Mother of Tears

Mother of Tears

So at long last, the great Dario Argento brings to the screen the long overdue and highly anticipated final chapter of his Three Mothers Trilogy…first we had Suspiria; an enthralling and original mix of bloody occult horror, garishly beautiful high art cinema with blaring prog rock sensibilities…then there was Inferno; a darker more Bavaesque celebration of all things gothic, again encompassed by sumptuous prog rock stylings…then decades later we have Mother of Tears…but would the film that fans had waited twenty seven years (yes that long) to see sate his faithful followers expectations?

The film opens as the worlds dumbest (or just blindest) workman drives his small digger straight into an open grave, inside they find a coffin and a mysterious urn that gives the local priest the heebie-jeebies so he promptly sends it off to pal Michael Pierce (TV's Casualty hack Adam James) at a museum in Rome to investigate. At the museum, Sarah Mandy (the generally crotch bothering Asia Argento) and friend decide it would be fun to open the aforementioned urn to see what's inside. Thankfully, once opened the urn unleashes a (cough) 'frenzy of violence' upon Rome of murder, rape and suicides as the presence of Mater Lachrymarum comes to the fore. Poor Asia then spends the majority of the films remaining running time being pursued by a coven of cackling evil New Romantics (who don't scare but simply irritate the viewer so much you cheer when one gets their skull caved in) and an angry shrieking monkey but thankfully has the ghostly heavily made up (almost clown like in fact) apparition of her real life mum Daria Nicolodi on hand to pop up and keep her right during troubled moments (like a video game help option for hapless gaming idiots) whilst being pursued by the most ineffectual police force led by one Detective Enzo Marchi (played appropriately in wooden style by Cristian Solimeno of Footballers Wives and Vicar of Dibley fame). And so it rolls until 90 painful minutes later the film crashes to a hastily rushed conclusion that even outwits the head scratching daftness of some of the late great Lucio Fulci's more bizarre work (City of the Living Dead, The Beyond et al).

In fact it has to be said, the only 'tears' that fans may have after watching this jaw droppingly bad opus are the tears of crushing disappointment as the once great Italian filmmaker's talent comes crashing to the floor. But what is it that's so wrong with Mother of Tears as a movie and how the hell could so many great talents working together get it also so badly wrong?

Perhaps the one greatest mistake was simply that Argento left this film unmade for far too long. Suspiria and Inferno were made three years apart virtually back to back when Argento's talent was to the fore. Waiting twenty-seven years on was far too long a break in creativity for any artist so there will be an inevitable break in the flow. What's also curious is the script teaming of Argento alongside the likes of Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch; no offence to either but I'm hard pushed to find the value of bringing the writers of straight to video fare such as Crocodile, Rats, Spiders and Crocodile 2 onboard for a project such as this? Sure these folk write great pulp fun for grade z monster movies but the final instalment of one of horrors greatest trilogies?

Then there's the visual look of the film itself, Suspiria and Inferno were both stunning to look at; delirious works of art with sumptuous flowing camera movement with a rich palate of colour. Mother of Tears on the other hand loses all of Argento's trademark camera movement, even when a scene opens onto a stunning piece of Roman architecture it stays there before cutting to the next static talking head (and whilst some may try point the finger at cinematographer Frederic 'Ti Piace Hitchcock' Fasano keep in mind that it's Argento's name on the director credits).

So with no visual eye candy, no flowing camerawork or any form of a decent plot what do we have left? Well there's always the acting…I've long been a fan of Asia Argento's work but this is the first time her performance seems lacking but I'm not sure whether that's due to working against the likes of Adam (Casualty) James and Cristian (Footballers Wives) Solimeno whose acting is so ashamedly awful that you can only openly wince at the moments of dead air in the movie where you can see the actors try to think what they're next line should be. In fact, the majority of the cast (including the great Udo Kier) really do look like they've phoned in their performances - so much so that you have to wonder just how Dario Argento found this all acceptable? Has he truly lost all form of his great talent or is it that he in fact just doesn't care anymore?

But yes, it has to be said that Mother of Tears does indeed have some (though few redeeming points)…first being Claudio Simonetti's score which sadly doesn't meet the dizzying heights of the trilogy's previous epic prog rock scores but does show some moments of choral beauty. The main saving grace of Mother of Tears though has to be the gore (which is not good news for Italian cinema goers who had all the gore cut out which I'd imagine would leave a film that would be as painful to endure as Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula Meets Bill and Ted movie). Thankfully the UK DVD is fully uncut so the opening death for example shows just how deliriously outrageous the gore is as a female has her face split open, her intestines ripped out and used to strangle her to death (whilst the aforementioned trademark Argento screaming monkey watches on) - none of which is quick cut footage and holds on long enough to have the jaws dropping of even the most die hard splatter fan; but is this enough to save Argento's work? Sadly no.

On reflection, I got to thinking exactly what Argento's Mother of Tears could be comparable to and in fact it's not too far away from Luigi Cozzi's unofficial Third Mother movie 'Il Gatto Nero' (The Black Cat) which at least has the apologist honesty of having been made in the 1980's whilst Argento's Third Mother effort seems unintentionally to mimic the same. Another movie that comes to mind is Al Festa's infamous Fatal Frames which is similar in substance but also in reality is visually a far more impressively directed movie (so perhaps Argento should have handed over collaborative rights to the aforementioned Cozzi and Festa, well they couldn't have made any worse a movie!?)

The UK DVD release from Optimum is a solid affair, the uncut anamorphic widescreen image looks pin sharp throughout and the optional 5.1 and stereo audio options deliver the soundtrack to great effect (even those awkward moments of badly acted dead air). Sadly for many Argento fans the only extra included is a (very finely edited) trailer which is a shame as I'd imagine a 'making of' or some production interviews would have been welcomed by all. So whilst Mother of Tears is an all time low in the once fine career of Dario Argento (which is saying something when you consider that I'm a big fan of his often wrongly slandered Phantom of the Opera) I've no doubt also that all the bad commentary from critics wont stop one single Argento disciple picking this up - enjoy!

Review by Alan Simpson

Released by Optimum
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review