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Saturday, May 1, 2010

VAMPYR (1932)

Between his unmatched films on witches sacred & profane (LA PASSION DE JOAN D’ARC/’28 and VREDENS DAG / DAY OF WRATH/’43, Danish filmmaker Carl Dreyer made this vampire pic. An odd choice for the severe master, but VAMPYR is not your typical horror film. A dream journey, a chase after reality, a film where plot is as porous as shadows on a mist. It cannot really be explained, only experienced. For decades, film-goers had to put up with dupe prints that turned the intentionally misty look of Rudolph Maté’s exquisite sfumato photography into mud. (And with a badly cropped picture.) But the current Criterion DVD (or in Europe - Masters of Cinema) is a great improvement. VAMPYR can now be properly seen, if not fully understood. There are unforgettable moments - a dance of phantom couples spinning down a white corridor, a doppelgänger in a coffin, suffocation by flour: nightmare images as soft & inevitable as the fall of loosed feathers. You’ll discover your own indelible mysteries & horrors. "Shadow-Play’ is an old, poetic term for cinema; never was it so justified.

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