Friday, October 18, 2013

MOTHER OF TEARS (2007)

SYNOPSIS: 27 years after INFERNO, Argento decided it was time to wrap up the Three Mothers saga with the story of Rome's own Mater Lacrimarum (Moran Atias).  An art history/archaeology assistant inadvertently unleashes evil when she opens up an urn that contains, among other things, a magical nightshirt.  With her evil nightshirt barely containing her evil gazongas, the Mother of Tears start corrupting Rome, leading to mass wrestling in public and guys beating up cars and other crimes.  Witches come from around the globe for the final Mother's triumph and they bring five hundred pounds of makeup with them.

WHAT WORKED:
People generally didn't like the way that this turned out and that's fair, but it's unfair to deny that it's pretty well-planned and staged in terms of individual scenes.  Argento gives us some nice foreshadowing in the shadowy museum scenes...


Some of the "corruption of Rome" is seriously problematic, but some of it is just fine!  Plus MOTHER OF TEARS makes a commitment to exteriors for the first time in the trilogy, perhaps because we're in an area that Dario and crew know quite well.  If nothing else, the film functions as a decent showcase of the high spots of Rome.  It's all shot well and it's interesting to think of the "evil edifice with corruption festering inside" being expanded from houses and libraries to an entire city.


This is substantially different from the two previous films, both in tone and in theme, and it also lacks some of the connections and callbacks that peppered INFERNO.  Still, is this a nod to SUSPIRIA's peacock?  Let's pretend it is.  This movie needs more weight on the positive side.


I'm a big Udo Kier fan and his brief appearance is enjoyable.  He seems committed to the character and brings some welcome seriousness and intensity to MOTHER.


WHAT DIDN'T WORK:
As I mentioned, some of the corruption scenes are ineffective, almost laughably so.  The scenes of dudes in sunglasses and leather jackets bashing car windows is straight out of the greatest old man fears of the 1980s.  I know that there are places where American trends have a delayed effect, like Japan's love for Winger, but I don't think that Italy is one of those places.  Plus, guys in suits UFC-fighting in parking lots?  It's hard to take this stuff seriously as the "fall of civilization" after we've seen it done much better in the remade DAWN OF THE DEAD and elsewhere.


THEM WITCHES.  Like, seriously, what.  The.  Fuck.  """Real""" witches/Wiccans are less annoying.  I like the idea of admirers of the Mother of Tears coming from all nations, but in practice a lot of them look goofy and dumb.  I enjoy heavy makeup in the right setting and maybe they were going for an arcane/surreal effect, but, wow, failure.


It's like a soccer mom and the female cast of John Waters's first five movies have used Doctor Brundle's telepods.


At least they are very good cacklers.  But it's hard not to feel like the witch presence here is a major step down from the mysterious menace of SUSPIRIA and INFERNO.  These girls come off like goth chicks after Mimosa night and, as they are primary antagonists for a lot of the film, it bursts any sense of building tension.


Additionally, Moran Atias is a cutie pie and tries hard, but the depiction of the Mother of Tears here is bereft of the otherworldly aura that Maters Suspiriorum and Tenebrarum both boasted.  General corruption aside, she doesn't really rely on supernatural powers to get her way.  Instead, much like the villain of any mob movie or Batman comic, she relies on her gang of loyalists.


Including a goddamn monkey!


Which all points to a huge difference between MOTHER and the other films.  Regardless of "corruption" or nightshirts of power, this movie feels far more rooted in the real world than the fairy tale fever dreams of SUSPIRIA and INFERNO.  Even the way it's shot and designed, with lots of professional two-shots and close-ups, seems indicative of its less magical aspirations.  Argento tries to compensate for the loss by amping up the gore in ridiculously savage scenes, but it really isn't an equitable substitution and scenes of witches eating intestines out of people's asses seem to sum up the movie's worst decisions. 


I'm sure Asia Argento is a good person in non-movie life and I feel sympathy for her, because I know I would be strickened with sadness if my dad kept putting me into fierce sex-from-behind scenes in his movies, but she just fumbles her lead performance here.  It would not matter as much in the prior two films, where character and acting are secondary concerns, but MOTHER OF TEARS is way more straightforward in its structure and Asia's awkward turn really hurts this film.


It makes me sad to say that Daria Nicolodi also doesn't contribute much of quality to the film.  She's not bad, per se, but her role as "very concerned ghost mom" doesn't exactly allow her to show off her chops either.  She's pretty clearly here just to interact with her daughter and give fans a gasm about it, but it's a steep decline from her glory days in PROFONDO ROSSO and such.


SPOILER.  Sarah the Art Intern beats The Mother of Tears by taking off her nightshirt.  Mater Lach is so upset by having her tits bared that she up and dies about it and then her house implodes.  Thanks for following this series for thirty years, fans, and you're welcome for the greatest finale that could have been conceived.


Divorced from expectations, this is a fair horror movie.  It's not the worst thing that any of us have ever seen and I think the aghast reactions are more a product of the older films' quality than MOTHER's especially rotten sins.  But "fair" is a pretty harsh label to apply to someone who was as great as Argento.  Sad feelings, sad emoticons, {:-(  :(, goodbye my beautiful.

RATING: 5

SERIES AVERAGE: 7.33

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