Casanova, Dracula, and art in the age of digital filmmaking.
Albert Serra’s maniacally self-effacing The Story Of My Death is a shadow play of European philosophies, clearly shot in DV but somehow blown up to widescreen—nearly panoramic—35mm. The twilight years of the Enlightenment, embodied in the flesh by a grape-gobbling, cheese-snuffing Casanova (Vicenç Altaió), give way to darkness and temptation in the countryside as the aging lothario’s remote getaway is visited by none other than his new neighbor Dracula (Elisu Huertas). To describe Serra’s vision out loud is to parody it, but the picture is drenched in allusions, meanings, and whispers of games; as a viewer, your guess on the narrative significance of any individual scene is as good as anybody else’s. One way of putting it might be that the thirty-eight-year-old Catalan filmmaker builds a narrative with isolated tableaux—his shots linger in my memory like the Met’s most opulent still lifes.
Albert Serra, with glistening jewels wrapped around his knuckles, and with a classic rock soundtrack as backdrop, persistently employed an increasingly meaningful neologism—“performatic”—over the course of our serpentine discussion. He told me he submitted forty-nine scripted scenes to get the movie made, wrote an additional 128 more, shot everything, then spent a year editing The Story of My Death down to a total of fifty-three. Infamously, he shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio and then—without remorse, it seems—cropped his images down, printing them in a vertically tight strip that looks as if somebody cluelessly left the CinemaScope camera setting on. Though his explanations of on-set techniques made me blush, only a fool would call Serra sloppy. Every one of his answers was a passionate counterdefense, hammered out one syllable at a time.[ Read More ]