Tuesday, January 17, 2012
24. SUSPIRIA (1977)
Watching the movie again, I noticed that this first film in Argento's "Three Mothers" trilogy makes no reference to the other two Mothers, nor even the Three Mothers as a unity, leading one to surmise that Argento and Nicolodi hastily wove this mythos together when SUSPIRIA became a surprise international hit. Also, though most commentators identify "Elena" Markos as Mater Suspiriorum, she is plainly called Helena Markos, her only given sobriquet is "The Black Queen," and true to the first syllable of her name, she is described as having perished long ago in a fire. This is made more confusing given the presence within the Tanz Akademie dancing school of its wheezy Headmistress, who is evidently Helena Markos herself. Joan Bennett's character invokes Helena's dead spirit as part of a hex spell sent out to snoopy "American bitch" ballet student Suzy Banyon (Harper), though the Headmistress is lying prone in the room next door in some sort of outlined astral form that casts shadows and becomes corporealized as Suzy stabs her with a piece of art sculpture... recalling THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE and also looking ahead to TENEBRAE.
Ultimately, I think SUSPIRIA is weakened by adhering more to sensation than to sense -- after all, even the mysterious requires a certain continuity -- but all these years later, it remains a singular experience. It's one of the few horror films powerful enough in its aura alone to solicit awe from its audience.
Viewed on DVD.