In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now — including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.
What is Suspiria? It’s a remake, but not a remake, but actually yes a remake, of the 1977 Dario Argento Italian horror film of the same name. Director Luca Guadagnino, who you best remember from directing last year’s gay fantasia on Italian themes Call Me By Your Name, decided to reimagine the story, adding an extra hour and a whole lot of information about the mid-’70s German political climate.
The plot is actually fairly simple: Susie Bannion, an American dance student, shows up at the Markos Dance Academy in Berlin to audition. Turns out Susie is very good, and a good fit with the thrust-heavy style that dance teacher Madame Blanc prefers. She joins the company, and because of a vacancy, quickly elevates herself to the lead role in an upcoming production. What comes next involves witches, magic, and a whole fuckton of blood. Plus some dancing! Suspiria is not for the faint of heart, to say the least.
Who’s in it? Dakota Johnson, who is a remarkable blank slate for auteur directors to work with, plays Susie. I’m not sure I’m sold on her as an actress yet, but I think she’s remarkable at adapting to what a director needs of her. With time, she could become more like Tilda Swinton, who plays Madame Blanc. Whereas Johnson is all vessel, Swinton uses what a director gives her and transforms it into something special. Swinton is excellent in the movie, as both Blanc and, in a buzzy twist, investigating psychiatrist Dr. Jozef Klemperer.
Why should I see it? It’s so bonkers, it must be seen to be believed. Guadagnino delivers such spectacle, describing it feels insufficient. Rarely do you see a movie that boggles the mind purely visually like this one does — although I’d argue Annihilation earlier this year did the same, and delivered a better actual film. Regardless, if you’ve got the stomach for it, Suspiria is worth the time.
But how gay is it? Swinton’s presence generally is pretty gay, and the pure amount of sexuality, nudity, and witchery on display adds a thick layer of queerness. No explicitly gay characters, though.
So Tilda Swinton is playing two characters in this? Twist: She actually plays three. The third is a spoiler, although it’s listed on the film’s Wikipedia page, so read about the movie at your own risk. But she earned her damn paycheck, that’s for sure.
Will I be scared by Suspiria? It feels like a modern cliché to say this, but Suspiria is more tense/disturbing than scary. That works to its advantage, I think; it’ll stick with you far longer than any individual scare could.
Suspiria is in theaters now.