Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Mother of Tears

2007
Dir. Dario Argento

After 27 years Argento finally returned to the sinister figures of the Three Mothers to complete his trilogy that began with Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980).

While wildly different in tone and style from the previous two instalments, Mother of Tears still contains some of Argento’s cruellest, most sadistic imagery yet. And that’s saying something. The film follows the outrageous journey of young art restoration student Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento) who, after witnessing the brutal murder of her colleague by three mysterious figures, soon realises that a powerful witch known as the Mother of Tears has returned to Rome and intends to unleash evil and untold heartache throughout the world.

Argento teamed up with writers Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch to pen the shocking and psychedelic Mother of Tears. Anderson and Gierasch also wrote Crocodile, The Toolbox Murders and Mortuary for Tobe Hooper - but don't let that put you off. Besides, The Toolbox Murders was actually quite an interesting little film. Digressing...

Argento insisted that Mother of Tears be as different from Suspiria and Inferno as possible, and considering those two films were largely studio based, and their diabolical stories unravelled within one location, this film unfolds in epic-feeling proportions. Rome is conveyed as a thriving cosmopolitan city, but one still deeply connected with its past - perfect for a story involving darkness from the past slinking into the present to wreck havoc and mayhem. Presumably with Anderson and Gierasch keeping tabs on Argento, and reining in his predisposition for sparse stories and wandering narratives, this film hurtles along at break-neck pace.




While its palette is considerably milder than the garish, nightmarish look of Suspiria and Inferno, Mother of Tears is still opulently stylish and lavishly gory. Argento’s characteristically seamless camera-work is still largely present here, most notably in the scene where Sarah discovers the home of the Mother of Tears: her cautious exploration of the sprawling and gothic abode is filmed in one long, languid shot.

The violence in the film is as cruel and overtly choreographed as in any of Argento’s previous films. The opening murder of Giselle (Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) rivals anything the director has depicted before. There are also several unsettling and shocking instances where violence towards children splashes itself across the screen. Sergio Stivaletti’s special effects are competent, however the film is let down by over utilising shoddy CGI.

At times the film works as a compilation (a best of, if you like) of Argento’s oeuvre. Images and themes that cut through his films reoccur here with savage intensity: there are more than a few nods to Phenomena with the inclusion of a sadistic monkey (!), a pool of decaying human remains and Argento’s love of eye violation returns with a vengeance. Seemingly poking fun at his own reputation as a director obsessed with ‘eroticising’ violence, Argento offers us a ghastly death scene in which a woman is 'penetrated' by a huge spear between her legs: critics claiming knifes are actually phallic symbols will most liking implode when witnessing the death of Marta (Valleria Cavalli). it culminates in a grotesque and somewhat tongue-in-cheek spurt of orgasmic gore…




Udo Kier (who previously played a sceptic psychiatrist in Suspiria) appears here as a frantic priest. Argento’s former partner, muse, mother of Asia and co-writer of Suspiria, Daria Nicoldi, also appears here as a spectral mother, guiding Sarah through her hellish odyssey. This marks the first time the pair have worked together since Argento had her character shot through the eye in Opera (1987).

With Mother of Tears, Argento hasn’t quite made the ‘return to form’ many of his fans may have hoped for. The film simply runs out of steam towards the end and can't sustain the epic climax it was striving for. It expires with a whimper, not a bang unfortunately. This does seem to be in keeping with the prior two films though, as they also began as most conventional horror films end - climactic scenes of cathartic depravity that digress as the films unspool. Dario Argento has proved with this film though, that he is still a force to be reckoned with in the genre, and has created an outrageous, verging-on-camp, horror oddity.

Oh Mother the blood! The blood was everywhere...


3 comments:

harajukujam said...

Yet another Argento film to check out! I'm interested in seeing his work after such a large gap, not just in terms of his direction, but also technological advances and updates of style.

james gracey said...

thanks for your comments dude. while nowhere near as effective or disturbing as Suspiria and Inferno, or indeed much of Argento's work - this is still a pretty cool film and worth checking out. the artistry and careful attention to the aesthetics of death are still present, but it just lacks that certain something... could ramble on about it for ages, but that would be pedantic...

Ross Horsley said...

Great to read a review from someone who actually likes this. Personally, I can't quite work out why any Argento fan wouldn't! OK, it's got some odd choices, but so does every other Argento film... Isn't that part of why we like him? It didn't disappoint me at all.