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Bohemian Rhapsody’ And ‘Suspiria’ Remake Now Playing

New films offer mixed results

Cinema Junkie Reviews ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Suspiria’

Beth Accomando,

Companion viewing

Check out how Queen's score enhances "Flash Gordon" throughout and how use of their song "Don't Stop Me Now" is put to good effect in "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hardcore Henry"

Watch the original Dario Argento with trilogy of "Suspiria" (1977), "Inferno" (1980), and "Mother of Tears" (2007) plus I suggest "Neon Demon" for a modern take on this style of Italian spaghetti horror

Two new films look to the past for material: "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Suspiria."

'Bohemian Rhapsody'

"Bohemian Rhapsody" is essentially a celebration of the music Queen and Freddie Mercury created in the 1970s and '80s and culminating with the band's legendary performance at Live Aid in 1985.

The film is like attending a Queen concert with occasional scenes of backstage drama interspersed between songs. If you love Queen you’ll enjoy this tribute.

But the film provides little insight into Mercury’s life and only an occasional glimpse into the creative process. The film also ignores the contribution Queen made to films such as "Flash Gordon," and I would have loved to see how that came about since their music helped define that film. In addition, Mercury's sexuality is treated with Hollywood simplicity, focusing more on his heterosexual relationship more than his homosexual ones and relying on familiar stereotypes all around for everyone in the film.

Innovation, audaciousness and originality defined Queen’s music and Mercury himself, but these are not the qualities that describe the film. "Bohemian Rhapsody" succeeds only as a cinematic reminder of how much joy Queen’s music still brings to audiences and how much we miss Mercury.

Photo credit: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Jessica Harper starred in the 1977 Dario Argento Italian horror film "Suspiria," that has since become a cult favorite.

'Suspiria'

In 1977 Dario Argento shocked and delighted audiences with "Suspiria," an iconic entry in Italian horror set in an all-girls dance school where violence erupts. Now a remake by fellow Italian Luca Guadagnino hits theaters.

I have to confess that I was very much opposed to remaking Argento's unique and seminal film. The 1977 movie helped define Italian horror in the '70s, and it just seemed ridiculous to remake something so boldly original. Plus, Argento's film was less a narrative and more just an explosion of images akin to a wild fever dream.

To its credit, the remake divorces itself enough from the original to be judged on its own terms. Guadagnino invents an entirely different visual style, one that opts for drab muted tones as opposed to the eye-popping colors of the original. Witches and dance play a bigger role, and Guadagnino gets to a dark and creepy sensibility about this insular world of the dance school where strange things keep happening. He delivers a stunning horror dance set piece that brings together notions of witchcraft and artistry in a shocking way.

After this dance segment, I was thinking perhaps I could even like this remake. There are a number of things to admire in the film but sadly it overextends its welcome at two-and-a-half hours especially since it could have done without the odd turn at the end that takes the story in a completely different direction as if setting up sequel completely disconnected from this film.

Argento's films never stood up to logical assessment so on a certain level I fell that maybe I should not subject Guadagnino's film to logic. Yet with Argento's films, I never felt any urge to try and make sense of what he was doing because he pulled me into his surreal world so absolutely. But Guadagnino's film feels more structured, and that sets up expectations about the storytelling that Argento never bothered with. So Guadagnino's decision to go off in an entirely different direction at the end pulls you out of his film and sent me out of the theater with the final emotion being that of dissatisfaction.

Photo credit: Amazon Studios

Tilda Swinton excels as Madame Blanc in the remake of "Suspiria."

But one thing that makes the film worth seeing is Tilda Swinton. This is not a spoiler to say she plays two roles since that has nothing to do with the plot. She plays both the dance instructor who sets the artistic tone of the dance school as well as an elderly man who tries to help one of the girls. Her ability to pull both off with flawless perfection is simply a tribute to her brilliance as a performer.

The new "Suspiria" stands on its own. I still don't see why they needed to remake it. It doesn't take away from the original nor does it improve upon it as John Carpenter did when he remade Howard Hawks' "The Thing." If Guadagnino wanted to play in this spaghetti horror genre why didn't he just do what Nicolas Winding Refn did with "Neon Demon" and just make a film that pays homage to the genre. I don't feel that Guadagnino took on the remake because he had found a new entry point to the story and needed to tell it in his own way. I think he was intrigued by certain artistic challenges of doing a remake of a cult favorite, but that's it.

The film does allow Jessica Harper, star of the 1977 film, to make a cameo appearance and that was an appreciated nod to the original.

Both "Suspiria" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" provide different levels of entertainment, but both could have been so much better.

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