Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Review: Mother of Tears

In the final scene of MOTHER OF TEARS: THE THIRD MOTHER, the survivors crawl out of a manhole in front of an unconvincing background and start laughing heartily. This isn't the nervous relieved laughter of people who have just come through a horrific deal, but full-on belly laughs. The laughter is so excessive it even bleeds into the closing credits, which leads to the inevitable conclusion that somebody is trying to break the fourth wall here. The actors are laughing AT the film they've just starred in, realizing the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Dario Argento has crafted a spoof.

Further credence to the notion that Argento is sending himself up can be found in gaping plot inconsistencies and ludicrous dialogue exchanges that litter the film. In the past, this has been accepted as part of Argento's style, a result of the English-as-a-second-language nature of the production, but this time round there are two American screenwriters on board, who certainly could not overlook the baffling motivations of Asia Argento's character as she throws her mobile phone out of the window (because "they can trace you with it") only to immediately choose to return home. Sorry to break it to you, Asia, but anybody willing to go to the trouble of tracing your mobile phone to find you is also going to be staking out your home. Another gem has Asia knocking on a door and asking to speak to Professor so-and-so. "May I know your name?". "It wouldn't mean anything to him." "Oh, you'd better come in then". Awesome security!

Watching the film as Argento doing self-parody gives a whole new level of enjoyment. You can look past the fact that Argento has broken his own mythology (the Mother of Tears was never the "most cruel"), that the evil witches look and act more like Cradle of Filth groupies than disciples of pure evil, that the film feels more like an OMEN/NINTH GATE retread than a SUSPIRIA/INFERNO follow-up, and start to appreciate the comedy value inherent in seeing an overweight Daria Nicolodi as a poorly CGI-ed "Ghost-Mum" appearing at random to give truly valuable generic advice to her daughter such as "Go on!", "Be careful!" and "Use your powers!". So what about those awesome white witch powers? Well, Asia makes herself invisible a couple of times. And.... oh yeah, that's it.

All this can only be seen as Argento toying with his "core" audience: you think my films have been bad since OPERA? You ain't seen nothing yet! You want gore? I'll give you totally gratuitous pointless gore! Characters are wheeled on out of nowhere to say a couple of lines, then get slaughtered, with absolutely no impact on the plot, or on Asia, whatsoever. Only three deaths leave any kind of impact, and one of them is entirely gore-free! The best scene in the whole film involves Asia sitting in the back of a taxi, INFERNO-style, with absolutely nothing happening. This "quiet" scene somehow stands out because the rest of the film is so jam-packed with hysterical overacting and gore effects. Is Argento's point that the fan's obession with stylish murder set-pieces has driven him to a film where the only scenes WITHOUT gore are the ones that leave any lasting impression?

At this point, many readers might be thinking: "No. He's just made a bad film, that's all". Am I over-thinking this? Your honour, I present the final evidence for the prosecution: the way the Mother of Tears is finally defeated. Six hours of setup, including the two previous films, 27 years of build-up, for the final confrontation between good and evil. White magic versus black magic. Broken mirrors versus broken minds. What happens? I dont want to spoilt the best comedy moment in the whole film, but if you thought the climaxes of SUSPIRIA and INFERNO were a disappointment, they will feel like CITIZEN KANE in comparison to MOTHER OF TEARS' hilarious finale. The film is destined to be misunderstood by most viewers, as the tone is deadpan throughout, with Argento never once winking at the audience to reveal its parodic nature, but if you can look beyond the surface level, the truth will be revealed: "what you see does not exist. What you cannot see is truth".

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