Tuesday, April 15, 2014


"This rare film's return to circulation is wonderful news for lovers of retro cinema."
-Film Threat


"This rare film's return to circulation is wonderful news for lovers of retro cinema."
-Film Threat

Thursday, March 20, 2014

On this day, 61 years ago, five men robbed a meatpacking plant in Chicago's Union Stock Yards. Little did the young TV director William Friedkin know, he would form an unlikely pairing with the fifth man and use film as a means to fight for the innocence of this death row inmate. Join us as we release Friedkin's newly restored The People vs. Paul Crump. Decades later, we too play a role in keeping Crump alive.

This original production still is a re-creation of the scene that took place on March 20th,1953. One of the most interesting cinematic aspects of the film is the interplay of these dramatic reconstructions with authentic auditory narration from the films' major protagonists playing over the visuals. The result is a haunted heightening of the senses, allowing the audience to be completely emotionally invested.

On this day, 61 years ago, five men robbed a meatpacking plant in Chicago's Union Stock Yards. Little did the young TV director William Friedkin know, he would form an unlikely pairing with the fifth man and use film as a means to fight for the innocence of this death row inmate. Join us as we release Friedkin's newly restored The People vs. Paul Crump. Decades later, we too play a role in keeping Crump alive.

This original production still is a re-creation of the scene that took place on March 20th,1953. One of the most interesting cinematic aspects of the film is the interplay of these dramatic reconstructions with authentic auditory narration from the films' major protagonists playing over the visuals. The result is a haunted heightening of the senses, allowing the audience to be completely emotionally invested.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Facets Releasing William Friedkin's First Film, Newly Restored, for the First Time on DVD

"Crump is economical yet flamboyantly righteous, as it should have been - the existence of the film played at least a small part in keeping Crump out of the chair."
  -Village Voice 

San Francisco Int'l Film Festival

  Golden Gate Award

Before directing The French Connection, The Exorcist, and Killer Joe, William Friedkin made one of the most powerful documentaries you've never seen. Paul Crump, 22, was caught up in a failed robbery with four other black men and was sentenced to die in the electric chair. Friedkin so believed in Crump's innocence that he made The People vs. Paul Crump in order to save his life.

On March 20, 1953, five men robbed a meatpacking plant in Chicago's Union Stock Yards. Their getaway went awry, and a security guard was killed. Four of the men received jail sentences and were eventually paroled. The fifth, Paul Crump, confessed under questionable interrogation tactics, then retracted, only to be convicted and sentenced to the chair. After 14 stays of execution, local TV director William Friedkin and his cinematographer Bill Butler (Jaws) took to the streets with lightweight cameras to appeal for Crump's return to society. The resulting film contributed to the commutation of Crump's sentence and launched Friedkin's Hollywood career.

William Friedkin/U.S./1962/B&W/Fullscreen 1.33:1/60 mins. All-Zone NTSC DVD

Special Features
  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer from an archival 16mm print (compare Restoration to Original 16mm)
  • Facets Cine-Notes booklet featuring essays on Crump's case and Friedkin's career by film scholar Susan Doll, production stills, production notes, and script excerpts
DV102364
ISBN 1-56580-935-1
UPC 736899137724
DVD $29.95
Street: 05/27/2014
Pre-Order

Restoration Executive Produced by James Hughes. Reel Chicago Series Produced by Brian Elza. Copyright U.S., 1962, 2014 William Friedkin. All Rights Reserved.

Facets Releasing William Friedkin's First Film, Newly Restored, for the First Time on DVD

"Crump is economical yet flamboyantly righteous, as it should have been - the existence of the film played at least a small part in keeping Crump out of the chair."
  -Village Voice 

San Francisco Int'l Film Festival

  Golden Gate Award

Before directing The French Connection, The Exorcist, and Killer Joe, William Friedkin made one of the most powerful documentaries you've never seen. Paul Crump, 22, was caught up in a failed robbery with four other black men and was sentenced to die in the electric chair. Friedkin so believed in Crump's innocence that he made The People vs. Paul Crump in order to save his life.

On March 20, 1953, five men robbed a meatpacking plant in Chicago's Union Stock Yards. Their getaway went awry, and a security guard was killed. Four of the men received jail sentences and were eventually paroled. The fifth, Paul Crump, confessed under questionable interrogation tactics, then retracted, only to be convicted and sentenced to the chair. After 14 stays of execution, local TV director William Friedkin and his cinematographer Bill Butler (Jaws) took to the streets with lightweight cameras to appeal for Crump's return to society. The resulting film contributed to the commutation of Crump's sentence and launched Friedkin's Hollywood career.

William Friedkin/U.S./1962/B&W/Fullscreen 1.33:1/60 mins. All-Zone NTSC DVD

Special Features
  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer from an archival 16mm print (compare Restoration to Original 16mm)
  • Facets Cine-Notes booklet featuring essays on Crump's case and Friedkin's career by film scholar Susan Doll, production stills, production notes, and script excerpts
DV102364
ISBN 1-56580-935-1
UPC 736899137724
DVD $29.95
Street: 05/27/2014
Pre-Order

Restoration Executive Produced by James Hughes. Reel Chicago Series Produced by Brian Elza. Copyright U.S., 1962, 2014 William Friedkin. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Welcome to "Cultivate Your Queue," Facets Features' year-end list that never ends! With this new guest blogger series, we ask Chicago-based filmmakers, artists, small businesses, and other local, cultural outlets to produce idiosyncratic curations of the overwhelming amount of filmic content that exists out there.

Our inaugural post comes from MAKE Literary Magazine. In order to celebrate the recent release of Visual Culture, MAKE's 14th issue, MAKE staff members have chosen some of their favorite films that rely on visual rather than spoken language.  


Jose-Luis Moctezuma, Book Reviewer

The Color of Pomegranates (1968) Dir. Sergei Parajanov

"I am the man whose life and soul are torture." Parajanov cuts open the flesh of the book--one whose pages limn the life of the 18c Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova – and lets flow over the screen a funeral parade of symbols, objects, grape clusters, fabrics, ornaments, faces. Poetry is the atomic particle that subtends the eros of transmediation; that which allows transmigration from book to film, from film to painting, from painting to sculpture. The carnality of each medium (in Parajanov's hands: the cinematographic, encompassing all) is already the voice, the echo, the silence blacklettered on the page.

Leviathan (2012) Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel

The camera is also a self which desires a body. It lusts for boundaries – but it cannot reach these boundaries, nor transgress them, unless it too is bounded. A fishing ship in the North Atlantic, a possible "documentary" project; but this is no documentary, nor is the setting one concerned with the fabrication of deadly catches. Castaing-Taylor and Paravel transubstantiate the camera into a body – they fling it, beat it, trample it, roll it, smash it, lift it into heights normally inaccessible to the human sensorium. In doing so they return us to a Burkean sublime (of terror and excess) in which we glimpse, among fevered seagulls in flight, or in the wine-dark waves of biblical deeps, the possibility of a form blasted out of all form.


Kathleen Rooney, Contributing Editor

Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) Dir. Jacques Rivette

This French film is part Henry James ghost story and part Alice in Wonderland, and it passes the Bechdel Test (i.e. it depicts two women who talk to each other about something other than a man) with the flyingest of colors. Celine (Juliet Berto) and Julie (Dominique Labourier) possess the most enviable and realistic female friendship ever to appear on screen, even though the story itself is highly fantastical. As they set out to jointly solve a mystery and save a little girl from doom, their behavior toward each other ranges convincingly from serious to funny, from loving to frustrating, and from antagonistic to utterly inseparable. They are ridiculous, sexy, well-dressed, and resourceful. The movie is so magical (in fact, the women at one point work as stage magicians) that you'll barely notice it's over three hours long, a testament to its enchanting depiction of how art and narrative serve to make quotidian life not just bearable but sort of miraculous.


Kamilah Foreman, Fiction Editor

Len Lye Collection: Rhythms (1935 - 1980) Dir. Len Lye

Len Lye’s novel to film – painting, drawing, and etching the stock itself – not only were early experiments in an emerging art form, but they also blurred the boundaries surrounding painting, animation, and what we now call experimental film. If he were working today, one would no doubt encounter his films in a gallery setting. But in this collection, which spans his career from the 1930s to the 1960s, one can see the New Zealand artist’s work for Britain’s General Post Office as well as avant-garde shorts made for a patriotic nation on the verge of war. 


Brenda Lozano, Spanish Language Editor

Un chien andalou (1929) Dir. Luis Buñuel

Young Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí created  this powerful visual essay – a short film that changed the way I saw things, when I saw it for the first time at nineteen. I really like the playfulness in the film, and how it makes me think of “visual freedom.” Apparently, they wanted to do something contrary to what other filmmakers were doing at that time. They wrote the script in a short period of time and searched for images with no rational or psychological explanation. It’s a great metaphor for freedom. 


Mark Molloy, Book Reviews Editor

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer

La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc’s director and star died thinking their masterpiece was lost. Not one but two master negatives had previously been destroyed in separate fires, and all that circulated for fifty years were secondary versions, heavily censored by church and state, or cobbled together from cutting room floor outtakes. Then, in 1981, in a janitor’s closet of a psychiatric hospital in Oslo, Norway, canisters were found that contained a pristine, pre-censored director’s cut. Dreyer’s Passion contains, in Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s Joan, what is widely considered the greatest performance ever captured on film. But the film as a whole is greater even than this. La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is the rarest of masterpieces, a work that marks a point in the history of a medium at which its deepest origins and furthest culminations coincide.


A huge, unconditional thanks to MAKE Director, Sarah Dodson - without her orchestration this wouldn't have been possible. Don't forget to check out MAKE Magazine!

Welcome to "Cultivate Your Queue," Facets Features' year-end list that never ends! With this new guest blogger series, we ask Chicago-based filmmakers, artists, small businesses, and other local, cultural outlets to produce idiosyncratic curations of the overwhelming amount of filmic content that exists out there.

Our inaugural post comes from MAKE Literary Magazine. In order to celebrate the recent release of Visual Culture, MAKE's 14th issue, MAKE staff members have chosen some of their favorite films that rely on visual rather than spoken language.  


Jose-Luis Moctezuma, Book Reviewer

The Color of Pomegranates (1968) Dir. Sergei Parajanov

"I am the man whose life and soul are torture." Parajanov cuts open the flesh of the book--one whose pages limn the life of the 18c Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova – and lets flow over the screen a funeral parade of symbols, objects, grape clusters, fabrics, ornaments, faces. Poetry is the atomic particle that subtends the eros of transmediation; that which allows transmigration from book to film, from film to painting, from painting to sculpture. The carnality of each medium (in Parajanov's hands: the cinematographic, encompassing all) is already the voice, the echo, the silence blacklettered on the page.

Leviathan (2012) Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel

The camera is also a self which desires a body. It lusts for boundaries – but it cannot reach these boundaries, nor transgress them, unless it too is bounded. A fishing ship in the North Atlantic, a possible "documentary" project; but this is no documentary, nor is the setting one concerned with the fabrication of deadly catches. Castaing-Taylor and Paravel transubstantiate the camera into a body – they fling it, beat it, trample it, roll it, smash it, lift it into heights normally inaccessible to the human sensorium. In doing so they return us to a Burkean sublime (of terror and excess) in which we glimpse, among fevered seagulls in flight, or in the wine-dark waves of biblical deeps, the possibility of a form blasted out of all form.


Kathleen Rooney, Contributing Editor

Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974) Dir. Jacques Rivette

This French film is part Henry James ghost story and part Alice in Wonderland, and it passes the Bechdel Test (i.e. it depicts two women who talk to each other about something other than a man) with the flyingest of colors. Celine (Juliet Berto) and Julie (Dominique Labourier) possess the most enviable and realistic female friendship ever to appear on screen, even though the story itself is highly fantastical. As they set out to jointly solve a mystery and save a little girl from doom, their behavior toward each other ranges convincingly from serious to funny, from loving to frustrating, and from antagonistic to utterly inseparable. They are ridiculous, sexy, well-dressed, and resourceful. The movie is so magical (in fact, the women at one point work as stage magicians) that you'll barely notice it's over three hours long, a testament to its enchanting depiction of how art and narrative serve to make quotidian life not just bearable but sort of miraculous.


Kamilah Foreman, Fiction Editor

Len Lye Collection: Rhythms (1935 - 1980) Dir. Len Lye

Len Lye’s novel to film – painting, drawing, and etching the stock itself – not only were early experiments in an emerging art form, but they also blurred the boundaries surrounding painting, animation, and what we now call experimental film. If he were working today, one would no doubt encounter his films in a gallery setting. But in this collection, which spans his career from the 1930s to the 1960s, one can see the New Zealand artist’s work for Britain’s General Post Office as well as avant-garde shorts made for a patriotic nation on the verge of war. 


Brenda Lozano, Spanish Language Editor

Un chien andalou (1929) Dir. Luis Buñuel

Young Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí created  this powerful visual essay – a short film that changed the way I saw things, when I saw it for the first time at nineteen. I really like the playfulness in the film, and how it makes me think of “visual freedom.” Apparently, they wanted to do something contrary to what other filmmakers were doing at that time. They wrote the script in a short period of time and searched for images with no rational or psychological explanation. It’s a great metaphor for freedom. 


Mark Molloy, Book Reviews Editor

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer

La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc’s director and star died thinking their masterpiece was lost. Not one but two master negatives had previously been destroyed in separate fires, and all that circulated for fifty years were secondary versions, heavily censored by church and state, or cobbled together from cutting room floor outtakes. Then, in 1981, in a janitor’s closet of a psychiatric hospital in Oslo, Norway, canisters were found that contained a pristine, pre-censored director’s cut. Dreyer’s Passion contains, in Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s Joan, what is widely considered the greatest performance ever captured on film. But the film as a whole is greater even than this. La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc is the rarest of masterpieces, a work that marks a point in the history of a medium at which its deepest origins and furthest culminations coincide.


A huge, unconditional thanks to MAKE Director, Sarah Dodson - without her orchestration this wouldn't have been possible. Don't forget to check out MAKE Magazine!

Friday, November 15, 2013


Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker invented the pin screen back in the 1930s. The same year Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, the duo used the pin screen to create Night on Bald Mountain, a haunting visual adaptation of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky's (1839 - 1881) occult inspired score.* Night was the first animated film to use their pin screen, a 3x4 foot rectangle containing around 240,000 pins that move laterally in order to create different shadow lengths, like that thing your friend had when you were a kid but much more intense. Since 1930, Alexeieff and Parker used the pin screen to make 5 more short films that are singular in their imagination, beauty, and craft – as well as awe-inspiring in the how'd-they-do-that kind of way.


To get a better understanding of the apparatus and animation process, here are some stills from The Alexeieff-Parker Pin Screen (1972), a film that documents a presentation Alexeieff and Parker gave to a group of animators at the National Film Board of Canada.


The pin screen is made up of hundreds of thousands of staggered holes with tiny pins stuck in them. The pins can be manipulated back and forth to protrude from or be flush with the board's white surface. 


Through a combination of the peg's position and the angle of the light source, different shades can be created. Making impressions directly onto the pin screen’s surface then makes each cel of the animation. To create different textures and shades, Alexeieff and Parker used a wide variety of tools from Russian dolls to large coins to the spoon shown above.


Once an image is completed, a process that can take several hours, a photographic still is made of the pin screen and the artists move on to alter the existing image or create a completely new one. On film, one second of moving image is made up of 32 frames, so . . . well you can do the math. "Painstaking" seems to be a gross understatement of the amount of effort put into these images, which might be why Alexeieff and Parker only produced six short films with the pin screen.

The folks over at the MIT Tangible Media Lab have recently unveiled inFORM, "a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically."** The pin screen has come alive. Positioned horizontally and powered by a computer, inFORM’s “pin screen” is a distant cousin from the Alexeieff-Parker contraption. However, inFORM’s design team is still interested (though not necessarily from an “artistic” standpoint) in the aesthetic and functional roles of everyday objects. Using Donald Norman’s concept of perceived affordances, the MIT Tangible Media Lab created inFORM to redefine Human Computer Interaction (HIC).


InFORM’s breakthrough is that it uses a combination of Graphical User Interface (GUI) and Tangible User Interface (TUI). This allows the user to manipulate passive objects from a remote location (hands play with ball), use passive objects to manipulate the pin screen (bowl and ball), or simply sculpt the pins manually – all of which can be enhanced by images projected onto the pins themselves. InFORM is a much more self-contained apparatus than Alexeieff and Parker’s pin screen, but nonetheless fascinating. Just think of the possibilities if inFORM adopted the 240,000 pins of the Alexeieff-Parker screen.



- Paul Gonter
______________
*The score/sequence is probably best known for its use in the Disney classic, Fantasia (1940).
** Claire Parker actually graduated from MIT back in the late 1920s. COINCIDENCE!?



Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker invented the pin screen back in the 1930s. The same year Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, the duo used the pin screen to create Night on Bald Mountain, a haunting visual adaptation of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky's (1839 - 1881) occult inspired score.* Night was the first animated film to use their pin screen, a 3x4 foot rectangle containing around 240,000 pins that move laterally in order to create different shadow lengths, like that thing your friend had when you were a kid but much more intense. Since 1930, Alexeieff and Parker used the pin screen to make 5 more short films that are singular in their imagination, beauty, and craft – as well as awe-inspiring in the how'd-they-do-that kind of way.


To get a better understanding of the apparatus and animation process, here are some stills from The Alexeieff-Parker Pin Screen (1972), a film that documents a presentation Alexeieff and Parker gave to a group of animators at the National Film Board of Canada.


The pin screen is made up of hundreds of thousands of staggered holes with tiny pins stuck in them. The pins can be manipulated back and forth to protrude from or be flush with the board's white surface. 


Through a combination of the peg's position and the angle of the light source, different shades can be created. Making impressions directly onto the pin screen’s surface then makes each cel of the animation. To create different textures and shades, Alexeieff and Parker used a wide variety of tools from Russian dolls to large coins to the spoon shown above.


Once an image is completed, a process that can take several hours, a photographic still is made of the pin screen and the artists move on to alter the existing image or create a completely new one. On film, one second of moving image is made up of 32 frames, so . . . well you can do the math. "Painstaking" seems to be a gross understatement of the amount of effort put into these images, which might be why Alexeieff and Parker only produced six short films with the pin screen.

The folks over at the MIT Tangible Media Lab have recently unveiled inFORM, "a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically."** The pin screen has come alive. Positioned horizontally and powered by a computer, inFORM’s “pin screen” is a distant cousin from the Alexeieff-Parker contraption. However, inFORM’s design team is still interested (though not necessarily from an “artistic” standpoint) in the aesthetic and functional roles of everyday objects. Using Donald Norman’s concept of perceived affordances, the MIT Tangible Media Lab created inFORM to redefine Human Computer Interaction (HIC).


InFORM’s breakthrough is that it uses a combination of Graphical User Interface (GUI) and Tangible User Interface (TUI). This allows the user to manipulate passive objects from a remote location (hands play with ball), use passive objects to manipulate the pin screen (bowl and ball), or simply sculpt the pins manually – all of which can be enhanced by images projected onto the pins themselves. InFORM is a much more self-contained apparatus than Alexeieff and Parker’s pin screen, but nonetheless fascinating. Just think of the possibilities if inFORM adopted the 240,000 pins of the Alexeieff-Parker screen.



- Paul Gonter
______________
*The score/sequence is probably best known for its use in the Disney classic, Fantasia (1940).
** Claire Parker actually graduated from MIT back in the late 1920s. COINCIDENCE!?


Monday, October 28, 2013


The director: Juan Lopez Moctezuma
The script: a loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story, “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Feather”
The stars: Claudio Brooks, Arthur Hansel, Ellen Sherman
The year: 1972
The country: Mexico
The recommendation: Yes

The plot
Gaston LeBlanc (Arthor Hansel), a man of science, visits the world renowned sanatorium of Dr. Maillard (Claudio Brooks). LeBlanc is taken on a tour, while Maillard introduces him to his experimental form of treatment, the Soothing System: "A paradise where all are afforded their art." One man is a chicken. Another lives out his days crucified in the basement, reciting Dante. As LeBlanc follows Maillard deeper into the corridors of the sanatorium, reality ceases to function, madness reigns, and a secret plot is discovered. 

Notable relations
Mansion is Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s directorial debut. He went on to make Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975) and Alucarda (1977)among others. Guillermo del Toro has expressed his fondness for Alucarda (see DVD bonus features). Claudio Brooks starred in del Toro's Cronos (1993) and Luis Bunuel's Simon of the Desert (1965), as well as Alucarda. David Silva, who plays the "cult priest" in Mansion, also played a role in Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo (1970). Moctezuma produced Jodorowky's first two feature films, Fando and Lis (1968) and the recently mentioned El Topo

The DVD
It was released by Mondo Macabro, whose tagline is: "The wild side of world cinema on DVD." Mondo Macabro is also a book by Pete Tombs, which became the basis of the British television series, Mondo Macabro. With Cathal Tohill, Tombs also wrote Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984, which explores the films of Jose Larraz, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Rollin, Walerian Borowczyk, Jose Benazeraf, and Jesus FrancoWalerian Borowczyk released a film in 1974 titled Immoral Tales. Jesus Franco adapted three Edgar Allan Poe short stories, "The Cat and the Canary," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "The Gold Bug," into Night of the Killers (1973), Revenge of the House of Usher (1983)and In Search of the Golden Dragon (1984), respectively. On April 29, 2003, Franco's Diabolical Dr. Z was released by Mondo Macabro. The DVD contains two featurettes, a trailer, English and Spanish soundtracks (with optional English subtitles), a stills gallery, and other goodies. 

A wonderful quote from the film
"But nothing so marvelous as that peculiar apparatus over there. Madame Cronophobia, better known as Electruvia. A machine which generates luminous matter. If things go according to plan, it'll become part of our nervous system. A metallic womb uniting man to the universe. Burning snakes curling around the pillars of a new myth. LeBlanc, religion has just come out from the bowels of an electric Golem. The alchemist's dragon will now be crowned with a crux and satyr, fitting luminous pyramids over its timeless temple." Maillard is sublime in his mad but prophetic lyricism, like Satan in TerryGilliam's Time Bandits (1981).

A note on aesthetics 
The scale of Mansion is massive. It seems to contain the performing arts as a whole. This adds to the dominant atmosphere of the surreal. Slapstick rests alongside melodrama, which is aided by dance, mime, and operatic howls. Everything is extravagant: the costumes, the acting, the huge crowds of extras milling around in the background. It is beautiful chaos. Jodorowsky seems to be the best reference point. The narrative thread in Mansion wanders from situation to situation without teleology and every step of the way, reality becomes thinner. The isolated space and apparent decay of modernism also aligns the film with Wojciech Has's The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973) and the work of Jan Svankmajer, specifically Alice (1988). While dreamlike, the present action never meshes, morphs, or transforms, it is just profoundly out of context. Time and space then become very confused, because everything seems to exist in the same place simultaneously. Though the blood and guts are well done and frightful, the most terrifying thing about Mansion is its contortions of what we commonly refer to as "reality."    

- Paul Gonter










The director: Juan Lopez Moctezuma
The script: a loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story, “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Feather”
The stars: Claudio Brooks, Arthur Hansel, Ellen Sherman
The year: 1972
The country: Mexico
The recommendation: Yes

The plot
Gaston LeBlanc (Arthor Hansel), a man of science, visits the world renowned sanatorium of Dr. Maillard (Claudio Brooks). LeBlanc is taken on a tour, while Maillard introduces him to his experimental form of treatment, the Soothing System: "A paradise where all are afforded their art." One man is a chicken. Another lives out his days crucified in the basement, reciting Dante. As LeBlanc follows Maillard deeper into the corridors of the sanatorium, reality ceases to function, madness reigns, and a secret plot is discovered. 

Notable relations
Mansion is Juan Lopez Moctezuma’s directorial debut. He went on to make Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975) and Alucarda (1977)among others. Guillermo del Toro has expressed his fondness for Alucarda (see DVD bonus features). Claudio Brooks starred in del Toro's Cronos (1993) and Luis Bunuel's Simon of the Desert (1965), as well as Alucarda. David Silva, who plays the "cult priest" in Mansion, also played a role in Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo (1970). Moctezuma produced Jodorowky's first two feature films, Fando and Lis (1968) and the recently mentioned El Topo

The DVD
It was released by Mondo Macabro, whose tagline is: "The wild side of world cinema on DVD." Mondo Macabro is also a book by Pete Tombs, which became the basis of the British television series, Mondo Macabro. With Cathal Tohill, Tombs also wrote Immoral Tales: European Sex & Horror Movies 1956-1984, which explores the films of Jose Larraz, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Jean Rollin, Walerian Borowczyk, Jose Benazeraf, and Jesus FrancoWalerian Borowczyk released a film in 1974 titled Immoral Tales. Jesus Franco adapted three Edgar Allan Poe short stories, "The Cat and the Canary," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and "The Gold Bug," into Night of the Killers (1973), Revenge of the House of Usher (1983)and In Search of the Golden Dragon (1984), respectively. On April 29, 2003, Franco's Diabolical Dr. Z was released by Mondo Macabro. The DVD contains two featurettes, a trailer, English and Spanish soundtracks (with optional English subtitles), a stills gallery, and other goodies. 

A wonderful quote from the film
"But nothing so marvelous as that peculiar apparatus over there. Madame Cronophobia, better known as Electruvia. A machine which generates luminous matter. If things go according to plan, it'll become part of our nervous system. A metallic womb uniting man to the universe. Burning snakes curling around the pillars of a new myth. LeBlanc, religion has just come out from the bowels of an electric Golem. The alchemist's dragon will now be crowned with a crux and satyr, fitting luminous pyramids over its timeless temple." Maillard is sublime in his mad but prophetic lyricism, like Satan in TerryGilliam's Time Bandits (1981).

A note on aesthetics 
The scale of Mansion is massive. It seems to contain the performing arts as a whole. This adds to the dominant atmosphere of the surreal. Slapstick rests alongside melodrama, which is aided by dance, mime, and operatic howls. Everything is extravagant: the costumes, the acting, the huge crowds of extras milling around in the background. It is beautiful chaos. Jodorowsky seems to be the best reference point. The narrative thread in Mansion wanders from situation to situation without teleology and every step of the way, reality becomes thinner. The isolated space and apparent decay of modernism also aligns the film with Wojciech Has's The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973) and the work of Jan Svankmajer, specifically Alice (1988). While dreamlike, the present action never meshes, morphs, or transforms, it is just profoundly out of context. Time and space then become very confused, because everything seems to exist in the same place simultaneously. Though the blood and guts are well done and frightful, the most terrifying thing about Mansion is its contortions of what we commonly refer to as "reality."    

- Paul Gonter









Monday, October 21, 2013

Over at our other blog, Facets Film Portal, we scour the internet to find free streaming films that we think are worth watching. With Halloween just around the corner, here is a selection of some pretty terrifying films that we’ve featured over the past few years.


Terror by Ben Rivers
2007 - England - 24 min
In an essay on Jean-LucGodard’s Film socialism (2011), Flachra Gibbons offers a reading of the film that understands it as a manifesto for a “new republic of images,” where the “new cinema will be cut and pasted together in a world beyond copyright.” Terror is a poster child for this new cinema . . . . View full post


Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid
1943  -  U.S.  -  14 min
Meshes can be enjoyed as a trance film, but narrative filmmakers have long borrowed from its rhythms and cryptic tone for dream sequences, psychodramas, thrillers, and sci-fi . . . . Viewfull post


Elephant by Alan Clarke
1989  -  England  -  39 min
Never one to shy away from blunt depictions of man’s capacity for savage violence, his work paints a particularly ugly picture of social conditions in Great Britain and Ireland circa the 1980s, a decade when Thatcherism and the Troubles loomed large . . . .  View full post


Film by Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider
1965  -  U.S.   -  24 min
Buster Keaton stars as O, a man who desires to not be perceived by anyone or anything, but cannot escape E, the eye of the camera that doubles as O’s omnipresent “self.” As Beckett explains it, “The perceiver desires like mad to perceive and the perceived tries desperately to hide. Then, in the end, one wins.” View full post


Saute Ma Ville by Chantal Akerman
1968  -  Belgium  -  13 min
Saute ma ville stars Akerman herself as an eccentric young woman who seeks any means of amusement she can come up with while in her claustrophobia-inducing studio apartment. And as in Jeanne Dielman . . . all of this mundanity can only be leading towards an apocalyptic finish . . . . View full post


Blood of the Beasts by Georges Franju
1949  -  France  -  20 min
The film’s visceral documentation of a Parisian slaughterhouse retains its strength perhaps due to the unrepentant gaze of the camera, which looks on at actions as they unfold as indifferently as the worker who executes them. The workers, moreover, appear as mere cogs in a machine, in a way that eerily anticipates the development of the modern meat-processing industry . . . . View fullpost


Outer Space by Peter Tscherkassky 
1999  -  Austria  -  14 min
Outer Space is the apotheosis of the horror movie in the most literal sense. It’s not what’s been filmed that evokes our horror; rather, it’s the physical film itself, the exhibition of the scene, the screening of it ad infinitum, and, above all, the spectacle of collective viewing, that filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky locates at the root of our repulsion . . . . View full post


The Hands of Orlac by Robert Wiene
1924  -  Austria  -  90 min
Director Robert Wiene, most famous for the Expressionist masterpiece The Cabinet ofDr. Caligari, delves into more intensely ambiguous physiological territory in this 1924 film. Pianist Paul Orlac loses his hands in a railway accident and a surgeon replaces them with the hands of a recently-executed murderer. Upon learning this, Orlac becomes convinced that he is becoming possessed by the murderer’s spirit and that his actions are no longer his own . . . . View full post


Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dreyer
1932  -  France-Germany  -  73 min
The obscure, yet unshakable, sense of the grotesque that pervades the film is due in great part to the subtlety of the effects used. The suggestion of something awful is sometimes much more powerful than the thing itself . . . . View full post

Over at our other blog, Facets Film Portal, we scour the internet to find free streaming films that we think are worth watching. With Halloween just around the corner, here is a selection of some pretty terrifying films that we’ve featured over the past few years.


Terror by Ben Rivers
2007 - England - 24 min
In an essay on Jean-LucGodard’s Film socialism (2011), Flachra Gibbons offers a reading of the film that understands it as a manifesto for a “new republic of images,” where the “new cinema will be cut and pasted together in a world beyond copyright.” Terror is a poster child for this new cinema . . . . View full post


Meshes of the Afternoon by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid
1943  -  U.S.  -  14 min
Meshes can be enjoyed as a trance film, but narrative filmmakers have long borrowed from its rhythms and cryptic tone for dream sequences, psychodramas, thrillers, and sci-fi . . . . Viewfull post


Elephant by Alan Clarke
1989  -  England  -  39 min
Never one to shy away from blunt depictions of man’s capacity for savage violence, his work paints a particularly ugly picture of social conditions in Great Britain and Ireland circa the 1980s, a decade when Thatcherism and the Troubles loomed large . . . .  View full post


Film by Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider
1965  -  U.S.   -  24 min
Buster Keaton stars as O, a man who desires to not be perceived by anyone or anything, but cannot escape E, the eye of the camera that doubles as O’s omnipresent “self.” As Beckett explains it, “The perceiver desires like mad to perceive and the perceived tries desperately to hide. Then, in the end, one wins.” View full post


Saute Ma Ville by Chantal Akerman
1968  -  Belgium  -  13 min
Saute ma ville stars Akerman herself as an eccentric young woman who seeks any means of amusement she can come up with while in her claustrophobia-inducing studio apartment. And as in Jeanne Dielman . . . all of this mundanity can only be leading towards an apocalyptic finish . . . . View full post


Blood of the Beasts by Georges Franju
1949  -  France  -  20 min
The film’s visceral documentation of a Parisian slaughterhouse retains its strength perhaps due to the unrepentant gaze of the camera, which looks on at actions as they unfold as indifferently as the worker who executes them. The workers, moreover, appear as mere cogs in a machine, in a way that eerily anticipates the development of the modern meat-processing industry . . . . View fullpost


Outer Space by Peter Tscherkassky 
1999  -  Austria  -  14 min
Outer Space is the apotheosis of the horror movie in the most literal sense. It’s not what’s been filmed that evokes our horror; rather, it’s the physical film itself, the exhibition of the scene, the screening of it ad infinitum, and, above all, the spectacle of collective viewing, that filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky locates at the root of our repulsion . . . . View full post


The Hands of Orlac by Robert Wiene
1924  -  Austria  -  90 min
Director Robert Wiene, most famous for the Expressionist masterpiece The Cabinet ofDr. Caligari, delves into more intensely ambiguous physiological territory in this 1924 film. Pianist Paul Orlac loses his hands in a railway accident and a surgeon replaces them with the hands of a recently-executed murderer. Upon learning this, Orlac becomes convinced that he is becoming possessed by the murderer’s spirit and that his actions are no longer his own . . . . View full post


Vampyr by Carl Theodor Dreyer
1932  -  France-Germany  -  73 min
The obscure, yet unshakable, sense of the grotesque that pervades the film is due in great part to the subtlety of the effects used. The suggestion of something awful is sometimes much more powerful than the thing itself . . . . View full post

Monday, October 14, 2013



The Space
Tucked away in Chicago’s West Loop, Aspect Ratio is a commercial gallery that features contemporary video art and video-related installations. The space is coming up on their one-year anniversary soon, and one can assume it will be quite the celebration considering they were recently voted “Best New Gallery” by Chicago magazine. Since September of 2012, Aspect Ratio has hosted seven solo exhibitions featuring local, national, and international filmmakers. Their current exhibition (Sept. 6 – Oct. 18) presents new work from Casilda Sanchez.

The Artist
Casilda Sanchez is a multidisciplinary artist whose work explores “the ideas of visions, voyeurism and intimacy, as contradictions and metaphorical behaviors” (statement). After receiving her Bachelors in Fine Arts from Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, she completed her MFA in Video, Film and New Media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been exhibited here in Chicago, as well as New York City, and internationally in Spain, Germany, Turkey, and Bulgaria, among others (see Casilda’s C.V. for more details).

Casilda’s projects tend to explore the boundaries between public and private space in a materialist, non-dramatic way. Her films, photography, and sculptures actively engage the spectator in an experience of a modern, liminal state – the transgression of private/public is not necessarily enacted onscreen or in her photographs and sculptures, but in the anxious confrontation between the spectator and the art piece. Casilda produces this effect through her explicit interest in the body (The Surface Existence; Intimate Diary; The Touch of Proximity; Quisiera…) and vision or ocular functions (Sight; Peephole Relations; As inside as the eye; Ojos que no venI; Los Labios…), both of which are governed – and made problematic – by the notion of voyeurism, or “the gaze” (Insides; The Viewer).

The Exhibition
Casilda’s work presented at Aspect Ratio is a combination of three projects. Quisiera ser tan alta como la luna (I wish I were as tall as the moon) parts V and VI are a continuation of an ongoing series, while Winter Landscape and High Tide are altogether new works. Quisiera (V) is made up of three sketches that depict different permutations of Quisiera (VI), a sculpture of a human leg that seamlessly transforms into an arm. Winter and Tide are both video loops. Winter is a 12-minute loop, single channel HD video, of people playing in the snow. The images are rear projected onto a triptych of frosted glass, and the sound of a music box accompanies the video. Tide is a 19-minute, 27-second video loop of an extreme close up of ice/snow melting or being encroached upon by water, shown on a HDTV monitor.

Some Thoughts
The projects are intermixed within the two intimate rooms that make up Aspect Ratio. There is a kind of symmetry to the presentation: the first room contains Quisiera (V) and Winter, while the second contains Quisiera (VI) and Tide. In a sense, the whole is kept separate from the part – sketches of leg-arms from the sculpture of a leg-arm and the ice/snow melting from the snowy landscape. But this symmetry is incomplete. By moving from one room to the other there is no unveiling where the big picture is more apparent across the threshold. There is, however, a change in perspective. An ontological shift occurs between rooms that highlights the formal characteristics and the meaning-making possibilities of Quisiera, Winter Landscape, and High Tide.

Quisiera (V) and (VI) exist on two different, though not mutually exclusive, planes: in the exhibition environment at Aspect Ratio and among the other parts of the series, which – at least for now – only “exist” on Casilda’s website. In both cases, it is apparent that Quisiera (V) and (VI) are a continuation of Casilda’s interest in the body and voyeurism. The conjoined arm and leg present an isolated, though abstracted view of the two appendages that ironizes their function. The arm and leg’s respective ability to stand and to reach is glorified while it is also rendered static and unidirectional. When seen through the lens of the series, this stasis becomes all the more apparent. The series is based on a Spanish folk song from Casilda’s youth:

I wish I were as tall as the moon
Hey! Hey!
As the moon.
As the moon.

Using this fragment as the impetus, the series strives to explore “the beauty of believing we can achieve anything we dream of, and the danger such motivation entails” (Quisiera). Quisiera (I) and (III) enact this by focusing on the human body, specifically, the feet. I and II are video loops of feet in frantic motion, trying their hardest to defy gravity and stand on tippy-toe. The shift from video to sketch and sculpture in V and VI literalizes the never-ending anxiety implied by the video loop – to be as tall as the moon is rendered an unattainable goal, or at least one steeped in deferred gratification.



This shouldn’t be taken as a wholly defeatist sentiment, because while there is stasis in Quisiera, there is also implied movement via transformation. The shift across the threshold from room to room at Aspect Ratio is both a literal and figurative movement where the sketched studies of Quisiera (V) are re-presented as Quisiera (VI). The exploration of the anatomical oddity of the arm-leg is then shown as a process, something that must be addressed in stages, like the preparation of a model T. rex at a natural history museum. By showing this process of transformation, Quisiera (V) and (VI) seem to be enacting creation or, in the very least, documentation, where the mythological roots of the project are materialized, but not necessarily made more solid.


Winter Landscape and High Tide are not part of a series, however, due to thematic and structural similarities, they are closely related enough to talk about in tandem. The two films confront the viewer with almost static images that seem to mimic painting, drawing, or sculpture. Though, obviously, this association is metaphorical – both films seem to be an expression of the plastic arts in general, instead of video in specific. The slow, hazy images and triptych display of Landscape interacts with a lineage that puts it in nodal relation to the paintings of Pieter Brueghel and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, who famously explored The Hunters in the Snow in his film, Solaris. While the extreme close up and photographic realism of Tide fits within a long line of artists who simultaneously document and remove natural phenomena from their origins, like the films of Jean Painleve or the sidewalk photographs by Irving Penn or Singe Emma.


This is made especially evident in relation to Quisiera (V) and (VI). The filmic space becomes sculptural in the sense that the means by which the videos are shown is a part of the art object itself. The frosted glass and digital projector used to display Winder and the HDTV monitor leaning against the wall used for Tide, have much to do with how the videos are seen by the spectator. By leaving these devices out-in-the-open, Casilda draws attention to the mechanisms that make up the display. The spectator is then confronted with the materiality of presentation, an awareness of perspective similar to the shift from drawing to sculpture in Quisiera (V) and (VI). Casilda’s interest in vision and voyeurism is quite evident here, because not only does the spectator have to deal with what they are seeing, but how they are seeing.

Casilda Sanchez’s work presented at Aspect Ratio strives, and for the most part succeeds, to create an environment of active engagement. The intimacy of the gallery space aids this experience, not only by putting Quisiera (V) and (VI), Winter Landscape, and High Tide in a particular context, but by allowing the art pieces to exist in a state between stasis and movement. The viewer and the artwork are brought into a relationship where the interaction between parts becomes integral and a certain level of “shared intimacy” forms among objects, human or otherwise. This is a special kind of materialism that has the potential to explore the systemic properties that make up objects, which may be the basis of a new kind of "communal understanding.”  

- Paul Gonter



The Space
Tucked away in Chicago’s West Loop, Aspect Ratio is a commercial gallery that features contemporary video art and video-related installations. The space is coming up on their one-year anniversary soon, and one can assume it will be quite the celebration considering they were recently voted “Best New Gallery” by Chicago magazine. Since September of 2012, Aspect Ratio has hosted seven solo exhibitions featuring local, national, and international filmmakers. Their current exhibition (Sept. 6 – Oct. 18) presents new work from Casilda Sanchez.

The Artist
Casilda Sanchez is a multidisciplinary artist whose work explores “the ideas of visions, voyeurism and intimacy, as contradictions and metaphorical behaviors” (statement). After receiving her Bachelors in Fine Arts from Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, she completed her MFA in Video, Film and New Media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been exhibited here in Chicago, as well as New York City, and internationally in Spain, Germany, Turkey, and Bulgaria, among others (see Casilda’s C.V. for more details).

Casilda’s projects tend to explore the boundaries between public and private space in a materialist, non-dramatic way. Her films, photography, and sculptures actively engage the spectator in an experience of a modern, liminal state – the transgression of private/public is not necessarily enacted onscreen or in her photographs and sculptures, but in the anxious confrontation between the spectator and the art piece. Casilda produces this effect through her explicit interest in the body (The Surface Existence; Intimate Diary; The Touch of Proximity; Quisiera…) and vision or ocular functions (Sight; Peephole Relations; As inside as the eye; Ojos que no venI; Los Labios…), both of which are governed – and made problematic – by the notion of voyeurism, or “the gaze” (Insides; The Viewer).

The Exhibition
Casilda’s work presented at Aspect Ratio is a combination of three projects. Quisiera ser tan alta como la luna (I wish I were as tall as the moon) parts V and VI are a continuation of an ongoing series, while Winter Landscape and High Tide are altogether new works. Quisiera (V) is made up of three sketches that depict different permutations of Quisiera (VI), a sculpture of a human leg that seamlessly transforms into an arm. Winter and Tide are both video loops. Winter is a 12-minute loop, single channel HD video, of people playing in the snow. The images are rear projected onto a triptych of frosted glass, and the sound of a music box accompanies the video. Tide is a 19-minute, 27-second video loop of an extreme close up of ice/snow melting or being encroached upon by water, shown on a HDTV monitor.

Some Thoughts
The projects are intermixed within the two intimate rooms that make up Aspect Ratio. There is a kind of symmetry to the presentation: the first room contains Quisiera (V) and Winter, while the second contains Quisiera (VI) and Tide. In a sense, the whole is kept separate from the part – sketches of leg-arms from the sculpture of a leg-arm and the ice/snow melting from the snowy landscape. But this symmetry is incomplete. By moving from one room to the other there is no unveiling where the big picture is more apparent across the threshold. There is, however, a change in perspective. An ontological shift occurs between rooms that highlights the formal characteristics and the meaning-making possibilities of Quisiera, Winter Landscape, and High Tide.

Quisiera (V) and (VI) exist on two different, though not mutually exclusive, planes: in the exhibition environment at Aspect Ratio and among the other parts of the series, which – at least for now – only “exist” on Casilda’s website. In both cases, it is apparent that Quisiera (V) and (VI) are a continuation of Casilda’s interest in the body and voyeurism. The conjoined arm and leg present an isolated, though abstracted view of the two appendages that ironizes their function. The arm and leg’s respective ability to stand and to reach is glorified while it is also rendered static and unidirectional. When seen through the lens of the series, this stasis becomes all the more apparent. The series is based on a Spanish folk song from Casilda’s youth:

I wish I were as tall as the moon
Hey! Hey!
As the moon.
As the moon.

Using this fragment as the impetus, the series strives to explore “the beauty of believing we can achieve anything we dream of, and the danger such motivation entails” (Quisiera). Quisiera (I) and (III) enact this by focusing on the human body, specifically, the feet. I and II are video loops of feet in frantic motion, trying their hardest to defy gravity and stand on tippy-toe. The shift from video to sketch and sculpture in V and VI literalizes the never-ending anxiety implied by the video loop – to be as tall as the moon is rendered an unattainable goal, or at least one steeped in deferred gratification.



This shouldn’t be taken as a wholly defeatist sentiment, because while there is stasis in Quisiera, there is also implied movement via transformation. The shift across the threshold from room to room at Aspect Ratio is both a literal and figurative movement where the sketched studies of Quisiera (V) are re-presented as Quisiera (VI). The exploration of the anatomical oddity of the arm-leg is then shown as a process, something that must be addressed in stages, like the preparation of a model T. rex at a natural history museum. By showing this process of transformation, Quisiera (V) and (VI) seem to be enacting creation or, in the very least, documentation, where the mythological roots of the project are materialized, but not necessarily made more solid.


Winter Landscape and High Tide are not part of a series, however, due to thematic and structural similarities, they are closely related enough to talk about in tandem. The two films confront the viewer with almost static images that seem to mimic painting, drawing, or sculpture. Though, obviously, this association is metaphorical – both films seem to be an expression of the plastic arts in general, instead of video in specific. The slow, hazy images and triptych display of Landscape interacts with a lineage that puts it in nodal relation to the paintings of Pieter Brueghel and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, who famously explored The Hunters in the Snow in his film, Solaris. While the extreme close up and photographic realism of Tide fits within a long line of artists who simultaneously document and remove natural phenomena from their origins, like the films of Jean Painleve or the sidewalk photographs by Irving Penn or Singe Emma.


This is made especially evident in relation to Quisiera (V) and (VI). The filmic space becomes sculptural in the sense that the means by which the videos are shown is a part of the art object itself. The frosted glass and digital projector used to display Winder and the HDTV monitor leaning against the wall used for Tide, have much to do with how the videos are seen by the spectator. By leaving these devices out-in-the-open, Casilda draws attention to the mechanisms that make up the display. The spectator is then confronted with the materiality of presentation, an awareness of perspective similar to the shift from drawing to sculpture in Quisiera (V) and (VI). Casilda’s interest in vision and voyeurism is quite evident here, because not only does the spectator have to deal with what they are seeing, but how they are seeing.

Casilda Sanchez’s work presented at Aspect Ratio strives, and for the most part succeeds, to create an environment of active engagement. The intimacy of the gallery space aids this experience, not only by putting Quisiera (V) and (VI), Winter Landscape, and High Tide in a particular context, but by allowing the art pieces to exist in a state between stasis and movement. The viewer and the artwork are brought into a relationship where the interaction between parts becomes integral and a certain level of “shared intimacy” forms among objects, human or otherwise. This is a special kind of materialism that has the potential to explore the systemic properties that make up objects, which may be the basis of a new kind of "communal understanding.”  

- Paul Gonter

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Though dedicated to the memory of Hans Christian Anderson, this version of The Little Mermaid is about as far from the original as the Disney version, but in the opposite direction on the happiness scale. The filmmakers succeed in making the already sad story even more tragic while attempting to keep it entertaining for children. The result is a bizarre mixture of kitsch and heartbreak. The film would have been vastly better if it did not attempt to appeal to children by the use of heavy-handed comic relief which is so jarring in contrast to the delicate handling of other scenes. The use of choreographed synchronized swimming and attempts at musical-style song and dance routines also do the film no favors, but if the bad scenes are painful, the good scenes are truly glorious; both visually satisfying and creatively structured. The basic story is the classic one: a mermaid saves a prince, falls in love with him, and is willing to trade anything for the chance to be a human and be with him, while he is busy pursuing a princess, under the impression that she is the one who saved him from drowning. However, almost all other crucial points in the original are altered. There is a mysterious wanderer named Sulpitius, who falls in love with the mermaid, guides her, and does everything he can to help her. The witch who turns her into a human is strangely compassionate, and does not take away her voice. The film’s main focus, though, is not on the attainment of true love or an immortal soul (as in the original fairy tale) but on the nature of human life and the boundary between fiction and reality.




Though dedicated to the memory of Hans Christian Anderson, this version of The Little Mermaid is about as far from the original as the Disney version, but in the opposite direction on the happiness scale. The filmmakers succeed in making the already sad story even more tragic while attempting to keep it entertaining for children. The result is a bizarre mixture of kitsch and heartbreak. The film would have been vastly better if it did not attempt to appeal to children by the use of heavy-handed comic relief which is so jarring in contrast to the delicate handling of other scenes. The use of choreographed synchronized swimming and attempts at musical-style song and dance routines also do the film no favors, but if the bad scenes are painful, the good scenes are truly glorious; both visually satisfying and creatively structured. The basic story is the classic one: a mermaid saves a prince, falls in love with him, and is willing to trade anything for the chance to be a human and be with him, while he is busy pursuing a princess, under the impression that she is the one who saved him from drowning. However, almost all other crucial points in the original are altered. There is a mysterious wanderer named Sulpitius, who falls in love with the mermaid, guides her, and does everything he can to help her. The witch who turns her into a human is strangely compassionate, and does not take away her voice. The film’s main focus, though, is not on the attainment of true love or an immortal soul (as in the original fairy tale) but on the nature of human life and the boundary between fiction and reality.