Mar 162019

I hadn’t seen this film since the early 90s and so, despite some pretty clear memories of scenes and shots, I wasn’t sure what I was going to be seeing. Interestingly, the things I remembered were there as I remembered them, which surprised me, because memory is a tricky thing.

What I wasn’t expecting though were all the superimpositions and overt analogue collage aimed at creating in-frame montage. These don’t exist in today’s cinema, and when they do—meaning, when images read as “assembled”—I can’t think of a case in which they aren’t read as failures of continuity or polish. Here though, they read as discursive and meaningful. Watching the film was a different and deeply satisfying experience for this reason alone.

A quick note for later: the photo-chemical image provides a basis for collage. Does the digital? Or, as an image more closely related to animation—i.e. an iconic signifier—or even perhaps writing—i.e. a symbolic signifier—is the digital image, that string of stored 1s and 0s, however disparate it’s referent’s part, always itself, fundamentally “unified” making the notion of non-illusion or collage non-functional?

Jun 232018

Elizabeth Kostova’s novel is a baroque return to and elaborate reimagining of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, only this time without any pretense that the women are desperate souls needing protection or that the men can save even themselves. It’s also extremely well written: the narration follows (in every chapter save one) a fixed pattern of frame and flashbacks recounted trough letters, journals or stories told over dinner that, once established, lends real energy to what is a very long book. The complicated reworking of the history of Ottoman Europe is completely fascinating.

I’m a sucker for vampire fictions whether written or filmed, so I often doubt my judgment about stories like these. For this book though, I feel confident recommending it to friends. For my part, as soon as I finished it, I ordered The Swan Thieves.

Dec 222016

I have a complicated history with this show. I over-invest in the best parts, and gripe about the rest.

The best parts are easily identified: anything centering on the gloriously bitchy Pam or on Eric or on Lafayette (*snap*) or on Jessica (“I’m a virgin again!”) qualifies. These characters represent (or in some cases aspire to) a sophisticated and fashionable cosmopolitan ideal that I love.

Across the seven seasons of the show, this ideal has survived in a narrative space nestled between two other strata of society. Above the cosmopolitan, sits the soulless bureaucratic, commercial and political interests of the Vampire Authority, the Fellowship of the Sun and the various Senators and Governors that come and go. These interests operate like weather. They set conditions the cosmopolitan characters work around and cope with. Occasionally they kick up a storm and do damage. The cosmopolitans can’t escape this strata but keep their heads down and try as much as they can to do their own thing and to stay out of sight.

Beneath the cosmopolitan ideal are the provincials. They’re Bon Temps and they know little about the world. They mistake folksy common sense for wisdom and often wind up tolerating the inevitable ugliness of ignorance.

A folksy character like Sookie is, at her best, open-minded and full of unspoiled life. At her worst, she is just the small-town outsider’s version of open-minded and acts like a square and a scold. The show, which is deeply Rosseauian in its approach to noble Bon Temps (a stance that comes from the source novels) usually doesn’t distinguish between these two ways of being and treats them both as “spunky.” This is deeply annoying. [note]The purity of Sookie’s natural state of mind and view of the world—she’s a romantic ideal—is allegoraized by her fairy light, which is slowly corrupted and dimmed across the series by her repeated exposure to dark, worldly vampire blood.[/note]

The provincial is not simply a function of place though. Bill is, to my mind, the worst of the rubes and nearly unbearable to watch. He’s seen the world, and yet he rejects it, choosing instead to embrace folksy values (from a previous century) and weds them to extensive political ambitions. Worse he speaks continually about love. He’s awful.

The cosmopolitans are nothing like Bill. They know how to live (even those who are dead) and aren’t fooled by the folk or sucked in by the organizational tools. They are fabulous.


Now don’t get me wrong. I’m rooting for Sookie, Jason, Sam, Tara and the rest of the gang. And I adore Arlene. But face it: she lives in a small world, and she and her friends are all convinced that remaining small is a kind of victory.

In my True Blood, a series that exists only in my head, events take place in the bigger world we’d find if we followed Jessica after she got over Hoyt and left Louisiana or if we visited Pam and Erik in their new digs in Tokyo or maybe Hong Kong.

In that world, I am Ginger.[note]ps—thanks to whoever made the gifs I found floating on the inter webs.[/note]


Jan 172015

DraculaI’d never actually read this novel, so around Halloween I picked it up. I liked it, especially the late confrontation in Dracula’s home and the long race back to his castle.

The novel revels in technical intelligence and skill with tools, which makes sense because the gothic is generally about the pre-modern threatening the modern. It also identifies this modernity with women (and again, women standing as signs of what men desire and fear is a common trope). As a result, the gothic threat to industrial modernity plays out here as a foreign man stalking and violating upstanding British women.

Fine. whatever. Charlie Hebdo, etc. etc.

What caught me off guard is how overtly and directly the novel portrays the men in the story—despite their certainty that women need their protection—as completely lost. Mina more or less saves herself and all of London by working through them. Yet the men seem to believe—to actually believe—that she’s desperately in need of their help. But their help is comically, stupidly sexist: despite the fact that she’s the only one who ever figures anything out, [note]But what about Van Helsing? Well, he doesn’t figure things out so much as provide the knowledge necessary to establish the situation and advance the plot. In archetypal terms (ack! lol), he’s the magician rather than the hero.[/note] they keep locking her in her room to save her from the horrific details of the situation and then when they fuck up and make things worse, they let her out, tell her how bad things have gotten, and she fixes everything and gets them going again. It’s exhausting.

The final race to the castle under threat of sunset, which is narrated from a distance and at a breakneck pace, pulls off something of a miracle by allowing these foolish men to kill Dracula at the last moment and in a satisfying, redeeming way. My uninformed, out-of-context read is that Stoker identifies with Mina, is disappointed by the men around him and that the final scene (and not the portrait of Mina) is the novel’s wish: it imagines a world where the lame men of modern London get it together and act heroically, proving themselves dashingly worthy of the Minas who love them.

Dec 062014

ONly Lovers Left AliveTwo hours of being cool and solitary, artistic and messy. I could watch Tilda Swinton read for hours. Really great beautiful night photography too.

The final scene is lit like a Hollywood movie and has a neon moon. It’s not the “diamond moon that makes music like a gong” because that’s their moon, the night people’s, not ours.

Throughout, the images rest upon the strong back of the soundtrack which fuses Detroit rock–noise and North African–lutes to create a near-perfect mood-piece.

Dec 062014

Dracula UntoldAn awkward but not terrible movie that, like Maleficent, sets out to humanize an iconic villain. Dracula here is both a family man and a Leader®. In practical terms this means that he is the kind of guy who protects his wife and son by defeating the entire Turkish army through force of will and scrappiness. It also means that after defeating the devil himself he chooses to become a minion of evil because his dying wife is worried about their kid and wants him to become a vampire so that he can make sure he is ok.

But whatever. It was the weeks leading up to Halloween. I was teaching gothic fiction to my students in an 18th and 19th century novel class. And the mood was right. Right enough to push me to read a couple monster books in preparation for the season. So all’s good.

Dec 052014

As per convention, I grabbed the next season of this show on a rainy day in the Fall at the end of a long week at work. I had no expectations and little hope that it would be any good, not after the disastrous fourth season. Boy was I wrong. It was fast, nimble and campy as hell. It may even have been better than season three, which is saying something.

So I’m back on the hook for the last two seasons.  Allan Ball is gone though, so I have no idea what to expect…

Oct 072013

I loved season three and had been waiting for a reason to drop the money for season four. When the shit hit the fan after the first few weeks of my semester, I thought “Bingo!” and clicked “buy,” and settled in for some quality time with dear sweet Pam and the lovely Eric. Alas, this was not to be.

Good things first. I liked the neat trick used to jump the timeline forward a year. The strict chronology of the first three seasons had gotten claustrophobic and the jump let in some much needed air. The Star Trek homage of the faerie world and the much needed death of major characters in the final episode were also much appreciated. Jessica also became cool enough that my vamp-love is now split three-ways, no small feat.


If season three pushed all my favourite aspects of the show front-and-center and exaggerated them just enough in just the right way, season four took those same things and absolutely ruined them. Pam ruined. Eric ruined. Sookie ruined. Hoyt ruined. Jason more-or-less ruined. Sexy sex ruined. Gay camp ruined. Pretty much everything and everyone ruined.

Things were so bad that I binge viewed the second half of the season just to be done. I disliked it that badly. What a waste.

Feb 182013

I put off watching this season of True Blood because I didn’t have anyone to loan it to me and didn’t want to drop the 50$ it was going to cost me to buy it. Plus, I’d heard that it wasn’t very good, and after the lame second season, I wasn’t willing to risk it.

Then on a whim one night at the end of the holiday break, I broke down and bought it. Maybe it was cold and I needed some steamy bayou landscapes to warm the animal spirits?

Whatever the reason, I’m so glad I did. Despite what I’d been told, this was the best season by far. Extraneous stuff thrown to the side. Bill off-screen; Eric front and centre; Pam (sweet magnificent Pam) by his side. Everything else exaggerated a notch (but just a notch). All of it baldly camp, but just barely, like a judiciously used spice and without the gloatingly self-conscious self-consciousness that would spoil the effect. And gay gay gay.

Too much damn fun.