It’s Vlad, Dad!

Huzzah! We’re back in the room with Uncle Francis Ford Coppola, director of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, watching BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA with the director of it. Slip into something fuchsia and join Fiona and I (and Uncle Francis) on this adventure!

So, Mary Shelley was at that time not much older than seventeen

So, uh, eighteen?

We now get a garbled explanation of how Lord Byron inspired Mary Shelley to write “the articulate monster Frankenstein,” a theory new to me but which does seem to enfold the classic error of naming the monster Frankenstein rather than the creator. And this man produced Francis Ford Coppola’s Kenneth Branagh’s MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN.

But Dr. Polidori who was probably in love with Lord Byron in a way that was unspeakable

HAHAHA but now Uncle Francis garbles Polidori’s The Vampyre, conflating it with the unrelated penny dreadful VARNEY THE VAMPIRE.

a figure who, by his attractiveness, sucks the life, sucks the blood out of you, so he cast Byron in his mind as the vampire. So in a way both our famous monsters the monster Frankenstein and the vampire Dracula, are both inspired by Lord Byron.

No no no, none of that is true.

“Sadie looks like shit with red hair,” says Fiona, who is more than usually follicle-obsessed right now. “OK, maybe not shit. But it doesn’t suit her.”

Thinking back on this movie, it wasn’t terribly enjoyable experience for me.

Fancy dissolves on Absinthe pouring.

“That is such a Tia-Maria-commercial dissolve,” remarks Fiona, scornfully. But in fact, the classic Tia Maria ads starring Iman relied mainly on hard cuts. I think it’s Gordon’s Gin she’s think of. Or possibly Castrol GTX. At any rate, this is indeed the one bit of the film that really looks like an ad for something (we’re about to get a bit that looks like a music video) — as more and more of our visual language is co-opted by salesmen, is it going to get harder for filmmakers dedicated to the quest for cinematic beauty to avoid this? Perhaps not… because Madison Avenue isn’t watching Carl Dreyer, and great cinema is informed by substance and meaning and reality as well as photogenics. This sequence lapses into the language of ad-land precisely because it has no purpose other than to promote absinthe. Coppola’s business-man head and wine-grower’s sensibility are seeping in.

Roman did such beautiful effects work in it to weave the legendary and somewhat magical effects of the drink absinthe which was of course made illegal around this time or a little later, primarily because it was the first aperitif that was made out of something other than grapes

Uncle Francis, I believe, can be trusted on the subject of drink. So I’m grateful for this history lesson. (Fiona checks his various absinthe anecdotes on Wikipedia and he’s confirmed correct.)

and really present Dracula as a romantic figure

“Let’s just show him crying, that’ll help,” says Fiona.

“And sweating,” I add.

I think this movie was thought of many different ways, but among the most enthusiastic people who seem to have enjoyed the film are women, it’s the nature of the love story, I mean everyone at some point has been in love with someone who’s bad for them. Certainly being in love with Dracula would fit that description [laughs].

Fiona points out that Uncle Francis DOES have a sense of humour and can laugh at himself. He doesn’t need me.

Then we get another crack about Winona not being willing to push herself enough.

This is definitely an homage to Cocteau, but a lovely image, that he takes her tears and makes them into diamonds, every man would like to do that if he makes the woman he loves cry.

Maybe it could work as an excuse? “I swear, I was just trynna make diamonds come out of your eyes!”

Keanu is STILL a prisoner in Sitting-Down-Dracula Castle. But Coppola is finally talking about Wojciech Kilar’s score. He originally wanted Witold Lutoslawski: “Young man, do you know how many hours it takes me to write one minute of music?”

The implication that at that level of handmade music it’s incredibly time-consuming

To listen to or to compose? I think he lucked out with Kilar.

He wrote three or at the most four cues, a love theme, a kind of initial, very dramatic theme, and then a third theme.

Beautifully evoked there. I can almost hear them, especially the third one.

And that was all he gave me.

Coppola says they only had these three tracks and they had to mix them differently in order to not just have them repeat endlessly. Uncle Fran puts this down to classical music being so time-consuming and Kilar being of that world, but WK had already done film scores for Kieslowski… So I think maybe he was just taking the piss, defrauding Hollywood by doing the minimum work for a presumably generous fee. But he wrote GREAT themes.

(Later, I will realise that I was so fascinated by this disquisition that I missed the entirety of Keanu Harker’s escape from Sitting-Down Dracula Castle.)

“Winona’s got such adorable ears,” says Fiona. A shame she won’t push herself. She just falls back on her ears.

Funny how FFC is always full of praise for Sadie Frost’s sexiness, but can’t resist slapping Winona down for her (if anything, superior) performance.

She’s sorta sexy with those cute little baby vampire teeth.

She puts me in mind of a young Celine Dione.

Discourse on Hopkins’ aversion to long rehearsals, or any rehearsal at all. Coppola admits the value of spontaneity.

“This is like the video for Wrapped Around Your Finger.” [by The Police] says Fiona, accurately.

“I never much liked the idea for ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger.’ No, I was kind of pissed off about that one. I’ve never been much of a fan of that song, actually. Sting got to shoot his part last in that video and made a meal of knocking all the candles out. Fuck him.” – Andy Summers [The Police]

These sequence with the candles was really the brainchild of Michael Ballhaus, who was really a wonderful man, and trying very hard to get with what he understood ultimately was a kind of far-out style in which almost anything goes, and I think if I’m correct, he’d got the idea of a scene where there were just candles and what have you.

Poor Michael.

I don’t want to dwell on Antony Hopkins’ performance too much. I think his accent is good, he can do throwaway with it, which Keanu can’t. But the note of music hall is not helpful to this picture.

You could say I encouraged him to be a bit over the top, but the whole movie is over the top, so what’s over the top?

Antony Hopkins is.

You know, I’m even beginning to think of an era in which I make movies not only in which you tend to hold closer to your vest, right, which is to say you don’t show anyone the script and you don’t ask anyone’s opinion but maybe even one day you don’t even show the film to anyone. Maybe you just make it and you look at it and you say “okay” and then you put it in a closet drawer and you forget it.

Man’s mad.

All you need to do that is a lot of money.

Yeah, right, so there’s absolutely no downside because WHAAAAAAT

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

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2 Responses to “It’s Vlad, Dad!”

  1. Again, beautiful.

  2. Thanks! Uncle Francis is an inspiration to us all.

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