Mother of Tears was somewhere between embarrassing and soul-crushing, and I very nearly gave away my entire collection of Argento VHS and ephemera as a result. Fast-forward to last night- I'm unable to sleep because of some cracked ribs (too much 'fun' at a show a few nights ago), unable to review any of the movies I initially intended to (apparently my DVD burner has gone to pasture? Something I found out about an hour into each movie), unable to type (my preferred method of writing) because the room that houses the computer had just been painted. I'm frustrated, uninspired, and beaten down by life. Not just by the minor circumstances listed above, but by a 2010 that was as harrowing as they come. True country-music fodder that encompassed the loss of loved ones, a nearly six-year relationship, the functionality of my left wrist, and very nearly my sanity, and I'm sure my liver, too. Somehow I made it through, though, and with my newfound iron will (or more honestly, because it was within reach and I'd already jerked off while watching New Wave Hookers and post-orgasmic disgust set it before I could start jotting down notes to review it) I decided to re-watch Mother of Tears, of which I bought a copy from CVS for $3 to some day re-watch and determine if it was really all that bad or if I was just over-reacting to having watched it in the presence of my ex.
My current take on Mother of Tears? It's still pretty fucking horrible, but perhaps as a result of being an adult with real problems, not depressingly so. It kind of plays like late-period Lucio Fulci (in terms of the violence at least) directing an inane Argento "homage" not unlike Luigi Cozzi's Black Cat- tons of references to far superior films (there is a killer monkey in this movie, for example, who might be intimidating, but has nothing on Phenomena's vastly more three-dimensional Inga) and all kinds of misguided attempts to be contemporary (What the fuck is up with the goth witches? and how the fuck is it that goths are supposed to intimidate us, Dario? Because they intimidate you with autograph requests at horror conventions? Goths are not scary. No self-marginalizing group of dweebs using makeup to cover acne scars is CAPABLE of being scary, save maybe some black metal musicians from Norway, but even they are more silly than scary, even when hacking up bandmates and burning down churches and shit). What would have been far scarier is if your witches had been people in power, beautiful people, people an old fart like you wouldn't be intimidated by, or pander to, but the actual evil overlords that control us all with their trust funds and bleached teeth. Did I mention the theme song is by Cradle of Filth? Let us never speak of that again, eh?
In my initial review, I was pretty harsh on Asia Argento. I've liked her in a few roles, usually when she plays a variation of herself (i.e. strung out, bi-polar), but Dario has no idea how to direct her. She spends all of Mother of Tears looking as if she is reading phonetically from cue cards. I could use this time to ruminate about the weird incestuous insinuations in the way Dario gets off on putting his daughter in sexual and violent situations, but I don't entirely buy that. If his post-Opera career (post auteur-career, perhaps?) has proven anything, there is nothing that interesting about the guy at this point. He's been phoning it in for years, coasting on past accomplishments, on films that were truly a window into his subconscious as well as unparalleled aesthetic masterpieces. For years, whenever there was that typical bespectacled horror geek argument about Fulci vs. Argento, I'd always side with Argento on the strength of his best work. The perfection of it. That said, even as Fulci's career winded down, his films still possessed a spark, an energy, some kind of proof that he wasn't just phoning it in. Cat in the Brain might be all kinds of a mess but it is infinitely more enjoyable that Mother of Tears because, while also being a whacked "greatest hits" pillaging of the director's oeuvre, it is gleeful as opposed to cynical. It is Fulci doing whatever the fuck he wants versus giving the youngsters what he thinks they want? Ultimately, I'm always going to be a little more partial to Argento (because deep down I am a pretentious asshole), but I will say this- if it had been Argento who died about fifteen years ago and Fulci who had lived, I think we'd all be way better off. Argento wouldn't have fucked his legacy turning out soulless retreads of his classics and Fulci would have likely produced some pretty wild garbage that would be in many ways similar to Mother of Tears but more fun and inspired and knowingly ridiculous.
Did I mention the terrible CGI Daria Nicolodi cameos as Asia's character's mother's (and she's Asia's mother IRL, whoa, deep) ghost? Or how positively ashamed Udo Kier looks during his scenes, and how bad a movie must be that Udo fucking Kier looks ashamed to be in it? Oh yeah, the ending. As anti-climactic as anticipated- a descent into underneath a spooky house that takes pages from Phenomena (maggots galore) and Inferno (being in the bowels of a spooky house and all) to reveal a most ridiculous Satanic mass that ends in some deus ex machina but showcases some nice titties, I guess. Eh. So yeah, Mother of Tears is pretty terrible and my review and this addendum to my review are as rambling and digressive as the film's script, but ultimately, Mother of Tears has a certain symbolic importance much in tune with all of the hard-earned life lessons I've learned in the past year - it is time to put away the childish things. Which is not a theme that was pounded into my head by Mother of Tears, mind you, but by the insanely amazing Love Exposure, by Sion Sino, a true auteur who doesn't only come alive when having the chance to film his daughter's tits. In conclusion, put away the childish things, death to false idols, long live real auteurs, buy me a beer (I just slogged through Mother of Tears again, I've earned it).
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:39 AM
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