Archive for Criterion

Rising Vamp

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on October 29, 2022 by dcairns

Over at The Current, I’ve contributed the opening salvo to a series of pieces on the vampire — in what is known as august company, with Geoffrey O’Brien, Phoebe Chen, Angelica Jade Bastién, and Beatrice Loayza. I tackle Lugosi. Quite a challenge.

The pieces are here.

As a taster, here’s a passage I was sorry to cut, but to make the focus on Bela rather than Tod Browning, it had to be done:

“Browning’s best effects are all next-door to incompetence: he has a disconcerting way of undermining our comfortable certainty about how many characters are in a scene, using mirrors, occluding walls, and surprise angle changes, so that, when Dracula’s failure to appear in a mirror is first shown, the effect is familiar: every scene with a cut in it has had the same effect. When the very nervous Helen Chandler begins conversing telepathically with her undead suitor, the conversation has a disjointed quality we’ve already come to know well.”


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2022 by dcairns

From Criterion, Terry Gilliam’s THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, from Masters of Cinema THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI in 4K.

For Criterion, I got together with ace editor Chase Barthel to make a video essay charting the long and one would have to say STORIED history of Baron Von Munchhausen from real-life figure to literary character, illustration subject, movie star and even radio dialect comedian. Huge fun to do, allowing me to mess about with Mssrs. Méliès, Cohl, Zeman and Von Baky, as well as Cruikshank, Rowlandson and Gustave Doré.

CALIGARI is an upgrade from the earlier Blu-ray and ports over my earlier video essay edited by Timo Langer.

Another, smaller (but choice) Criterion announcement to follow soon.

If you don’t know his name

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , on August 22, 2022 by dcairns

On the same day Facebook connects me with a fake Derek Malcolm — I have met the real one — had hoped to tell him how much his BBC2 Film Club meant to me, something I neglected to mention on previous meetings (not easy to get a word in when DM and the late Bertrand Tavernier are in full flow) — this bogus Malcolm was trying to sell some kind of scam — Facebook also blocked me for posting a picture of Charlie Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel. I’m unblocked now. The fake Derek Malcolm was possibly the most inept scam artist I’ve ever run up against.

I SHOULD, of course, abandon FB altogether, although the fact that they’re blunderingly overanxious to suppress Nazis now theoretically makes them preferable to Twitter, who still seem half-hearted in this regard.

Also got to view our copy of Criterion’s 4K CITIZEN KANE — a freebie as reward for the short essay on the Welles nose which Randall William Cook, Timo Langer and I created. The viewing took place on Stephen C. Horne’s big big screen, and Fiona, who has never seen the film projected, likened it to see the film for the first time. I’ve seen a couple of projections, one shortly after Welles’ death (I turned 18 on the same day), and this was certainly the best non-35mm experience I’ve had with it. The transition from Thatcher’s memoirs to the studio snowscape was the best I’ve seen lately. It’s possible that the high-contrast print used for TV transmission gave this sequence an effect never intended, but beautiful: tiny snowflakes drifting over the page, invisibly white-on-white except when they pass across Thatcher’s handwriting. I recall the effect precisely, and found it breakthtaking, but I don’t remember if it was the film projection or the BBC2 screening where I experienced it. I don’t recall noticing a difference in the sequence between the two — it was only when the film appeared on a DVD supervised by editor Robert Wise that I was disappointed by its absence.

The 4K doesn’t quite achieve the effect in my memory, but the transition is still gorgeous.

The main thing I noticed that I’d never seen was the canvas texture of the campaign office’s ceiling. Cloth was used so that a boom mic could be hung above it and still record the voices through the ceiling. It’s not distracting or anything — none of the “flaws” exposed seemed at all bothersome. It’s just nice to be able to confirm that story optically.