Friday, November 05, 2004

Cable Catch-Up: Dracula, Pages From A Virgin’s Diary (2002)

Guy Maddin pays no attention to calendars. His movies address modern themes using silent film techniques. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they really don’t.

But in DRACULA, technique and subject matter blend perfectly. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of the Bram Stoker novel, choreographed by Mark Godden, is brought to the screen in mesmerizing fashion. It’s in black and white, with startling tints of color. There’s no dialogue, but Maddin employs sound innovatively, weaving it into the music by Gustav Mahler.

Zhang Wei-Qiang makes a seductive, irresistible Count. By telling the story solely through dance, the film does a miraculous job of retaining the erotic charge of Stoker’s tale. In many ways, it’s the strongest adaptation of the novel I’ve ever seen.

Book: The Handbook of Practical Spying (2004)

This silly little book from Washington D.C.’s International Spy Museum is by Jack Barth, although his name doesn’t appear on the cover. It’s written with what Rosemarie calls “a tone.” For instance, Barth refers to the knighthood received by Cambridge spy Anthony Blunt as “the most embarrassing royal honor bestowed on any Brit until Phil Collins.” Still, the book does a surprisingly good job of laying out basic espionage techniques and adapting them for everyday use. Barth suggests an innovative way to keep people from swiping your lunch out of the office refrigerator.

I visited the Spy Museum on my last visit to D.C. and heartily recommend it. You can actually crawl through a vent in the building, like a secret agent in countless movies and TV shows. That alone made it worth the trip.