Suspiria 2018 ***

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Not exactly here in terms of merit as a good film, Suspiria is at least a memorable piece of horror cinema. Dario Argento’s original film is stylish but stabby and incoherent; Luca Guadagnino’s much anticipated remake seems intent on turning the original film inside out, and as an act of deconstruction, it’s not without interest. Dakota Fanning arrives at Tilda Swinton’s dance school, only to find a coven of witches are using it was a front. The punch-line of Argento’s film becomes the jumping off point for Guadagnino, but nearly two and a half hours later, not much of any value has been added to the pot. There’s extreme gore (the final orgy features volcanic blood and bile vomited from innards as heads snap back like Pez dispensers), some political allusions (from Baadar-Meinhoff terrorists to WWII concentration camps) which don’t really help, and a smattering of indelible images, like the table of aging witches at the back of a restaurant, or the execution by dance of one of the pupils. Its hard to know what those unaware of the original film will make of this; Argento purists probably deserve to be annoyed, but at least this Suspiria isn’t some bland PG 13 remake for teens; in fact, it really is quite horrible to watch, and presumably that’s the intention.

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The White Crow 2019 ***

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Ralph Fiennes clearly digs Rudolph Nureyev; for his third film as director, he’s attempted to capture the story of one of the world’s greatest dancers, which some success. Fiennes’ previous efforts (Coriolanus and The Invisible Woman) were real duffers, but with a leading man who looks the part in Oleg Ivenko, The White Crow is more than passable. The title refers to the Russian notion of otherness, of an individual who is separate from the pack; a black sheep in our parlance. Flashing back and forward to key moments in Nureyev’s life as he ponders defecting during a tour to Paris, the attempts to get under the waxen skin of the individual are fairly shallow; Nureyev rages at a toy-shop owner whose range of toy trains bore him, or glowers as his patient tutor (Fiennes) refuses to acknowledge his genius. But things pick up in the final stretch when Nureyev faces a choice to defect to the West or return to his family in Russia; the facts are compelling in these final scenes, and the choice is presented with some gravity. Anyone with a feeling for dance, and Nureyev in particular will be interested in this, and Fiennes doesn’t short-change us with the ballet scenes, which looks authentic and feel right. But much of the presentation is dull, the photography of Russia and Paris is so grim and deliberately out of focus that it’s hard to watch, and Hare’s script is dry and lack insight. But a bit like the Queen biopic, a film about this subject only needs to be halfway good to be watchable; the legend of Nureyev carries the film.