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Old 01-28-2009   #1
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Cyril Tourneur
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Movie Recommendations

as there is already a book recommendations thread, there should also be a movie recommendations thread; now this is done and here is my first entry...

here's an excerpt...

What was it about 1922? In the same year Nosferatu showed the world how to make a vampire movie and Dr. Mabuse took a near-supernatural journey to Berlin's criminal underworld, a film opened in Sweden that was to become notorious for its bold depictions of torture, madness, carnality, and — most memorably — horrific acts performed by and for bestial, nightmarish demons, including Satan himself. But while Nosferatu and Dr. Mabuse presented their stories as fiction, filmmaker Benjamin Christensen's Häxan appeared in the guise of a documentary, its very realism at the heart of its hypnotic allure and its scandalous notoriety.

Officially banned outside of Sweden for decades due to graphic imagery and an unabashed anti-clerical theme, Häxan has grown into a cinema legend one hears about but rarely, if ever, gets a chance to actually see. Is it true that it displays witches cavorting naked with lusty devils? Is a baby really drained of blood before it's tossed into a stew pot? What's this about women lining up to kiss Satan's bulbous ass? Inquisitional torture? Flying on broomsticks? Hysterical nuns? Sacrilege and perversion? Demonic orgies? Otherworldly monstrosities emerging from between an old crone's legs? And it's a documentary? And is there really a version narrated by Beat generation writer and hipster icon William S. "The Naked Lunch" Burroughs, complete with acid jazz soundtrack?

It's all true. Häxan (pron. "hexen," meaning "witches") was long available only in rare, diminished forms, the most well known being a 1968 re-edit given the title Witchcraft Through the Ages. That edit sports the add-on Burroughs' narration and an anarchic musical score featuring Jean-Luc Ponty. Few versions of either incarnation have been released on home video, but restorations have appeared on VHS through Great Britain's Redemption label and, in 1999, Home Vision Entertainment's pairing of the Swedish Film Institute's restored Häxan and (unrestored) Witchcraft Through the Ages.

Now this infamous curio is finally available on DVD under the Criterion Collection folio. Criterion offers a strikingly beautiful print of the fully restored and re-tinted Häxan and again pairs it with the Burroughs version. Its superb audio track features a new score recreated from the original list of musical cues. Plus, Criterion maintains its reputation for delivering a generous assortment of supportive supplemental material — including an audio commentary by Danish silent film scholar Casper Tybjerg, outtakes and test shots, and click-through selections from the centuries-old documents writer/director Christensen used for his diabolical source material. It's presented in an attractive and mindfully produced package.

and here is a link to get the criterion edition

Häxan (1922) - The Criterion Collection

(Dictated while taking a stroll) I have come to realizewhat a superbly contrived marionette man is. Though without strings attached, one can strut, jump, hop and, moreover, utter words, an elaborately made puppet! Who knows? At the Bon season next year, I may be a new dead invited to the Bon festival. What an evanescent world! This truth keeps slipping off our minds.

- Tsunetomo Yamamoto, The Hagakure
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6 Thanks From:
Andrea Bonazzi (01-30-2009), Daisy (01-28-2009), Joe Pulver (04-18-2009), Ligeia (01-28-2009), paeng (01-29-2009), rresmini (11-20-2009)


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