FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 27, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 27: monsters and queens

Given that so many posts this month have featured Suspiria's major characters, I thought it was high time to discuss some of the Matrons who may not have as much screen time or dialogue–heck, sometimes you don't even catch their names–but they still manage to pierce your brain like a terrifying yet aesthetically pleasing hook. Each is given her moment(s) to really shine and serve as reminders that to put it mildly, there are no innocents at the Tanzgruppe. In fact, they'd just as soon eat your cunt on a plate as watch you dance because, as Rosemary Woodhouse might say, all of them witches.

Miss Boutaher (voted for Blanc)

Okay, I love Boutaher, speaking her French-inflected German with that deep voice. She gets a great introduction, waltzing into the building alongside Miss Vendegast; The two of them all messy-haired, looking and acting like they're cooler than you because guess what? They absolutely are.

They're certainly cooler than Susie at this point, and look, I know I've written about this scene several times before...but honestly, I probably could have spent 31 days writing about it alone because it has so many terrific moments of all kinds of flavors jammed into, like, five minutes. It's undoubtedly five of my favorite minutes in the film.

Anyway, Boutaher sets up this heavenly sequence by asking Susie "Where do you come from?"

"Ohio," Susie replies.

Boutaher huffs a scoff (or scoffs a huff, if you prefer) and leaves. I could talk for days about the way Dakota Johnson says "Ohio" here because it is perfect, a micromoment that is full of depth. She conveys shyness and embarrassment, but there's also a hint of that patented Susie Bannion fire underneath it, as if there's an "...and?" that's unsaid. And don't get me going about the way she's sitting on the edge of that chair or we will be here for days! The point is, Johnson is brilliant in a million different ways in Suspiria, and it's absurd to me that she's gone all but unrecognized for it.

No wait, that's not the point! The point is Miss Boutaher.

We don't see much of her after this introduction until after the Sabbath. She's the one who tells the dancers that Blanc has "left the Company," and the way she strolls into the studio and greets each girl in turn...well, it seems that for now, at least, Miss Boutaher is the Tanzgruppe's new Madame Blanc.

Miss Marks (voted for Markos)

If you listened to the first Suspiria episode of Gaylords of Darkness, then you know that Marks, aka DJ Witch, was my original aspiration. As I noted in my post about Miss Vendegast, Marks "sits around, playing music and watching rehearsals, smoking and looking sullen. She's in on all the action, but she doesn't have to do much." That seemed like the life for me: not having to clean up messes like Olga, never smiling, watching the women dance all day, sometimes maybe pressing a button.

Ultimately, though, Marks is decidedly less than "life" "goals." She voted for Markos and done got her head exploded, which, you know. No thank you. The very idea that she sat in that studio day after day, watching the creative process unfold, watching Blanc at work, and yet voted for Markos regardless is kind of delightfully passive-aggressive, though, so I still think she's rad.

Miss Pavla (voted for Markos)

Pavla is a big part of the reason why there's an Olga mess to clean up. As the dancer is on her way out of the "box of rabies," Pavla stops her on the staircase and facetiously asks if she's alright. Then we get a gorgeous, mesmerizing closeup as she casts a spell with that sound in the background–you know the one, it's sort of this Suspiria's version of the "Witch! Witch! Witch!" whispers in the Goblin soundtrack for the original film. (Incidentally, if you can manage it, it's worth watching this movie once whilst wearing headphones. The sound design is layered and rich and *chef kiss.*)

With the spell complete, Pavla laughs and continues on her way. Olga, meanwhile, now has her vision obstructed by goopy tears and, disoriented, continues on her way to becoming one of Auntie Anne's featured selections.

A few minutes later, Pavla joins a few others in the studio and...oh boy. That hook scene. I love the way it begins, with Pavla, Vendegast, Balfour, Alberta, and Millius gathered around Olga–who is still alive–looking...well, it's hard to discern what they're thinking, isn't it? We see each of them in turn and their faces are nigh unreadable. Pavla initially has an eyebrow cocked, then glances around almost nervously. Are they surprised by what Susie has done? Are they worried about repercussions in the Akademie and/or without? The moment just hangs there, keeping us in suspense over what they're going to do.

Then we find out: they're all monsters, every one of them. With menace and, perhaps more frighteningly, abject glee, they bury their hooks deep into Olga's flesh. They're adding more pain onto the unspeakable amounts she's already enduring, and they're enjoying it.

And, uh, Millius, right? (Voted for Markos.) That face. How is it that Alek Wek has been around since the 90s (a GD pioneering woman of color in the fashion industry, if you didn't know) standing nearly six feet tall with that face and this is her only juicy role? Bless Luca Guadagnino. When she appeared on screen the first time I saw this movie, I lost my fucking mind. Cinema desperately needs more dark-skinned Black women. I love Lupita Nyong'o as much as any rational person does, but she can't do all the heavy lifting.

And just to drive home how callous these women are, the next day we get a great little moment with Alberta (voted for Markos) as Tanner and Vendegast escort the two police detectives into the building. She enters frame from downstairs and after a long night of torturing Olga and inflicting indescribable horrors on her, Alberta yawns. Damn. Business as usual. Didn't get much sleep, I guess.

Miss Balfour (voted for Blanc)

Balfour is a whole lifestyle. She's got that butch prison matron vibe happening, with her gruff manner and chunky knits (50 shades of brown, natch). They way she nonchalantly–yet–boorishly sets about edging Sara out of the way and chopping Susie's hair, cigarette dangling, I love her.

That's to say nothing of her kicking off the Sabbath with that dirge. I take it back: Balfour isn't just a lifestyle, she's a lifestyle and a mood. You can hear this picture, can't you?

Miss Huller (voted for Markos)

Huller, Huller, Huller. Why did she have to break my heart by voting Markos and ending her astonishing career as a mess on the floor? Every time I watch this movie, I think we're going to get more Huller than we actually do. She was featured so prominently in the promotion of the film, yet she's a bit of a background witch...okay, maybe the background witch because hot damn, everything she does is amazing. Everything. First of all, she's another Company member who is much cooler than the rest of us. She is all effortless sex appeal, slinking around the dining room, smirking at everything. Huller can get it and she knows she can get it! An icon.

More than anyone else in the coven, Huller has a serious hate boner for Klemperer. She's the one who suggests that he be the witness for the Sabbath. When he arrives for Volk, she is all courtesy and light, showing him to his seat:

But she spends much of the performance glaring at him at best, casting a teeny-tiny choke a bit, why don't you spell on him at worst. I love all the glimpses of witchy power we get throughout the film, the little spells they cast. The Markos Tanzgruppe is no joke!

Later that evening, she skips the pre-Sabbath gropey dinner as along with Miss Alberta, she's charged with nabbing Klemperer. I can't sing Renée Soutendijk's praises high enough here; she's absolutely terrifying as she bursts through the doors of the Tanz building, screeching like a banshee, arms wide as she descends upon the hapless doctor. It's Suspiria's biggest "horror movie moment," practically a jump scare, and she is incredible.

As they drag him off to the Sabbath chamber, Klemperer pleads for mercy and Huller, spitting fire and brimstone, launches into a speech that, I admit, still colors my opinion of poor Josef:
What reason is there to pity you? You had years to get your wife out of Berlin before the arrests began. When women tell you the truth you don't pity them. You tell them they have delusions!
She ends it with a fucking cackle to end all cackles and oh, what a brilliant actress. What a marvel, making the most of one stunning showstopper of a scene. And that's before she ends up covered in blood and guts...and that's before, well she ends up nothing but blood and guts. Dammit, Huller! A queen, gone too soon.

That's right, a queen! A woman can be a monster and a queen. The Matrons of the Markos Tanzgruppe are all monsters, from the baby arm-riddled despot at the top all the way down to the sullen DJ who casts the wrong vote. They are monsters and queens, and I love them all endlessly.


Yago Martins Campos said...

Boutaher is absolutelly the coolest and most butch of them - the way she smokes her cigarrette and drinks beer from a bottle while standing up in the background of the suicidal dinner scene? and earlier, when she shows up in breakfast with the red robe from Daughters of Darkness and those crazy yellow rollers on her hair?? plus the fact she voted Blanc = utter perfection.
and as for Miss Balfour, I just love that in a scene where you have women dressed in hair, gore, modern dancers and Tilda Swinton playing multiple characters, we get to spend so much time with this woman singing her soul out. Luca Guadagnino cant stop bowing to artists in this movie.

Stacie Ponder said...

Yessss thank you for appreciating Boutaher! That doorway lean ALONE is swoon-worthy. Everyone needs to stop sleeping on how low-key cool she is.

And you nailed it re: Balfour. Gah, this movie!! Endless gifts.

Unknown said...

Oh shit! THEY ARE WEARING HAIR!!!! So that's where it went.

Stacie Ponder said...

Yep! The walls are covered in hair, too