Friday, 23 October 2009

Halloween Movies!

If you're capable of renting a DVD for next Saturday, I have some suggestions. Do you? Let me know via this blogulatory device what you think a good Halloween movie would be. I'm going to get you started with a great favourite of mine, which remains rather obscure...

Dracula - Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002) 75 mins, Tartan DVD

There have been so many versions of Dracula that it's surprising to find a new and rather 'arty' production to be one of the best. I rented it out of curiosity and then bought it in delight. The film is based on a work by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, but don't be put off by the B word - the film is essentially a silent movie with dance and music (apparently it's Mahler - I'm a bit philistine about this classical stuff). There are also some (often very funny) intertitles. (FLESHPOTS!) But we all know the story and the characters, don't we? So we can sit back and enjoy the virtuosity of the performers.

The basic plot is that of the play, rather than the novel. The action begins in Whitby, at Lucy's home and the neighbouring asylum where good ol' Renfield is depleting the invertebrate population. Lucy's suitors are introduced, as is Dracula, played by the Chinese dancer Wei-Qiang Zhang. Yes, there's a parable about immigrants stealing our women (and our money!) but it's all good murky fun. And, just as importantly, Stoker's basic plot is all here, complete with some of the barmier bits - insanely reckless blood transfusion, anyone?

The female characters, Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker, are foregrounded to allow full rein to the principals, Tara Birtwhistle and CindyMarie Small. As the 'naughty' Lucy, Tara Birtwhistle is convincingly whimsical, seductive and - after she is 'turned' - predatory. Cindy Marie Small has the tougher job as goody-goody Mina, but Maddin throws a few kinks into the plot that are mostly for her benefit, or so it seemed to me.

This is a truly Gothic rendition of Dracula, with girls in peril from dark forces and menfolk rallying round to help. In the case of Lucy, the chaps are too late, and the 'Bloofer Lady' has to come to a sticky, stabby, decapitatory end. In the case of Mina, things become a little complicated. But suffice to say that love triumphs and all is well, more or less. Along the way are some wonderful moments, not least when the company get together for set pieces such as Lucy's funeral.

There is a superb supporting cast, notably David Moroni as a very convincing (and possibly transvestite) Van Helsing, and some wonderful sets. The lighting and camera work are inspired. There are also some fine DVD extras, notably director Guy Maddin's short 'The Heart of the World', which delivers a six minute burst of German Expressionist cinema, or something.

Anyway, cop a load of this. Here's the bit where I get to perv Lucy has a bad night.


Oscar Solis said...

I bought "Dracula: Pages From A Virgin's Diary" sight unseen, having seen only a few photos and a few reviews. The main draw was the director, Guy Maddin. Little did I know I was in for a wild ride. Maddin does the story proud with his swirling camerawork, expressionistic set design, and best of all use of the silent film language. Definitely deserves a wider audience

As an aside, a perfect evening of vampire film watching might be (and this, I stress is my own, humble opinion:

"Dracula" with Frank Langella, a perfect blend of gothic romance and horror. This one has one of the creepiest scenes ever committed to film

"Shadow of the Vampire" a film both artistic and comic. A love letter to the silent cinema.

"Dracula: Pages From A Virgin's Diary"

"Vampyr", perhaps the most supernatural and dreamlike horror film ever made. A masterpiece that crawls into your subconscious.

valdemar said...

Bienvenu, however you spell it, and welcome! Thanks for giving such a thoughtful response to my burblings. The Frank Langella Dracula is great - excellent cast (Kate Nelligan! Donald Pleasance! Eddie Shoestring!) and some great Goreyesque visuals. I'm ashamed to say that I have't seen your other two choices, because I am a deeply disorganised individual and cinematically challenged. I will watch them soon.

Oscar Solis said...

No need to be ashamed. After reading about "Vampyr" for years upon years I finally got to see it. For some reason, it took me 3 times to finally see it all the way. With that in mind, might I suggest that "Vampyr" be watched with extremely few distractions (none, of course, would be best). It's not loud or fast. It has a very slow pace. It is also one of the few films I've ever seen that has an immersive quality. You become part of that world for the duration of the film.

I look forward to any future postings regarding your viewing of this film.

And your "burblings" are always welcome reading here in excessively sunny California. It always leads to an author unheard of or film unseen. Keep up the great work.

valdemar said...

Thanks Oscar, having a busy time at work lately, but I'll try to keep up with the postings.