David Gordon Green’s Curious Evolution

Before the recent release of Pineapple Express few people knew the name David Gordon Green. The director of the recent Seth Rogen buddy-stoner-action-comedy has been a hopeful indie director for the past decade or so ever since his coming of age film George Washington blew critics away back in 2000. Since then Green gained notoriety and was able to secure his promising filmmaker credentials for Washington’s follow-ups. All the Real Girls featured the wonderful Zooey Deschanel and Patricia Clarkson in a sexual coming of age story of naïve love, the intense murder drama Undertow featured a surprisingly well-rounded performance from Dermot Mulroney and last year’s haunting but powerful Snow Angels showed Kate Beckinsdale’s hidden, or should we say, underused acting chops.

It seems like a big jump to go from low-budget indie dramas set in rural America (Green was raised in the deep south) to a high octane comedy about a wicked strain of marijuana but Green, with the help of scribes Rogan and producer Judd Apatow, otherwise known as the current team funny, managed to deliver. Now with a breakout summer blockbuster behind him rumors are Green is set to go down remake road with an upcoming revision of Dario Argento’s Italian horror masterpiece Suspiria with Natalie Portman in talks to star.
To be fair, internet rumors are never as accurate or secure as they are sound. According to imdb.com a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 stylized horror classic has been in the works for the past three years with little else known but that. In the wake of the Hollywood butchering of other genre classics like Michael Bay’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Rob Zombies Halloween, studio execs see horror remakes as an easy payday.
Makes sense, right? Give the film a small but efficient budget, cast some up and coming darlings to scream their heads off, use some gritty cinematography and stock up on the fake blood. This easy enough formula works for the slasher films of past (an upcoming Friday the 13th is already slated for a Friday the 13th, 2009 release) but a European gem like Suspiria is an entirely different kind of undertaking.
For starters the film is 100% European. From the eerie but almost beautiful sets (a one of a kind Bavarian ballet school that makes The Shining’s Overlook Hotel look passé), brilliant score from Italian rock band Goblin, and poorly dubbed voice over track, every piece of the film has European pulse. Sure for some it’s a corny time capsule of 70s horror films but for others it’s a slick and quite frankly a frightening masterpiece.
Purists believe a film classic like this should never be touched. Others are in the mindset that if it’s going to fall victim to remake torture than who better than a well respected filmmaker like Green.
While Green may not seem like the obvious choice to don a horror remake, most said the same about his helming of Pineapple Express, which despite some flaws was a very funny movie. To be fair the filmmaker is still a rising figure and while his past films could be classified in the real-life, family turmoil drama category (if one such sub-genre exists) he’s done his share of suspense, most notably with Undertow and Snow Angels. It’s Green’s inexperience that is also the most intriguing aspect of this production rumor.
In an interview with MTV last March, Green commented that although he agrees he’s not everyone’s obvious choice to direct a film like Suspiria, he’s been a fan of the film and Argento for quite some time and has already written a script. Green follows this up by discussing the allure of the project:
“It’s an opportunity to take all artistic excellence and be inspired by what was a low budget Italian 70’s gore movie,” he said. “Where the art world meets the violent and supernatural. I would love to get every geek that loves torture porn and every old lady in line to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’ to come and have this insane experience.”
The original Suspiria, like so many genre flicks of the 70s, was hardly a perfect movie. For starters most of Dario Argento’s films of the time had plot holes or plots that made little if any sense. The use of various foreign actors whose dialogue was eventually dubbed in post-production was also one of its biggest distractions (although some might tell you it’s part of the Euro-filmmaking charm). While the set design and lighting has now become Suspiria’s most unique quality, it too had its flaws due to budget limitations. What this all means is that the remake could succeed if Green modulates the issues at hand to a more modern tone while also filming with a conscious respect for the original.
The creepy soundtrack by the Italian progressive rock band Goblin is another of Suspiria’s biggest draws as it plays an equally important role in the film as the actors and production design. Its combination of eerie keyboard riffs and wild tribal drumming combined with the band’s stirring screams and mumbles make it one of the finest, albeit chilling scores of all time. Will a new original score be developed? Would Green seek out Goblin for a 21st century version of the music?
The other curious side to this news is the potential casting of Natalie Portman in the lead as the American ballet student in a foreign land, Suzy Bannion. Portman is an actress who has taken some chances on project choices over the years. Getting her start in a overly stylized assassin action flick (The Professional) by French master Luc Besson and later signing on for V for Vendetta shows Portman’s willingness to try different genres and also makes this casting choice yet another intriguing part of projects growth. The original Suzy Bannion, also played by an American actress (Jessica Harper), starred alongside an almost entirely international cast of unknowns. This same formula of using unfamiliar actors could also work in the remakes advantage.
It’s very cool to watch a young, up-and-coming filmmaker like David Gordon Green evolve before our eyes. It took him a bit to get into the Hollywood spotlight (and for good reason since he first had to establish his indie credentials) but now that he’s arrived I know many are curious about what he’ll do next.
The Green helmed Suspiria remake could still be nothing more than a talked up piece of internet gossip (to be fair Portman’s publicist has not confirmed anything yet and Green is only talking about the potential of him directing). Still it’s exciting nevertheless and only time we’ll tell whether for once a genre remake such as this could be executed with love and care.