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At one hysteria-inflected moment during the new Suspirias suitably bonkers, blood-drenched finale, a character (no spoilers here) runs around in melted prosthetics screaming, “I am the Mother! I am the Mother!” At that point, you sort of have to throw your hands in the air and say, “you know what, Suspiria?Yes, you very much are.”

So it came as something of a surprise that when the film came to a close during its Venice Film Festival premiere on Saturday, it drew some respectful applause and few derisive whistles—but not the sort of jeers that instantly turned Darren Aronofskys similarly swing-for-the-fences mother! into the film maudit of last years Venice fest.

Dont get me wrong: Luca Guadagninos 70s horror remake is plenty divisive, and divisive in a similar way to mother! It split the Venice crowd along roughly the same fault lines. But its also less fiery overall. Those who could not stand the film (including many in the French and Italian press) mostly shrugged it off, while those who fell under its spell hardly felt the need to sing its glories.

Though everyone seemed to agree just how improbable the whole thing was. A $20 million, two-and-a-half hour slow burn about a coven of witches thats just as in interested in examining the scars of the Nazi era and the fissures of the Cold War, Guadagninos film might be a touch too arty for the conventional genre fan and bit too outré for those in the Academy who were fell for his last film, Call Me By Your Name.

Festivalgoers spent the day puzzling about whether Suspiria would find its audience, and just who that audience would be. But few could deny that the film marked an idiosyncratic and unapologetic push from a big-name auteur—and that was a fact worth celebrating.

Celebrate they did, but only a lucky few. After a controversial red carpet—where one right-wing Italian provocateur turned up in t-shirt that read, “Weinstein is Innocent,” drawing an official rebuke from festival chief Alberto Barbera—and a passionate eight minute ovation, the films cast and crew piled into a small of fleet of boats and hightailed to one of the hottest social tickets of this years festival.

By Matteo Chinellato/Getty Images.

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First, they hit up a private dinner at Venices Benedetto Marcello Conservatory of Music. Capped at only 120 invitations, the seated meal was so exclusive that even Benedict Cumberbatch struggled to get on the list (dont worry; he made it in the end). Then it was off to the Bauer Hotel, a 19th palazzo that spent the evening bathed, inside and out, in blood red lights. While Cumberbatch mingled with the Radioheads Thom Yorke, Guadagnino, Dakota Johnson, and Tilda Swinton turned eyes with their all-red assembles. Their outfits might have matched the décor, but the man of the hour and his two lead actresses certainly stood out.

Only one actor was nowhere to be found. The enigmatic Lutz Ebersdorf was a no-show, which is a shame, considering Suspiria marks the acting debut for the frail octogenarian—who may or may not be Tilda Swinton in old man drag. Amazon Pictures is having fun stoking the mystery, giving Lutz his own credit in the film and reading a letter “from” him at the press conference earlier on that day, where he apologized for not being to make the trip.

Who knows; we may yet see Lutz again! At a cocktail reception the previous day, one American producer started spitballing future roles for the reclusive presence, with his tongue only partly in cheek. After all, many prominent older actors have tarnished their careers now that news of their alleged sexual misconduct has come to light—but not Lutz. Lutz Ebersdorf is clean slate.

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