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Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Ronald Chase | Bruges-la-Morte
art on a shoestring
by Douglas Messerli
Ronald Chase (screenplay, based on a novel by Georges Rodenbach, and director) Bruges-la-Morte /
The small budget he had raised came mostly from the New York City Opera, which was planning to use the images as a scrim set for its upcoming production of Erich Korngold's Tote Stadt, which like Bruges-la-Morte is a story of a man obsessed with his dead wife, who discovers a young woman who looks exactly like her and, in the process of trying to woe her “back”, reveals how he had contributed to the death of former wife.
While Chase’s Lulu used music reset to images, Chase’s and Frank Caruso’s Tote Stadt used images set to the music. The film, however, although filled with significant images, is much more conventional in that it does rely equally on dialogue and features professional actors Richard Easton, Nickolas Grace, and Anthony Daniels.
The images of Chase’s film are quite beautiful, and several scenes, particularly those which feature several of the characters, including the dancer who the hero believes looks like his wife, would remind one of the art of Belgium artist James Ensor.
In several respects this work, although set in what appears to be the late 19th century (Rodenbach’s novel was published in 1892), may remind viewers, to a certain degree, of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Certainly, the husband’s attempt to transform the young dancer into his dead wife cannot help but call up James Stewart’s attempt to remake Kim Novak into his dead lover, Madeline Elster.
It is hard to dislike an independent film, however, that has done so much with so little in money and time. The film was shown Ghent Film Festival of 1978, and later became available in a DVD edition.
Los Angeles, October 25, 2016