Friday, July 04, 2003

Saw Guy Maddin's Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, Francois Ozon's Swimming Pool, and a concert film from the 1970s, Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic.

Dracula, like previous Maddin films, was shot on an extremely low budget (according to the director, iris-shots were made by punching holes in black construction paper and placing them over the camera lenses) and looks exactly like a silent-era film. This can be somewhat precious, but the effect is so uncanny, the story so oneiric, that I was entirely bewitched. Dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (this is actually a filmed performance of a ballet, set to Mahler and thoroughly Maddinized) portray all your favorite characters -- Lucy, Minna, von Helsing, the Count . There are some longueurs (Dracula and Lucy pirouette endlessly in a graveyard amongst giant mushrooms) but it's one of this year's best.

I was really disappointed by Swimming Pool. I've enjoyed some of Ozon's previous films (Water Drops on Burning Rocks, Under the Sand, 8 Women) but this was like a bad re-make of a Claude Chabrol film. Charlotte Rampling was great as usual, but the film's late metamporphosis into a psychological thriller was uninspired. And Ozon's fascination with women is beginning to seem increasingly creepy. The puppetmaster strikes again.

Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic is an amazing concert film from the "cosmic cowboy" era of country music. There's almost a punk energy to these performances (it was filmed in 1977, I believe). Waylon Jennings croons, Leon Russell grows extremely drunk and incoherent as the night progresses, and Willie starts things off with a clear-throated rendition of "Whiskey River". This is outlaw country at its best.

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