Archive for Suspiria

Project Fear

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on September 21, 2019 by dcairns
An Italian actress in a Franco-German horror movie with a Polish director, set in England.

It seems irresistible:

Fact 1: Britain is supposedly exiting, or Brexiting the EU on 31st October, Halloween.

Fact 2: Brexiteers accuse remainers of organizing “Project Fear” to make us all scared of leaving.

Fact 3: I always feel I should do more for Halloween on Shadowplay.

A former Miss Israel is menaced by offscreen Englishman in an Italian horror movie.

Thus, Project Fear: a week-long wallow in European horror cinema, running from Sunday 27th October to Saturday 2nd November. A way of showing solidarity with our mainland cousins, and celebrating Samhain like good Scots. Achieving nothing, of course. Helplessness is a big part of feeling afraid. And if the medicine can’t get into the country, we are personally affected in quite a significant way.

A German actor emotes in another Italian horror film set in Bavaria.

I would like help! If you have an article on European horror cinema lining your bottom drawer, or would like to start a fresh one, I offer you a safe outlet. I may try approaching a few of you about it, but don’t be shy — propose something. I will say oui, si, tak, po, sim, igen, tha, ano, ie, taip, da, ja, jo, jah, joo, yo, evet, iva, diakh, nai and YES.

An Italian, a Frenchwoman and a Frenchman in an Italian horror movie set in England.

Mother of Gels

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2018 by dcairns

Inspired by our enjoyable viewing of SUSPIRIA in Bologna, we looked at Dario Argento’s follow-up, INFERNO (1980), which I hadn’t seen since around 1989, and which Fiona had never seen. I mainly remembered the bad bits, in particular the terrible cats-and-rats sequence in which the creepy bloke from MARIENBAD perishes in a heavily rodent-infested Central Park, crying, “The rats are eating me!” And the shifty butler overacting. And the crap skeleton saying “You mean you still don’t understand?” which it turns out doesn’t quite happen.

What DID happen was remarkable — by sheer coincidence we put the film on during a lunar eclipse AND a thunderstorm, and both a lunar eclipse and a thunderstorm are featured in the movie. And then our Tonkinese cat, Momo, who never watches television usually, started acting very strange during the cats-and-rats scene, prowling around the room and looking behind the TV in search of the source of all the mammalian vocals.

(I don’t now why Argento always has these animal atrocities in his films, they’re rarely convincing. The glove puppet seeing-eye dog in SUSPIRIA, and here, the cats being thrown at Daria Nicolodi (then Mrs. Argento), with the animal handlers’ hands actually visible onscreen, and then the rats that mainly just look confused. And none of it has anything to do with the “plot”. Maybe this helps: composer Simon Boswell remarked, “Dario is the only person I know who is regularly attacked by his own cats.” )

“I hope the house doesn’t burn down,” I said, after all these other coincidences. After the film ended, we became conscious of very loud engine noise coming from outside. We had the windows wide open due to the heat wave. I looked outside and saw three fire engines.

Building on the mythos invented for SUSPIRIA, Argento introduces the architect Varelli, responsible for constructing three witch houses –one of these burned down in the previous movie but the other two, an art deco palaces in New York and a creepy library in Rome, are encountered here. We seem to be following in the footsteps of ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE SEVENTH VICTIM, while anticipating GHOSTBUSTERS.

It’s Take Your Cat to Class Day, didn’t you know?

One thing that’s missing amid the supersaturated colours and moderne design is an interesting central character. Jessica Harper had worked wonders giving humanity to Argento’s sanguinary excercises du style, and poor Leigh McCloskey and his Action Man mustache aren’t up to the job, but then he never gets much to do and the movie keeps abandoning him so it can show some minor character getting stabbed up or defenestrated in flames. It’s not really McCloskey’s fault.

I did come around to Argento’s demented dialogue, though. A lot of what seems like sheer silliness or ineptitude may be entirely deliberate. My friend Alex had spoken enthusiastically of the bit in SUSPIRIA where Udo Kier says something like, “Of course there’s no such thing as witches. My friend will explain all that to you,” and then his friend appears as if by magic and says, “Yes, there are witches. It’s a house full of witches,” and Udo just smiles and nods as if this is what he’d expected to hear.

Why is that good? First, consider this quote from the Maestro ~

“I’m searching for panic, which is at another level to terror, it penetrates even further. If one wishes to compare panic to fear, we can say that fear is a 38-39 degree fever, while panic is 41 degrees. Therefore, it’s delirium”.

Now apply your memories of fever to this dialogue from INFERNO’s awkward elevator conversation ~

Nurse: “His name is Professor Arnold, he’s been quite ill for many years. And you, what do you do?”

McCloskey: “Oh, I’m a student. Musicology.”

“Oh, wonderful! A professor of toxicology. We know two other young men who -“

“No, no, it’s not toxicology. Musicology. It’s got nothing to do with medicine.”

“What is it then?”

[rather brilliant confused pause by McCloskey] “The study of music.”

“Oh yes, your sister’s involved in rather strange work too.”

“Strange? No, she writes poetry.”

“Oh. Yes, a pastime especially suited for women. Goodbye!”

Let’s just agree that this is, in fact, brilliant. McCloskey being prey to various unexplained ailments in the course of the “story” allows us to see this as a fever-dream dialogue whose demented improbabilities open portals to altered states of conversation. It makes us feel out of it. The words are wrong, the attitudes are wrong, and the voices don’t seem to emanate from the characters’ mouths. We’re sweating through a heat wave right now, so that only added to the feeling of roiling confusion.

Then there’s the strange superimposed titles, ostensibly giving us time and place as these things normally do ~


But, brilliantly, April (the cruellest month) has no story significance at all, and the film’s insistence that this is “the same night in April” is REALLY wacky, since the character above just got off the phone with her brother in Rome — obviously it’s the same night, since we’re in the middle of  continuous transatlantic conversation. Evidently, Argento’s mind doesn’t work along conventional narrative tracks, as if that wasn’t obvious from all the cobwebby stuffed crocodiles and gratuitous Verdi, and Keith Emerson’s score that seems to fold together Jerry Goldsmith’s OMEN theme with Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. But maybe, just maybe, Argento understands normal human thought well enough to send it crashing off the rails with deliberately skewed narrative devices and exchanges.

It’s a theory, anyway.


(Poor old McCloskey, come to New York to investigate his sister’s disappearance, just like Kim Hunter in THE SEVENTH VICTIM, never does find out what became of her. Would having her corpse pop out at him sometime be too much to ask?)

What a dramatic airport!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2018 by dcairns

The above line is spoken by Mel Brooks at the end of the opening title sequence of HIGH ANXIETY, and I always think of it when I see the opening of SUSPIRIA, as we did in Bologna. Having booked a cheap but very lengthy two-stage return journey, we found ourselves waiting for a flight to Paris from which we would, hopefully, go on home (last year I got stuck in the City of Light for two days, but what are the chances of that happening again?)

We were sat in a crowded airport café when I noticed a familiar, tiny bird-like figure drop by. We offered our seats. “No no no!” But we told her getting to give up our seats was the highlight of Il Cinema Ritrovato for us. A brief conversation ensued. “Would you like a photo?” asked the Goddess. We readily agreed.

Anna Karina asked where we were from.


“Andy Murray!” declared the star of VIVRE SA VIE. A bit of a conversational dead-end as I’d struggle to tell you who he is or what he does for a living.


“We have been there!” she declared. “We were looking for singers.” Her friend, the photographer, added, “And we also went to that other, darker city.” This made us laugh, and it’s going to be Glasgow’s new nickname from now on, at least in our household.

That was about it. We were on the same plane. We knew nothing could happen to us.