‘Suspiria’: cult classic remake chills audiences

By Dean Galiffa

Dakota

Shake, rattle and roll.

As in: there is a scene in which a dancer’s body shakes in agony as her limbs contort, her bones rattle and her innards roll.

That is the kind of grotesque imagery running throughout “Suspiria,” directed by Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino.

The film is a remake of the 1977 horror cult-classic of the same title, but takes many liberties. Indeed, much of Guadagnino’s film is an expansion of the already outlined story by Director Dario Argento, yet translates as a convoluted, expansive, and sometimes onerous plot.

Starring Dakota Johnson in the protagonist role of Susie, a young dancer from Ohio who travels to the acclaimed Markos Dance Company in Berlin for an audition, the film’s eerie set design and arthouse camera work creates an unease that never lets up.

Although the movie never quite tops the “shake, rattle, and roll” scene in terms of making the audiences’ skin crawl, it leaves the viewer anticipating the worst at every creek and squish.

Alongside Susie is the renowned dance instructor Madame Blanc, portrayed by Tilda Swinton, who is instantly impressed and almost transfixed by Susie’s skill.

From the start of her time at the company, Susie is groomed for the lead role in the company’s upcoming production. We come to find later on in the film that this seemingly innocent lead role is far more sinister than it appears on the surface.

A standout performance of the film is Mia Goth, who plays the supporting role of Sara, a vivacious and skilled dancer who falls victim to the dance company’s more malevolent regime.

Unlike her leading opposites, Goth’s character and performance are far more interesting than Johnson’s Susie. However, this could be the fault of poor direction or screenwriting.

Still, some major performances were notable. In addition to her role as Madame Blanc, Swinton plays two other characters, including the primary role of Dr. Josef Klemperer, a psychoanalyst who begins to investigate Markos Dance Company after sessions with a former dancer.

Without the knowledge that it is Swinton under a prosthetic nose and thick frames, Klemperer just comes off as a stiff old man with an oddly high-pitched croak of a voice.

The prosthetics hindered her performance, but Swinton’s acting chops did pay off when becoming each character.

Both costume and set design were improved by an overall clean performance of both the actors and the cinematographer.

Bearing red hair and a middle part, Johnson was able to fit perfectly in the cold bluish brown hues of Markos Dance Company.

Playing off of its predecessor, the plain lighting and clever use of color in the costumes of “Suspiria” pay tribute to the original film.

While the 1977 version often used simple costume design and vibrant settings, the remake could not be any more opposite.

Most notably, the sound design of the film was truly haunting. Along with rather graphic imagery, each individual crack, snap, and crunch punctuated the overall realism of each scene.

Defined by grotesque imagery, sound design, and experimental cinematography, Gaudagnino’s take on the cult classic leaves the audience with many unanswered questions.

The film leaves much of the plot unexplained, with some subplots feeling completely unnecessary altogether.

Nevertheless, overall, the casual movie-goer and film buff alike will be shaken, rattled, and rolled by “Suspiria.”

Valerie Battaglia also contributed to the writing of this review.

Contact Dean Galiffa at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ buckles, but does not break under pressure

By Shane Soderland

freddie

Director Bryan Singer resurrects singer Freddie Mercury in the 2018 biopic film “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The film chronicles Mercury and his band Queen’s rise to prominence and iconization.

Rami Malek gives an Oscar caliber performance as the sensational rock star struggling with vice and indulgence capturing his mannerisms, flare, and humanity above all else. The film never goes out of its way to characterize Mercury as an omnipotent figure, which is commendable, but it never goes deep enough to match Malek’s performance.

Singer gave tight direction to cover the entirety of Mercury’s career, but the overall structure was bothersome. The film tells its story in a very traditional and formulaic way, which doesn’t suit the inventive and experimental nature of Queen.

At one point, dialogue shared between Brian May’s character and a production executive criticizes formula in music. This interaction almost feels ironic, given how conventional the film’s direction is.

Mercury’s life is examined well, but it would have benefited from more abstract storytelling. An interesting perspective would have been a nonlinear approach, with scenes from various times in his career sporadic throughout.

Similarly, a perspective such as the miniseries “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” where direction is taken by expanding multiple character’s viewpoints would have worked. In a story with a vast range of material, the film would have benefited from this format, especially considering Malek’s success on the show “Mr. Robot.”

Yes, “Bohemian Rhapsody” plays like a biopic you’ve seen a hundred times before — it’s even been parodied in “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”

The film covers Mercury’s career in a seemingly impossible two and a half hour run time. Story threads were cut down, ignored, or glossed over for the film to work.

There are enough enjoyable aspects to make the film both watchable and endearing.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” finds ways for audience members to become invested in its larger-than-life focus, counterbalancing its duller aspects with vibrant cinematography, unique editing techniques, and a good cast with believable chemistry.

Malek’s transcendental performance as Mercury, the electric soundtrack, and the dramatic elements are all strong components.

The movie struggles, however, to authentically portray the lives of 1970’s rock stars — especially, a group as outlandish as Queen. Mercury is portrayed as a flawed and indulgent diva, while his band mates are unchanging figures with strong moral authority.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” made a conscious choice to gloss over the seedier aspects of Mercury’s life, yet it does not take away from the film’s focus — Queen and their music. The film did not need exploitative debauchery to succeed, but a single f-bomb would have been permissible.

Most disappointingly, the film’s message about Mercury’s sexuality is muddled. With the exception of the closing moments of the film, Mercury’s homosexuality is portrayed as raucous and destructive throughout. However, the characters treat his orientation and eccentricities with familial tenderness, which was poignant to see.

Historical inaccuracies, exaggerations, and Meta-references are abundant in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but do not detract from its entertainment value or message about family and teamwork. This film is a flawed take on a legend, but as a concert film it will rock you.

Contact Shane Soderland at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu