FILMS GONE WILD: SPANISH “DRACULA,” THE BECHDEL TEST AND “ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW”

When I decided to revive FILMS GONE WILD, one of the things I wanted to do was use the column as a forum to get people talking about film and entertainment here – start the conversation, if you will. One of the things I value about working at the Film Society of Lincoln Center is that I get to serve as somewhat of a bridge between what I see as populist and multiplex movie watching and the more intense cineaste fare that we frequently present at the Walter Reade Theater and in our Film Center. On one hand, I can champion genre films at Film Society and promote them in a more “serious” way than I think they (and the filmmakers that make them) often get, while on the other I can offer a way into presentations of people not necessarily on Mr. Multiplex Moviegoer’s beaten path – like the Godard retrospective we recently had or the upcoming series of Ozu films and the filmmakers inspired by him.

It’s one of the reasons that I have continued to write here and previously on other sites as a journalist and commentator even as I continue to work as a film festival publicist and, now, a filmmaker.

So, let’s start talking about movies. Following are three subjects I am currently pondering. Let me know what you’re thinking…

TOPIC NUMBER ONE

Being unable to take films seriously due to something the filmmakers could not have foreseen
This may seem like I’ve got it in for the oldie vampire films after my “take down” of TWINS OF EVIL, but it really is coincidence that I decided to watch the Bela Lugosi DRACULA and the alternate Spanish version of DRACULA back-to-back to check out the subtle (or not-so-subtle) differences between the two productions. But, in all honesty, I have to say that it was impossible to view the alternate Spanish version with any seriousness because Carlos Villariás repeatedly reminded me of Andy Kaufman’s “Latka” character from Taxi. I mean, Latka was clearly related to Conde Drácula.

In a similar way, as I was prepping for NYFF this year, my wife Justina and I found the intended devastating firsthand view of the dehumanization and atrocities of The Khmer Rouge via Rithy Panh’s THE MISSING PICTURE was completely undermined by the similarity in tone and sound of the film’s voiceovers to that of Will Braden’s Henri Le Chat Noir films featuring the fatalistic existentialist musings of Henri the cat . And trust me, once the very French dour feline voice of Henri gets into your head, there is no getting it out again.

So – now, it’s your turn. What films have had their seriousness or effectiveness undermined for you by something they could not have possibly anticipated?

TOPIC NUMBER TWO

The Bechdel Test
There was a report that Sweden would soon start rating it’s films according to The Bechtel Test, which means the film must have at least two female characters that have a scene in the film in which the two women talk to each other at some point about something other than a man. The Bechdel Test got its name from Alison Bechdel, an American cartoonist. She introduced this concept in her comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For” in 1985. I have to admit I’m very new to this. Apparently, Natalie Portman mentioned it recently in an interview about the new THOR movie and then I read about the Sweden theaters adding this rating system.

Now, selfishly I’m totally down with embracing the idea since my first feature (THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE), due to begin it’s film fest tour next year would theoretically get an “A” rating when we play in Sweden (because we gotta play in Sweden, right?!). But seriously, are things so bad with the male/female balance that this is necessary?

Let me hear what you think.

TOPIC NUMBER THREE

Is ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW a worthy successor to CARNIVAL OF SOULS?
I have been talking about this film and my take on it since I saw it at Sundance earlier this year and I have been mystified that no one else (that I have found to date) has made the same connection.

The surreal black and white presentation, and the twisted, dark rabbit hole we fall into along with the hapless and tragic dad at the center of ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW mirrors the journey that the female car crash victim takes in the classic CARNIVAL OF SOULS. I was immediately struck by that connection as I watched it. The recognition of that connection as the film continued informed my viewing and added to my appreciation of the film as a whole. But it seems like everyone else was so wrapped up in “What will Disney do?!” “Scary Disney lawyers!” and “How did they pull it off without getting caught?!” that everything else was left in the dust.

What say you?




Posted on November 11, 2013 in Features, Films Gone Wild by
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4 Comments on "FILMS GONE WILD: SPANISH “DRACULA,” THE BECHDEL TEST AND “ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW”"

  1. Justina walford on Wed, 13th Nov 2013 2:41 pm 

    I used to read Bechdel’s strip all the time! 100% for the Bechdel Test because it is painful to watch a movie that’s so guy heavy all the time. There’s some great Bechdel points on the cutting room floor of Dazed and Confused. That pisses me off. Major losers I remember seeing on the big screen: Reservoir Dogs and Ravenous. Great films…would have liked a chick in it.


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  2. SrLansky on Mon, 18th Nov 2013 7:21 am 

    It’s been said that Carlos Villar was the only member of the Spanish language production of Dracula allowed to see what the dailies of the other Dracula looked like in order to imitate Lugosi, so you’re right pointing that his performance is a not-too-good impersonation of a foreign character. Actually, the biggest sucesses in the Spanish version happen when it goes its own way: the wonderful use of space, the wider shots, Pablo Álvarez Rubio’s Renfield delivery as open comic relief.


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  3. John Wildman on Fri, 22nd Nov 2013 10:09 am 

    Agreed. Also, interesting to note that the women in the Spanish version were able to have a hint of cleavage, whereas the Bela had to deal with some prim, conservative necklines when he went in for the bite..


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  4. Cinema Paradiso on Thu, 20th Feb 2014 11:25 am 

    ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW was ok film but nothing special and Disney in this case was smart not to sue them as it would only give the exposure to the film. All in all considering it was a piece of guerrilla film making it’s is still nice accomplishment.


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