CINEMA: Bluebeard’s Castle

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BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE (1963, directed by Michael Powell, 59 minutes, Germany)
DER ROSENKAVALIER (1925, directed by Robert Weine, 73 minutes Germany)

ANDREW’S VIDEO VAULT @ The Rotunda 4014 Walnut Street, Philadelphia PA
Thursday March 12th 2009  8PM Free!

BuskirkByline_REV.jpgBY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC British director Michael Powell crafted a steady stream of masterpieces over the last century, his love of art and music informing popular classics like The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and Scorsese favorite Tales of Hoffman.  Powell’s career went famously south after making the 1960 film Peeping Tom, a tale of a killer who films his prey that rivals Hitchcock’s Psycho in morbidity. The film caused such a scandal in England his career never recovered. Powell’s few post-scandal films have been near impossible to see and perhaps the rarest is making a surprise appearance tonight at Andrew’s Video Vault.  Bluebeard’s Castle, or Herzog Blaubarts Burg, was made for German television in 1963 and has never been released in any home video format.  An hour-long film of Bartok’s 1911 opera, Bluebeard shows Powell still at the height of his talent, conjuring magic with a tiny budget on one small soundstage.  With gorgeously surreal set design by German art director Hein Heckroth (an Oscar winner for his design on The Red Shoes) Powell glides his camera deep into the maze of Bluebeard’s murderous subconscious as his new wife (Ana Raquel Sartre, looking like horror film queen Barbara Steele)  probes his memories to learn the fate of his seven ex-wives. The natural stone formations and the nearly-garish lighting at times make the production look like a gorgeous unused set from the original Star Trek series but James T. Kirk never sang like the commanding Norman Foster nor did the Enterprise revel in such gloomy denouncements.  A prime piece of filmed opera and an important piece of Powell’sfilmography, movie buffs should not hesitate to catch this rare piece of Powell’s puzzle, as morbid as Peeping Tom, with its murderous heart neatly obscured beneath a layer of high art. Also on the bill is a silent version of Der Rosenkavalier, directed by Robert Weine (directed of the classic Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).

Andrew’s Video Vault happens the second Thursday of the month at The Rotunda

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