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 30, 2019

SUSPIRIA Day 30: a bolt of love

Susie Bannion's transformation...evolution, rather...from Ohio farm girl to Mother Suspiriorum is endlessly fascinating. There is much to unpack about our Ms Bannion; as Madame Blanc tells her, "Difficult not to be curious about you."

We can debate when she knew her true nature. We can talk about how she is ultimately a benevolent fascist (for now, anyway) who obliterates the tired dichotomy of "good and evil" while subverting the standard Hero's Journey of myth. But I'm interested in talking about her on a basic, human level today, and that is Susie's evolution as a sexual awakening–a coming out narrative, if you will.

When I see young Susie seated at that table during flashbacks, dreaming of Berlin, I see myself. I didn't grow up on a farm or in a strict, religious household, but I know what she's feeling just the same. Realizing that you are different from everyone around you, but maybe not understanding exactly how or why yet. Knowing, somehow, that there is more for you outside of this environment where you do not fit in as everyone else does–that a life is waiting for you elsewhere. That there are people, somewhere, ready to welcome you with you're just like us. There has to be. I promise you, every gay kid has these thoughts at one time or another. Even if they don't completely understand their sexuality yet, they know they're different. It's a feeling, a distinct feeling that you're juuuust out of step with everyone around you. If you can just get out of this house, this school, this family, this town, you'll find your people. Every gay kid is dreaming of Berlin.

And so Susie steals some money and makes good on her dream. She finds her people.

Back near the start of this month (so long ago already!) I explored the fraught love story between Susie and Sara. It ends too soon and it is heartrending, but it is pure. Before Sara, though–long before Sara–and after Sara, there is Madame Blanc. It begins just seconds after Susie enters the Tanz building for the first time; before she even finishes crossing the lobby, her attention snaps to Blanc's one way mirror. Surely Blanc is standing there, for we get a crash zoom to a close-up of Susie. As Sara and Susie locked eyes before they met, so, too, do Blanc and Susie, in a manner of speaking.

It happens again moments later, during Susie's audition. Without musical accompaniment, she dances in that primal way she has, so affecting that Blanc is startled while instructing in another room. Susie breathes and spins faster and faster, then she's stopped in her tracks. We get another crash zoom, this time on Blanc. For the first time their eyes truly meet. Mandel and Millius turn to look at Blanc, but for the moment she and Susie are in their own world.

After her discussion with Tanner, Susie leaves for her hotel to gather her things. Blanc, back behind her mirror, watches her go with some kind of longing. At the least, she senses that this new girl is...intriguing.

The next day, during her first rehearsal, Susie collapses, overcome by the force of destructive power she temporarily wields. Blanc shows her compassion and kindness, seeing through Susie's brave front (that isn't really a front, is it?), soothing her with words and touch. I've read reviews of this film that see the Susie-Blanc relationship solely as maternal or student-mentor. I suppose this, with Blanc making sure the overwhelmed dancer is okay, supports that.


That evening, Susie is summoned to Blanc's chamber for the erotic chicken wing dinner. I've said it before, but I must say it again: I love how casual Susie is in the first half of this scene. Blanc asks personal questions and pays her compliments, and Susie just...can't be bothered. She spends her time checking out her surroundings, eating, and avoiding many of those personal questions. Sara spoke of Blanc's "light" and how dazzling it was when directed at you, but so far, if Susie feels that way she's playing it cool over the chicken wings. I am tickled by her lack of interest and the way she indulges her curiosities.

Finally, though, she comes out with it. When Blanc talks about what a risk it was for Susie to repeatedly travel to New York without permission, Susie states it plainly: "I felt I had to see you." It's brash enough that Blanc stops chewing for a moment.

Then we cut and it's a few minutes later. They've finished eating. Blanc has moved and lit a cigarette, which...

Well, for the middle third of the scene it's a crutch she's using to hide her nervousness. Susie unnerves her, because Susie is not overwhelmingly dazzled by Blanc's light. While she clearly holds Blanc in great esteem, she's not intimidated by her. She raises herself from the status of "student" to meet her as an equal. No one does that. Who is this farm girl from Ohio?

Blanc sits and asks: "What did it feel today, to dance Volk in front of the one who made it?" but before Susie can answer, Blanc says that's "vain" and rephrases:

"When you were dancing, what did it feel like inside you? Inside your body?"

Now, she wanted the first question stricken from the record, but I think that was disingenuous. I think she wanted Susie to answer it, but simply didn't want to seem as vain as she is. The first question is now in Susie's mind, so she'll be answering to:

"What did it feel like inside you to dance my dance in front of me?"

If Blanc expected Susie to turn bashful, to praise her work, to say it was an honor, that's certainly not what she got. Susie very forthrightly states: "It felt like what I think it must feel like to fuck."

"You mean to fuck a man?" Blanc replies, immediately taking a drag on her cigarette. Nerves.

"No, I was thinking of an animal."

Blanc is still off-guard. Laughs it off. Then she says, "You looked..."

And the moment hangs there and hangs there and hangs there while they look at each other. You can hear Blanc breathing.


And she changes the subject back to dance. It's an enthralling sequence, watching these two seduce each other and battle for dominance. It's a duel, and they're trying to out-top each other....and Blanc loses. She's not accustomed to this. Here is Susie, constantly challenging, confronting, and instigating with her. She's forced to drop her "dazzling" artifice, and she's both frightened by and attracted to this new dancer. After all, Susie has delivered the coup de grâce that is the surefire way to seduce any art fag: tell her that fucking feels like art and art feels like fucking. Blanc loses her words.

The next day, Blanc initiates the new dance, "Rebirth," asking Susie to lead the improvisation. On the one hand, this is another one of Blanc's insidious techniques to make Susie amenable to the idea of being the vessel for Markos's rebirth. On the other hand, she's interested to see where "Susie's instincts" will lead. They lead to getting horny for the floor.

Part of that, of course, is the abhorrent pull of Markos down there in her storage closet. But Susie is nothing if not a horny young woman was "repressed" not by guilt or obligation, but only by a lack of opportunities back in Ohio. She's got the hots for Sara and she's got the hots for Blanc, and if either of them would have just responded to her very, very obvious cues instead of shying away, well, we'd all be a lot happier. Especially Susie.

Instead, Blanc makes do by sending Susie wet dreams at night.

Yeah, they're full of horrifying, violent images. Yeah, they're full of art. But as Susie's writhing and heavy breathing make clear, ultimately they're wet dreams.

Before the private jump rehearsal scene starts in earnest, Sara is looking for Susie. Another dancer says, laughing, "Maybe she's seeing somebody." Girl, if you only knew.

I've written about this scene Blanc and Susie have one night before, how telling it is that Susie wants to be the Company's hands. How she lets Blanc know by making yet another overture.

The rest of it plays out like a sex scene. Susie's feet thumping like a bedpost as she jumps, Blanc shouting "Higher! Higher! Higher!" faster and faster, Susie breathing faster and faster, it keeps building in intensity until Susie performs one big jump. Sometimes she only needs to be told twice.

Before the pre-Sabbath dinner, Blanc comes to Susie's room. They speak telepathically about Volk. Blanc sits on Susie's bed, moves closer, takes her hands.

"I could explain everything to you," she says. "I think it would be wrong, though."

Susie brings Blanc's hand to her cheek. "You don't want to make me choose. Because you love me."

There is a hugely important music cue there. The track piano refrain heard in several tracks (ie "The Balance of Things") has been playing. It's spare and a bit spooky. But when Susie says "Because you love me," the music changes to the opening of "The Conjuring of Anke," the beautiful, melancholic track we hear when Josef and Anke reunite. It's the closest thing Suspiria has to a love theme.

Ah yes. Strictly maternal, this is.

The first time I saw this movie, I was absolutely sure that Blanc and Susie were going to kiss. In fact, somehow, without my permission, the theater took a photo of me right around the moment Susie put Blanc's hand on her cheek:

But no. Blanc leaves. However, then we get the dinner of seduction, where all the witches are all over the dancers, casting their spells. There's Blanc and Susie, right in the middle of all the singing and eating and activity, their plates bare, their eyes boring into one another.

Yeah, they're fucking.

Side note: Susie's dress? Which is undoubtedly Sara's dress? *chef kiss*

Bliss is short-lived, though. It's time for the Sabbath and the coming of Mother Suspiriorum. We know how that ends for Sara, and we know how it ends for Blanc. Suspiriorum–or Susie–has tenderness for both. She ends Sara's life with a kiss and cradles her. She's not at her full powers yet (or maybe she's holding back) when Markos nearly decapitates Blanc. But still, she cannot bear to watch it, and it brings her to tears.

And, of course, at the end of things Blanc still lives. Perhaps she was too powerful for Markos to kill. Perhaps, seeing that Blanc tried to save Susie Bannion's life, Suspiriorum saved hers. We'll probably never know what becomes of them now.

But we've seen Susie Bannion's journey in its entirety. We watched her get out of that farmhouse like she always dreamt she would, we saw her find her people. We watched her unrealized passions become fulfilled. We saw her puppy love with Sara, the kind of love full of secrets and sweet whispers. We saw her seduce her idol, the kind of love full of hands and animal desire. We saw her rip herself open, fully embracing her primal, carnal side, becoming who she was meant to be. And throughout all of it, sighs.


CashBailey said...

Does anyone have Luca's contact details?

Make him aware of this series and ask him what he thinks of it. Surely no-one else has deconstructed his masterpiece like Stacie has.

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks Cash, I'm glad you find all of this worthy of his attention! Even if he just found it all a bit mad, hopefully he'd like the fact that there are people out there who love this movie. It really didn't get the reception it deserves.

Susandoku said...

I hope the theater at least had you sign a release for that picture. This series is fantastic.

Neil Snowdon said...

Something that I realised as I read this...

For Argento/his movie, "light" is something you see (hence the almost assaultive colour scheme of his movie). But for Guadagnino/his film, "light" is something you feel.

Susie felt Blanc's "light", and Blanc felt Susie's even from another room in her audition.

"Light" in both terms is "magic", "power" and a whole series of other things because it's a spectrum after all. But "magic" is art and art for Argento I think is *seen*. While for Guadagnino it is *felt*.

In this way we experience something more potent in Guadagnino's movie because it connects us to something true irl as well as in the movie. The powers that truly direct our *selves* and our *lives* are unseen, but felt. Deeply within.