Spirits of the Dead-Toby Dammit (1968)

Fellini take us to the finish in this Poe triptych.

Jules: Many films depict deals with the Devil at the time the deal is done. Fewer – like Fellini’s contribution to this anthology – depict the Devil arriving to collect. But does Fellini’s contribution satisfy?

David: Fellini, usually so generous, has rarely been so impenetrable. Is Toby Dammit’s flight to Rome hijacked and diverted to Hell? Or is he really in Rome and finds the experience sufficiently overpowering that he literally loses his head? What is the nature of his tryst with the Devil? Do we watch him getting more than he bargained for, or is this all a payment? And was the prize stardom? A Ferrari? Or just release?

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Spirits of the Dead-William Wilson (1968)

Part Two of the Vadim-Malle-Fellini moral ménage à trois.

Jules: One is accustomed to thinking of oneself as having a dark side; implying that one is essentially good. But what if one discovers that one is the shadow, repeatedly assailed by the light?

David: Does the shadow have its own shadow? Does a remorseless psychopath have a suppressed or intermittent conscience, or none at all? What if they were one day confronted by one?

Sound isn’t perfect. We skyped this one.

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Spirits of the Dead-Metzengerstein (1968)

Part one of a 3-in-1 Edgar Allen Poe anthology, baton passed between directors Vadim, Malle and Fellini.

Jules: Are soulmates real, even if one or more of the parties behave soullessly? What is the price to save one’s soul, once it it lost? Roger Vadim and his beautiful entourage seek answers beneath the surface of things.

David: A tragic ghost myth? A seminal precursor to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not? Or both, plus a costume repurposing opportunity from the immediately prior intramarital collaboration by Vadim and Fonda, Barbarella ?

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Excalibur (1981)

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David: The legendary expounding of how, when your best friend steals your girlfriend, literally everything turns to excrement. As the hapless players unfold this tragedy, supernatural mentor Merlin is to be found meddling with ruthless benevolence in the affairs of men. But with a pained, fatherly expression he watches as time and again they hold the prize of a golden age in their hands, and drop it.

Jules: Not only an impossible love-triangle, but an impossible political romance unfolds in this robust and sinewy retelling of the ancient, troubadour-filtered tale of a God-given head of state who both physically and metaphysically unifies his island kingdom. The myth of the benevolent dictator finds its apotheosis in the overwhelmingly decent, occasionally-befuddled character of Arthur, whose innocence both makes and unmakes his dynasty.
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Prospero’s Books (1991)

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Jules: What becomes of the book in the age of the moving image? Peter Greenaway considers this question, among others, in this sumptuous 1991 production featuring John Gielgud in (apparently) his dream role as Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

David: Frames within frames, and naked dames. And who to blame? It may have as much to do with what becomes of art history in the age of the moving image, as what becomes of the book.

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The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

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Our first podcast! And it sounds like it!

Jules: Problems (and beauty) abound in this characteristically Gilliamesque romp through the Enlightenment, and its cultural upheavals. Marvels to delight the eye accompany the misadventures of our titular hero as he attempts to establish how the war began.

David: Beautiful ladies, beautiful ladies!

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