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In Features, Issues

DARK CITY
Dario Argento completes his “Three Mothers” trilogy with Mother Of Tears.

BY TRAVIS CRAWFORD

ASIA ARGENTO IN MOTHER OF TEARS.

Fans rejoiced when Italian director Dario Argento announced that he‘d be making a third film in his “Three Mothers” trilogy. The first, the 1977 Suspiria, is Argento‘s relentless masterpiece, a dream-like story of an American woman visiting a German ballet academy that is run by a group of witches. The film‘s vivid art direction bleeds off the screen and Argento‘s storytelling mixes horror and beauty with a surreal intensity. The second film in the series, Inferno (1980), is quieter, more languid in its rhythms, but also unsettling. It‘s taken Argento 27 years to complete the trilogy but, happily, Mother of Tears, is Argento‘s thrilling return to the supernatural. Asia Argento stars as a woman whom the fate of Rome rests on as a group of witches enters the city and causes massive carnage and related depravity. Suspiria screenwriter and actress Daria Nicolodi — Dario‘s ex-wife and Asia‘s mother — co-stars in perhaps the most violent film of the director‘s career and one that summons up the nightmare logic and disquieting decadence of his best work. The film opens in June through Myriad Pictures and The Weinstein Company.

MOTHER OF TEARS CO-WRITER-DIRECTOR DARIO ARGENTO.

The visual style of Mother of Tears is more frenetic and intense than the hallucinatory fairy-tale quality of Suspiria or the Gothic mystery tone of Inferno. Was that a conscious choice to reflect today‘s climate? No, because Suspiria was just purely magical in its tone, and Inferno was a story of alchemy, of that process, but Mother of Tears is a story of witches who want to destroy Rome. That was the idea I started with. Somebody found this idea of the symbolism, but I don‘t really accept that. The nudity [of the witches] I was able to use, however — I liked that a lot.

What was the motivation to return to the “Three Mothers” trilogy after all this time? Well, that‘s a bit complicated. I spent five years each setting up Suspiria and Inferno, and so you have to go on to different projects after that. But after all those years, I just wanted to do something different — even something like Tenebre! And I wanted to work again with my daughter Asia. So the time came to do a third episode [in the Three Mothers trilogy]. One day I came back to Rome and I was in the old Bibliothèque, and I came across an old book on magic. I read the text, saw the paintings and then I collaborated with those American [screenwriters], Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson.

Yes, I thought the film they wrote, The Toolbox Murders, was quite good. Did you aggressively pursue a more violent approach for this film? This is easily the bloodiest movie you‘ve ever shot. Did you know you already had international distribution and didn‘t have to be restricted by the censorship of Italian television financing? Yes, absolutely, there used to be always censorship from distributors, from financiers, from just everybody. But this time, the financiers told me to do what I wanted. It was possible to shoot anything! And this time, I discovered it was just natural to be graphic. To be graphic, this I like! And many times, people will say, “Oh, this is graphic,” but I think of Renaissance painters. Their imagery is very strong and passionate. I wanted to do that without any sense of restrictions.

This is more of a fetishistic personal question, but any more interest in lensing in the 2.35:1 widescreen format as you did with Suspiria and Opera? That was good, but what I use now is a long enough format for me. It‘s big enough. It‘s not exactly like Cinemascope, it‘s shorter, but it‘s much easier for me, and it works.

You worked with your daughter Asia and her mother and your ex-wife, Daria Nicolodi. Was it complicated to differentiate your family relationships from your personal and creative ones? With Asia, she was much more on my side because she‘s a director too and she understands much more of my work on the set. We spoke a long time on the set — it was a good relationship, wonderful! Now with Daria, we hadn‘t worked together for a long time, and she showed the character of the mother of Asia in a short time, but I thought [her casting] was a good idea. When we‘re on the set, they are actors. She is not my daughter. She is not my ex-wife. It is just all of us, and we are making this film.

Do the accusations of misogyny you‘ve faced over the years because of your films depictions of violence against women bother you? Maybe many, many years ago, that hurt me. But now I see my heroes are all women: Phenomena was Jennifer Connnelly, Suspiria was Jessica Harper and Asia was in Trauma and Phantom of the Opera. Most of my central characters are women because I like women. [I] describe them as characters with the light because I remember my own mother — she was a very famous photographer through the ‘40s and ‘50s and ‘60s, and she specialized in photographing women using the light. So I grew up with this vision of the woman through the camera — very beautiful — because she knew just where to place the lights, that type of thing. And if you remember Suspiria, it was all done beautifully — they are all young girls photographed so beautifully!

Well, yeah, but they all wind up dead. But there are men in Suspiria who die too! The blind man is dead. I am just not so interested in the [male] actors when they are on the set. This is just how I feel. Perhaps it goes back to my mother, but I‘m very comfortable when an actress is on the set.

So what‘s next for you? Is it going to be the rumored giallo project with Asia, Vincent Gallo and Ray Liotta? We don‘t know because of the cast of the film. We don‘t know when we can start — maybe in the end of May [sighs]. Movies. I don‘t know. Maybe never. [laughs]

Is there a dream project for you — something that you‘ve always wanted to make? No, because the whole thing is just about opportunities. I‘ve never had great dreams in my life. I like to just have an idea and then go write and shoot without any sort of celebration. I want to just do another film, another one of my dark fantasies.

Any interest in doing something outside of the horror genre? For the moment, no. This is me. This is the energy that activates me and my crew.



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