Suspiria Movie Review

8.5/10

A masterpiece mix of Rosemary’s Baby meets Black Swan. Suspiria is a disturbing, shocking, and thoroughly engrossing psychological horror. Yes, it holds a few flaws but ultimately, this is modern cinema at its finest.

The story is set towards the tail of the Cold War in 1977 Berlin. We follow the journey of a young American dancer Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson), who is accepted into the prestigious but mysterious Markos Dance Academy. Strange occurrences begin to occur, and Susie soon finds herself among company that’s of a different kind. Hint: this is not a film for kids.

The most enjoyable factor for me was the suspense, as subtly indicated within the name of the film. A large part of this comes from the story and its incredibly developed mythology teased out an array of harrowing concepts over time. Every time a new detail was shed, the more intrigued I became and the suspense of what could linger in the future was added.

I also loved how the film structures complemented the build-up in sense over time. Like a Quentin Tarantino film, the story was divided up into chapters and each added to this looming dreaded feeling for next part of the story. Think Paranormal Activity and how each new night brought about something worse than the one before.

The other parts that I thought were great to build suspense were the direction and performances.

Director Luca Guadagnino did a great job in breaking up these segments and teasing out important details to solidify the suspense. One of my favourite features was his use of the zoom on particular objects or faces. Apart from adding obvious focus to details important to the story, they were often employed before moments of dread and in turn made these scenes interesting to watch.

Normally directors would cut to a close-up but to me, Guadagnino’s choice of the zoom is far more interesting from a visual standpoint. Most of the zooms were done slowly, forcing me to gradually ascertain what important detail is being put forward.

It reminded me of Yorgos Lanthimos’ works (another great director, see our Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of the Sacred Deer reviews) as he also forces in this feeling of suspense from a zoom compared to a quick cut of a close-up. The latter style speeds up the information transfer process and doesn’t allow momentary confusion while I figure things out. Great in action pieces to hide the cheated punches; less in suspenseful horrors where you want to slowly tease out details and build up suspense (unless of course horror films want to use jump scares).

Interestingly, Guadagnino’s other works Call Me By Your Name and I Am Love which are dramatic films that are very different from Suspiria. Both of those are great films but I was still (pleasantly) surprised to see Guadagnino handle himself quite well in a horror genre.

Performances wise, Dakota Johnson was fine as Susie Bannion but it was Tilda Swinton who blew me away with her two roles; one of which I didn’t even realise she acted for it until looking up the cast credits. I don’t want to give this part away because I think the experience of picking this up later will make you smile but think Gary Oldman level of transformation. Suffice to say, she was simply incredible.

Apart from being a linguistic master, there are so many subtleties in her performance that really does confirm her as my favourite actress to watch. In Suspiria she plays a dance director with great commanding body movements but also real earnest in her eyes. She can give a lot away about her character simply through the way she stares at you and I found it fantastic to watch.

My only gripes with Suspiria are with subplots that could have been cut because they didn’t add anything to the story or weren’t addressed later.

Without giving too much away, there’s a subplot with the RAF (if you watch the film you’ll know what I mean) that kept getting raised but never had a payoff. I’m trying to grasp its relevance to the themes of the film, but I still don’t know what its point was. There’s also one character with glasses (again you’ll know who I mean) who I felt was important to the story but was never addressed by the end of the film. Once again, I’m not sure what her role was and I’m of the mind that this subplot could have been cut.

I also have a slight issue with the way the finale played out which came across as comical in parts even though that the exact opposite of its intention. After a while it became kind of ridiculous and in my opinion, it could have been presented differently to make it feel more harrowing. I can’t say exactly why it came across as comical without giving anything, but this is more of a minor issue compared to the almost pointless subplots.

Overall Suspiria is an incredibly well-made film and I had a blast watching it. I’m thoroughly recommending this to those that enjoyed Rosemary’s Baby and Black Swan because Suspiria feels like a mix of the two. Otherwise, if you like suspenseful psychological horrors in general, then this will still be right up your alley.

Be warned, it is quite long. The film clocks in at 2 hours and 32 minutes but thankfully I didn’t feel the film ever drag on because there’s a lot of intriguing suspense going on (even with the pointless subplots). This is a film that had enough for me to take away from one sitting but also made me more curious to read up on later (though I probably won’t be watching it again because I’m happy with what I got the first time).

I’m predicting this to be an early contender for Best Adapted Screenplay at next year’s Oscar’s as it’s based on the 1977 original of the same name. But until then, see the 2018 version when you can.

EDIT:

I forgot to add that the music is also composed by Thom Yorke, lead single and lyricist of Radiohead. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better right?

Burn After Reading Movie Review

burn after reading

See if. 8/10

“Report back to me when it makes sense”

If Seinfeld met the Coen Brothers, had a baby, and taught it how to use a camera, Burn After Reading would be the result. Only the Coen Brothers can make a movie that both simultaneously appears to be about nothing but also about everything, which is fitting given the title is to burn some knowledge that you first read and never see again. It’s a film that might leave you scratching your head by the end but ultimately, that’s exactly what it wants to do and I for one thought it was all great.

I’ve mentioned this previously, but the Coen Brothers have basically put filmmaking down to a science. Apart from Hail Caesar! and The Lady Killers, they haven’t really done anything wrong and have continued to make fantastic films across a variety of themes. Which is more than likely why the story for Burn After Reading also works because it’s handled by two people who can seemingly take any subject matter and make it incredibly interesting. This is also due to the wonderful array of characters they’ve created in their filmography and in Burn After Reading, we get a huge number of them.

From Brad Pitt playing a highly enthusiastic fitness trainer, to John Malkovich as an ex-CIA agent, every character was a burst of energy on screen. And when you have an all-star cast at your disposal with additions like George ClooneyFrances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, and J.K Simmons, I’m not surprised that these portrayals are coming to life so vividly. The actor-director relationship is working so well, which stems from the collaboration history for most of those names who have worked on many films directed by the Coen brothers.

This is going to be a fairly short review because just like the name Coen signals, you’re going to be getting some excellent filmmaking on display, but what I will add is that unlike some of the other more serious or tense films like No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading lends itself to be very idiosyncratic. So much so that it isn’t as quirky as their other film The Big Lebowski, but more on the level where it stands out as being fresh in its own right.

There’s also a lot of different strands coming together with several subplots twinning in on themselves, almost akin to that of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Babel, but it’s much funnier than that. As I said earlier, Burn After Reading really does feel like a Seinfeld episode just in feature-length form because ultimately, it’s a story about nothing and everything at the same time. This is what makes it so unique and why it’s different compared to the Coen brother’s other films.

I’ll be recommending that you check this out since it’s also out on Netflix in Australia and the United States. If you haven’t heard of the Coen brothers and have been living under a rock, then do yourself a favor and fix that immediately. See it.

Okja Movie Review 

okja

See it. 8/10

“Have I ever given you a boring show?”

I feel like these words sum up the master behind the camera Bong Joon Ho, whose latest film Okja is yet another fine example in his impressive filmography. For those unaware, the South Korean director is also responsible for films Snowpiercer, Memories Of A Murder and The Host (and no not the terrible US version). So, having heard his new film was produced under Netflix, suffice to say I eager to see it and unsurprisingly, I was not disappointed. Okja is a touching but also a charmingly funny film that balances humor with elements of a story that can also be very bleak to watch.

I raise these juxtapositions of attributes because the story focuses on the friendship with animals and the counter side to society’s often grim reality for those species that we love to eat. When I watch any film that is centered around man’s relationship with animals, I’m typically expecting it’s going to be fairly melancholic because hey, the track for animals so far hasn’t been that great *cough* Marley and Me *cough* Blackfish *cough*.

But whilst Okja isn’t afraid to present those sides of the story because let’s face it, the truth of the matter is hard to angle in a non-negative light otherwise, Bong Joon Ho creates a story that has a lot of wonderfully fun aspects to it, and that elevates it as a story that isn’t just another rehash of what we already know. I don’t like to kill cows, but I love to eat their meat, so how can one make a story that balances those elements and doesn’t just present the dark reality to make me feel like absolute shit all the time? Well, Okja manages to do it.

And it does so mainly with many engaging characters. The film has some incredible acting talent behind it with Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Giancarlo Esposito, Paul Dano and Steven Yeun as the main stars, and I enjoyed seeing them all play roles that supported each other nicely. I will highlight Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters, who were just so eccentric, interesting and funny that every time they were on-screen it was a blast to watch them act. I also really liked how their characters changed over time and how new layers were added to them.

I also want to highlight that the story’s unique concept which was coupled with the talent of its director. There’s a lot of distinct shot choices and blocking where the characters were meant to be placed, which was all great to see. Every scene had a reason as to why that particular person was sitting with her back turned from the others or why the camera was placed from a distance to emphasize visually the feeling of being alone on a character. It wasn’t just basic shot reverse shots of people talking, which is an aspect I hammer on about in other reviews, so I’m glad I can highlight a film that doesn’t do that and why it’s so much better because of it.

Okja is a rare case that tackles a difficult subject which can so easily be led down a dark alley with no real hope and manages instead to shine some humorous light towards it. Yes, I will admit that by the end of the film, I was quite moved from watching one of the final sequences which still hits me right in the feels every time I think about it (goddamn you Bong Joon Ho). But I also remember the wit and comedic commentary that’s present, and that makes me smile. I had a blast watching this film and I’m glad Netflix gave $50 million dollars for Bong Joon Ho to do whatever he wanted and I’m recommending you watch it when you can as it’s out both in Australia and in the United States. See it.