Vampir Cuadecuc (Pere Portabella, 1971)

‘Experimental making-of’ is usually the basic description of the film Pere Portabella constructed behind the scenes of Jess Franco’s Count Dracula (1970) – next week sees its UK debut on (region free) DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Second Run. I reviewed the film in 2015 when it was screening at the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival as part of their ‘Fact or Fiction’ theme. As I pointed out, Portabella’s repurposing of what Franco was doing creates an interesting dissection of several levels of mythologising:

[…] the mechanics of filmmaking are as much an element of fascination for him as the mythology of Stoker’s Count. The two aspects come together in a sequence where Christopher Lee (who would collaborate with Portabella on another film – Umbracle – the same year) removes the prosthetics and accoutrements (contact lenses, hair, fangs) that transform him into an onscreen monster – a metamorphosis in reverse and a demythologising or deconstruction of both a film star and one of his most famous roles (something that Franco was cashing in on).

You can read the full review here.

Portabella has had a long and varied career and is still (occasionally) making films. His most recent was documentary Informe General II: El nuevo rapto de Europa (2016), which is a sequel of sorts to his 1976 epic Informe general sobre algunas cuestiones de interés para una proyección pública – I’ve seen the latter but not the former (yet), and the two are available together in a boxset that has optional English subtitles. [UPDATE 11/10/2017: Mubi are showing those two films for the next 30 days – here]. I watched Vampir Cuadecuc from a career-spanning boxset of Portabella’s work (it covers 1967 – 2009, containing all of his films apart from Informe General II), which is produced by Intermedio (I bought my boxset directly from them) and likewise has optional English subtitles on all of the films. I particularly recommend his short films (Poetes Catalans (1970) is my favourite – I wrote about it on the old blog in a 2014 ‘best of the year’ post).

Fact or Fiction: Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival 2015

Abdul i Hamza (Marko Grba Singh)_1

My preview of BFMAF 2015 is now up over at Eye for Filmhere.

A new strand – New Berwick Cinema – has some interesting sounding films, most of which I haven’t seen or read much about (the obvious exception being Sueñan los androides / Androids Dream (Ion de Sosa, 2014), which I saw in Barcelona earlier this year – my review and my interview with two of its makers). This year they have also taken ‘Fact or Fiction’ as their main theme, representing the blurred lines between documentary and narrative fiction, and reality and fantasy – as I’ve been exploring documentaries in my ongoing research, I’m intrigued by what I might discover in that strand as well.
Last year was my first time at BFMAF and one of the things I liked most (apart from a three hour early morning ramble around the town and out to the lighthouse) was exploring the unusual spaces where they show the film installations. The emphasis that the festival places on artist / filmmaker installations is one of BFMAF’s most distinctive features and they give careful consideration to the location allocated to each piece – I like how the space in which you see a given film unavoidably shapes your experience of it, for better or worse (most of the spaces last year ‘worked’ but a couple didn’t (for me, at least), and I know to take a jumper with me this year for any viewings in the old ice houses). I’m not going to Berwick for as long this time – I’m doing two day trips rather than staying for a three-day weekend (which unfortunately means that all of the evening events are off the cards because the trains stop running ludicrously early) – but I hope to see most, if not all, of the installations and will also be catching the New Berwick Cinema shorts programme.
I will be reviewing films for Eye for Film – I will update this post with relevant links for the films listed below when the reviews are online.

Abdul & Hamza (Marko Grba Singh, 2015)
Archipels, granites dénudés / Archipelagos, Naked Granites (Daphné Hérétakis, 2014)
La fièvre / A Spell of Fever (Safia Benhaim, 2014)
J’ai oublié! / I Forgot! (Eduardo Williams, 2014) [I forgot it too quickly]
Limbo (Anna Sofie Hartmann, 2014)
Mercuriales (Virgil Vernier, 2014) [not recommended]
No Man’s Land (Salomé Lamas, 2012)
Salam Cinema (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1995)
Vampir Cuadecuc (Pere Portabella, 1970)

Full details of the festival can be found on their website.