I have put off Mother of Tears for well over a year, partially because my video store didn’t have it and partially because everyone trashed it so much I sure as hell wasn’t going to risk buying it for $20. I mean, I was actually kind of afraid to watch the thing. I had even seen a post somewhere on a discussion forum where a girl who identified herself as a Argento fan for many years pleaded with other fans not to see it because, she claimed, ‘it will ruin your appreciation for his other films and make you hate Argento himself’, or something like that. Well, recently my wife re-started our Netflix* and the one of the first things I put on our cue was indeed Mr. Argento’s Mother of Tears. It came the other day in the mail and I waited until the night before my day off to watch it, ingested atmospheric enhancers and sat down to what I figured would be a lousy 1:42 of a movie. Now, the morning after, all I can say is, ah, what the fuck were all of you Argento fans that hated this movie expecting?
In other words, I liked it.
Here’s the deal. I liken this to another situation that arose about a year ago when Indiana Jones and the Skull of Crystal Gale hit the big screen. Everyone hated it and when my wife and I went to see it I had heard such dire things from life long fans that I was expecting to do the same. But I didn’t. Why? Because Crystal Gale was exactly like every other Indie movie. Sure there was the unfortunate addition of Toby Maguire or whatever his name is. He didn’t bother me too much, until of course that stupid scene with him swinging from branch to branch, but still, coulda’ done without him, ya know? And yeah, tons o’ CGI. But other than that both of us thought it fit pretty much in with tone and story to all the others, cuz you know what? They’re all kinda goofy action movies designed for kids as much as teens or adults.
Sorry, it’s true.
Same thing with the Star Wars prequels: the originals are not fucking Shakespeare, okay? You can talk about Jar-Jar-this or Hayden**-that but in the end the originals all have flaws and while being a little bit more dreamy because of the lack of CGI and the application of good old hands on FX knowhow they are flawed and kinda goofy – you just don’t think they are because you grew up watching them and they probably helped (if you are around my age) jumpstart your budding imagination. They’re in your veins.
So now I’ll apply this to Argento. I am not an ardent fan. I got really into him when I first saw Suspiria. Next was Inferno, so the first two films of the Three Mothers cycle that MOT completes. These first two I learned to love despite obvious flaws in categories like acting and dialogue because they look so freakin’ dreamy – like Fairy tales. However, the more of his movies I saw the more and more apparent those flaws became (it didn’t help that there was never a new plot). Eventually, in order to preserve my taste for the original films I loved I stopped watching any new ones because, you know what? THEY ARE ALL THE FUCKING SAME. Young girl arrives in new place. different young girl is brutally murdered by black-gloved fiend, etc. Below I have constructed what I believe to be a suitable graph of the ingredients of nearly every film in Mr. Argento’s canon:
Introduce young girl protagonist———- different young girl gets brutalized
Supernatural force engages first young girl———-some expert called in
Many young girls and peripheral males die———original young girl confronts and conquers supernatural forces
Like I said, the above is a diagram of most Dario Argento movies. Notice in all the elements listed, many emphasized or repeated, not once do you see the word plot. Actually, in this way at least MOT had a different plot. No black gloved killer, just evil monkeys, naked witches pulling intestines out of each others asses and three deformed beasts that like to eat folks.
My desire is not to insult Argento or his movies: they are what they are and when executed with the now trademark Argento style and panache I, for one, like them. Well, a couple of them. Because really, a couple of them goes a loooong way.
So Mother of Tears? Maybe it was because I haven’t watched the older Mother movies in quite a while, so the ‘this is old/that is new’ kind of piggyback with his style and technique wasn’t immediately emphasized to me. But really, I know Mother of Tears had some truly awful acting and dialogue, and yes, it definitely started to sprawl and wander in the last half – the last ‘act’ (if you can call it that) becoming increasingly intolerable, but Suspiria gets like that for me sometimes too. Not quite as much, but yeah, kinda.
In the end I liked MOT for all the same reasons like the other Three Mothers films: Atmosphere, with a capital A. Style, mood and yeah, the gore is pretty nifty too. Oh, and the music by Claudio Simonetti was probably the best from all the movies – amazing score! And those are the things I look for and love from Dario Argento, nothing else. The man is good at what he does. And really, popular Argento-fan opinion aside, I think Mother of Tears was mostly Awesome at being all those things.***
* Sorry Hollywood, I can’t wait in any more fifteen minute lines just to confirm what I already know: You have nothing from before 1991.
** You can bitch about young Vader but does anyone think Mark Hamil is good? I mean, other than for the fact that you grew up thinking he was? Newsflash: Just as whiny as the new guy.
*** And that monkey was freakin’ the shit outta me!!!
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey