This Is a Movie Review: Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Suspiria’ is So Baroque, Don’t Fix It

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CREDIT: Alessio Bolzoni; Courtesy of Amazon Studios

This review was originally published on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Running Time: 152 Minutes

Rating: R for Imaginatively Bloody Violence and Witchcraft-Based Nudity

Release Date: October 26, 2018 (Limited)

I’ve seen the 1977 original Dario Argento-directed Suspiria, but I don’t remember much about it, other than the colors and the music. I also recall that the premise is that a young American ballet student arrives at a prestigious dance academy in Germany, where she discovers that the place is run by a coven of witches. That is the same setup for Luca Guadagnino’s remake, but in just about every other way, this is not a film that should feel compelled to call itself a remake. Let me jump in with my theory on proper remake strategy: a good remake can be based on a good or bad movie, but it must necessarily be significantly different enough from the original. Because if the original was bad, why would you want to do it over again? But if the original was good, it would be pointless to do it all over again, since the original still exists. The new Suspiria is certainly different enough, more inspired by than redoing the original. Although it is possible that it is recreating scenes that I forgot about, but if that is the case, that’s clearly not a problem.

Guadagnino is a master of baroque delights. From Dakota Johnson’s slithery dancing to an onslaught of bodily contortions and explosions, this is a mass feast of sensory awesomeness. I’m pretty sure that Thom Yorke’s score is also excellent, but I’ll have to listen again to make sure. As for any deeper themes – whether regarding feminism, power dynamics, or the like – there may be plenty to jump into there. Perhaps I will dig into it a month or a year from now. But it’s also possible there may not be any subtext at all. And that is just dandy in this case. Also, pay special attention to “Lutz Ebersdorf.” He’s going places.

Suspiria is Recommended If You Like: Suspiria (1977), Hausu, Hereditary

Grade: 4 out of 5 Leotards

 

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a Quietly Desperate Plea to Place No Limits on Love

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures Classics

This review was originally posted on News Cult in November 2017.

Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: R for Sticky Solo Sessions and Unbridled Pairings

Release Date: November 24, 2017 (Limited)

At the end of Call Me by Your Name, Oliver (Armie Hammer) checks in with Elio (Timothée Chalamet) over the phone. Elio’s parents join in on the call for a bit. After they hang up, Oliver notes how they talk to him like he is a member of the family. This accomplishment might seem small, but this sort of comfortable intimacy is a profound state that should not be discounted. Plenty of people in human history have achieved it, but many others have not. For Elio and Oliver, this is a postscript, but what they have shared is lovely enough to cherish forever.

Call Me by Your Name’s message is clear enough without having to be directly stated, but I appreciate that it is gently stated in the way that it is, thanks to Michael Stuhlbarg’s tender delivery. As Elio’s dad, archaeology professor Mr. Perlman, Stuhlbarg conveys an unforgettable treatise on why life is worth living. Simply by the power of observation, he knows what has been going on. It is the summer of 1983 in the northern Italian countryside, where Elio is living with his parents, and Oliver, an American student, is the latest houseguest they have invited to stay with them. Elio and Oliver spend several passionate nights and days together. Maybe they have fallen in love, maybe it is too soon to say so. Either way, their relationship is not fated to last beyond the summer. And in this situation, what Elio and the audience could use more than anything is assurance from his father that all is right. So many people make choices that leave them “bankrupt by the time [they’re] 30,” he tells us, but Elio has chosen love, and there is no reason to regret that.

There are few people who have loved anything as much as Mr. Perlman loves discovering and examining new artifacts. But loving another human being is a little harder, what with the back-and-forth, and the confusion, and the hormones, and the jealousy flare-ups. Love is not always easily strictly defined, either. Elio and Oliver may or may not both be bisexual. They certainly appreciate the female beauty around them; Elio even has a pretty intense fling with a girl close to his age (Esther Garrel). But they both gravitate most heavily to the most intense attractions, and that means plenty of fun but also plenty of sticky situations (and commensurate teasing), as we are all slaves to our bodily fluids. The whole of Call Me by Your Name, in fact, is a mix of pretty and sticky, a tapestry we ought to embrace if it is ever available to us.

Call Me by Your Name is Recommended If You Like: Moonlight, Any great romance with lovely cinematography

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Nosebleeds