Interview: Underground Cinema Film Festival: Dacre Stoker, great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker

Listen to them - children of the night. What music they make

Carmen Bryce was able to suck some blood from Dacre Stoker, great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker and author of Dracula: The Un-Dead and The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker, the Dublin Years, who is appearing at the dead of night at the Underground Cinema Film Festival which is currently taking bloody place in Dun Laoghaire from 13th-16th September.

Q- How are you involved in this year’s Underground Film Festival?

A – I’m at the festival to give a bit of background to this amazing story Bram Stoker wrote with Dracula and the mysteries behind the story. Screening at the festival is the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola adaptation of Dracula written by James Heart, which I will be introducing. In my opinion, and many others, Coppola’s version is a really close adaptation, with a few twists of its own, of Bram’s novel. It’s been a very difficult novel to adapt into a movie as it was written in the epistolary style but Coppola did a great job in achieving this. I will also be introducing James Heart with a Skype link from New York. He will be talking about how and why he wrote the screenplay the way he did.

Q – Dracula is perhaps the most famous horror figure ever created. Can you explain the longevity of Stoker’s story and our fascination with his monster?

A- The story of Dracula is immortal itself. Even today, the modern vampire craze shows that the myth of Dracula is still very much alive today. Ironically, the novel wasn’t instantly classified as a classic and it wasn’t until the 1970s that the public recognised it as one. One of the reasons the story has stood the time is that it’s a story that can be interpreted on many different levels. It can be viewed as a portal into Victorian society and all the issues they were dealing with – women’s rights, sexuality, modern technology. The one theme that I personally feel is prevalent is immortality. The story revolves around a creature that is immortal and every person at one stage ponders their own immortality, it’s an alluring subject. It makes the creature of Dracula and the story, endlessly exciting. Dracula is a complex character. He longs at times for a human connection. At times he is repulsed by who he is and what he is and yet other times he embraces and flaunts it. He’s not just a monster. He was a romantic but he was also a survivor, a brutal predator. This complexity cannot be solved and therefore continues to be examined and re-defined by various directors, producers and writers.

Carmen Bryce

James Heart Skype call, Saturday, 15th September, 5pm, Laurel Suite, the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire.

20th Anniversary Screening of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, introduced by Dacre Stoker, Saturday, 15th September, 8.15pm, Martello Suite, Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire.

The Underground Cinema Film Festival (UCFF) in Dun Laoghaire celebrates the best of Irish Independent Cinema screening a selection of some of the best short  and feature films made by Irish independent filmmakers. The festival takes place 13th-16th September.

Click here for the festival’s full schedule

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Dublin-based writer/director Fergal Rock named a semi-finalist in Francis Ford Coppola’s 9th annual American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest with his screenplay ‘Calvin & Skye’

 

Fergal Rock, a Dublin-based writer/director (Henry & Sunny, Tom Waits Made Me Cry) has been named a semi-finalist in Francis Ford Coppola’s 9th annual American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest with his screenplay Calvin & Skye. The finalists and semi-finalists, chosen from over 2,500 screenplays, were announced this morning (01/02/12) on the Zoetrope website.

(http://www.zoetrope.com/contests/2011finalists.htm)

In 2011, Calvin & Skye received the BlueCat Fellini International Screenwriting Award from screenwriter and BlueCat founder Gordy Hoffman (Love Liza). (http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com/past-winners-finalists/)

Calvin & Skye charts the unlikely friendship between hypochondriac Calvin and terminally-ill teenager Skye. Comic and poignant, it is a feel good tale in the vein of Harold and Maude and Lars and the Real Girl.

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Strange trailer for Coppola's latest film Twixt

Starring Val Kilmer and Elle Fanning, possibly the best word to describe Coppola’s latest offering is ‘odd’. The trailer seems to switch between Twilight-esque visuals and a straight-to-DVD digital look. Disconcerting and yet at the same time, intriguing…

Twixt Trailer

Equally disconcerting is recalling Top Gun‘s Iceman versus the current Val Kilmer. 1986 suddenly feels like a long time ago…

 

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Tetro

Tetro

DIR/WRI: Francis Ford Coppola • PRO: Francis Ford Coppola • DOP: Mihai Malaimare Jr. • ED: Walter Murch • DES: Sebastián Orgambide • CAST: Alden Ehrenreich, Vincent Gallo, Maribrl Verdú

Now I know what a dog locked in a car on a hot day feels like. Tetro is an excruciating experience and its energy-sapping sense of its own magnitude is preposterous. Waiting for the credits was like the dog waiting for its owner to return to the car. I jumped up and gasped for air, thankful to still be conscious.

Tetro is Francis Ford Coppola’s first original screenplay for almost 30 years since his tense, paranoia-fueled debut The Conversation (which is set to be reimagined for a TV series). In the meantime he’s been behind the camera for several of the most lauded epics of modern cinema, and more recently the awful crud that was Jack and Youth Without Youth.

In his new film, Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich) travels to Buenos Aires in search of his older brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo). Tetro was once destined to be a writer but has been wrestling with daddy issues and, as a result, his magnum opus is no more than the coded scribblings of a neurotic procrastinator. Who will enter his life, find his writing, make him wrestle with his daddy demon and decode and finish his magnificent octopus? Cue Bennie…

Gallo’s tortured writer is a melting pot of his trademark quirks and humourless sense of self-importance and his pseudo intense delivery of lines is always guaranteed to drag proceedings from the ridiculous to the sublimely ridiculous. Alden Ehrenreich puts in a decent Di Caprio-like performance, but is a little lightweight when tackling the film’s more lofty ambitions. The excellent Carmen Maura at least has a bit of fun with her role, camping it up as influential Argentinean cultural critic ‘Alone’.

The film plods along gazing doefully at its own naval and fails miserably to engage with the familial issues at hand. There are far too many car crashes. They say that in dreams car crashes may be a sign pointing to something in your life that needs repair, perhaps Coppola’s overuse of them in Tetro points to his writing career being beyond repair.

Coppola behind the camera is another matter altogether. The film looks great. Mainly shot in monochrome on digital in HD, there are a number of beautifully shot sequences, including a Powell & Pressburger tribute, and Beunos Aires looks amazing. Coppola’s DOP, Mihai Malaimare Jr., uses the black and white to great effect as it gives off a radiant and luminous brightness and his distribution of light and shade make for some sumptuous shots. Sadly, all of this is belittled by the overblown, turgid pomposity of the hogwash that is the script. The film utterly fails to connect on any sort of emotional level and the tension that should be present in such a tale of familial betrayal is remarkably absent. There really is nothing to care about here.

A bloated, dying beast of a film, whose visions of theatrical grandeur are laughable, based as they are in half-arsed melodrama and Oedipal pontificating. The overblown writing masks a poor unsatisfactory story, as each development is hammered into place to resemble a child’s jigsaw. The film descends into some sort of grandiose Empire Strikes Back parody, while all the time begging to be taken seriously. Ridiculous muck. Hopefully this is last time we’ll have to suffer an original Coppola screenplay. Someone should make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Steven Galvin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Tetro
is released on 2nd July 2010

Tetro Official Website

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