XL Popcorn – Suspiria / Caravaggio

Two weeks later and this is no longer a wrist problem, but my whole right arm and shoulder. The dictated reviews shall continue on.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Suspiria
Director: Dario Argento
Year: 1977
Country: Italy

After watching The Bird With The Crystal Plumage I do have to admit that my interest was piqued about Dario Argento. I mean, he is just one of those names that you come across when modern horror movie directors compile their list of influences. Right alongside John Carpenter, George Romero, Wes Craven and (of course) Alfred Hitchcock. I was not too impressed with his debut effort however…

What a difference 7 years has made. I still have issues with some of the acting and dubbing performances. It is definitely a step up from The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and now just verges upon camp (probably what he was going for here). I did enjoy the performances of Alida Valli (so different from her role in Senso) and Joan Bennett as the slightly macarbre heads of the ballet school. However, I was not really won over by any of the performances of the students. Jessica Harper was okay I guess, but that’s the limit of it.

Where Suspiria really excels is the atmosphere. Let’s just start with the music. It reminded me so much of the score from The Exorcist in places and then, depending on the scene, gets rocky and distorted. The fact that the band who created the score is called Goblin just adds to interest.

Other than the music let’s talk set design. It was incredibly gorgeous. I didn’t quite buy the pit of razor wire… but I adored the geometric shapes and the liberal use of colour. Also, Argento really knows how to use lighting and silloutting.

It takes a lot for a director to be able to make something creepy without the use of jump scare. He does this once right at the beginning and after that you are left on edge. Suspriria does not rank as one of my favourite horror movies, but it was an enjoyable experience.

Title: Caravaggio
Director: Derek Jarman
Year: 1986
Country: UK

When a film has the title of one of Italy’s greatest painters and uses one of his paintings has its poster it would be forgivable to assume that the film you are about to watch is a biography of that painter’s life. Caravaggio therefore did not live up to my expectation.

In terms of contemporary films Caravaggio was released a few years after Amadeus was a massive success at the Oscars. Whilst I was not expecting Caravaggio to be as good as Amadeus I somewhat expected in its to try and do a good job of being biographical. This film is not.

Many films tell the story through flashbacks from the point of view of a dying person. However, Caravaggio does this in such a way where attached becomes confusing and inconsistent. Also, at no point in this film do I actually care about what is happening.

Caravaggio had an incredibly interesting life so I cannot help but feel that Derek Jarman missed a trick with this film. There’s no denying that the way the director incorporates Caravaggio’s paintings into the film is interesting, but so many other films have done similar things and better.

One of the big artistic points made in this film is the use of anachronism. In the paintings of Caravaggio you see that he has used contemporary clothing and other things in Biblical paintings. Jarman decides to do the same thing with this film; notable examples including a rather loud electronic calculator, and newspaper hat, typewriters and the ambient sound of trains. As I know my paintings (somewhat) I got the point. However, if you do not know Caravaggio this all looks sloppy. Hell, to me is still looks rather sloppy, like the white van visible in the background of Braveheart.

So much potential here for an interesting biography with a lot of sex and violence just wasted if you ask me.

Progress: 520/1007

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