Suspiria: One of Anthony Bourdain’s Favorites
I chose our latest cult movie for two reasons. One, If you are a fan of the late Anthony Bourdain (I am), you may have heard him mention Suspiria.He was a significant film enthusiast, and it is one of his most referenced films. Secondly, a remake of Suspiria starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Jackson has recently wrapped up filming. The new Suspiria will be in theaters starting November 2018.
If you are not familiar with the film, it is an Italian-made paranormal thriller released in 1977. Directed by the legend Dario Argento. Suspiria is a beautiful and unsettling female-centric fairy-tale. Known for its groundbreaking cinematography, use of vibrant primary colors and unique lighting that creates an eerie dream-like world. The bold colors augment a synth-heavy score from the progressive rock band, Goblin. The score never allows you to let your guard down. It is persistent. It is loud and as scary as the film itself.
According to Bourdain, “Both the sound and the visuals of this film are unlike anything that’s ever been seen before in any horror film, and maybe even all films. It is visually and stylistically a masterpiece that rewrote the language for suspense and horror and influenced everyone who came after…John Carpenter would not exist… Guillermo del Toro…everybody has lifted scenes directly from [Suspiria].
An American ballet student, Suzy Bannion (played by the doe-eyed Jessica Harper) arrives in Germany to attend the prestigious Tanz Akademie the night that a student is brutally murdered in an off-campus apartment.
The next morning, Suzy meets the vice-directress Madame Blanc (Joan Bennet, her final film role), and an instructor, Ms. Tanner (Alida Valli). She also meets two students, Sara (Stefania Casini) and Olga (Barbara Magnolfi).
Soon after Suzy falls ill and is told She is to be “medicated” daily. We later see that her medicine is a glass of wine (a medication still used today) Naturally, she and Sara become friends.
Strange things are heard and seen throughout. Maggots fall from the ceiling, Sara points out the sound of a peculiar whistling snore. Sara is obsessed by footsteps of someone walking down the hallway outside their door. Sara tries to get Suzy to help her figure out what is going on at the school. Then Sara abruptly leaves school without notice. Suzy becomes determined to understand what is happening.
First, the cons. The film is not perfect. The sound can be too much for some viewers. It is meant to be loud and unsettling. The actors spoke English, Italian or German while filming. Often, they spoke in their native language without understanding each other. The dialog required overdubbing during post-production (a common practice in Italian filmmaking). You notice this while watching the film. At times the interaction seems childish. The director initially wanted to use young pre-teen girls but was convinced the brutality is too much. Argento decided to used college-age actresses. However, the script remained unchanged. Actions like sticking out their tongue or the design of a door handle being at eye levels were supposed to heighten the subconscious to a fairy tale populated with little girls.
Despite this, Suspiria is worth watching. It is dreamlike, or should I say more like watching an actual nightmare. That is its charm and what makes the experience great. You must remember it is a 41-years-old innovative film that has inspired generations. With time and technology, it is copied and perfected. Argento did not waste his time with bleak landscapes, and too dark shadows as horror films often did. He is an innovator that drapes his vision with colors ranging from bright red blood to blues and greens. The dialogue is minimal. He uses sound and color to draw you into the story. It’s a must for horror fans or general film buffs
Did You Know?
- The film has a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- In the 2007 film Juno, Suspiria is considered by the title character to be the goriest film ever made, until she is shown The Wizard of Gore and changes her mind.
- Jessica Harper, star of the original will play a minor role in the 2018 remake.
- The film’s director, Dario Argento is the father of Asia Argento, Bourdain’s girlfriend at the time of his death.
- Argento is not a fan of the upcoming remake, stating “Well, the film has a specific mood. Either you do it exactly the same way — in which case, it’s not a remake, it’s a copy, which is pointless — or, you change things and make another movie. In that case, why call it Suspiria?”
- In 1978, Joan Bennet received a Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Suspiria.
- The colors used in Snow White inspired the director.
- Argento played the killer through the bathroom window.
 10 Films That Are Anthony Bourdain’s Constant Reference Points, IMDb-Editors, Apr 9, 2017, IMDB
 Anthony Bourdain says this Italian classic is today’s must-watch horror movie, Ann Quinto, October 31, 2017, Quartz
 Suspiria, Wikipedia
 Dario Argento Says the Remake of ‘Suspiria’ Shouldn’t Happen & His Iggy Pop Movie Is Delayed, Eric Kohn, August 8, 2016, IndieWire