#4 Les Vampires (1915)

Les Vampires is a ten-part French serial that, clocking in at 440 minutes total, took us about 20 nights to watch in little spurts between February 4 and March 20. January and February were some slow months because of Louis Feuillade’s serial film, but for some reason, we felt relaxed, calm, and familiar when we watched this super long work in these little digestible chunks.

We watched the complete Change Before Going’s edition of Les Vampires on YouTube as it is in the public domain. The only complaint we had was the lack of soundtrack in this edition, and it is curious to wonder what the program is usually presented with. Of course, we were spoiled by Air’s scoring of Voyage Dans La Lune. So, we tossed Pandora on and listen to some of my favorite Frech music, namely my Coeur De Pirate station – sure, it was probably terribly inauthentic, but it was something.

Les Vampires is an interesting film, “much like the detective story and the haunted house thriller (and) creates a sturdy-looking world of bourgeois order while also undermining it…porous with trap doors, secret panels, (and) massive fireplaces that serve as thoroughfares for assassins and thieves” (Rubin). While you can’t expect any actual Vampires in this flick, the seedy criminal underbelly of Paris crawling with thieves, murderers, crooked cops and judges, and ne’er a face to trust, traveling through this world with Phillipe Guerande and his bumbling protean fellow Mazamette is a lot of fun. The attractive mastermind behind all of this, Musidora’s Irma Vep, easily holds the entirety of this series together just beyond the grasp of the law. Les Vampires is a little silent story in a crooked funhouse world, perfect before bedtime.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Vampires

Jennifer

This was an interesting introduction to the very beginnings of cinema.  Like A Trip to the Moon, this film is a funny little mixture of theater and motion pictures.  The characters were well developed, and during several scenes, Garrett and I were shocked or delighted with the twists and turns of the plot.

The series is long.  Like, not just “boy, this is a long movie” – long, like, we watched it over weeks. It’s a silent film so most of the storytelling is through character’s nuances and actions. Also, I may have thought there were real vampires in this movie for way too long and wondered when they were going to show up…

Very happy we watched this!  If you can’t commit to the whole series, even one “chapter” is worth a view.

Garrett

I loved this movie. It was huge, long, spooky, silly, and at times a little hard to follow what they were trying to do. But by the end, it was a familiar comfort to turn it back on and venture back into this crooked, spooky little piece. I enjoyed brewing some tea, getting some biscuits ready, and sitting down for a new installment. Of course, Les Vampires has nothing on today’s sitting down and bingeing on a series by a long shot, but the silence requires an attentive patience and appreciation of stage theater and pantomime to get through. Once you get beyond that, waiting for someone new to pop out of a cabinet or a fireplace becomes an enjoyable and exciting prospect. There were so many criminals swimming around everywhere. Allegiances to characters you can trust shift from scene to scene until a few gestures become recognizable under a shifting costume (I can’t express how many times I found myself saying, “ohhhhhh, here’s Mazamette again, trying to pay his kids’ tuition, the poor guy,” so of course, he’s who I channel in the photo – in typical terrible Mazamette disguise).

A fun film that definitely laid the groundwork for film storytelling in many future films. I was really curious about how this was rolled out in theaters. I think I would be the first in line to see the newest installment and watch the week’s cartoons and newsreels alongside it. The sets, theatrics, and pantomime performances are quite revolutionary for the time, and I enjoyed every night I spent with Les Vampires. With clear influences on Hitchcock, Lang, Brecht, and films like M, The Threepenny Opera, and a host of others, this piece defined the thriller for legions of directors and audiences for at least the next hundred years.

LobsterFantastic mashup Graphic BeforeWeDieFilms.com

The Lobster and Captain Fantastic (2016)

We’ve watched two films over the past month that we felt were some serious contenders for the next edition of Schneider’s book. Even if they aren’t, we thought they were worth giving a little recognition for their stellar quality and storytelling.

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Captain Fantastic is an independent film written and directed by Matt Ross and stars Virgo Mortensen, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, and Steve Zahn in a story about a large, extreme left-wing family living off the land in the middle of the woods. We learn that Ben’s (Mortensen’s) wife Leslie, often hospitalized for bipolar disorder and impulsive behavior, has been living away from the family in normal society. A series of unfortunate circumstances surrounding her illness forces the family to follow, and learn the many ways in which their choices have adversely affected their family’s ability to function in the real world regardless of the fact that the children have significantly more knowledge and insight than their normal American peers. They have to face some tough realities about their future if they intend to survive.

This film actually came as a recommendation. After attending an amazing lecture by Noam Chomsky, one of my (Garrett’s) colleagues suggested we see it for a great gag about the prolific intellectual. What we ended up getting was a film that was as entertaining as it was touching. It covers a wide swath of themes that highlight how complicated modern life is when trying to do the most good for the world and our children. Modern living with any kind of independent philosophy and intellect is difficult, especially when our desires and interests for our children and the world clash with a society largely content with loafing. Still, compromises must be made to do the most good and be a part of a family. This film features some great writing and excellent performances, most notably Viggo Mortensen’s Oscar-nominated performance as a father who must make some major sacrifices in order to bring closure and progress to his children.

Definitely worth seeing, if only to make sure you remember to mark December 7th on the calendar every year so you don’t forget to decorate the yurt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Fantastic_(film)

THE LOBSTER

The Lobster is one of those amazing international collaboration films where some brilliant minds come together and make a piece unlike any other. Premiering at Cannes in 2015 (winning the Jury Prize), this black comedy by Efthimis Filippou and Yorgos Lathimos stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Winshaw, and John C. Reilly in a film about modern relationships. Farrell enters a world where people must go to a special hotel if they’re single. He has forty-five days to find a partner. If he doesn’t, he will be transformed into an animal of his choosing (a lobster) where he’s free to find a lobster mate. The clock is set in the opening minutes, and the ensuing violence and turbulent relationships carry Farrell into a world of apprehension, emotional turmoil, existential confusion, and social intrigue.

In many ways, this film is unclassifiable. It’s hilarious, it’s terrifying, it’s sad, it’s exciting, and it is sincerely something that we are absolutely thirsty for in a cinematic experience. This film says so very much about our modern lives and asks a lot of deeply troubling questions. Who do we spend our time with? Why does our society dictate that our lives need to be completely fulfilled by one other human being? Why must the rest of the world be shut out? Why is this the apex? We found ourselves thinking about the implications of the story long after watching it. Something completely necessary in a film like this (is it a science fiction? Horror?) with rules of its own little universe, is that it requires a rock solid script and perfect execution of performance and writing for the audience to believe it. The lobster’s stellar writing and excellent ensemble cast have it, and it was an incredible experience. It is certainly a horror film, but instead of the bloody variety, it turns the mirror on us and lampoons modern love, the promises never delivered, the boredom, and the terrifying knowledge that perhaps the only option besides being a crustacean at the bottom of the cold sea is the ‘red intercourse.’ We’ll let you figure out what that means when you watch it.

An excellent, excellent film.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lobster

 

 

#500 Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Clocking in at the exact halfway point of Schneider’s original 1001, Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is the French-Polish director’s first Hollywood film and one of four of his films on the list. Mia Farrow’s performance as a soon-to-be mother careening toward uncertainty is utterly spectacular, switching her audience’s belief of whether she is suffering severe pre-partum paranoia, a reasonable distrust and crumbling allegiance of friends and family, or the terrifying question as to whether the Dali-esque rape sequence was a dream or reality.

This film’s early horror genre is in amazing hands with Polanksi’s interpretation of the pulpy book, “weaving together…(a) taut, focused, building sense of dread…(still keeping audiences of today) in awe of (his) detail, his rhythm and pacing, his skill with his actors, and the fine script he adapted for the screen” (). A magnificent flick that features Ruth Gordon in her much-too-delayed Oscar-Winning role as Best Supporting Actress, Rosemary’s Baby is a film that by all standards shouldn’t hold up today, and yet does so with such energy and gusto that it can only be credited to Polanski’s vision and its striking observation of the horrors and uncertainty of the mysteries of even the most perfect modern pregnancy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary%27s_Baby_(film)

This is also officially the first time one of our regular posts has been able to crossover with Movie Posters By Me! Check out Episode 18 below…

Jennifer

Well… I am very glad I didn’t watch this movie while I was pregnant. In my opinion, this movie is pretty perfect from start to finish.  There is a slow but steady build up of dread that compelled me to watch more as the feeling of more and more bad terrible things are coming. The genius of this movie, besides its remarkable actors, is a breathless waiting for the “gotcha” part. At so many different points I was positive something terrible was going to happen – but didn’t.  Most of the movie leaves one to guess about what is and is not real or imagined. Who is sinister? Who is pretending? How much of it is in Rosemary’s head?  The last 20 minutes of the movie are a perfect roller coaster dive of action and revelation.  After watching it, I realized how perfectly every little moment of the film is – so many things I barely noticed at first ended up being significant to the ending of the film. The location and the mood of the movie are perfect, with Rosemary’s apartment itself established in the very first scene of the movie as being that significant prison that the atmosphere of the piece as a whole rests upon. A great film.

Garrett

I really enjoyed Rosemary’s baby. I am not one to get scared by any paranormal entities at all, especially those surrounding religion, but what sets this film apart from much of the hype that surrounds those tropes is the fact that Polanski has directed a film that puts its weight on questioning the pregnant-hysteria of his protagonist, the structure of her social and emotional support systems, and almost in hindsight, the possibility that this is the child of some horrific devil-entity. I think Polanski did an incredible job in structure and execution, the various surreal scenes being edited in such a way that they generally didn’t feel as ridiculous as I am sure they could have been in any less capable hands. When it got to the end, in my opinion, the reveal was a little disappointing for me, however, I can easily blame that for my brand of 2017 skepticism. Still, from dialogue to editing, camera work to performances, it is easy to understand what makes this film have such staying power – and for something made in the late sixties to early seventies, it is easy for something like this to age poorly. This is certainly credited to Polanski’s adept filmmaking. Finally, just as Jenn mentioned, there was a point where we turned to each other and said, “imagine what it would have been like to watch this pregnant?” Mine was at the line where the doctor told her not to read any books and talk to any friends about her pregnancy. If there is anything I can say that this film nails the most (and I sincerely mean this without any irony or the hyperbole the film clearly contains), it is the confusing, complicated, bizarre, troubling, and terrifying process of modern pregnancy… for everyone involved.