Vampyr

When examining the Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer's (1889-1968) seminal take on the vampire legend, one may do well to proceed by asking the vulgar question: is Vampyr scary? Doing so confronts one with what the film is and is not and clues one in to why a large segment of the Berlin audience that attended the film's 1932 premiere demanded- - unsuccessfully -- their money back. When Dreyer set about making Vampyr, his intention was to generate moolah. But as might be supposed of a director whose previous film, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) stands as one of the supreme achievements of the medium, Dreyer was unable to harmonize his commercial intentions with an ability to stomach pat formulas. Rather, he trussed his work up with ambiguity and disjunction, instead of coddling his viewers with unruffled titillation. The film traces the adventures of Allan Gray, "a dreamer for whom the line between the real and the supernatural became blurred," who happens upon a village where he becomes involved in various enigmas that twirl around a wizened vampire and her partner, a malign doctor. While Vampyr is not a scary film, it is an unsettling one that encourages multiple viewings. This is particularly true because of the manner in which Dreyer moves from objective to subjective perspectives and fiddles around with causality. Dreyer has been frequently cited as one of the true poets of cinema -- a man who sought spiritual forms out of a medium that is predisposed to maximizing its secular appeal. Though his other masterpieces, such as Day of Wrath and Ordet, unfurl like rigorously metrical processions, Vampyr is the cinematic counterpart of gothically styled free verse.

April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.