Tony Curtis in the naughty Euro-farce, The
Amorous Mis-Adventures of Casanova? Sure you don’t, but forget it anyway. This
incarnation of the aging rogue is worlds removed from Curtis’s leering
carouser. It is the end of the party and the close of the Enlightenment era for
Casanova, announced by none other than Dracula himself in Albert Serra’s
defiantly dense and stately slow The
Story of My Death (trailer
screens during this year’s New Directors/New Films, co-presented by the Film Society
of Lincoln Center and MoMA.
has become a dirty, sacrilegious old man. He still pursues his pleasures where
he may, be they pomegranates or chamber maids. Initially, this all seems like a
good gig to his new manservant, whose primary duties appear to listening to
Casanova pontificate on whatever. However, he becomes somewhat disillusioned
with his master during their questionable Carpathian holiday. Naturally,
Casanova starts trifling with the daughters of a suspiciously accommodating land
owner, but the undead Count also has eyes for the lasses.
paper, Death probably sounds like a
super commercial mix of sex and gothic blood-sucking, but Serra’s approach is unapologetically
meditative, bordering on the explicitly experimental. This is not Anne Rice or
even Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. It is one
hundred fifty-eight minutes—and viewers will feel each and every second.
might have a healthy contempt for narrative, but he has an eye for composition.
Frame after frame intentionally evoke the Old Masters with their chiaroscuro effect
and Serra’s extraordinary attention to mise-en-scene. Even though the score is
credited to four composers (count them: Ferran Font, Enric Juncá, Joe Robinson,
and Marc Verdaguer), there is not a lot of music heard during Death’s two and a half hours. Yet, in a
rare genre concession, what there is sounds surprisingly distinctive and
a typical Serra cast of non-traditional actors, poet Vincenç Altiaó rather
livens up the proceedings, hedonistically chewing the scenery and relishing his
self-consciously wicked dialogue. Eliseu Huertas also has an intriguing screen
presence as the Count and his high-pitched keening is truly unsettling. Still,
it is strange that he looks as old (or older) than Altiaó’s Casanova, yet his
Dracula is supposed to represent coming era of Rousseau’s Romantic savagery.
could be considered the Hammer Horror film Terrence
Malick has yet to make. Few vampire films feature half as many scenes of wind
rustling through the grass. Frankly, Serra’s work demands to be considered
solely on its own terms. Maddening and anesthetizing for the uninitiated, Death still takes viewers from one
specific point to another. Selectively recommended for hardcore fans of Malick
and Ben Rivers, The Story of My Death screens
this coming Wednesday (3/26) at MoMA and next Saturday (3/29) at the Walter
Reade, as part of the 2014 ND/NF.
Labels: Albert Serra, Dracula, ND/NF '14