Friday, January 2, 2015

Voluptuous Vainglorious Vampires ~ Va-Va-Va-Voom!

Nosferatu by Werner Herzog. I loved Klaus Kinski even before I saw this movie when it was initially released theatrically in 1979. However, with this movie, he made me a fan for life. He makes an utterly artistic, animalistic, poetic vampire. He doesn't even say all that much in this film, conveying most of his role through pure visuals alone, body and facial movement. This man could make high art of literally being on camera with his own shadow, which indeed you see in one scene. The rest of the casting is likewise inspired with the formidable and beautiful Isabelle Adjani in the Nina Harker role and Bruno Ganz in her husband Jonathan's role. This is a German-Werner Herzog inspired version of the classic Bram Stoker tale. That makes quite a difference to the story as a whole other culture is superimposed over an originally English novel.

The town it is set in is fascinating to add to the tale with its interconnecting canals. To my utter astonishment, this version also has a feministic Nina Harker (not surprising, however, with Adjani playing her). Nina takes charge of the situation and decides to protect her husband and the village itself by taking the vampire on alone and by seducing him no less. Adjani is well up to the task of seducing even a vampire! I've seen the movie several times since 1979 and always thoroughly enjoy it. Until the Coppola version of "Dracula" was made, I was convinced this version was the best. But why split hairs? Both versions are excellent and stand well enough entirely on their own.

Shadow of the Vampire. When given a totally straight delivery, Felix has a tendency to watch a film in equally literal fashion. Thus, he was about to miss the fun of this film entirely. However, I found my tee hees converting to outright belly laughs and then it occurred to him, "Hey, this is funny." 

Yes, this film is absolutely hilarious and it is more about the lengths people will go for their passions and needs than it is about vampires. John Malkovich plays filmmaker Murnau making the original "Nosferatu" back in the '20s, a silent film. Willem Dafoe plays the lead actor Max Schreck, who is actually a vampire hired by Murnau to play the part as the ultimate touch of authenticity for his film. Murnau only has his film on his mind. He will and does do anything for it. Schreck only has feasting on blood on his mind, both cast and crew's but ultimately the leading lady as the piece de resistance.

The cast and crew, in turn, are so used to being around crazed artistic types that Schreck's insisting on remaining "in character" and only shooting at night and in "full costume" strikes them as his "sacrifice" for his acting craft! Willem Dafoe is absolutely fabulous, as usual, and certainly deserved his long overdue best actor Oscar nomination. Malkovich does his usual solid job but the role isn't that different from his other roles. This film reminds me of "Barton Fink" and "The Muse," which also covered the far out behavior of creative artists and the prices they are willing to pay. What makes all three so good is that they are not exaggerations in the slightest. Doubt my word? Check into a live-in summer art studio course for several weeks and you'll come home knowing no exaggeration is necessary. The DVD has some fascinating extras on it including Dafoe getting made up for the role.
Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula".  When this was released in the early 1990s, both the critics and the public were not favorably impressed. They were mistaken. This is a gorgeous, wonderful film that only a hardened romantic cynic could fail to like. Gary Oldman is an extraordinary talent in any film and this was his finest moment. He brings a complexity to Dracula that no one else has ever managed to achieve. Coppola created the most artistic version of the Bram Stoker novel as well. He hired many artists to create gorgeous sets and backdrops. The Japanese costume designer won the Oscar for her creations. Best of all, were the puppets Coppola used to achieve special effects in several key scenes.

I've read the Rice vampire books and this is better. I've read the original Bram Stoker novel and this is better. A decade earlier I thought Klaus Kinski made the best vampire I'd ever seen in Hertzog's"Nosferatu" but Gary Oldman at least equalled it and may have surpassed that performance. It's been very sad for me to see Oldman typecast in more recent years as a movie villain. He makes a fantastic leading man and is being wasted in these other films. Ironically, some feel that the reason for this is that he isn't good looking enough to play leading men. Yet in Fall 2000, years after making this film, he lit up the advertising world doing the sexiest clothing ads imaginable for Donna Karan.

Twilight. I did not expect to like this movie. For one, I think vampire love stories have been overdone to death. Coppola's DRACULA, starring Gary Oldman, is one of my all time favorite movies and I really didn't need any pretenders to that throne. This was before I saw Edward as played by actor Robert Pattinson. In a nutshell, anyone who was ever a teenage girl will instantly grasp the appeal of this movie. There you are leading the typical angst ridden teenage life when in walks this gorgeous supernatural being who is totally in love with you. He lifts you out of your ordinary existence into an extraordinary one. He woos you in extraordinary ways too, even flying you around your Pacific Northwest territory and watching you sleep with adoration on his face. He never sleeps, of course. 

I would be surprised if men liked this movie. I think a guy would only watch it if his girlfriend insisted. He also has the considerable after viewing problem of measuring up to Edward/Pattinson, which will be pretty depressing. The special effects are nicely done. The female lead does a good job. The plot is good vampires vs bad vampires, aside from the love story that is. Absolutely no one would watch this movie though without Edward/Pattinson. I saw a recent poll on VANITY FAIR about the sexiest, most beautiful man in movies today. Robert Pattinson just routed every other man of any age in movies today in that poll. Everyone voted for him. Since every woman was once a teenage girl, that is all you need to be to fall in love with this movie. The last time I saw a video which had this kind of effect was when Colin Firth played Darcy in PRIDE & PREJUDICE. I am absolutely unsurprised TWILIGHT was directed by a woman, Catherine Hardwicke. Being a woman who was once a teenage girl, I am sure she knew exactly how to proceed with this material. I am tempted to give this less than 5 stars because I am rather ashamed I liked it this much. It is a big guilty pleasure movie for me. However, I then think, "Hey, I'm not a movie critic. I can really, really enjoy something without being all torn up over artistic merit." So the five stars stays. We all need our guilty pleasures.

No comments:

Post a Comment