Silent killers from a shad­owy age

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

LES VAM­PIRES Di­rected by Louis Feuil­lade. Star­ring Musi­dora, Édouard Mathé, Mar­cel Lévesque, Jean Aymé, Fer­nand Herrmann PG cert

Of all the great cin­e­matic forms cre­ated in the silent era, the se­rial re­mains the most poorly served by video. Raise a cheer, then, for Ar­ti­fi­cial Eye who have put to­gether a splen­did edi­tion of one of the most elu­sive and an­cient of filmic mas­ter­pieces. De­liv­ered in 10 tense episodes, Louis Feuil­lade’s Les Vam­pires (1916) fol­lows a gang of mas­ter thieves as –tak­ing in se­cret pas­sage­ways, ter­ri­fy­ing rooftop pur­suits and other con­ven­tions of the melo­drama – they ply their trade in a se­duc­tively shad­owy Paris.

The se­ries, whose fe­male anti-hero, Irma Vep, still re­tains iconic sta­tus, is cred­ited with pi­o­neer­ing deep-fo­cus and in­vent­ing some of the tech­niques of film noir, but one need not don the movie bof­fin’s hat to ap­pre­ci­ate its out­ra­geous ac­tion and dizzy­ing plot re­ver­sals.

The fine trans­fer is ac­com­pa­nied by a new score from Éric le Guen and the three-disc set also in­cludes five fur­ther shorts by Feuil­lade. All in all, a smash­ing ver­sion of the work Jonathan Rosen­baum once re­ferred to as “one of the supreme de­lights of film”.

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