Terza madre, La (AKA Mother of Tears) (2007)
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Asia Argento, Cristian Solimeno, Adam James, Moran Atias, Valeria Cavalli, Philippe Leroy, Daria Nicolodi, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Udo Kier
(out of 4)
WARNING: SOME SPOILERS AHEAD
Schlocky and gory, Dario Argento’s Mother of Tears (The Third Mother), is the final chapter in his “Mothers” trilogy, following behind 1977′s Suspiria and 1980′s Inferno. I have yet to watch Inferno, so I can’t make a comparison there, but Suspiria is a great slice of nightmare (admittedly, with flaws) that sets the bar pretty high. Sad to say, Mother of Tears doesn’t meet that bar – gone is the moody prog score by Goblin, or the beautiful saturated color palette that made Suspiria look like a filmed painting. Gone also, is the lingering dread or the shock value of the deaths, although in its defense it does indeed try to make them more brutal (a spike entering through a woman’s vagina and exiting out her mouth is particularly wince-inducing). Indeed, there are certain things to cherish in Mother of Tears, like its lack of restraint in its violence (or its cheesiness) and a grander sense of scale when it comes to the horror spilling over into the general populace. It partly treats the evil of a witchcraft resurgence as having an psychological effect on the poor citizens of Rome, as people begin committing random acts of violence – I got a sense of some Kurosawa chaos (see Cure or Pulse) – but let’s not kid ourselves, Argento is no Kurosawa.
I should admit at this point that I have never been a true Argento fan. I recently watched the directors cut of Profondo rosso and was bored to tears (amazing what tight editing can do with a film like that). I loved Suspiria, but thought Tenebre was awful. Best not to talk about Phantom of the Opera. Anyway, I can certainly appreciate his clever murder set pieces, and some of his camera tracking shots are decent. So we know he knows how to emulate Hitchcock and De Palma. Many articles have been written on this subject. But Mother of Tears has nothing of note when it comes to “Argento-like” motifs. In fact, its filmmaking style can be described as merely adequate, and by that I mean by that there’s no particular trademark, outside the brutality of the violence, that can prove Argento directed it. Hell, anybody could have done it. Of course, you do have the bad dialogue and bad acting by all those who speak English as a second language – for all I know Dario’s daughter Asia may be a brilliant actress when speaking Italian but in English she’s no Ingrid Bergman.
Asia plays Sarah Mandy, an art student working at a museum in Rome, who comes across an urn that was dug up in a countryside cemetery. There’s some kind of red tunic in there, and Sarah’s coworker Giselle accidentally cuts herself and spills blood on it. Soon after that, Mater Lachrymarum, the most beautiful and most cruel witch of the “Three Mothers”, shows up with her followers and an annoying monkey in tow. Poor Giselle is disemboweled and choked on her own intestines – hey, it happens sometimes! Now Sarah is on the run, occasionally dropping by the homes of experts like a priest (Udo Kier), an alchemist, and a psychic, who tells Sarah that her mom (Daria Nicolodi – Asia’s mom, of course) had special powers, or something, and Sarah has them as well. The trouble with this particular plot development is that the movie constantly harps on it, even throwing cheesy ghost effects around whenever Sarah has to talk to her mom’s spirit, Obi-Wan Kenobi-style, and yet at the end she doesn’t defeat the evil witch using any magical powers at all.
Let’s discuss the ending for a moment – it’s the cheesiest thing I have seen since Prime Evil. Mater Lachrymarum, the Mother of Tears, is played by Moran Atias, who’s idea of scary is to bare her beautiful (and expensive) breasts while everybody swoons over her. Wearing makeup and and a hairstyle straight from the 80s, she’s far too young to be convincing as an age-old witch. But more importantly, the movie would have you believe her powers come from some stupid red tunic. So, an old red college shirt from sorority days is the source of all evil. LOL!
Mother of Tears deserves a viewing just for how ridiculous and over-the-top it is. It wants us to believe that cackling, rude-behaving skanks from the New Wave period, led by a Japanese chick who could pass for an otaku, are the source of some kind of menace. These girls would probably cry if they broke their nails, but we’re supposed to run from them in the airport terminals. I particularly enjoyed the scene where Sarah’s mom (in spirit form) says she can’t talk anymore … but shows up in the next scene, still talking. Is that a baby thrown into the river or a plastic doll? This movie is the nail in the coffin for Argento’s career if you believe he was at all serious about this installment – but I’m not willing to completely discard the theory that the movie is an intentional sendup of Argento’s other witch movies. A serious failure, or a hilarious spoof? You decide.
- Bill Gordon