Talking about writing, here you can read my article on 2nd District Supervisor Susan Rose, my review of Gus Van Zant’s Gerry, and my review of The Actors from the London Stage’s version of The Tempest.
It all seems like so long ago. In fact it was a week. At last my Cherry Orchard review has been posted.
UPDATE: As the Goleta Valley Voice was bought out by the NewsPress and then shuttered, the article is no longer online. Here’s the archive:
Chekhov’s ‘Cherry Orchard’ – the right play at the wrong time?
By D.M. Terrace, Special to the Voice
Mention the playwright Anton Chekhov and the word “slapstick” doesn’t necessarily come to mind. But there it was on stage at the Hatlen Theater Friday night: pratfalls, slip-ups, mistaken identities. Given, Chekhov always saw The Cherry Orchard – his last play, written as tuberculosis ravaged him – as a comedy, a wry look at the inability of the landed gentry in Czarist Russia to see the change that was happening under their own feet.
My latest review is up at the Valley Voice, this being on Guy Maddin’s Dracula.
Martin Scorsese recreates the birth of New York City in sprawling epic
By D.M. Terrace, Special to the Voice
In Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese has taken a blood-and-scandal soaked non-fiction book from 1928 and brought much of it to the screen as the backdrop to a quite simple revenge drama. Or is it the other way around? This is a movie so jam-packed with detail and history (some real, some pastiche) that at all moments it threatens to swamp the characters. Most critics so far — Kenneth Turan, especially — have balked at this elephantine film, calling it interminable and obscure. But I quite liked the excess of it. In its portrait of a city, the film captures the density, confusion, and lawlessness therein. As an adaptation of a book that is really one juicy, violent tale after another, it succeeds largely because it has such a simple story as Hollywood wrapping.
Guy Maddin’s “Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary” is a curious beast, being a meeting of minds: Maddin’s retro-German Expressionism filming methods and the already offbeat Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s staging of “Dracula.” The ballet is at once respectful of the original novel’s narrative and willing to subvert it for pure movement and expression, focusing on the two women at the center of Bram Stoker’s work: Lucy and Mina.
Guy Maddin has led an extremely cultish career, creating films that seem to come from the golden age of silent cinema, with grainy film, intertitles, variable shutter speeds, broad acting, and pancake makeup with black eyeliner. Sometimes, his striving for effect and replication overwhelms the simpler things like plot and character; other times, all his efforts pay off, such as in “Heart of the World,” the brilliant short he made for the Toronto film festival (and shown two years ago at the SB Film Fest).
To film a ballet, then, doesn’t seem too much of a stretch for Maddin; the stylized movements of the dancers aren’t too far from the strange locomotion that often pops up in his films. And the “big” emotion of ballet is also close to his aesthetic. Strange, then, that Maddin seems not that interested in the dancing — he certainly doesn’t film it like he is, preferring close-ups and tableaux to wide shots.
What comes across after a viewing is that Maddin is very interested in Stoker’s novel itself, and saw the ballet as his chance to film his take on the classic. It’s clear that Maddin favors a reading that explores the strange sexuality of the novel. “Dracula” here becomes a sort of anxiety tale about the deflowering of innocent women, with Lucy taken before her wedding, and the mob-like desire for revenge exerted by her ex-suitors, jealous with rage. Blood, and all that it symbolizes to the female in this society, is most important here: in a black and white film, it’s one of the few things that Maddin colors (tellingly, the other thing is green money).
Best performance belongs to Zhang Wei-Qiang as Dracula. Casting an Asian in the role — the ballet company’s choice, not Maddin’s — works well in bringing out the xenophobia that, like the sexuality, lies barely suppressed below the surface of the tale (Maddin underscores the point with clips from a real anti-immigrant WWII film). Zhang is in the film sparingly, but his presence is felt throughout; he’s sexy, threatening, seductive, and cold, a perfect vampiric combo.
Ballet fans will probably get the least out of Maddin’s film, but anybody else into the strange and wondrous will find deep resonance in this most peculiar cinematic beast.