Mother of Tears (2007) – Film Review

Mater Lachrymarum, Our Mother of Tears. She it is that night and day raves and moans, calling for vanished faces. She stood in Rama, when a voice was heard of lamentation – Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted. She it was that stood in Bethlehem on the night when Herod’s sword swept the nurseries of Innocents […] Her eyes are sweet and subtle, wild and sleepy by turns, oftentimes rising to the clouds; oftentimes challenging the heavens.

– Thomas De Quincey, Suspiria de Profundis

I, Varelli, an architect living in London, met the Three Mothers and designed and built for them three dwelling places. One in Rome, one in New York, and the third in Freiburg, Germany. I failed to discover until too late that from those three locations the Three Mothers rule the world with sorrow, tears, and darkness. Mater Suspirorum, the Mother of Sighs and the oldest of the three, lives at Freiburg. Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears and the most beautiful of the sisters, holds rule in Rome. Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness, who is the youngest and cruelest of the three, controls New York.

– From “The Three Mothers” in INFERNO

Cinematic horror has a relatively easy time portraying the visceral, but there is more to the genre than Grand Guignol gore. There is also a metaphysical aspect that might, in its simplest formulation, be distilled down to a fairy tale battle between opposing forces of Light and Darkness, Good and Evil. This second aspect of the horror genre is harder to film; after all, how do you photograph an abstraction? (It is obviously much easier to film a knife sinking into a torso.) With SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, Italian filmmaker Dario Argento took a stylized (metaphoric) stab at conveying the unseen presence of “magic…all around us, everywhere,” using deliberately artificial lighting schemes and eccentric camera angles (buildings reflected in puddles, people reflected in buildings) to suggest a parallel world of strange and sinister forces lurking somewhere behind what we call “reality.” THE MOTHER OF TEARS, the concluding chapter of Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy, dispenses with the overt stylization of its predecessors (which seemed to take place in some kind of adult fairy tale) in favor of a sobering dose of realism. Ironically, this more prosaic approach turns out to be even more effective at portraying a profound metaphysical horror lurking behind the physical violence on screen. Evil is no longer confined to one of Varelli’s architectural monstrosities; it walks the streets of Rome by daylight, infecting those it touches, creating a eruption of senseless violence that seem to signal the coming of the Apocalypse. Continue reading “Mother of Tears (2007) – Film Review”

A Day to Celebrate Malicious Mothers of the Movies

We all know a boy’s best friend is his mother, but mom and apple pie do not always equate with wholesome goodness when it comes to cinefantastique. In movies, the old cliche about the female of the species being as deadly as the male usually refers to a luscious femme fatale, but there are also many memorable examples of malicious, malevolent, and monstrous mothers. Of course, the very concept of malignant motherhood is disturbing; it violates our deepest, most cherished expectations of the nurturing caregivers who raise helpless babes to become frolicking children and eventually well-adjusted adults. This inversion of expectations is what gives these monstrous mothers the nasty little kick that makes their wickedness all the more horrible; after all, fairy tales have taught us to expect wickedness from step-mothers, but real mother? No, never…

Mrs. Rand in I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943).

I Walked with a Zombie edith_barret

This apparently benevolent matriarch has a little secret: in order to dispense medicine to the superstitious locals, she poses as a voodoo priestess. Near the end, it turns out she has an even bigger secret: enraged by a love triangle between her two sons and a woman, she joined one of the voodoo ceremonies and put a curse upon the woman, turning her into a zombie. The result is tragedy and sorrow for all concerned, including the eventual death of one of her sons. Way to go, Mom!

Mrs. Bates in PSYCHO (1960).

The mother of all monstrous mothers is Norman Bates’s alter ego in Hitchcock’s masterpiece of psychological horror. One might argue that the real Norma gets a bum rap (after all, we never see her, only her psycho son’s re-enactment of her), but the very fact that her son is so screwed up leads us to believe she must have been just as terrible as we can possibly imagine. In any case, whatever the reality of her as a character, the film uses her as a symbol of debased motherhood, destroying the old-fashioned schism of classic horror films, in which horror was something outside the home that attacked the goodness and purity inside. Here, home is the house of horror, thanks to the domineering matriarch.

Baroness Meinster in THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960).
Brides of Dracula
The Baroness claims the lives of no victims directly, but she has much to answer for. Her indulgent ways led her son, Baron Meinster, into a life of wickedness that eventually turned him into a vampire. Now she keeps him locked up on a chain, but she procures occasional female victims, to appease his bloodlust. The implication, as in PSYCHO, is that the horror proceeds from the mother-son relationship, in this case with the mother vicariously enjoying the dissolute ways of her son.

Gorgo’s Mom in GORGO (1961).

Mother Love expands to monstrous – and destructive – proportions in this English movie about a giant prehistoric beast run amok. Gorgo’s Mom is not really malicious; she’s just looking for her off-spring, but her effect on London is pretty dire, including the destruction of London Bridge.

The Horta in “Devil in the Dark” (Star Trek)
Star Trek Devil in the Dark Horta with eggs
Like Gorgo, the Horta is not truly malicious – unless provoked. Initially presented as a mindless monster, this silicon-based life form on the planet Janus VI racks up an impressive body count (over 50 victims). Like The Blob, she  dissolves her victims (with corrosive acid), and no obstacles stands in her way – she is capable of appearing anywhere. However, a mind meld with Mr. Spock reveals a startling truth: the Horta is an inoffensive creature, the only member of her species left alive, destined to mother the next generation of her race, when they hatch from the silicon eggs that human miners have thoughtlessly been destroying in their quest to find new deposits of valuable minerals. The poor Horta has merely been fighting back to protect her children and ensure the future survival of her kind. In the episode’s remarkable climax, the vengeful human miners try to attack the alien Horta, but Captain Kirk stops the lynch mob by threatening to kill anyone who harms the creature – siding with the “monster” instead of his fellow Earthlings (a moment that eerily prefigures Hugh Thompson Jr.’s actions at the My Lai Massacre a year later). Alone among the mothers in this list, the Horta survives to happily co-exist with her one-time enemies.

The Older Woman in ONIBABA (1964)
This Japanese horror flick features a metaphoric if not literal Onibaba (“Demon Woman”), a mother whose son has died in a feudal war. Teamed up with her daughter-in-law, she makes a living by killing off stray samurai and selling their armor. When her son’s friend returns from the war and starts an affair with the young woman, the Mother-in-Law resorts to rather heinous method to break them up, filling her daughter-in-law’s head with superstitious fears – that seem to come true when a demon appears in the rice fields. Whether real or imagined, the supernatural horrors pale in comparison to the ruthless efficiency with which the two women dispatch their victims.

Carlo’s Mother in DEEP RED (1975)
Deep Red 1975
This Dario Argento thriller, one of his best, plays a wicked game, leading the audience to believe that self-pitying drunk Carlo is the murderer, but it turns out to be his eccentric mother, who previously seemed like nothing more than a comic relief supporting player (she cannot remember that the hero is a jazz pianist, not an engineer). Martha is one mean bitch, with a body count to her credit that would put Mrs. Voorhees to shame: axing a woman and shoving her head-first through a glass window; drowning another woman in scalding hot water; bashing another’s teeth in and impaling him through the neck with a blade that pins him to a table; and best of all, murdering her husband on Christmas by stabbing him in the back while Carlo (then a toddler) looks in soul-shattering shock (which may explain why he becomes a pathetic alcoholic).

Mrs. White in CARRIE (1976)
Carrie Piper Laurie
The deranged parent certainly gives Mrs. Bates a run for her money in the malevolent mother sweepstakes (a point underlined by director Brian DePalma, who renamed the high school “Bates High,” a name not used in the Stephen King novel). Mrs. White is a whacked out religious loony who sadistically mistreats her telekinetic daughter Carrie, acting out the kind of scenes we could only imagine took place in PSYCHO. No wonder the poor teenage girl eventually goes postal on the entire high school and eventually her mother.

Nola Carveth in THE BROOD (1979).
The Brood Nola Carveth
In this film, writer-director David Cronenberg turns the very act of motherhood into a miasma of horror. Nola is a psychotic undergoing treatment that allows her to manifest her inner demons somatically, which she does by giving birth to deformed children that act out her homicidal wishes. She claims only a few victims; the real horror is watching her birth one of her babies, biting open the external sack in which it grows and licking it clean. You won’t want to eat for a week.

Mother in ALIEN (1979).
Alien Mother computer
This Nostromo’s onboard computer does precious little to help the human crew against the marauding alien that has infiltrated the spaceship. Worse yet, after Ripley has reversed the ship’s self-destruct sequence, Mother refuses to acknowledge the override and insists on nuking the Nostromo anyway. Mother does not have enough personality to be a real character (she is no HAL 9000), but she seems to be one cold-hearted bitch.

Mrs. Voorhees in FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980).
Friday the 13th Mrs. Voorhees
Like Martha in DEEP RED, Mrs. Voorhees is revealed as the killer only in the final reel, so we have to retroactively credit her for the film’s high body count. She is one wacked-out woman, speaking in a childish voice that is supposed to represent her drowned son Jason. Speaking of retroactive reassessment, the revelation in FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 – that Jason is alive – makes Mrs. Voorhees seem even nuttier: she kills off a bunch of camp counselors to avenge her son, but it turns out he survived. So, did she just imagine the drowning? Has she been psychologically blind to his existence since then? Whatever the case, this is another bad example of the poisonous effects of Mother Love.

Anna in POSSESSION (1981)
Possession Isabelle Adjani
This weird story of marital discord features a woman (Isabell Adjani) whose deteriorating relationship with her husband somehow leads to her giving birth to a slimy monster with tentacles. As if this were not bad enough, she has a sexual relationship with Junior, who eventually starts to resemble her husband. None of it makes sense on a literal plot level, but the film is interesting if you read its outre elements as externalizations of the characters’ inner turmoils.

Sil in SPECIES(1995)
Species Sil
Her appearance and actions (seducing and killing her male victims) seems to put her into the femme fatale category, but the true horror of Sil is that she is capable of mothering a new alien race capable of overrunning the world and wiping out humanity. To give her credit, we have to assume that, as malicious as she acts toward humanity, she probably would have made a good mother to her own children.

Grace Stewart in THE OTHERS (2001)
Grace appears to be the very definition of a protective, loving mother as this ghost story follows her attempts to shield her children from a supernatural force lurking in their isolated English mansion. However, a last-reel twist casts a new light on her behavior…

Kayako in JU-ON: THE GRUDE (2003).

Kayako is both victim and villain: murdered by her husband, she comes back as a malevolent ghost, along with her ghostly son Toshio, wrecking death and destruction for years afterwards. Over the course of six films, she tallies up an awesomely impressive kill count, but what is most memorable about her is not mere numbers; it is the spooky, inexplicable, and almost random way she manifests, following no clear rules that would allow potential victims to avoid her. The American remake, THE GRUDGE, makes it clear that Kayako’s husband killed both her and Toshio. The Japanese original shows Toshio escaping his father’s rampage, leaving it up to the audience to figure out how he died. The only possible conclusion is that he was the first victim of his mother’s vengeful spirit.

Mater Suspiriorum, Mater Tenebrarum, and Mater Lachrymarum in the “Three Mothers Trilogy:” SUSPIRIA (1977), INFERNO (1980), and THE MOTHER OF TEARS (2007)

Inspired by Thomas DeQuincey’s essay “Lavana and Our Ladies of Sorrow,” Dario Argento created this trio of witches whose names translate as Mother of Sighs, Mother of Darkness, and Mother of Tears. Despite their names, they are actually “wicked step-mothers, incapable of creating life, who rule the world with sorrow, tears, and darkness.” Collectively, they are responsible for some of the most brutal and graphic murders ever perpetrated on screen (although, technically, the killings are usually carried out by underlings).
In each of the first two films, the atrocities are centered mostly around an ancient dwelling place housing one of the witches; THE THIRD MOTHER ups the ante, with Mater Lachrymarum’s evil influence spreading throughout the streets of Rome with almost apocalyptic effects. Never has the power of Motherhood been so explicity alligned with supernatural – not psychological – evil, creating a disturbing sense of an innocent world at the mercy of forces so powerful they almost defy comprehension.

Interview: Dario Argento Sheds the Mother of All Tears

Moran Atias as Mater Lachrymarum
Moran Atias as Mater Lachrymarum

It took Dario Argento – Italy’s horror icon – thirty years to complete the “Three Mothers” trilogy he began with 1977’s SUSPIRIA, his biggest international hit. A mere three years later, he gave us the first sequel, INFERNO, but since then fans have had to wait while he pursued other interests: thrillers like TENEBRE, attempts to break into the American market (TWO EVIL EYES, TRAUMA), an eccentric interpretation of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (starring Julian Sands sans makeup), even a couple episodes of MASTERS OF HORROR series. His work has had its ups and downs, and older fans have sometimes wondered whether he had lost the spark of originality that lit up his work in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The news that he would finally direct THE THIRD MOTHER (a.k.a. MOTHER OF TEARS) struck a note of both fascination and fear: fascination that he would at long last return to realm of supernatural (instead of psychological) horror; fear that the result could not possibly live up to nearly three decades of anticipation. Fortunately, the new film (which reaches U.S. theatres in exclusive engagements this June) is a hyper-active horror show of stunning proportions that is completely unlike what came before and yet a fully satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Critical and fan reaction has been mixed, but that is because Argento’s take-no-prisoners approach is not calculated to avoid risks; at times, it seems not calculated at all. It’s more like an eruption of horrifying nightmares that have been kept locked up for thirty years, waiting for their chance to explode on the screen.
I recently conducted a telephone interview with Argento, who is busy working on his next film GIALLO. We spoke about returning to the world of the Three Mothers, the changes in filmmaking over the years, and his career in general. Although English is not his native language, he expresses himself well; still, there are a few places where I have made the occasional grammatical correction, to ensure that the written words represent the meaning he conveyed as he spoke.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: It has been a long time since INFERNO. Did you have concerns about returning to the trilogy after all those years?
DARIO ARGENTO: The story is very long – over 25 years. At the time, I come from SUSPIRIA and INFERNO. I spent more than five years, on both films, and studied magic and painting and religion and history – many things. I was tired. I wanted new adventures. For this reason, after INFERNO I wanted to do some thrillers like TENEBRE or other types of things like OPERA. I also produced many films for my friends like Michele Soavi and Lamberto Bava. My life went in different directions. After many years, I said, ‘Yes, I will. The story is incomplete; I want to finish.’ I take a long time, for three or four years, during the shooting of a film, and I think about the story. And then suddenly a small suggestion comes in my mind. Then I start to write the story. Then collaborate with the two American writers, Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson. [Walter Fasano and Simona Simonetti also contributed to the script.] It was good. I was again enthusiastic to speak about these themes – themes of magic, themes of the occult, so many themes I know very well. The imaginary, the spectacular. Paintings, too, old paintings about the devil and the Sabbath.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: MOTHER OF TEARS seems deliberately different from the previous films.
DARIO ARGENTO: INFERNO was very different from SUSPIRIA. SUSPIRIA is a story of witches; INFERNO is about alchemy. This is different from SUSPIRIA and INFERNO. Every film of this trilogy is different from each other.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: It’s not just the subject matter. Each of the previous films revolved around a dwelling place of one of the Three Mothers; the focus was very narrow. This film covers more territory; it seems bigger, broader, more external.
DARIO ARGENTO: Yes, it’s different. It’s another inspiration. I was very delighted to do this film. It was very strong in the aspect of the sex and the violence – very strong violence. I enjoy to do violence and horror things to the audience.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Is that because you need to show more even violence to scare audiences than you did with SUSPIRIA and INFERNO (both of which were pretty extreme).
DARIO ARGENTO: No, the film is this [way]. This time, I want to do something much stronger.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: In a way, your approach here reminded me of what Roger Corman did with TOMB OF LIGEIA. He had made several horror films based on Poe, and they were all pretty much set inside a single house, and most of the movies were interiors, and they were all very artificial and insulated; even the exteriors were filmed on soundstages. Then for LIGEIA he suddenly went outside and filmed on real locations and took the horror out of the shadows – put it in the real world. MOTHER OF TEARS is like that: the horror is not just in the house; it’s in the streets.
DARIO ARGENTO: It’s in the streets; it’s in the airports; it’s in the museum; it’s in the train station. It’s everywhere. In the church.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: One curious element is the monkey that helps the witches. You expect witches to be surrounded by cats (like the the one the Mother of Tears was holding in INFERNO).
DARIO ARGENTO: The monkey is not a slave of the witch; the monkey is a witch himself. Because a witch is not necessarily a woman. Sometimes a witch is a monkey or a dog.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: SUSPIRIA took its title from “Suspiria De Profundis,” a book by Thomas De Quincy (author of CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM EATER), which included the essay “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow,” describing “three sisters” named Mater Suspiriorum, Mater Tenebrarum, and Mater Lachrymarum. Most audiences did not make the connection at the time; what was going on behind the scenes in the German Dance Academy was a mystery, except that it involved an old witch. INFERNO filled in the back story: that the architect-alchemist Varelli had built three dwelling places, one each for the Mother of Sighs (SUSPIRIA), the Mother of Darkness (INFERNO), and now the Mother of Tears. Now that the audience knows all this, it must have been very hard to come up with something new that would surprise them.
DARIO ARGENTO: It’s not my purpose to surprise people. I want to just tell stories. Stories which come from my mind, my imagination. This is my purpose really. To [make] real my imagination, my fantasies.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: One surprise for me was the home of Mater Lachrymarum. I thought INFERNO hinted that the Mother of Tears lived in the Biblioteca Filosofica in Rome, but her dwelling seems completely different in the new film?
DARIO ARGENTO: She lives there sometime, yes. Everybody lives in a house different. She lives in the catacombs, because catacombs are full of souls, people who died – many, many thousands die and are in the catacombs. She is very happy to live with these lost souls in the catacombs.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: On the DVD for INFERNO you called it one of your most difficult films to make. How does MOTHER OF TEARS compare?
DARIO ARGENTO: Very difficult, very difficult. To imagine it, also to shoot it. First time I use the digital effects – not first time, but first time so strong, so many. This was difficult for me, because I like much more for it to be real, to look real. But sometimes the digital helps.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: You write and direct. When you’re shooting a film, do you ever feel that you wrote something too difficult to achieve?
DARIO ARGENTO: No, no, not too hard, never too hard. I hope to [make] something hard – and more hard than the film [I just finished]. I prefer to do another film that is much harder. Because life is not so easy. The imagination of people is unbelievable. I know the imagination of many people, normal people, but the imagination sometimes is horrible, terrible, disgusting. This is a part of our soul – the dark soul.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: In America, horror films often get toned down, to make them less dark. Is it different in Italy?
DARIO ARGENTO: No, no – the same problem. Because the financers want to distribute the film for television. Television doesn’t want too strong. Always the same problem. But I don’t care. Television doesn’t want because is too strong; okay – to me, is better. The DVD is free; the DVD is the new world – the new, free world. Okay – I have the DVD. I don’t have the TV; it’s okay, too – better.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: This film is a bit of a family reunion. You’re working with your daughter Asia, who appeared in TRAUMA, THE STENDAHL SYNDROME, and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. And with Daria Nicolodi, who co-wrote SUSPIRIA with you.
DARIO ARGENTO: Because this is the third episode – the ending also – I wanted many people to participate who worked with me on the other episodes. Like the German actor Udo Kier; he was with me in SUSPIRIA. Asia was my muse. Daria worked with me many years ago. Many people were involved with this [trilogy].
STEVE BIODROWSKI: I liked that you have Udo Kier, who was in SUSPIRIA, play a character who delivers the exposition about what happened in SUSPIRIA. Also, MOTHER OF TEARS has an alchemist in a wheel chair who connects the new film to INFERNO, which had an alchemist in a wheel chair.
DARIO ARGENTO: Yes, everybody tied together.
I would also like, not now, but maybe in the next ten years, maybe to do another episode about where these strange things were born. In MOTHER OF TEARS I say all the magic sorcerers were born in the Black Sea. Because many famous spiritualists come from the Black Sea. Then maybe one time – I don’t know when – I do a film about the birth of the magic, of the people.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Where did you find actress Moran Atias, who plays the title role?
DARIO ARGENTO: In Israel. She is an actress in Israel. Pretty famous. Before her, I see -because I want some face very strange, exotic – I see many actresses from Ukraine. From Belgium. From Poland. From Mongolia, too. I see many, many beautiful girls, women, from everywhere. Then, when I see her, I was, ‘Okay, she is my Mother of Tears.’

In INFERNO, we told about the Mother of Tears: the Mother of Tears is a beauty. For this reason, I wanted to have her completely naked. Because when you have a beautiful witch you don’t want to cover her magnificent body. Then you are naked, because Truth is naked, no?

STEVE BIODROWSKI: Have you seen the film with an audience?
DARIO ARGENTO: Yes, many times. One time recently, five days ago in London, in a big theatre, beautiful. People screaming. Somebody said, ‘We see the most horrible film in my life.’ Like the mother killed the child on the river. People are frantic! Plus I see the film in festivals in two places, in Toronto and in Rome, and it was good! I was happy, because now after many years people start to understand my work, my style, what I want to do, to tell to the audience.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Are you ever surprised by the experience of watching one of your films in a theatre?
DARIO ARGENTO: No, I am very disturbed! I don’t like to see my films with the audience. No really, I don’t like it, because they put too many emotions in my mind. After the film, I am without breath [he sighs heavily] – ‘Oh my god!’
STEVE BIODROWSKI: What are you most proud of achieving with MOTHER OF TEARS?
DARIO ARGENTO: This time the story is put in the real world. Not closed in a house or in a museum. This is everywhere: in the airports, in the train station, on the streets – everywhere. There is something real. To show how life is under bad powers. We don’t understand, but it’s real. Bad powers – maybe it’s with the mask of politics, but these are bad powers, too. People are crazy, and the city explodes!
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Has making movies changed much since SUSPIRIA?
DARIO ARGENTO: Yes, of course. It’s changed a lot. Everything has changed from SUSPIRIA to today. Every five years, our life changes a lot. Me, too: I’m changed – my style. Movie film has changed because now we have digital special effects – very good, very bright, with wonderful technicians.
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Today’s movies often seem to borrow from your films, like the taxi ride in THE GRUDGE (which director Takashi Shimizu calls an homage to a similar scene in SUSPIRIA). Do you often go to movies and notice bits taken from your films?
DARIO ARGENTO: Yes, in art history we have people who take something from another, like Quentin Tarantino. In GRINDHOUSE he takes the music from BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. But there is also another shot in GRINDHOUSE from my film SLEEPLESS – one long shot around the table without cuts. It was the same, but it was good. I was happy, because when he does these things, it shows he appreciates; he loves my work!
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Speaking of THE GRUDGE, Takashi Shimizu’s films seem very influenced by INFERNO. You have a loose collection of characters who are pursued by this irrational supernatural force that seems to have no clear rhyme or reason. Are you familiar with J-Horror?
DARIO ARGENTO: Yes, I know the Japanese very well, because I am very friendly with Japanese movie people and the designers of Manga. They are big friends of mine. When I go to Japan, people are enthusiastic. One of the big successes of my life was SUSPIRIA in Japan. It was enormously successful. Also it’s number three of the hit parade in China. You imagine in China! Three hundred million copies! Not the real number, but it’s something enormous.
Jun Ichikawa is less resilient than the majority of dark-haired Japanese women in horror films.STEVE BIODROWSKI: In TENEBRE, your first film after INFERNO, you killed off the actress, Ania Pieroni, who was briefly glimpsed as Mater Lachrymarum, and some critics thought it was your way of killing off any hope for the third MOTHER film. I wondered if the death of the Jun Ichikawa character was a jab at Japanese horror films: they feature these evil female characters who are relentless and unstoppable, yet you kill one off very easily.
DARIO ARGENTO: Yes, of course! And very fast!
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Because you make thrillers and horror films, people compare you to Hitchcock or Mario Bava or Brian DePalma. Are there other influences that people do not see, other filmmakers whom you admire, like Antonioni?
DARIO ARGENTO: Yes. Ingmar Bergman, of course. Also American movies we call ‘black movies’ [film noir] of the ‘40s like CAT PEOPLE, the films of Jacques Tourneur [who also directed NIGHT OF THE DEMON].
STEVE BIODROWSKI: Do you think your films are misunderstood? For instance, critics say you are not interested in story, only in visuals?
DARIO ARGENTO: No, people understand, but the critics don’t understand very well. But critics are not important – absolutely not important. Because now audiences don’t believe anymore in critics. Many years ago critics wrote long articles about films. Now in seven lines they are finished: ‘The story is this. The actor is this. The color is good.’ Finished. This is a critic! Nothing!
STEVE BIODROWSKI: On the audio commentary for TENEBRE, Loris Curci tries to get you to explain the film, but you resist. Do you prefer not to explain your work? Would you rather have viewers figure it out for themselves?
DARIO ARGENTO: I like people to understand the movies without my lesson from the teacher. When you watch a movie, you understand your truth. It’s not my truth maybe, but your truth is okay.

Dario Argento to appear at "Mother of Tears" screening informs us that director Dario Argento will attend the Frighfest screening of his latest film, MOTHER OF TEARS, on April 19 in the Coronet Cinema in Notting Hill Gate, London.


I just watched a screener copy of the film last night, and I have to say I am impressed. I was apprehensive after hearing the initial reactions. Non-fans seemed to think it was a bloody mess, and even fans sounded as if they were grasping for good things to say. There are a few missteps, but not enough to sink the movie, and its strengths far outweigh the occasional glitches. In terms of style and structure, it’s not really that much like SUSPIRIA and INFERNO, but that’s all the better; the film stands on its own two feet while clearing making continuity connections with its predecessors. I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.

Third Mother Italian premier

DarkDreams.Org – the website dedicated to the cinema of Dario Argento – has a report by Alan Jones of the Italian premier of THE THIRD MOTHER, which took place on October 31 at the Adriano cinema in Rome:

As to the film itself, well, it’s not the conclusion to the SUSPIRIA and INFERNO trilogy any of us wanted to see. You know the story by now. The discovery of an ancient urn near a Viterbo cemetery awakens the cruel Mater Lacrimarum whose emergence unleashes apocalyptic social breakdown and mass murder in Rome. Art restorer Sarah Mandy can vanquish the evil nemesis if she listens to the guiding spirit of her mother and unlock her own hidden supernatural powers.
While it’s easy to criticise LA TERZA MADRE (occasionally different to the US MOTHER OF TEARS version) for what it isn’t rather than what it actually is – a gory, campy supernatural romp – the main problem with the film is simple. The layers of ethereal artifice given by lush cinematography and arch style to the prior two classic films lent their fractured stories a further atmosphere of palpable fever dream unreality. Stripped of that, and saddled with Fasano’s dull realism (his DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK photography was superior), the film’s equally episodic narrative comes off as contrived, crude and kitsch. Why on earth didn’t Argento use again the vivid colour palettes that made SUSPIRIA and INFERNO so fabulous to look at? He had the chance in Jace and Adam’s jewel-bleeding concept, but axed it as too fairytale instead of embracing its rich atmospheric possibilities.

THE THIRD MOTHER/MOTHER OF TEARS will open in Italy in over 300 engagements – large for that country. Its fate in the U.S. remains uncertain; although distibution rights have been picked up, a theatrical release -versus going direct-to-video – remains an open question.

Mother of Tears news

E-Splatter.Com has the latest news on MOTHER OF TEARS, the third film in Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers Trilogy (which includes SUSPIRIA and INFERNO). The soundtrack album is due in November. The movie will screen at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, California this February. A DVD will come out in the UK in February or March, possibly preceded by a theatrical release.

Mother of Tears reviews

Two reviews of Dario Argento’s MOTHER OF TEARS, which kicked off the Midnight Madness series of screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Witches cavort in Dario Argento's conclusion to the Three Mothers trilogy.

First, from the fest’s official blog:

Argento’s shlock opus, Mother of Tears, stretches credibility as even a Midnight Madness entry. […] the new film wallows in its own stupidity for enormous tracts of time between its explosions of admittedly tour-de-force gore. If you’ve ever wanted to see a mother throw her baby off a bridge, or witness the chaos that ensues when a woman is garrotted by her own intenstines, this is your film.
There’s no denying the campy glee to be had as [Asia Argento, the director’s daughter] slogs her way through a river of shit to escape from a den of berserk, orgy-crazed witches, but moments of inspired absurdity like this are few and far between in a film that otherwise spends way too much time talking its way around this nonsensical apocalypse, and not nearly enough time eviscerating the lesbian psychics and expositional exorcists.

Second, from Variety:

It has taken Dario Argento nearly three decades to complete his “Three Mothers” horror trilogy commenced by 1977’s “Suspiria” — his first, best and most widely popular post-giallo effort — and 1980’s visually striking if muddled “Inferno.” Whether viewers will think “Mother of Tears: The Third Mother” was worth the wait depends on if they are willing to settle for laughs over chills: This hectic pileup of supernatural nonsense is a treasure trove of seemingly unintentional hilarity. Although lacking helmer’s usual aesthetic panache, this “Mother” is a cheesy, breathless future camp classic. Theatrical sales look spotty; majority aud awaits via DVD.

Mother of Tears to initiate Midnight Madness in Toronto

The Los Angeles Times has posted an article called “Argento is man of the witching hour,” which anticipates the world premier of Dario Argento’s MOTHER OF TEARS at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it will kick off the Midnight Madness section. The article truly whets the apetite for the film – which fans have been anticipating for twenty-seven years. In fact, one of the main points it addresses is why Argento took so long to complete the trilogy begun with SUSPIRIA and INFERNO:

“Creation is not on a schedule,” said Argento recently by telephone from Rome. “I’m a strange soul. I didn’t want to stay in the cage of the trilogy; I wanted to explore other landscapes. After ‘Inferno’ I thought, ‘Not now.’ And then three years ago I had an idea, like a trumpet in my ear, and I thought, ‘OK, now I want to finish the trilogy.’ ”
It’s a question I’ve repeatedly asked him,” said Alan Jones via e-mail, as to what drove the filmmaker to finally complete the trilogy. Author of a book on the filmmaker, “Profondo Argento,” Jones visited the “Mother of Tears” shoot.
“I got the feeling he was ready to broach the subject matter again because he wanted to restore his tarnished reputation. . . . It might also be because he finally wants to draw a line under it and stop the endless questions about it.”

The article calls MOTHER OF TEARS a “career capping victory lap and a new beginning. Although the film can very much be seen as a return to form for Argento, it also puts new twists on his filmmaking. Rather than the strictly storybook fantasy world of “Suspiria” or “Inferno,” the new film is a heady mix of rough-hewn, street-level realism and the boldly stylized set-pieces of Argento’s signature works.”

“I was filled with trepidation,” Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes said of his feelings before seeing “Mother of Tears.” “I invited a friend along as a second opinion, and we kept turning to each other, ‘Can you believe what you just saw?’ It’s really a return to his roots in a lot of respects. It’s like watching a glorious Italian horror film from the late ’70s and early ’80s. There are scenes where the audience is going to totally freak out.”

We can’t wait to see it.

Mother of Tears trailer

It has been twenty-seven years since Italian horror director Dario Argento filmed INFERNO (1980), the second of his “Three Mothers” trilogy, which began with SUSPIRIA in 1977. Now, he has completed MOTHER OF TEARS, and you can see the trailer below.

What’s cool about the trailer is that it seems to deliver the goods that fans would expect from the film, yet at the same time it feels quite different from its predecessors.
For those of you unfamiliar with the premise: the films concern three “Mothers of Darkness,” who “rule the world with sorrow, tears, and darkness,” while ensconced in elaborate mansion scattered around the globe: one in Germany, one in Rome, and one in New York.  The “Mother of Sighs” was featured in SUSPIRIA ; the “Mother of Darkness” is the focus of INFERNO ; the the Third Mother – the “most beautiful of the sisters” (who briefly appeared in INFERNO )- returns in MOTHER OF TEARS.
Early reports indicated that the new film would be titled THE THIRD MOTHER. Thankfully, that trailers shows the title as MOTHER OF TEARS, which is much better. The other title would be significant only to hardcore Argento fans; the new title at least has a little poetry to it, enough possibly to get people intrigued (although I’m sure Hollywood – should they deign to even consider releasing the movie – would want a more crude, horrific title).