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Mother of Tears Review – Consider It the Return of the Jedi of Argento’s “Three Mothers” Trilogy

Mother of Tears Review – Consider It the Return of the Jedi of Argento’s “Three Mothers” Trilogy” width=”560″/>

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and so is talent. But this month, legendary Italian director Dario Argento has piled his mind, his talent, the goodwill he’s earned from fans, and decades of critical regard into an enormous heap, doused the whole mess with kerosene and lit it on fire. The resulting mess is Mother of Tears and it’s either a suicide note from the director, or a letter of intent that he’s aiming to become this generation’s Ed Wood.

In 1977, Argento made Suspiria , a dreamy movie that leaked lurid color schemes and bright red blood from every frame, about an American actress mixed up with witches at a ballet school run by the Mother of Sighs. He followed in 1980 with Inferno, detailing a failed venture into New York real estate by the Mother of Darkness. For 18 years, fans have begged for a final part of the “Three Mothers” trilogy that would introduce them to the third mother, the Mother of Tears. I bet now they wish they hadn’t begged quite so hard.

When a coffin is dug up from the edge of an Italian cemetery, the local priest finds a box of ancient artifacts chained to it. Most people display ancient artifacts in their homes or in nice galleries, rarely do they chain and bury them in hole on the edge of town. But because he’s never seen a horror movie before, the priest ships the box to a museum in Rome where, inexplicably, Asia Argento (Dario’s daughter) is working as a curator. I say, “inexplicably” because Argento plays a museum curator the way Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a kindergarten teacher. Her talents lie elsewhere — like walking around half-naked and making out with her dog on screen — not fetching Aramaic dictionaries.

Inside the box is a cute little red sweater and three icons that are
so evil looking, the last thing you want to do is read their
inscriptions out loud. Moments later a curator is reading them out
loud. Enter: Three demons and a screaming monkey. Exit: Curator with
her lips ripped off and her guts wrapped around her neck. As Asia later
says to her boyfriend, “I saw something strange tonight.” Yes,
sweetheart, it was your father’s last shred of talent being burned.
After that jarring opener which, as contrived as it is, still has the
power to shock, it’s all downhill from there, both for Rome and the
audience.

That cute little red sweater is part of the outfit that will end the
world, and somehow, the Mother of Tears has gotten her hands on it.
Walking around without any pants on, she conducts a satanic fashion
show in the basement of her crumbling villa. This fashion show sparks
the end of the world: Men and women squabble in the streets; Eurotrash
girls walk around in packs with thick makeup caking their eyes,
cackling; lesbians huddle in their apartments, conducting seances and
lighting candles. 

For the rest of the movie, Argento sets up a series of visceral
shocks that should land like punches, but feel like tickles. A woman
kisses her baby and throws it off a bridge — too bad it’s clearly a
lifeless plastic doll. Multiple people are dispatched with extensive
head trauma — too bad it’s so poorly filmed, it looks like Dario has
declared war on styrofoam dummy heads. A kindly lesbian is gruesomely
murdered – just as lesbians always get the axe in an Argento film.
Dario films his daughter’s naked breasts in leering, pervy close-up —
as he’s done in pretty much every movie he’s ever made.

To be fair, this film is the Return of the Jedi of
the “Three Mothers” trilogy. It’s the climax of the series, and so it’s
bound to crumble under the weight of expectations. But when he gets to
the climax of his climax, it feels like Argento just wants to go home.
Asia penetrates the catacombs beneath the Mother of Tears’ villa, and
discovers not only an orgy, but the Mother of Tears, wearing her little
red sweater, a pair of high heels and nothing else, doing turns on a
homemade catwalk. Thirty-seconds later the movie is over.

Fans are already at war over whether this is a great movie or an
awful one. I do this for a living, so let me be clear and state it for
the record: This is not a good movie. Trust me. However, I had more
much fun watching it than I found in all of Indiana Jones 4.
It’s great bad movie-making at its best (worst?) and hopefully it’ll
set the box office on fire. Argento is already rumored to be
considering a fourth “Three Mothers” movie and I’m dying to see that
witch find little red pants to go with her sweater.

Grady Hendrix is one of the founders and programmers of the New York Asian Film Festival. He writes about Asian film for Variety at Kaiju Shakedown and should have found something better to do with his life by now.

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