Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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Paper Dracula

I'm awarding the title of "Most Obnoxious Adaptation of Dracula" to Guy Maddin's 2002 Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary, ostensibly a film of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's adaptation, but footage of the dancers make up but one mutilated ingredient of this post modern, short attention span, smugly stupid stew.

I guess this is what happens when numbskulls get their hands on insightful analyses of a classic work. Analyses that discuss the xenophobia and the fear of immigrants inherent in Dracula as a character here prompt Maddin to use title cards at the beginning thrusting the subtext down your throat.

Meanwhile, the subtly frightening sexual quality of Lucy's blood transfusions is changed to show Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, and Quincey Morris apparently gang raping her.

It all becomes a trite, dim witted commentary on patriarchy. It's like a left wing minstrel show (which, I guess, considering the state of the Democratic party at the time of minstrel shows in the U.S. would make it just like a minstrel show). Instead of a story that humanises and explores prejudices and fears in society, it demonises the opposition, setting them up as an Other far more starkly than was done to eastern Europe through Dracula's characterisation. And, incidentally, it's not as though Stoker was stuck in modes of thinking--he was an Irish Protestant but that didn't stop him from showing Van Helsing's Catholicism as being far more useful against Dracula than the Church of England.

There is a cute moment where Mina seeks to emulate the sexual experiences in Jonathan Harker's journal, which shocks him, but once again, the female characterisations still fall below the even antiquated feminism of the novel itself. The women are shown as being little more than sex starved victims.

Maddin is praised by many critics for his emulation of silent film, which really surprises me as the movie couldn't look more modern in my view with its hyperactive cutting and dopey close-ups of one note performances. I was reminded of Ginger Roger's quote about Saturday Night Fever, "The young people to-day--they think they can dance with their faces." Certainly we can't blame the ballet company in this instance since they typically perform this stuff on stage. If only Maddin had sought out some vintage silent ballet footage.

I really am baffled by the almost universal acclaim this Maddin guy receives. I didn't actually think much of a Chinese dancer being cast as Dracula--I figure you need to go with the best dancer when it comes to ballet and, anyway, it fits with the Attila heritage Dracula was so proud of. However, Roger Ebert writes;

[Dracula] is played here by the ballet's Zhang Wei-Qiang, whose stock melodramatic Asian characteristics are made not much more subtle than with D.W. Griffith's Cheng Haun in "Broken Blossoms" (1919).

Please hear David Tennant's delivery when I say . . . What?

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Tags: ballet, dracula, guy maddin, movies, vampires
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