(2002)4Elbert VenturaDracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary is cult director Guy Maddin's first feature film in six years, and his latest outing since The Heart of the World, his justly celebrated short from 2000. Commissioned by Canadian television to adapt the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's interpretation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Maddin instead came up with this defiantly cinematic fever-dream that bears his unmistakable stamp despite its literary and stage origins. Beginning with the casting of an Asian, Zhang Wei-Qiang, as the feared Dracula, Maddin amplifies the story's allegorical aspect for maximum hysteria. "Others! From Other Lands!" screams the screen upon Dracula's approach by sea. Later, Maddin imagines Dracula's defeat at the hands of Victorian Englanders as a metaphor for imperial adventurism. Filmed in lush black-and-white with a few drops of crimson, and largely silent, but for well-deployed sound effects and wall-to-wall Mahler, this Dracula seems like a mysterious artifact from a nonexistent past -- a description that could apply to all of Maddin's movies. Employing the forgotten tropes of 1920s silent cinema, this postmodern pastiche pulls out all the stops, from showy shadow play to excited title cards to Vaseline-smeared lenses. Almost an afterthought, the ballet numbers actually fit nicely into Maddin's grand scheme, though one wishes that Maddin and editor deco dawson had slowed down their hyperkinetic cutting during the dances; it's a minor fault in a major work, however. At once ironic and earnest, ridiculous and sublime, Dracula, Pages From a Virgin's Diary is a definitive exponent of Maddin's willfully anachronistic cinema.
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