Mater Lacrimarum revisited
Today, I had the opportunity to watch the English version of Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears. This was my second viewing of the concluding part in the Three Mothers trilogy, after watching it in Italian on Christmas Day. The viewing conditions weren’t ideal (the version I saw was cropped from its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to 1.78:1), but overall the quality was better than my Italian copy. (A Russian DVD appears to be available now, but it seems to have been the source of the cropped version I saw, so I would recommend holding out for a different release. Medusa will be releasing it in Italy on April 9th, while Optimum are supposedly putting it out in the UK on April 28th.)
In most respects, the English version improves things somewhat, although Asia Argento’s performance is still uneven, closer to Trauma than to The Stendhal Syndrome. With the benefit of the English audio, Valeria Cavalli (Marta) definitely emerges as the best actor of the group, giving a strong and believable performance (the monkey is still great, though). Adam James (who has previously appeared in Casualty and Waking the Dead) is, like Asia, uneven. In some scenes he is quite effective (his final scene is quite chilling), but in others, such as when he is going nuts after his son has disappeared, he comes across as quite weak. Oh, and I don’t really see the big deal about Udo Kier’s performance. A lot of people described it as hammy, but it didn’t strike me as problematic in any way.
On the downside, Moran Atias (Mater Lacrimarum) is awful, and I mean awful. She looks ridiculous and can’t act her way out of a paper bag. She really made me yearn for Ania Pieroni. Her bald, male lackey is also hamstrung by some really atrocious dubbing, and the gothic witches continue to make me cringe. Actually, if anything, they came across as worse rather than better on a second viewing. I knew they were coming this time, but it didn’t make the experience any less painful. Really, Dario, what were you thinking?
On a related note, watching the film again revealed all sorts of squandered opportunities to throw in some of the bravura colours and lighting from the first two instalments. I can only imagine how much more magical moments like Sarah lighting the fire in Michael’s apartment and Marta summoning the spirits would have been had Argento used them as an excuse to unleash some Technicolor brilliance. And what happened to the idea of Mater Lacrimarum’s jewel-studded robe casting primary colours on the faces of her grovelling followers? All we get now is a red T-shirt with glitter writing on it.
My original rating of 7/10 still stands. It’s not a bad little film, but, as a conclusion to what was started in Suspiria and Inferno, it’s a let-down. I never expected it to be on the same level as them, so I can’t claim to be disappointed, but it remains a middle of the road entry in Argento’s filmography - better than Trauma and The Phantom of the Opera but weaker than all his other theatrical ventures (it’s better than his three recent TV projects, though, especially those embarrassing Masters of Horror episodes).