Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

I've finished a chapter of the novel, which various kind friends like debg are reading, and another chapter of the teen movie book, and am hard at work on both, which is why I am posting so little at present...

However, vschanoes and I went this evening to a screening of one of our favourite movies, 'Valerie and her Week of Wonders', which is a 1969 Czech fantasy film based loosely on a 1930s surrealist novel of the same name. VWW is wonderful in its own right - the last flowering of the Czech New Wave before a Socialist Realist clampdown post-invasion - and is also interesting for its influence on Angela Carter, who once acknowledged to me that it was key to her discussions with Neil Jordan about 'The Company of Wolves'.

Then there was the discussion afterwards. Tanya Krzywinska from Brunel, with whom I discussed VWW at the Norwich Buffy conference did a really good paper which leaned too heavily for my taste on Freud, but got right all the things about the exploration of female desire. She was followed by Tim Somebody-Something who was keen to promote the new translation of the book and chose to do this by complaining about the inferiority to it of the film we had just seen.

Part of the problem with his argument was that he seemed not to understand the fundamental distinction between film and book - a long rhapsodic sermon on virginity gets boiled down to a few telling phrases and what we are actually looking at is Valerie in a black dress in a church full of girls in white, the colour in which she spends most of the film. He complained about losing some of the poetry of the sermon - but it is still there in the book, where it belongs. He also hates the ending of the film - in the book, Valerie and her brother are reunited in waking life whereas in the film she is surrounded by all the figures of her fantasy life, including the brother/lover, and returns to her bed, to wake up. As I pointed out, the final sequence of the film is a fugal recapitulation of everything that has gone before - not so much musically, though each element in the score gets a reprise, as visually; the film does things that a novel would be hard pressed to do.

He was also the sort of guy who, when Tanya uses soft core as a generic description of some of the pictorial eroticism in a way that is devoid of value judgements, feels obliged to go on in a 1980s anti-sexist male way about how regrettable it is that the film introduces a lot of girl-on-girl action absent from the novel. When Veronica pointed out that a lot of women like the film for precisely that reason, - and she is right, the movie is hot and sweet in its portrayal of sex of all flavours - he demonstrated his anti-sexist credentials by ignoring her altogether. I also pointed out that dissing a film on the basis of similar tropes in films made half a decade and more later in other countries while ignoring its specific context in a moment when it was possible for a couple of years to escape Stalinist puritanism is historically naive.

I don't think he liked us very much, especially when I disputed his model of Czech surrealism as entirely derived from French models and pointed to all the dream plays and dream operas in Czech theatre and music theatre in the preceding quarter century. I don't think he liked having it pointed out that even the original novel makes a Bram Stoker joke - and so the film's play with Nosferatu and Carmilla tropes is absolutely faithful, in a cinematic way.

Oh, and it has shadow doubles, games with identity and liminality, weird uses of space and time, and lots of glamour shots of Valerie's lustrous hair. And beautiful Czech folkish music all the way through.

Anyway, you have really got to see this film.
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