Dir. Luca Guadagnino
Guadagnino and Kajganich went out to make a work inspired by Argento’s Suspiria but which would otherwise be its own thing, and their film is emphatically true to this, mostly in its treatment of the relationship between text and meaning. Where Argento’s film was written by omission, minimalist in structure but maximalist in texture (and so suggestion), Kajganich writes to tell of its implications, and Guadagnino gives each telling surplus attention to the point of convolution. Frustratingly but perhaps predictably this inverse method for telling results in something inversely effective (and affecting), as it says a lot on the surface but at its core means very little- an iceberg seen from upside down. The viewer’s imagination runs through the events of the first Suspiria, taking them toward their ineffable cosmic source, and as a consequence the viewer comes out of the film feeling heavier. This one takes care to broaden the scope and as a consequence ends half an hour before the credits roll.
This feeling of crass finitude is not helped by the suspicion that Kajganich believes he is doing something not already embedded in the first Suspiria, which reveals less his hubris and disrespect for the original (also this), but the limits of his imagination and capacities as a screenwriter. This attitude is not so much present in Guadagnino, who willfully indulges any and all input in order to achieve a cinematic exhaustion. As an information overload, as a parade of ideas both undeveloped and over-explained, the work feels in places contemporary (for similar reasons that something like The Life of Pablo feels contemporary), particularly when it clashes with an almost simpering anachronism. Whip pans and zooms play consciously retrograde, and Fasano over-edits to carve up a space already disoriented by Mukdeeprom (the 180-degree rule is for suckers), which amounts to something suffocating, particularly within such feverishly drab interiors. This joylessness would all be fine were it not for the dance sequences, which undermine and so elevate their efforts at something otherwise consciously oppressive. Which is to say that as a music video it delivers on something energetic and sensuous, something like a sincere twenty first century riff on the older film. The exhaustion, the finitude, is understandably a comment on twenty first century malaise, but Guadagnino has ideas for new possibilities that his attachment to Kajganich seriously limits. Tellingly the epilogue concludes a story no one but the screenwriter could give a shit about.
Perhaps I’m leaning too much on the dichotomy of their partnership: perhaps where I saw Zombie Guadagnino meant Refn, and where I felt Żuławski the director meant Aronofsky, but there are moments of cinematic tenderness and primal energy that survive the screenplay’s efforts to quantify and resolve them (and many more that don’t). There is a scene where Klemperer effectively walks out of the narrative, and a message from his loved one reads out over the top as he sits down and ponders his life without her. We can imagine a film where fragments of a lonely life add to its emotional and political ramifications from the narrative margins, and there is the sense that the director gets lost imagining it too. We can hold onto moments such as Susie and Sara sitting on Susie’s bed, holding hands and being sisters while outside the window bombs go off and people are kidnapped, and behind and inside all of this is a darkness devouring the fabric of the world, because moments like this make up the essence of Argento’s film. We can imagine what a female perspective might’ve brought to a film that can’t for the life of it say anything about women or motherhood, and mistakes dick jokes as a commentary about men in power (in another film, but not this myopic slog). She might’ve at least been able to stop it from burying what little was there under a blase jaunt through foggy ideation (which, salt in the wound, is all male-focussed).