Vampyr - Der Traum des Allan Grey / The Strange Adventure of David Gray
(Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932) French / German co-production
Dreyer shot the film at the beginning of sound cinema, althought it is built almost like a silent film, with intertitles, large use of writting on screen (pages of book and handwritting) and very little dialogue. it was also originaly shot in 3 versions : German - French - English. to be distributed without subtitles. the english version is partly destroyed and was lost.
the score was composed for the german version, so on the french version (the one i saw, on which the voices are downright stupid! :D), the editing freeze-frame when the german intertitles were longer to read.
also the german version was censored on release and some images were cut. the french version features a longer dance sequence with the shadows on the wall, the "very graphic and violent" shots where they plant a stick in the corpse's heart, and the scene with the man burried alive under flour.
however the german version shows the gears of the flour mill stop at the very end of the film (in the french version the gears keep running until the end cut)
the lead actor (Allan Gray) credited as Julian West, was Baron Nicholas De Gunzberg, the producer of the film who funded Dreyer's project. he was a non-professional actor like most of the cast (only Lord of the Manor and Leone were professional). the film was a commercial failure and he gave up his acting career :D
Dreyer even cut the film between the morning show and the late show on release day!!! 150 meters of film are gone, and we'll never know what was on it :(
the story is inspired by a Sheridan Le Fanu's novel In a Glass Darkly (as mentionned on credits), Dreyer used some elements in other short stories contained in the book to compose his scenes. In a Glass Drakly is a quote from the scripture, meaning what human see alive is like looking at blury shapes in a rough mirroring surface, while dead people (after life i.e. eternity with God) acquire a total vision, a deeper sight... this theme helps to understand the film which interpretation is hard to grasp.
the quirky death trip, where the lead might be asleep or awake (according to intertitles version), walks outside of his body and visit a world of shadows, spirits and vampires.
the narrative and performance style is very stylish, overplayed, slow, discontinuous. the pauses and poses might kill the frightening atmosphere if u look for classic vampire flick, and the silly voices did it for me :D but as a silent film it works perfectly. and the use of light and shadows is outstanding!!! this sequence with the shadows on the wall that live their own lives (with no actual people on screen to cast the shadow), and like Cocteau he uses a couple of clever tricks to fake special effects.
all the camerawork and the subjective point of view in the death trip where Allan Gray is in a coffin with a glass window over his face, the camera is upside down and looks at the top of the trees and the houses, this is somehow reminiscent of De Palma's Carlito's way opening/ending scene.
Vénus et Fleur (2004/Mouret) -
Cannes 2004 / Director's Fortnight
How this amateurish under-rehearsal draft of a film could make it in Cannes??? Amateur actresses, with a really dumb script on the clearcut stereotypes of teenagers opposite identity : Vénus the hot chick from russia who need casual sex and Fleur the shy virgin girl who looks up to Vénus.
La Vérification / Proverka na dorogakh / Checkpoint
(1971/Aleksei German) ***
Winter 1942 on the russian front. a russian prisoner, working for the germans escapes and surrender himself to the russian partisans (resistants), who argue whether to kill him or to test his faith to his nation.
interesting story about the absurdity of war, the confusion and interferences between sides (prisoners, spies, resistance, propaganda), the psychology of the victims and the revenge. some beautiful B&W shots. insightful vision of the war front: lack of the big picture, love/hate relationship with the civilians, embushes, german punishing squads, doubts, hunger, order, conflict of commandement, rivalry...
Anatoli Solonitsyne (recurrent Tarkovsky's cast) plays an angry lieutenant away from his troops, who doesnt let empathy blur out his tactical objectives. the captain in charge of the camp is a former country milician with profound humanity, and a great sense of duty.
Veronika Voss (1982/Rainer Werner Fassbinder/Germany) +++/PRO
Wow now this is a masterpiece! A happy change with Maria Braun. The scenario is much deeper, between Sunset Blvd. and Streetcar Named Desire. The B&W photography is superb! with great compositions. The shift between reality and mental delusion/memories makes the trip very disturbing.
Vibroboy (1994/FR) Jan Kounen ****
debut short of Dobbermann's director, where he showcases his mastering of camera crazy moves. another cult masterpiece!
Les Vierges / The Virgin Girls (1963/Jean-Pierre Mocky/France) +++/pro
A Nouvelle Vague-type film about the emergence of feminism in a puritan society. 6 successive virgin girls fall in love and balance whether waiting until marriage to make love, as they are stalked by avid lovers of all ages. The young virgin boy keeps on repeating "You gotta be modern!" while he searches for a place to get laid with his new girlfriend. Quite a cynical portray of several cases showing adultary husbands, arranged marriage, unhappy newlywed and young merely legal teenagers making out. Photographed by Eugen Schufftan.
Life is a Miracle (2004/Bosnia) Emir Kusturica ****
i'm fan of Kusturica's universe, but was a little disappointed by the lightness of this long awaited new opus axed on mainstream comedy rather than his usual surrealist darker atmosphere that i crave in his work. It's more along the lines of the comedy league of Black cat, White cat, but might be a turning point in Kusturica's career towards more intimist films dealing with couple and personal portrayal.
This said, the film is delicious, especialy some delirious crowd scenes with an orchestra, loud music (composed and performed by the No Smocking Orchestra mentionned by acquarello), and a more tender second part focused on the blooming (impossible) love between the serb engineer and the bosniac (muslim) hostage girl (damn gorgeous!), which sums up all the contradiction of this love/hate war in 1992 Bosnia.
Violent Cop (Japan/1989/Takeshi Kitano) ***
early Kitano, from an abandonned production that he rewritted and cast himself in the title role at the last minute. he kept the basic cop plot and developped the film entirely around the personality of this violent cop, who isnt afraid to beat up teen dealers, to drive over a cop-killer on the run... be prepared, it's bloody and nasty!
a powerful gang of drug dealers in connection with corrupted police officers, resorts to murders to rule the district. a lone cop, constantly relocated for misconduct, in charge of his sister mentally disturbed, serves the law with faith but break the rules when he want a villain arrested. he will track down the killer that seem to be out of control, and the big boss. immoral and non-politicaly correct film (especially the ending!!! beware)