Tuesday, November 14, 2023

ENG 281 Week #14: Vampires (Classic Films)

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Czechoslovakia: Jaromil Jireš, 1970)
Film Description: "A girl on the verge of womanhood finds herself in a sensual fantasyland of vampires, witchcraft, and other threats in this eerie and mystical movie daydream. Valerie and Her Week of Wonders serves up an endlessly looping, nonlinear fairy tale, set in a quasi-medieval landscape. Ravishingly shot, enchantingly scored, and spilling over with surreal fancies, this enticing phantasmagoria from director Jaromil Jireš is among the most beautiful oddities of the Czechoslovak New Wave." -- Criterion Collection
"Beautiful and strange from beginning to end, Jaromil Jireš’s Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a film like no other. It’s fairy tale, horror movie, and coming-of-age story all at once, like Alice in Wonderland with medieval and religious overtones." - Peter Hames
"The glittering surfaces of classic fairy tales often mask undercurrents of emotional torment, spiritual foreboding, and moral transgression." - The Criterion Channel

Resources for after you watch the film

Ganja and Hess (USA: Bill Gunn, 1973)
Film Description: "In this once-lost masterpiece of independent horror, the blade of an ancient African knife spreads a vampiric contagion to research assistant George (director Bill Gunn), whose bloodlust soon infects Dr. Hess Green (Night of the Living Dead's Duane Jones) as well. When Hess is enraptured by George's beautiful wife, Ganja (Enter the Dragon's Marlene Clark), he attempts to conceal his terrible secret... but at a high price."
"Ganja & Hess is the phantasmagoric outpouring of a singular artist whose voice cannot be easily categorized. Written and directed by Bill Gunn, the 1973 film has a loose affiliation with vampires and Blaxploitation while confronting mainstream ideas about racial representation, sexuality, and cinematic tradition. For years, the film existed in relative obscurity, severely re-edited and distributed as a throwaway hunk of schlock entertainment. But a twenty-first century restoration by The Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation has led to a full appreciation of this surreal, visceral, yet intellectual work of filmmaking. Without question, Gunn’s individualism drives this picture. Ganja & Hess is thoughtful, full of haunting, uncanny imagery and formal experimentation, and wholly unconventional in its making. It offers a potent blend of alienation, desire, and self-possession that feels like a personal statement. However, its fluid exploration of these themes is rooted in the senses, sometimes better felt than reasoned or summarized. Gunn’s moody and rebellious work of independent cinema is not unlike its characters, marked by its fragmentation, layers, and deviations. No matter how unpolished it sometimes seems, its urgent filmmaking supplies a charge that makes the experience vital and unforgettable." - Brian Eggert
Resources for after you watch the film:

Diawara, Manthia and Phyllis Klotman. "Ganja and Hess: Vampires, sex, and addictions." Jump Cut #35 (April 1990)

Eggert, Brian. "Ganja and Hess." Deep Focus Review (October 29, 2020)

Totaro, Donato. "The Uniqueness of Bill Gunn’s Ganja & Hess." Offscreen 25.9/10 (October 2021) 

Bram Stoker's Dracula (USA: Francis Ford Coppola, 1992)
Film Description: "Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Anthony Hopkins star in director Francis Ford Coppola's visually stunning, passionately seductive version of the classic Dracula legend. In BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA, Coppola returns to the original source of the Dracula myth, and from that gothic romance, he creates a modern masterpiece. Gary Oldman's metamorphosis as Dracula who grows from old to young, from man to beast is nothing short of amazing. Winona Ryder brings equal intensity to the role of a young beauty who becomes the object of Dracula's devastating desire. Anthony Hopkins co-stars as the famed doctor who dares to believe in Dracula, and then dares to confront him. Opulent, dazzling and utterly irresistible, this is Dracula as you've never seen him."

Resources for after you watch the film:

Cameron, S. Brooke and Suyuin Olguin. "Consuming Appetites and the Modern Vampire." Revenant (Winter 2015): 79 - 101. 

"How Francis Ford Coppola Breathed New Life into ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’." Cinephilia and Beyond (ND)

Nadja (USA: Michael Amereyda, 1994)
Film Description: "This ultra-hip, post-modern vampire tale is set in contemporary New York City. Members of a dysfunctional family of vampires are trying to come to terms with each other, in the wake of their father's death. Meanwhile, they are being hunted by Dr. Van Helsing and his hapless nephew. As in all good vampire movies, forces of love are pitted against forces of destruction."

Resources for after you watch the film:

Kuersten, Erich. "Druggie Vampire Women of B&W City: A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, THE ADDICTION, NADJA." Acidemic (April 1, 2015)

Obuchowski, David. "Pain And Joy: A Life With NADJA Part One." Fangoria (May 24, 2021) ["The first of a five-part essay examining the making of Michael Almereyda's NADJA and the author's personal connection with that film." - each additional part is linked at the bottom]

The Addiction (USA: Abel Ferrara, 1995)
On the streets of Greenwich Village, a NYU philosophy student (Lili Taylor) finds herself the victim of a vampiric encounter, inaugurating an insatiable craving for blood that drives her to the depths of junkiedom and existential despair. Shot in moody black-and-white chiaroscuro, Abel Ferrara’s harrowing metaphor for addiction swirls through existential philosophy, Catholicism, and gangsta rap into a potent, art-damaged reflection on guilt and redemption.
"When faced with the visual representation of the extreme horrors of the 20th century, what does a filmmaker do with these images?" - Scott Macaulay

Resources for after you watch the film:

Ferrara, Abel. "On The Addiction." (Posted on Youtube: 2022)

Kuersten, Erich. "Druggie Vampire Women of B&W City: A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, THE ADDICTION, NADJA." Acidemic (April 1, 2015)

Macaulay, Scott. "Bloody Thoughts: Abel Ferrara on The Addiction." Filmmaker (July 7, 2019)

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