Les Vampires Reviews
The narration of this series of silent films was really outstanding, only to be outperformed by its intriguing storyline, which was conjured one whole century ago. Respects.
I gave Irma Vep (1996) the same rating as this, but whatever. Apples and oranges.
20151015 @ Anthology.
Les Vampires is considered a masterpiece because it influenced so many directors in the years that followed, including those of the German Expressionist movement and later work in American horror, gangster, crime thriller and film noir. By modern standards, the basics are here, including basic camera work like the occasional pan and fixing the camera to a moving platform like a car. In the earlier episodes of this 10-part serial, the acting is restrained; things get more dramatic by the end. I enjoyed the earlier parts the best, mostly because they were compact and generally under 30-minutes. The later parts that stretched to nearly an hour became tedious, so I had to watch them over several nights. One of the problems is that the plot becomes increasingly dependent on fantastic elements, including science fiction and hypnotism.
The acting is, well, hard to judge, but seemed fine especially in the earlier chapters. Comic relieve was provided by the character Oscar-Cloud Mazamette and his tiny son, Eustache Mazamette. Édouard Mathé as the "crack newspaper writer" Philipe Guérande was generally mild-mannered, except for moments of humor and slapstick with Mazamette. The various Grand Vampires (the gang leaders) were sufficiently evil.
The standout, of course, was Musidora as the femme fatale Irma Vep. Diabolical and seemingly indestructible, she vamps her way through the events and apparently became a fan favorite.
One downside of many silent films restored for modern audiences is the music, and Les Vampires is no different. I heard two different versions of music, one that was monotonous and another that was too busy and electronic.
The first part starts off fairly well. Through the use of movement and suitable dialogue slides, it is easy to understand the story from start to finish. Characters are distinguishable from one another and the environment sets the scene. Unfortunately, from what started off with an interesting lead eventually ended in an conclusion which was a bit of a let down. As you work through each part, you will notice many similarities between the sets, characters and the plot to the point that you struggle to keep interested. By the time you reach the end of the tenth part, you are just relieved that it has ended.
However, if I must praise Les Vampires for anything it would be the decision to tint the screen different colours. Rather than keep the screen a standard colour, it switches to reflect the time or the day and the mood. Whilst this is still confusing at times, it is a little idea that I thought was nice to see.
If shortened down from the epic running time, it might have more of a chance to impress. A 6 hour serial could have worked, it just doesn't have enough in it past the second part to impress me personally. However, I can't deny that it has been made well for the early years of cinema.