Monday, December 8, 2008

Mother of Tears

One thing I don’t share with most horror fans is a great love of Dario Argento movies. Although I appreciate him as a visual stylist, I’ve always been left a little cold (or maybe confused is more accurate) by his movies’ adherence to form over substance. Thus, it took me a little while to get to the DVD of his latest movie, Mother of Tears. It didn’t really change my overall opinion of his work, although it did have some things going for it.

Mother of Tears is the third in Argento’s “Mothers” trilogy, after Suspiria and Inferno (I didn’t even realize the first two were connected, which shows I’m not a hard-core fan). It stars the director’s daughter Asia Argento, as well as his ex-wife. Featured in a too-small role is the always entertaining Udo Kier. I wish he’d lasted a little longer in this one.

The plot, such that it is, is about the last of the three “mothers‘, the three great witches who have existed since the dawn of time to bedevil mankind. The other two were destroyed in the two previous movies, and now it’s time for the Mother of Tears to have her turn, which starts when an excavation uncovers a box containing her magic camisole. She returns to bring in a new age of black witches (black in magic, not skin color) who will take over the world. The only person who can stop her is Ms. Argento, who is the daughter of a white witch who fought one of the other mothers, and who has the power to fight the MoT. Let’s hope she knows about the significance of that camisole…

There were some things I learned from the film. To wit:

1. You can always tell a witch by their over-use of eye-shadow
2. Even immortal, powerful witches can be so insecure about their appearance as to need breast implants
3. Bad guys carry around a tool designed to gouge out eyes, even if they don’t really need it.

Most of my previous feelings about Argento hold true here. The film does look very good, with rich colors, and a “deep” design style that almost looked 3-D. For those who like gore, there’s quite a lot here, as well as a great deal of female nudity. The plot is on the very slight side, with quite a few inconsistencies (how is a witch strong enough to kill a large policeman with one hand, but not enough to withstand an attack by a strong woman?). The acting is also on the slim side. I’ve enjoyed some of Ms. Argento’s previous work (such as in La Reine Margot), but she’s pretty much terrible here, and the actress playing the Mother of Tears is worse (although quite hot). Final decision: if you’re an Argento fan, you should love it. If not, you might want to give it a miss.

On a final note, I’m certainly not a prude (I don’t think) and I certainly appreciate gratuitous nudity as much as the next guy, but there is something about directing an unnecessary shower scene featuring your own daughter that seems a bit out there. But maybe that’s just the American in me.


Neil Sarver said...

I generally appreciate Argento, although I'm not a raging fanboy... except for a couple of his movies, certainly I'm that raging for Deep Red and probably Inferno... well, I didn't pop on here to rank my love of the movies.

Frankly, in trying to make this one make sense, he rather ends up making even more of a mess than before, which he seems to have struggled with for a while.

I agree about the shower scene. In both Trauma and The Stendhal Syndrome - the latter of which is one of his unsung masterpieces, much better than some others that are often praised instead - have Asia nude, which makes me slightly cringe, but those I credit to my American prudery, as they at least are important enough to be worthwhile. This was just a little too much.

KentAllard said...

Good to hear from some one who likes Argento more than I, as there's always a chance that a review gets skewed because you don't like a certain director's style. And I do feel like I should say "the human body is beautiful, and no one should have such a hangup" but in truth, my feeling would be "Cripes! Not MY daughter!" Then again, compared with the relationship of Klaus Kinski and his daughter, this doesn't merit much of a glance.

Neil Sarver said...

I have to give credit on this one... Once you've gotten past the two movies in which the nudity is less gratuitous and she's well into her 30s, it's probably stopped being an issue for either of them. But, yeah, people asked me a couple of times why I never considered my sister for my movie and then asked me if it was because of the nudity and, while I really just mostly hadn't thought of it, I still thought, well, yeah! That, too!

But ultimately, yeah, it didn't make me do more than skeeve me out a bit for the little bit it was onscreen, especially because of its almost purposefully gratuitous nature. They're grown-ups, they can do what they want.

John said...

From what I've heard Europeans are just as freaked out about the Argentos as any of us in the US. They may be even more freaked out because over there Asia is a tabloid personality in the vein of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, etc.