Sunday, November 05, 2017


Earlier this year, an uncut 35 mm print of Italian director Dario Argento’s 1977 horror masterpiece “Susperia” was found in pristine condition in the storage room of an Italian cinema. Here it had been abandoned since the 1970s until Chicago Cinema Society discovered the completely uncut six reel print with a run time of 98 minutes and original dialogue. A copy of this print reached Denmark in time for Halloween.

I went to see “Susperia” with my daughter who loves horror films as much as I do, and we were not disappointed. The version we saw was with an English-language dub, though, as originally, the actors’ dialogue was not properly recorded, as each actor spoke their native language, and then the voices were dubbed through additional dialogue recordings.

“Suspiria” has a fairly simple plot. In fact, you could say that it is a fairy tale gone terribly wrong. Suzy Bannion is an American ballet student who travels to Germany to join a famous ballet school situated in the Black Forest. Upon her arrival she discovers that something evil lurks within the walls of the age-old institution and along with her new friend Sara, she tries to expose the horrible secret of the academy.

What makes “Susperia” a masterpiece is neither the plot nor the acting. Instead the hallucinatory intensity of the film comes from Argento’s masterful use of deep primary colours – “Suspiria” was one of the final feature films to be processed in Technicolor- and from the eerie soundtrack by Italian progressive rock band Goblin in collaboration with Dario Argento himself. The demonic score is going to haunt you long after you have left the cinema. The lingering scenes show why Argento is regarded a master of suspense and although the special effects of “Suspiria” is no way near the standards of today, the sustained horror sequences are quite gory and detailed.

As soon as Suzy enters the Black Forest almost like a heroine from a Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, the tension starts to build, and we find ourselves trapped along with Suzy in a hellish nightmare rich on stark colours, deep shadows, and strange camera angels from which you can tell that “Suspiria” is indebted to not only the German Brothers Grimm, but also to German Expressionist films.
References to the British drama musical “The Red Shoes” (1948) and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” can be found too, but the vaguely menacing tone and the subconscious fear that linger in every frame make “Suspiria” even more unsettling than any Carroll fantasy.
No wonder that Dario Argento is said to have influenced directors like Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch and that “Susperia” itself has left a notable imprint on films like “Crimson Peak” and “Black Swan”.

Dario Argento is known for his misogyny and embedded hatred of women, but I must admit that I didn’t detect any misogyny-vibes in “Suspiria”. On the contrary, here all main characters are women, from the heroine Suzy (Jessica Harper) over her sidekick Sara (Stefania Casini) to the mysterious vice-directress Madam Blanc (Joan Bennett) and her frightening right hand, the ballet instructor Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). Worth mentioning is also the creepy cook (Franca Scagnetti) who is always in the company of her young son Albert (played by Jacopo Mariani, who is partly Danish as his mother was born in Copenhagen).

Apart from Albert whose main function is to look creepy, there are only few male characters, all in the category of supporting cast. Beside the blind pianist Daniel (Flavio Bucci) and the scary handyman Pavlo (Giuseppe Transocchi), you’ll find a very young Udo Kier as Dr Frank Mandel. There are no male heroes or antagonists, as the men are reduced to minions, helpers or eye candy only – parts that usually belong to women. Instead our heroine Suzy has to fight for herself to survive the sickening nightmare in which she has been placed.

Four out of five stars: ****

P. S. The title “Suspiria” means “sighs” or “deep breaths” and comes from “Suspiria de profundis” (a Latin phrase meaning “sighs from the depths”), which is one of the best-known and most distinctive literary works of the English essayist Thomas De Quincey. This collection of short essays in psychological fantasy is often considered the supreme prose fantasy of English literature.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Harry Potter Festival 2017

The Harry Potter Festival here in Odense, Denmark, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Readers of my blog will already be familiar with the festival and my views on it, so this year I thought, I’d do something new. Instead of reviewing the festival, I’ll give you a complete list of its HP activities, which boasts seventy-two things to do and see this year. Maybe that will whet your appetite a bit. Here goes:

1.      Harry Potter film marathon
2.      International Quidditch tournament
3.      The Leaky Cauldron (play board games while Tom serves drinks in the old inn, but beware, the place is haunted!)
4.      Honeydukes (where you can buy magical candy like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans)
5.      Madam Malkin’s robe workshop (make your own robe)
6.      Zoo-magical sail in the dark (age 8-15. A sailing trip on Odense river to the zoo)
7.      The Ministry of Magic (Odense Film Workshop showing HP fan films)
8.      Borgin and Burkes (only kids are allowed try the vanishing cabinet, though)
 9.      The woodturner’s workshop where you can make your own wand
10.  Professor Snape’s potion workshop and magical creatures (live tarantulas, stick insects etc.)
11.  Find the seven horcruxes (this hunt is organised by the Danish Scouts)
12.  Magical Candy Ballet (The Royal Theatre’s Ballet School performs a ballet about Honeydukes’ candy)
13.  School of Ghosts (Children only. Cuthbert Binns lectures on ghost and you meet ghosts in the streets after dark)
14.  Hagrid tells stories about magic in the Monastery Church
15.  Visit the Gryffindor house (age 8-14, visit the common room, a class room and Dumbledore’s office and get O.W.L.s in reading and writing)
 16.  Hogwarts Banquet (at Odense Townhall, Dumbledore and the other professors are hosts at this banquet, where you are to compete to win the house cup. All ages.)
17.  Hogwarts Autumn Ball (HP themed party with dinner and dance as well as a best costume competition. Age 18+ as alcohol is being served)
18.  Harry Pottcast (podcast about the HP books)
19.  Meet characters from the books such as Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, Voldemort etc. around town
20.  Harry Potter Concert performed by Odense Symphony Orchestra (including performances by “The Academy for Magic Dance” as well as Harry, Ron, Hermione, and others
21.  The Big Battle (the final battle between good and evil on the town hall square)
22.  “Diagon Alley”, includes: a. Merlin’s Workshop (where you can make wands)
23.  b. Gringotts Wizarding Bank (goblins exchange DDK to Galleons: DDK 50 = Galleons 1.000)
24.  c. Care of Magical Creatures (where you can see live snakes, spiders, toads etc.)
25.  d. Pumpkin workshop
26.  e. Madam Malkin’s Robes and Books for All Occasions (where you can make notebooks and diaries and buy robes and other HP memorabilia)
27.  f. The Mirror of Erised (face paint for kids)
28.  g. Weasley’s Wizard Weezes (magician, games, and surprises)
29.  h. The Clockmaker (display of strange and magical clocks)
30.  “The Magical Market”, includes: a. Another Gringotts Wizarding Bank
31.  b. St Mungo’s Hospital
32.  c. Ollivanders
33.  d. Eeylps Owl Emporium
34.  e. The Daily Prophet
35.  f. Festival photographer
36.  g. Professor Flitwick teaches charms
37.  h. Professor Sprout teaches how to re-pot mandrakes
38.  i. Drawing workshop
39.  j. The enchanted forest for kids aged 2-5
40.  k. Floridor’s Ice Cream Shop
41.  l. Café Hogwarts
42.  “The Forbidden Library”, includes: a. Flying books
43.  b. Poisonous books
44.  c. Mythological animals
45.  d. Toilets haunted by Moaning Myrtle
46.  e. Flourish and Blotts (where Gilderoy Lockhart signs books)
47.  f. Dragon handlers (you can make dragon eggs and get dragon “tattoos”)
48.  g. In the court yard you can see the Whomping Willow and Arthur Weasley’s Ford Anglia.
49.  “Brandts 13”, includes: a. The Fat Lady (you have to guess the password to enter)
50.  b. Hagrid’s Hut
51.  c. The full-grown dragon Norbert/Norberta and her eggs
52.  d. Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Salon
53.  f. HP quiz (where you’ll be rewarded a diploma by Professor McGonagall)
54.  “Magical Brandts”, includes: a. Writing workshop with Rita Skeeter (age 10-14)
55.  b. Visit the Dursleys in Privet Drive
56.  c. Arthur Weasley’s chamber of wonders (exhibition of old cameras, record players etc.)
57.  d. Different photo options (greenhouse 3, fighting dementors, making a feather fly etc.)
58.  e. Make Harry Potter cup cakes
59.  f. Magical jewellery maker
60.  g. Meet a female dragon handler and her Norwegian ridgeback Ronja
61.  h. Learn Defence against the Dark Arts
62.  i. Buy hot potions at Fredo’s Coffee Right
63.  j. Buy butter beer at Café Biografen
64.  k, Yet another Gringotts Wizarding Bank
65.  “The Fairy Tale Garden”, includes: a. Try your hand at quidditch
66.  b. Broomstick workshop
67.  c. Meet real, live owls
68.  d. Cableway across the river
69.  e. Professor Sprout teaches Herbology
70.   “Fantanima Sculptura” includes: a. Divination (have your tealeaves read)
71.  b. Prophesies by Professor Trelawny
72.  c. Workshop where you can paint and make sculptures

As this year’s festival only lasted three days from October 19th to the 21st, I didn’t have time to visit all the places, but even if I’d had more time, age restrictions and my economy prohibited me from covering the whole festival. Had I wanted to try it all, it would have cost me about DKK 2.000 + 270 Galleons, which combined equals about €300 / £260 / $340, meals not included. That is way too EXPENSIVE!!!!

This year I limited myself to only a few things. I watching Slovenia beat Denmark in Quidditch 120 to 60 (other countries playing were Sweden, Iceland, Ireland, Holland, Poland, and the Czech Republic). I visited Brandts 13, Fantanima Sculptura, The Magical Market, Borgin and Burkes, Diagon Alley and Magical Brandts. And I saw the Whomping Willow and Weasley’s car as well as Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, Professor Sprout, Professor Trelawney, Madam Pomfrey, the Fat Lady, Madam Puddifoot, innkeeper Tom, Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort. But no Malfoys this year, no Professor Snape, and no George Weasley. I think that’s the first time! I saw Newt Scamander, though, but didn’t get to take his picture.

Most of the festival was a bit “meh” like usual, but Borgin and Burkes as well as Privet Drive were new, so they were quite interesting. Not as fascinating as the new display of Norbert and Hagrid at Brandts 13, of course, but then again, Brandts 13 is always the best and most magical place to visit during the festival. And I’m not just saying that because I know Professor McGonagall at Brandt 13!Anyway, see you next year, HP Festival. See you, McGonagall. And see you, reader? I hope so.


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