Suspiria ★★★★★

Due to very minimal distribution here in France, I watched Suspiria in a suitably dingy small screen near Strasbourg's impressive cathedral, on an almost full moon, at 22.00 (the only screening available).

I can safely say that I've not been this disturbed, enthralled, fascinated and repulsed by a film in a long time. 

One critic referenced Aronoffsky's "mother!" above but contrary to that positively nihilistic film, this one contains a poetic life force that is to reckoned with. 

There is a profound sense of loss amidst the shocking (and, towards the end, reassuringly grotesque) violence on display and this is due to the constant reminder of the context this re-envisioning is set in : postwar Berlin subjected to the terrorist acts of the Red Army Faction in addition to the wall prominently separating the city still. 

The sorcery within the Tanzgruppe thus echoes the relentless grimness of the exterior world but where outside there are bombs and hostages and pancards, inside we have dance rituals, solemn offerings and exposed intestines (I recommend reading the IMDB parents guide warning page for this film as a nervous laughter "cool-down" post viewing).

The group of women comprising the cast is all round impressive, from German art house regulars to Lady Swinton in a "who else could've played Madame Blanc" moment. Dakota Johnson really stands out in the role of Susie, her calm surface demeanour barely concealing layers of dark majesty. Mia Goth continues to grow as a hugely satisfying screen presence and bonus points for totally unexpected turns from model Alek Wek and French actor Sylvie Testud in a portentous mute role.

The cinematography, editing, ostentatious camera movements and acting all combine to a cinematic experience unlike any other this year.

Guadagnino conjugates scenes of the disturbing and occult with a strangely alluring portrayal of feminine power and I must admit I felt a sense of sanctuary in the female community with its recognisable codes of sisterhood and matriarchy, even perhaps as it descended into unspeakable punishment. This is in part due to Swinton's talent as she exudes authority and uncertainty in equal amounts as the artistic director and the one responsible for the dark sacrifices at stake in the school.

For almost three hours, I felt I had truly travelled back in time to experience a visceral, dramatic, hypnotic, unforgettable kind of cinema that the current watered down hyper real techno horror offerings can only contend with. 

This is the kind of film where you cannot look away, where the impressive imagery seeps itself into your brain and echoes your darkest subconscious desires and all you can do is let go, release, and enjoy the ride. 

It's what true cinema should be : a disturbing truth disguised as entertainment. And while the film is often times excruciating, the fourth wall remains and the slightest brushes of dark humour help alleviate the sense of utter dread one may feel, exiting from this film, into the dead of the night, in an almost full moon, surrounded by gothic architecture.

This is because Guadagnino's Suspiria has soul -- a vicious, pulsating, malignant, humourous, macabre and multifaceted one -- but a tremendous soul nonetheless.