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Cinema (Black) Magic 

Wednesday, Jan 13 2010
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If you had to guess the topic of the most expensive Swedish silent film ever made, you probably wouldn’t guess demonic possession and witchcraft. You almost certainly wouldn’t guess that the film was widely castigated for scenes of pornography and torture, and banned in the United States. But that happens to be the story of Haxän, the most expensive Swedish silent film ever made. By today’s standards, nothing about the 1922 film is particularly pornographic, unless your proclivities lean toward paunchy, middle-aged demons making out with wayward Swedish housewives. The strange and lovely film (which is meant to serve as a warning against superstition and the role it played in witch hunts) vividly imagines hellish scenes of temptation and dementia. Flocks of diaphanous beasts sail over darkened cityscapes and horses made of bone crawl through underworld caverns populated by actors in elaborate costumes that predict Jim Henson’s popularity. It’s the kind of cult classic that has earned equal praise from cinema buffs and brooding teenagers who dress in black. A re-edited version of the film, whose original score has been lost to the ages, screens with live accompaniment by electronica band Dr. Prisoner: The Brain! Scoring silent films is old hat for these guys: They’ve written and performed music for classics like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Sat., Jan. 23, 8 p.m., 2010

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Andy Wright

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