Mother of Tears
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An ancient urn chained to a coffin is unhearted by chance by some men at work along the road bordering the Viterbo's cemetery. The urn contains an age-old tunic and some objects belonging to Mater Lacrimarum, the Third Mother (Moran Atias). The only survivor of the Three Mothers - three powerful witches who had been shedding blood and terror for aeons - Mater Lacrimarum (the Mother of Tears) has been hiding in Rome for centuries and her awakening triggers a chain of mysterious and terrible events: the Evil is back to cast its dark shadow over the city. Sarah Mandy (Asia Argento), a young student of restoration, co-worker and love's interest of Michael Pierce (Adam James), the curator of the Museum of Ancient Art of Rome, is involved in the escalating and increasingly frantic episodes of violence. Sarah tries to run away but she cannot: the Third Mother is looking for her and Sarah is not aware of the fact that her mother Elisa Mandy (Daria Nicolodi) was a powerful white witch brutally killed by Mater Suspiriorum, the witch from Fryeburg. Helped by the spirit of her mother, by an eminent esoterism academic, Guglielmo De Witt (Philippe Leroy), and by the Chief Constable Marchi (Cristian Solimeno), Sarah realizes that she has no way out and that she must face the impending threat.
After waiting 28 years for the third feature in Dario Argentos Mother trilogy, die-hard fans (like myself) flocked to theaters to catch Mother of Tears. The anticipatory set-up, for example reconciling in advance that the film will look entirely different, and probably less sexy, than the first two Giallo classics, Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980), induced anxieties in viewers that many of us hoped would enhance the films horror and suspense. So revered are Suspiria and Inferno that one needs an extremely open mind to avoid instantly turning Mother of Tears off, now that its available on DVD, and chucking the disc out the window, insulted by its comparison to the previous two movies. From scene one, in which a psychotic, villainous monkey stalks Asia Argento, playing protagonist Sarah Mandy, through Romes Natural History Museum, one realizes this film can only go downhill. Without the colored lights, the stylized 1970s horror aesthetic, or the terrifyingly fetishtistic speed metal/electronica soundtrack pounding during the chase, the mood is simply corny. Regarding the monkey, try to remember that an oddly elegant and intelligent crow ate an eyeball to great effect in Argentos, Terror at the Opera. Argento has always favored animals to represent unwilling witnesses. The plot itself is also typically Argento and does follow-up: After a tainted red tunic is discovered in a cemetery, the third and last witch, Mother Lachrimarum (Moran Atias), is awaken from her catacombs beneath a mansion that she and her two deceased witch consorts, Mater Tenebrarum, the Mother of Darkness/Shadows, and Mater Suspiriorum, the Mother of Sighs, long ago recruited an architect to build. The Mother of Tears has beef with Sarah Mandy, due to Sarahs heritage, and the unholy black witch relentlessly pursues Mandy until Mandy is forced to fight head-on. Mandys boyfriend, Michael Pierce (Adam James), is not much help, nor is Padre Johannes (Udo Kier), which makes sense; Argentos films are all about empowered female characters, vengeful victims and ruthless criminals alike. Perhaps the flaw here is Argentos casting of his daughter, and her inability to render that illicit sexual tension that the puerile Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) once did in the halls of her bewitched boarding school. Even Mother Lachrimarums young recruits, such as the Gothic and Lolita-style Katerina (Jun Ichikawa), are dumb-looking with their colored contacts and peacock hairstyles. There is only one character, the elder white witch Marta Colussi (Valeria Cavalli), who has the sexual draw to enchant Argento style, but she is short-lived. The CG effects employed throughout, especially in regards to the ghoulish antics happening amongst the Goth witch posse, are just plain bad. Only a few shots of gore really spook, and to be fair, they are lasting images. But the only semi-interesting this about the Mother of Tears DVD is the interview extra with the man himself, who is still master even if he makes a few stinkers. --Trinie Dalton
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In "Mother of Tears", Asia Argento (the director's daughter), plays Sarah, an art student in Rome who witnesses the gruesome murder of her mentor and boss (played by Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni) immediately after they open a decaying urn containing powerful artifacts. As demonic monsters disembowel and strangle the woman (with her own intestines, no less), Sarah flees the museum, with a screeching, evil monkey hot on her trail. Overnight, Rome turns into an epicenter of bloody violence as it quickly becomes apparent that the Mother of Tears has been released to unleash a reign of chaos and horror upon the earth. With the evil monkey, his even more evil masters, and a disbelieving police force chasing her around the city, Sarah hides out, first, with her boyfriend and his son, and later, with a helpful lesbian couple. As Sarah grapples with visions of her dead mother (real-life mom, Daria Nicolodi) guiding her through one situation after another, the brutality closes in on her and her shrinking circle of confidants. Eventually she realizes that it's up to her to utilize her own inherited powers to defeat the powerful witch known as Matyr Lachrymarum, and her depraved followers.
"Mother of Tears" starts out intriguingly, and then gets lost in its own mythos. The deaths, in true Argento fashion, are spectacularly gruesome, so be prepared. The acting varies wildly. Asia Argento is confronted with horrific scenes that would permanently traumatize most people, but a few minutes later, she's laughing and making love with her boyfriend. I've seen her give better performances, certainly; she seems to be sleepwalking through the role of Sarah. Dependable Euro standby, Udo Kier, is on hand briefly as a priest who is quickly (and gorily) dispatched by--I'm assuming--a mad parishioner--it's hard to tell who this woman is. And Matyr Lachrymarum, herself, is played by an Israeli model who looks as if she just walked out of the pages of Playboy. Her snarky, giggling fashion-model henchwomen add an element of camp to an already out-of-control movie that needs grounding. Cristian Solimeno and Adam James play the male leads, although only James' role is fleshed out enough to elicit much empathy from the viewer.
The script, by Argento, Jace Anderson, and Adam Gierasch is confusing, and seems to try and encompass several genres of film, before crashing in a blaze of glory with a finale that seems lifted from a seventies TV movie.
Having said all that, there is something about "Mother of Tears" that kept me interested and entertained right up to the ending. The ominous musical score, the beautiful cinematography, the creepy sets, and genuine suspense had the effect of keeping this viewer glued to his seat.