Profondo rosso

An image from Dario Argento’s horror classic Suspiria (1977), which I had the pleasure of re-watching recently in preparation for an undergraduate lecture on cult horror cinema.  Upon revisiting the film, I was reminded yet again just how visually striking it is, and how expressionistic its use of color, from the jewel tones of the stained glass in the opening sequence to the lurid red and green lighting that floods the inner chambers of the ballet academy.  I proposed to my students that Suspiria lends itself to cult appreciation because it basically privileges style over substance, eschewing the principles of continuity, logic, and narrative that govern most “well-made” films.  (Cf. L. Andrew Cooper’s recent claim that Argento’s films resist narrative altogether.)  I, for one, have never watched Suspiria for its plot, nor because it lends itself particularly well to interpretation; I’ve watched it, and continue to watch it, for its excessive, almost maniacal attention to the surface pleasures of style, atmosphere, tone, and mise-en-scene.  Its spellbinding visual pleasure—and its blatant disregard for realism—seem to exemplify the words of Professor Milius, the film’s Doctor van Helsing figure, who tells our heroine that “magic is everywhere.” 

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