The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
The ballet as a silent movie with an orchestra. I'd never thought of it that way before. The dancers embody the characters, express emotion with their bodies and faces, try to translate feeling and speech into physical movement. They are borne up on the wings of the music. Gay Maddin's "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary" uses (and improvises on, and kids, and abuses) the style of silent films to record a production of "Dracula" by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The film is poetic and erotic, creepy and melodramatic, overwrought and sometimes mocking, as if F. W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (1922) had a long-lost musical version.
The director is Guy Maddin, who lives in Winnipeg, and is Canada's poet laureate of cinematic weirdness. His films often look as if the silent era had continued right on into today's ironic stylistic drolleries; he made a 2000 short named "The Heart of the World" that got more applause than most of the films it preceded at the Toronto film festival. Imagine "Metropolis" in hyderdrive.
In "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary," he begins with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's stage production of "Dracula," choreographed and produced by Mark Godden, and takes it through a series of transformations into something that looks a lot like a silent film but feels like avant-garde theater. The music is by Mahler (the first and second symphonies), the visuals include all the favorite devices of the silent period (wipes, iris shots, soft framing, intertitles, tinting), and the effect is--well, surprisingly effective. The emphasis is on the erotic mystery surrounding Dracula, and the film underlines the curious impression we sometimes have in vampire films that the victims experience orgasm as the fangs sink in.
The Dracula story is so easily mocked and satirized that it is good to be reminded of the unsettling erotic horror that it possesses in the hands of a Murnau, or Werner Herzog (1979) or now Maddin. Not that Maddin is above poking it in the ribs (sample titles: "Why can't a woman marry two men? Or as many as want her?" and "She's filled with polluted blood!").