Sunday, August 26, 2007

TIFF 2007 Most Anticipated: Dario Argento's "Mother Of Tears"

Great news for fans of one of the horror genre's true visionaries: Dario Argento, the Italian master of trippy, often gore-soaked fantasias, will premiere his long-awaited"Mother Of Tears" (La Terza Madre) as part of the Midnight Madness program at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival.

This is the conclusion of his "Three Mothers" trilogy that began in 1977 with "Suspiria" and was left hanging after the botched release of 1980's thematic followup "Inferno". In "Mother", archaeology student Sarah (portrayed by Asia Argento--yes, his daughter) releases the demonic forces of a powerful witch which erupt into a wave of suicide and crime in advance of her resurrection.

Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, who costarred in Argento's "Opera" and in "Demons 2" (which he cowrote and produced), is featured in a prominent role. "Mother Of Tears" also stars European genre vet Udo Kier (Andy Warhol's "Frankenstein", and recently, in Rob Zombie's faux "Grindhouse" trailer "Werewolf Women Of The S.S.") and Daria Nicolodi, Dario's ex-wife (and Asia's mother), who appeared in his earlier films and in Asia's directorial debut "Scarlett Diva".

In the early years of the Midnight Madness program Argento was a staple: his "Opera", "Trauma", and "The Stendhal Syndrome" received their North American debuts at the original Bloor Cinema venue, and the thrillers he produced for Michel Soavi--"The Church" and "The Sect"--made their North American premieres there, too, as did his team-up with George A. Romero, the Poe tribute "Two Evil Eyes".

In recent years, Argento has kept a low profile but has worked steadily--last year's TV movie "Do You Like Hitchcock?" was a return to his giallo roots, as was the Michael Mann-esque police procedural "The Card Player". He also found time to venture to Canadian shores to shoot two episodes in Vancouver for Mick Garris' "Masters Of Horror" series: "Jenifer" and "Pelts" (all of these titles are available on DVD from Anchor Bay Home Video).

The event will mark a reunion of sorts between Argento and fellow guest George A. Romero, who together produced the original "Dawn Of The Dead" in addition to the aforementioned "Two Evil Eyes". Romero has a premiere in this year's Midnight Madness program, too: "Diary Of The Dead", the official fourth installment in his zombie saga that began with 1968's "Night Of The Living Dead".

Argento's films aren't always perfect and can be challenging for the uninitiated to say the least--narrative "logic" isn't a concern ("plausibles", stay home!) and he seems to delight in deliberately polarizing and frustrating the audience. But each effort is always gorgeously designed and a feast for the senses and owe more to Bunuel than say, Wes Craven, but like the suspense masterworks of Hitchcock or DePalma (to whom Argento is often compared), manage to feature at least one extended set piece that's a marvel of timing and intensity.

Here's a list of the entire "Midnight Madness" lineup.