Apr 3, 2019

Suspiria (2018)




When I first learned that guido giallo maestro Dario Argento’s arguable magnum opus Suspiria (1977) was being remade, I was not all that surprised considering even the most idiotic horror films are receiving remakes, at least until I realized that queer Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino—a seemingly constantly evolving arthouse auteur that has never dabbled in horror—of all people would be helming the production. Best known for directing the overrated cocksucking coming-of-age flick Call Me by Your Name (2017) that depicts a lurid love affair between a dorky Jewish teenage (ersatz)twink and a slightly older and more masculine Hebrew in a scenario that is vaguely (but notably enough) similar to underrated artsploitation Italian auteur Salvatore Samperi’s poofter period melodrama Ernesto (1979), Guadagnino seemed a bit ill-equipped to remake a phantasmagorically kaleidoscopic horror classic that was originally directed by a rampantly heterosexual misogynist, yet somehow he didn’t let me down, even if he created a completely different sort of monster that would probably defile the souls of most hardcore Argentophiles. In fact, I would go so far as saying that, in terms of sheer cinematic art that tests the bounds of the medium, Suspiria (2018)—an eccentric estrogen-drenched arthouse epic poorly disguised as bitchy and witchy horror trash—is superior to Argento’s film, though to compare the two is, to borrow an odd Serbian idiom, like comparing grandmothers and toads. Indeed, whereas the original film was a 98-minute orgasm of neo-gothic terror that basks in incoherence and esoteric intrigue and is arguably best remembered for its exaggerated neon colors, Guadagnino’s 153-minute epic in eerie aesthetic eccentricity with multilayered stories and a number of strong themes that is literally dark and lacking in even the use of primary colors. In short, the remake is a sort of almost overtly ambitious anti-Suspiria, as if Guadagnino completely hated the original film and decided to completely deconstruct and reinvent it to his liking without even the slightest consideration for diehard fans of the original. Notably, the auteur does not hate the film, but apparently has wanted to remake it since he was a kid, albeit as a so-called “cover version” as opposed to a sort shot-for-shot remake à la Psycho (1998) directed by Gus Van Sant. 



 Undoubtedly its eclectic collection of divas both young and old, fierce and frenetic feminine energy, over-the-top aesthetic decadence and sometimes high-camp tableaux, and lesbianic subtext more than hint at the innate queer character of the film, which is rather fitting considering the film’s time period and setting. Indeed, the film, which is set in 1977—arguably the height of the New German Cinema movement that began in the late-1960s and fizzled out in the early-1980s—was clearly influenced by cocksucking kraut auteur filmmakers, especially Rainer Werner Fassbinder and his dandy compatriot Werner Schroeter. In fact, the film’s co-screenwriter David Kajganich once confessed that, “one of the great wells of inspiration for this film: the work of Rainer Fassbinder. Some of the most potent women on film came out of the crucible of his collaborations with his actresses—including the great Ingrid Caven—and I did my best to construct [Tilda Swinton’s character’s] way of using words and occupying scenes in a Fassbinderian way.” In short, Algerian-blooded guido Guadagnino and his screenwriter were clearly not trying to appease the mostly lowbrow erotophonophiliac tastes of Argento and Fulci fans when they conceived of the film.

Aside from the decadent Teutonic aesthetic influences of the film, the film virtually pays tribute to the entire New German Cinema movement as a whole—or at least the political spirit of it—via its 1977 German Autumn setting and its (rather unfortunate) Vergangenheitsbewältigung theme. In its apparent influence of films ranging from the omnibus piece Deutschland im Herbst (1978) aka Germany In Autumn and classic high-camp Werner Schroeter flicks like Der Tod der Maria Malibran (1972) aka The Death of Maria Malibran (which, notably, stars Suspiria star Ingrid Caven), the film virtually covers both the aesthetic and political extreme of New German Cinema, as if Guadagnino simply used the fact that Argento’s original film was set in Berlin, Germany to pay tribute to a beloved Germanic cinema movement. In its arguably pretentious division into a number of narrative acts that conclude with a somewhat surreal climatic epilogue, the film also vaguely recalls Fassbinder’s magnum opus Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), which itself is a period piece that is a ‘remake’ of sorts that also covers a rather traumatic period in the Fatherland's past (the Alfred Döblin novel it is based on was previously adapted by commie-turned-Nazi auteur Phil Jutzi in 1931). In fact, as a huge fan of New German Cinema, I cannot imagine someone fully appreciating Guadagnino’s Suspiria without being somewhat familiar with the movement. While New German Cinema only produced a handful of horror flicks, these rather dark and somber cinematic works—which include the Fassbinder-produced sod serial killer flick Tenderness of the Wolves (1973) directed by Ulli Lommel, Niklaus Schilling’s singularly haunting Heimat horror piece Nightshade (1972) aka Nachtschatten, and Hans W. Geissendörfer’s allegorical vampire flick Jonathan (1970)—could have certainly influenced the film due their ominous (and oftentimes cryptic) references to Germany’s past and totally twisted takes on the timeless tradition of German gothic horror.  In fact, despite the majority of these films being fairly unknown, it cannot be ignored that they are certainly more ‘artsy’ than Argento's Suspiria and thus more up Guadagnino's alley.



 As for the film’s brutally baroque Tanz Dance Academy setting, it resembles something in between a somberly lit version of the fascist palace depicted in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s sexually apocalyptic swansong Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) and a lavish château in some obscure Jesús Franco flick like Sinfonía erótica (1980). Of course, despite their more glaring differences, Pasolini, Franco, and Fassbinder certainly had one important thing in common and that was their lifelong dedication to shameless diva-worship, which is certainly strong in Suspiria. Aside from old classic divas like Ingrid Caven—Fassbinder’s one-time wife and criminally-underrated Swiss auteur Daniel Schmid’s main diva that demonstrated an unrivaled talent for morosely melancholic performance in such sickeningly underrated films as Tonight or Never (1972) and La Paloma (1974)—and Paul Verhoeven’s greatest Dutch era diva Renée Soutendijk (Spetters, The Fourth Man), the film features some of the more notable young divas of the modern era, including Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth and—most importantly— Dakota Johnson as the lead. While Argento’s original film certainly features beautiful women, the characters seem largely forgettable compared to Guadagnino’s remake. Naturally, as an extremely operatic film, this somewhat daunting diva-centrism is imperative as the diva was originally the creation of opera and not cinema. While Argento has never been big on character development—diva oriented or otherwise—the remake does pay tribute to the giallo maestro’s legacy by featuring Suspiria heroine Jessica Harper in a somewhat brief yet imperative role that arguably symbolizes, in a somewhat lame way, German post-WWII guilt over the holocaust. In short, in Guadagnino’s film, there is not a single filler character as every single actor makes some sort of impression, whether it be the exceedingly ectomorphic alien-like South Sudanese negress model Alek Wek in a mostly mute role as a low-level witch or German-Hungarian auteur-cum-cinematographer Fred Kelemen (Frost, Abendland)—probably the last filmmaker you would expect to randomly pop up in a horror remake—in a cameo role as a policeman that literally comes under the spell of the witches. 


 In its seemingly intuitive depiction of the dark side of femininity, it is hard for me to imagine anyone aside from a gay man directing such a film and this is arguably what most distinguishes it from Argento’s film, which is hopelessly heterosexual in terms of its very straight scopophiliac approach to the female form; or, in short, it has a glaringly gay gaze as opposed to the stereotypical (heterosexual) male gaze. In fact, aside from a couple exceptions, Argento’s female characters are not much more than aesthetically pleasing ciphers meant to be dispatched in a most marvelously macabre fashion as if the auteur sees the purest poetry in the death of a young dame in her physical prime, hence the arguably dubious claim made by certain film critics that he is a misogynist. To the contrary, aside from depicting rather hot young actresses in rather physically and psychologically grotesque ways that will guaranteed to prevent any hetero audience member's cock from getting hard, the remake features a much more unflattering, if not disturbingly intuitive, depiction of womankind than anything Argento ever directed, as Guadagnino, not unlike many great queer filmmakers including Fassbinder and Schroeter, seems to have an instinctual understanding of the more loathsome and monstrous traits associated with the so-called fairer sex, which could not be any less unfair in the film. Indeed, not unlike popular crypto-cucksucker TV creations like Sex and the City and American Horror Story where the warts-and-all approach to femininity is absurdly glorified and undoubtedly a major selling point, Suspiria is expression of a gay man and thus arguably must be more looked at as an unflattering covert depiction of gay men that, by using them as stand-ins for sassy sods, ultimately makes women seem more sophisticated than they really are, hence the disturbing popularity of such ultimately quite sexually deleterious shows among women. In that regard, I not surprised that Argento has complained that the remake, “betrayed the spirit of the original film.”  Rather revealingly, despite being a film that technically does not feature a single gay male character, Guadagnino apparently regards the remake as his most personal to date, which is somewhat ironic considering the auteur originally optioned the film in 2007 with the intention of having David Gordon Green (who, incidentally, also directed his lackluster Halloween remake in 2018) direct it.


 Whereas Argento’s film takes a largely esoteric approach and basks in the unexplained and mysterious, Guadagnino’s film is considerably more exoteric and provides the viewer with various hints as to how to read the (sub)text. Arguably, most fundamentally, Suspiria is an unconventional tale of historically-charged post-holocaust Jungian individuation where a young and naïve yet talented budding dancer named Susanna ‘Susie’ Bannion (Dakota Johnson)—an American from a strict Ohio Mennonite background that feels like she has been virtually summoned to Berlin to dance shortly after the death of her mother—eventually discovers that she is, in a striking twist, the sort of bodily reincarnation of alpha-witch ‘Mater Suspiriorum, Our Lady of Sighs.’ While Argento’s film was also partially based on opium-addled English essayist Thomas De Quincey's essay Suspiria de Profundis (1845) aka Sighs from the Depths, this source was undoubtedly a much more crucial influence on Guadagnino’s film. Unlike the heroine in Argento’s film, Susie is no mere stupid innocent American, although she initially seems as such, and the only real good guy is an elderly psychiatrist named Dr. Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton in old fart drag as ‘Lutz Ebersdorf’) who is not even in the original film. In a morbidly matriarchal cinematic work consumed with sinister (and arguably Sapphic) feminine energy, it is only fitting that the (arguable true) protagonist is a patriarchal character that provides fatherly help to young dancers in trouble, even if he is somewhat weak and ineffectual.  Of course, the good doctor's guilt and weakness are no coincidence as they are surely symbolic of the spiritually castrated state of post-WWII Deutschland.  After all, as Guadagnino has stated himself, a main theme of the film is, “the uncompromising force of motherhood,” so it is no surprise that patriarchy would be allegorically personified in the patently pathetic form of a nearly mummified childless intellectual that still hasn't gotten over the fact that he lacked the strength to keep his wife alive over thirty years ago.

As can be expected in such a film, Dr. Klemperer finds it somewhat questionable when some of his patients, including Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Sara Simms (Mia Goth), begin complaining about the witchy tendencies of their teachers at the Tanz Dance Academy, so naturally he gets deeply involved when the girls eventually disappear under dubious circumstances. Undoubtedly, Dr. Klemperer’s failure and inadequacy when it comes to saving both his Jewish wife Anke Meier (Jessica Harper) during WWII and his female patients can be seen as symbolic of the hopelessly emasculated and guilt-ridden state of post-WWII Europa.  Just like his Jewess wife and her warnings of the Nazis, the good doctor fails to act soon enough when he patients warn of the very imminent danger that waits them. Even though Dr. Klemperer is the only character that manages to uncover the secret witch coven operating at the dance studio, he lacks the strength and youthful exuberance and will-to-power to even truly challenge such fiercely feminine and malevolently matriarchal evil, just as German authorities were not prepared for the untamed nihilistic terrorism of the largely estrogen-driven Red Army Faction (RAF) whose aberrant actions fittingly act as a hauntingly ethno-masochistic backdrop to the film. In short, Dr. Klemperer is both literally and figuratively the sick old man of Europe and he and his Jungian theories seem like an absurd anachronism in a decadent West German world that is being terrorized by hyper hedonistic neo-Marxist would-be-rock-stars that want to castrate the cock of the Fatherland.  Needless to say, it is not by sheer coincidence that Mater Suspiriorum makes her great reappearance during this weak and decadent point in Germany history.



 In a world of virtual demonic divas where there is not a single male dancer and a system of covert unspoken misandry reigns, masculinity is naturally undermined the handful of times it makes an appearance at the academy.  For example, when a couple police detectives show up at Tanz Dance Academy to investigate the disappearance of one of the girls, the witches amuse themselves by engaging in termagant terror as they put the two men under some sort of spell, force one of them to strip off his pants and underwear, and then collectively mock the unconscious cop’s cock by playfully pointing at it, laughing, and calling it “kitty” as if it is a ‘pussy’ of some sort. At the end of the film, they use a similar form of sexual humiliation against Dr. Klemperer—an elderly man that seems especially debased by such experiences, as if he is a concentration camp prisoner that is about to be gassed by the all-the-more-sinister sister of Satan himself—by stripping him completely naked while he is somewhat incapacitated and forcing him to endure their big finale ritual since they need a ‘witness’ while he lies on the ground in a fetal position and babbles hysterically about his innocence during the National Socialist era (which, of course, he was also a sort of pathetic passive ‘witness’ to, hence his seemingly perennial guilt). Of course, these witches have certain Sapphic tendencies, as Madame Blanc (also Tilda Swinton)—arguably the fairest and least insufferable of the two head (competing) witches, which also includes a grotesque rotting beastess named ‘Mother Helena Markos’ that literally lurks in the dark for most of the movie—clearly has an almost immediate deep affection for her young blonde nubile American protégé Susie Bannion (whereas Markos simply sees the little lady as a body she can use has her new earthly vessel). The sadomasochistic lesbian nature of the dance academy is also hinted at when Patricia Hingle states at the beginning of the film with a strange combination of fear and fascination in regard to the witches that she fears, “They'll hollow me out and have my cunt on a plate.” All of this adds up to a sick and twisted realm of staunch gynocentrism that is so innately irrationally destructive and cannibalistic that it eventually leads to the deaths of about half the witches; or, more specifically, a sick Sapphic Götterdämmerung.  In the end, the power struggle between Madame Blanc and Mother Markos ultimately leads to both women being destroying and the extermination of the latter's followers, which one could certainly argue is symbolic of the ‘spiritual’ war between Germans (and Germanic people in general) and World Jewry during WWII.

Undoubtedly, it is quite fitting that a film about a power struggle between pernicious witches is set in 1970s Germany as it depicts an era reflecting the first generations of krauts, who inherited the supposed sins of their Nazi parents and grandparents, to collectively embrace feminism, which was arguably most glaring and idiotically represented by the psychotic cunts in the Baader-Meinhof Gang like Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. The same era also produced the first generation of prominent German feminist and/or lesbian filmmakers, including Margarethe von Trotta, UIrike Ottinger, Helma Sanders-Brahms, Doris Dörrie, Helke Sander, and Elfi Mikesch (who is best known for shooting the films of Werner Schroeter and probably the greatest female cinematographer of all-time), among various others. One should also probably mention Austrian performance artist turned auteur Valie Export who, as her more aberrant-garde films like Unsichtbare Gegner (1977) aka Invisible Adversaries demonstrate, would have been perfectly at home at the witch dance coven. To watch films by some of these female filmmakers, one might assume they were either witches or demonically possessed as they feature sympathetic portrayals of the Baader-Meinhof Gang and tend to depict largely soulless (pseudo)intellectual women lack any sort of maternal instincts and see men as either an oppressive pestilence and/or insufferably arrogant fuck-toys. Indubitably, Chancellor of Germany of Angela Merkel—a childless (ex)communist—is surely symbolic of this generation (despite being from Eastern Germany) and I do not think that it is any coincidence that she has single-handedly caused more long-term damage to the Father(less)land than any American or British firebombers caused during WWII by opening the flood gates to a virtually apocalyptic deluge of innately hostile phony refugees from the global south. Like many modern European politicians, Merkel has no children and thus has no need to take heed of Germany’s rather dubious future.  At least figuratively, Merkel is the kraut witch par excellence, but I digress.



 Of course, Suspiria is a film that obsesses over mothers—both literal and speech—albeit in a largely sinister, ungodly, and hardly totally literal fashion. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Mother Suspiriorum is a sort of goddess of death and that she randomly appears in 1970s West Germany as it is a country that has since been plagued with a suicidal drop in the birth rate of the indigenous white population as at least partly inspired by (the at-least-partly-Hollywood-induced sham of) Vergangenheitsbewältigung, which undoubtedly gave birth to metaphysically sick miscreations like the feminist movement and self-destructive commie movements like the RAF. Mother Suspiriorum is hardly the sort of mother that enjoys pregnancy and breastfeeding, but instead the witch equivalent of a wicked whacked-out bitch that engages in Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP). In fact, Suspiriorum demonstrates her maternal qualities by literally summoning death to kill her enemies and reveals her idea of mercy by allowing the undead corpse-like victims of Markos to finally kick the bucket.  In short, she takes a little bit too much pride in providing mercy to the singularly suffering.  Most of the motherly displays by the witches is glaringly phony aside from Madame Blanc how Susan, though she is clearly her ‘favorite’ (which mother's aren't supposed to have) and, of course, is, not coincidentally, ultimately revealed to be the great Mother Suspiriorum.

It is notable that, in a flashback scene, Susie’s mother—notably a strict Mennonite and thus someone of German descent—complains, “My daughter. My last one. She’s my sin. She’s what I smeared on the world.” Indeed, it is surely fitting that Susie compulsively travels to Berlin after the death of her mother as if being compelled by some ominous unseen force where she is reborn as the ‘Mother of Sighs,’ as post-WWII Germany and especially New German Cinema has enough sighs and mothers to go around. As films ranging from Sanders-Brahms's Deutschland bleiche Mutter (1980) aka Germany, Pale Mother to Edgar Reitz's Heimat (1984) reveal, the mother is the (rather desperate) backbone of post-WWII Germany and the father is either physically or emotionally completely absent. Undoubtedly, Thomas De Quincey could have been speaking of the titular heroines of Schroter’s The Death of Maria Malibran (1972), Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978), and Ottinger’s Freak Orlando (1981) when he once wrote in regard to Mother Suspiriorum, “Her eyes, if they were ever seen, would be neither sweet nor subtle; no man could read their story; they would be found filled with perishing dreams, and with wrecks of forgotten delirium.” In short, much of New German Cinema reveals a largely male-less world full of damaged dames and Suspiria also depicts an unhinged world where damaged dames are also in control. Of course, as virtually all of European history demonstrates, a gynocentric Europe is no Europe at all; or, to be more precise, there is no ‘Fatherland’ without a father. 



 Out of all the filmmakers associated with New German Cinema, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg—an auteur that dared to combine the aesthetic theories of proto-NS Romantic composer Richard Wagner with the audience-alienating dramaturgy of bolshie bastard Bertolt Brecht—was pretty much the only one that did not fetishize and/or sympathize with leftist terrorist groups like the RAF. In fact, Syberberg who probably not coincidentally, spent his youth in East Germany before eventually moving to Bavaria in the early-1950s, was really the only filmmaker to seriously acknowledge and critique the culturally apocalyptic Americanization of German culture and uprooting of great German traditions that naturally occurred in West Germany. I would also argue that, to a somewhat lesser extent, Suspiria attempts to aesthetically do what Syberberg did with his films in terms of being one of the closet examples of a horror film attempting to be a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ (aka ‘total work of art’) in terms of its utilization of a number of artistic mediums (e.g. dance, opera, performance art, literature/mythology, etc.), but of course it would be a sort of political liability for Guadagnino to even mention the cinematic neo-Wagnerian as he is more or less unofficially blacklisted in his homeland due to some of his less than kosher political statements in regards to Jews and left-wingers. Among other things, Syberberg was one of the few filmmakers to actually attempt to not only acknowledge, but also honestly diagnose the spiritual sickness and metaphysical malaise that plagues post-WWII Germany, thus making his cinematic work worth seeing for anyone that wants a deeper understanding of some of the more implicitly Teutonic themes touched on in Suspiria. Indeed, whereas Fassbinder and most of the other directors associated with New German Cinema were part of said sickness, Syberberg fought it in terms of both art and deeds while criticizing his contemporaries, hence his lack of popularity among his peers despite being revered by important cineastes ranging from Henri Langlois to Susan Sontag. 


 Notably, not long after the release of an omnibus film co-directed by Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, Edgar Reitz, and various other filmmakers, Syberberg once wrote in regard to what he perceived as the post-shoah cultural cuckoldry and innate cluelessness of his leftist peers, “Now a film was made on this topic, entitled GERMANY IN AUTUMN, by filmmakers of my generation, about the guilt that went back to a different generation. But how are we to depict guilt without a concept? Without aesthetic, metaphysical control and responsibility? I heard from them about anxiety fits—surely small ones compared with mine—in the face of our generation’s representation-compulsion thirty years ago. But without this labor, cinema as a genre will surrender its possibilities. Too many things so far remain unreflected upon, tied to reality, action, goal-oriented, a part of the entertainment and propaganda industry. A profound impotence of means strikes us before the question of how to depict all this—namely, just why all this? This terror, this eruption? Is it not something like the explosion of repressed German irrationalism? The dull, unconscious shriek of a diseased nation without an identity? So much suppression of its own tradition and its nature was bound to evoke aggressions, in the German manner, radical and fanatic. But the decay of methods is dismal. An entire generation in Germany was simply not trained to understand and manipulate the things lying beyond the rational. . . .” Of course, Syberberg rightly considered irrationalism to be an innate and imperative ingredient of Teutonic kultur ranging from fairy-tales to Wagner and one could certainly argue that Suspiria represents a sinister, albeit bastardized, example of this Teutonic tradition that is so ingrained in the Aryan collective unconscious that it is most strongly unleashed in an American Mennonite girl, who becomes what can be seen as being like a sort of spiritually deathly dyke sister of the old German pagan deity Wotan.  In fact, considering both the physical and cultural colonization of West Germany following the capitulation of the Third Reich, it is only natural that Susie is American.



 If there is one individual that is a sort of link between old school German irrationalism and New German Cinema, it is the late great auteur Christoph Schlingensief who, on top of proclaiming to be a maternal relative of Joseph Goebbels, once dared to remake National Socialist auteur Veit Harlan’s morbid melodrama Opfergang (1944) as a savagely sardonic satire. Aside from his obsession with (mostly recent) German history, Schlingensief has a small connection of sorts to Suspiria in that he and Tilda Swinton were once lovers and she even played the heroine of his obscenely underrated film Egomania - Insel ohne Hoffnung (1986) aka Egomania: Island Without Hope (which, incidentally, also stars Udo Kier who also starred in Argento’s original film). Despite its use of unnerving dark humor, including Kier as a demonic baron in drag, Egomania, in many ways, feels like a bad dream about German history of the past century or so, as if it is a depiction of one of the worst nightmares from one of the older witches from Suspiria, but I digress. All of these things got me thinking how that, despite its mischling Italian director and international cast, Guadagnino’s film feels more like a piece of German cinema history than anything else, which says a lot considering the same cannot be said of the films of many contemporary German directors. 


In its various overt (e.g. shots of books) and subtextual references to Jung, Suspiria naturally hints at the collective unconscious and it can be argued that heroine’s Susie’s climatic transformation into Mater Suspiriorum is simply a phantasmagoric depiction of Jungian Individuation, which involves the personal and collective unconscious being brought into the consciousness and ultimately assimilated into the whole personality. In fact, just as Jung indicated, Susie finally achieves this transformation via dreams, artistic expression, and free association, among other things, but I would argue that the arrival of the fiercely feminine Mater Suspiriorum is also symbolic of the demise of the masculine Wotan archetype that Jung once notably wrote about in reference to Hitler and the Third Reich. Indeed, in his controversial 1936 essay Wotan, Jung argued, “We are always convinced that the modern world is a reasonable world, basing our opinion on economic, political, and psychological factors. But if we may forget for a moment that we are living in the year of Our Lord 1936, and, laying aside our well-meaning, all-too human reasonableness, may burden God or the gods with the responsibility for contemporary events instead of man, we would find Wotan quite suitable as a causal hypothesis. In fact, I venture the heretical suggestion that the unfathomable depths of Wotan’s character explain more of National Socialism than all three reasonable factors put together. There is no doubt that each of these factors explains an important aspect of what is going on in Germany, but Wotan explains yet more. He is particularly enlightening in regard to a general phenomenon, which is so strange to anybody not a German that it remains incomprehensible, even after the deepest reflection.” While Mater Suspiriorum might be a fictional invention of Guadagnino and, in turn, Argento and De Quincey, she is certainly is an archetype that symbolizes something very real as personified in a quite suicidal Germany that refuses to reproduce, allows itself to by colonized by ancient perennial alien invaders, and cares not for what arguably matters most—its ancient art, culture, and traditions. In short, without the return of Wotan and demise of what Mater Suspiriorum really represents, Germany might disappear from history just like the Romans that the Germanic tribes once conquered after the people became too decadent and averse to reproduction, among other things.

Of course, like tons of films and TV shows created by gay men ranging from Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) to American Horror Story, Suspiria is arguably first and foremost the expression of a literal art fag projecting his own group's arcane homosocial tendencies onto a group of women, thereupon making women seem more sophisticated and cleverly vicious than they actually are (not that women aren't known for being particularly vicious) while giving the auteur the opportunity to live vicariously through stylish and exotic female characters.  After all, despite the themes of the ostensibly classic lesbian-themed film Mädchen in Uniform (1931), the oppressive hierarchical structure depicted in the film is more typical of gay men than woman, or as Camille Paglia once noted in her magnum opus Sexual Personae (1990), “I notice that the Wildean-style homosexual still speaks of race and class with the same breezy daring. Oppressed groups tend to oppress other subgroups. But lesbians do not talk this way. On the contrary, lesbians, in my experience, are relentlessly populist—possibly a function of their repressed maternalism. Male homosexuals have an instinct for hierarchy unparalleled in contemporary culture, outside of Roman Catholicism. Hierarchism explains their cult of the Hollywood star, in whom so many are dazzlingly learned.”  Notably, the film's major cinematic influence, Fassbinder, accomplished something similar in his early classic chamber piece Die bitteren Tränen der Petra von Kant (1972) aka The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant where Margit Carstensen and Hanna Schygulla act as stand-ins in terms of depicting the disastrous one-sided romance of the filmmaker and his black Bavarian ex-lover Günther Kaufmann.  Notably, Werner Schroeter, who I would argue had an even bigger aesthetic influence on Suspiria than Fassbinder, went even further and had Isabelle Huppert act as his stand-in in the curious form of identical twin sisters(!) in his insanely nonlinear autobiographical penultimate film Deux (2002) aka Two. In fact, out of all the films I can think of, Schroeter's Tag der Idioten (1981) aka Day of the Idiots—a film starring model and one-time Bond Carole Bouquet that is set in a mental hospital that is plagued by Sapphic surrealism and the obscenely gorgeously grotesque (including a uniquely unhinged urolagnia scenario)—is the one that most reminds me of Guadagnino's film. Needless to say, I don't think it is a coincidence that Ingrid Caven appears in both films, just as I don't think it is a coincidence that there seems to be a coincidence that there is very little difference between the dance academy and mental hospital as both surely represent the insanely incendiary irrationalism and deep black bottomless abyss that is the feminine psyche, especially one that has been left unchecked and completely neglected to be penetrated by a true patriarchal influence.   

Suspiria may be an Italian remake of an Italian film directed by an Italian director, but it owes its broken black heart and deathly despondent soul to the degenerate generation of kraut filmmakers that beat the La Nouvelle Vague at their own game in terms of unbridled iconoclasm and reinventing the cinematic language.  In that sense, Guadagnino is inordinately cinematically literate and demonstrates a grand eclecticism in his virtually celestial synchronization of Italian horror and New German Cinema that puts pathologically posturing pop cineastes like Tarantino and Nicolas Winding Refn to abject shame.  Undoubtedly, one of the things that makes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 1791 opera The Magic Flute (and especially Ingmar Bergman's 1975 cinematic adaptation Trollflöjten), such a joyous experience in the end is that it depicts a honorable patriarchy destroying a malefic martiarchal force.  Needless to say, horror makes a suitable genre for depicting the triumphing of the martiarchal spirit, hence the true visceral power of a film like Suspiria where one learns the real reason as to why certain women—usually the worst sort of women—were suspected of being witches in the past.  Of course, the film also teaches us that it takes a gay man—or, more specifically, a guido cocksucker with a feminine spirit—to teach heterosexual men the true nuances of misogyny, henceforth confirming that Guadagnino's hero Fassbinder taught him well.



-Ty E

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