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Archive for July 5th, 2013

by Sam Juliano

The boundaries which separate life and death are shadowy and vague.  Who is to say where exactly the one ends and the other begins?  In certain mysterious maladies all functions of vitality in the human body seem to stop.  And then some unseen force sets the magic pinions and the wizard wheels in motion once again.  The silver cord has not been cut, the golden bowl has not been broken.  And the soul?  One wonders. What, meantime, has happened to the soul?   -Edgar Allan Poe

The most terrifying phobia known to man in both a literal and figurative sense is the contemplation of being buried alive.  The possibility has long captured the attention of some of literature’s most celebrated figures in hair-raising tales that offer their own spins on the rare condition known as catalepsy.  Poe’s chilling story “The Premature Burial” has always been the most all-encompassing work on this theme, but it was also a central focus in Dickens’ Bleak House, where Mrs. Snagsby’s violent spasms morph into this dreaded condition; in George Eliot’s Silas Marner, where the titular character frequently endures cataleptic fits and seizures and in Emile Zola’s “La Morte d’Olivier Becaille” where the central protagonist is buried alive.  Other stories by Alexandre Dumas and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have showcased it, while it’s been re-current in Poe’s other works like “The Fall of the House Of Usher,” where Madeline Usher is entombed alive by her unstable brother Roderick, and in the lesser known “Berenice.”  Film directors have been no less fascinated with the fearful malady and it’s various narrative possibilities and perversions.  In the latter category is George Sluizer’s horrifying The Vanishing, a depiction of a depraved sociopath whose modus operandi is to chloroform his victims and then bury them, and imagine their reactions when they realize they are under the ground nearing suffocation.  A more traditional visualization of the condition appears in Val Lewton’s Isle of the Dead, one of the later entries in his classic 1940’s horror series for RKO, where a cataleptic woman played by Katherine Emery is entombed on a Greek island during a plague amidst some shuddery atmospheric trappings.  In that film’s most striking sequence a camera moves in on Emery’s face to show us what everybody else in the cast has missed – the quiver of her nostrils.  Then there was the popular television series Dark Shadows, which featured Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Joan Bennett) guarding against the unthinkable with some precautionary measures.  Jan Svankmajer’s 2005 surrealist and visceral film Lunacy is also based on the subject.  In any event Poe himself wrote: To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. (more…)

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Van Gogh 2

by Allan Fish

(France 1991 159m) DVD1

Study of the artist as a…man

d/w  Maurice Pialat  ph  Gilles Henry, Jacques Loiseleux, Emmanuel Machuel  ed  Hélène Viard, Yann Dedet, Nathalie Hubert  m  Jacques Dutronc, André Bernot, J.M.Bourget, P.Revedy  art  Katia Wyszkop, Philippe Palut  cos  Edith Vesperini

Jacques Dutronc (Vincent Van Gogh), Alexandra London (Marguerite), Bernard le Coq (Théo), Gérard Séty (Gachet), Corinne Bourdon (Jo), Elsa Zylberstein (Cathy), Leslie Azzouli (Adeline Ravoux), Jacques Vidal (Ravoux),

Is there any painter in history we feel like we know more than Van Gogh?  And there is very much the paradox, for how much do we really know him?  Most of us know him from Lust for Life, the story of Vincent as told by namesake Vincente Minnelli.  We all know that Vincent, the Vincent of Kirk Douglas in complete anguish, wrestling with himself as if each painting was like tearing flesh from his already malnourished body.  It’s still an impressive performance.  There’s also a very subtle one from James Donald as his brother Théo, far better than the grandstanding of Tony Quinn as Gauguin.  Let us also not forget the colour hues in Freddie Young’s photography, painterly in themselves. (more…)

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