Category Archives: Peter Strickland

Suspiria, giallo cinema & the lure of the sensory: An interview with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Suspiria 3Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a Melbourne-based film critic and academic, specialising in cult, exploitation and horror film. Her books include Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality, and most recently Suspiria, on Italian director Dario Agento’s 1976 film of the same. Alex kindly agreed to talk to me about her new book, the phenomena of witches in film and the ongoing fascination with giallo cinema. And a warning, unless your film collection is as good as hers, it will be hard for you to get through the following interview without making a lengthy list of films you’ll want to locate and purchase.

Drink-&-CameraAlex, You open the book with a playful but terrific quote from US film critic Joe Bob Briggs, that Suspiria is ‘the Gone With the Wind of Eyetalian horror’. You call it ‘one of the most breathtaking instances of the modern horror film’. Why is Suspiria such an important movie, not just in the context of Italian film cinema but horror cinema, generally?

If you forgive my turn to the colloquial, Suspiria is at its very core a film that sincerely does not give a fuck about what a film is ‘supposed’ to be: this manifests in a spirit of true experimentalism, a genuine love of ‘art’ both as a general concept and the very materiality of cinema itself.Read more

MIFF report back #1: The Duke of Burgundy

DukeofBurgundyFilmPage

I watched Peter Strickland’s latest offering, The Duke of Burgundy, already being a big fan of his 2012 effort, Berberian Sound Studio. I appreciated Berberian Sound Studio as an homage to the Italian giallo horror films of the seventies and didn’t need any more encouragement to see his new one other than the fact it was Strickland’s tribute to the seventies Euro sleaze films of directors like Jesse Franco and Walerian Borowczyk.

But it wasn’t until about twenty minutes in to The Duke of Burgundy, that I felt I ‘got’ what both movies were trying to do and just how clever Strickland’s approach is.

The Duke of Burgundy is about the BDSM relationship between two female entomologists, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna), the submissive, and her older dominant lover, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen, who you may recognise from the Danish television series, Borgen). The story is set in an unspecified provincial European town in what looks like the seventies and, as you’d expect if you’ve seen Berberian Sound Studio, Strickland nails every aspect of recreating the genre: the aesthete, the soundtrack, the surrealistic ambiance, how the characters feel and react, the sex, which alternatives between being outright smutty and languorously erotic. Woven into this are some wonderfully deft touches, including the complete absence of men and the strange, sexually charged club in which women get together to discuss matters entomological.… Read more