September 9, 2012
… so sore
The griding sword with discontinuous wound
Passd through him, but th’ Ethereal substance clos’d
Not long divisible, and from the gash
A stream of Nectarous humor issuing flow’d
Sanguin, such as Celestial Spirits may bleed,
And all his Armour staind ere while so bright.
Satan battles Michael, and Micheal’s sword slices through him, but no matter, he heals right up. I see CGI effects doing great here.
[Note: It seems there has never been a movie treatment of Milton's epic, but somebody in 2007 was thinking of it! (NYTimes Article). A web-search today turned up recent news that the project was killed.]
February 29, 2012
You can’t paint it much blacker than The Seventh Victim (1943) does. A mentally disturbed woman falls in with a coven of Satan worshippers, but decides it’s not for her. She goes to a shrink to try to work out her feelings, but they consider that a betrayal: the club rules say “Death!” So, they lock her in a room with a noose for a few weeks hoping that she will do the “right thing.”
Her sister leaves school to come looking for her, and gets into some scary situations.
The Satanists try to convince her another time: Just drink the stuff! You know you want to die. You always said you did!
When words fail, a man in an alley with a knife might to the trick.
The scene above is pure German Expressionist noir, right out ‘M‘. And other films come to mind: Psycho is prefigured in a scene where the little sister is terrorized while showering; Rosemary’s Baby, and even Mullholland Drive come to mind. Everyone is this film is doomed to death or unhappiness: they are all emotionally drained, failures, physically or mentally ill. The final sequence involves a conversation between the ex-Satanist and a dying victim of consumption, exchanging views on the relative merits of life and death.
It’s a low-budget B movie, and it shuffles along slowly at times, but all in all, utterly remarkable for its consistently negative tone.
January 31, 2010
Begun by Bulgakov in the late 1920s, it was written and re-written during the 1930s, at the height of the Stalinist repression. A full Russian version was only published in the early 70s, thirty years after the author’s death. It is a fantasy, a fable, an hilarious satire, a protest, a mystical reverie, and a lot more, no doubt. It is certainly not easy to categorize. Would such a book have achieved its notoriety if it had been written in, say, the USA? No – part of its tremendous appeal is that it is the veritable anti-novel, the anti-dote, to the time and place in which it was written.
The story is centered on a visit by Satan to Moscow to get a Queen to preside over his annual ball, or maybe just to have some fun. The devil is an affable fellow, rather clever and slick, and his assistants are colorful clowns. The most amusing is an enormous black tomcat given to ironic and satirical jibes. They wreak havoc amongst the stuffy Soviet toadies and functionaries they encounter, and they retrieve Margarita to preside over Satan’s grand ball.
Interwoven with this tale of witchcraft and demonic mischief is a story of the confrontation of Jesus and Pontius Pilate. The story is the novel written by The Master, Margarita’s lover, but it is also an historical narrative that has separate status. There any many hooks on which to hang allegorical and satirical interpretations, but the novel is remarkable in what it most emphatically does not do – it does not present a simple rejection of the horrible system under which its author was living. Simply by being written, a story that treats the New Testament as something other than a fairy tale and lie, by celebrating hedonistic and individualistic pleasure, and of course, by making fun of bureaucrats, it is a such a total rejection. There was no need to shove it into the faces of its readers.
Some contemporary Russian illustrations for the novel: