Agatha Christie’s “Halloween Party” was published in 1969. The main story takes place in the fictional town of Wodleigh Common, “an ordinary place” thirty or forty miles from London . Thanks to director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green, the book has become a new movie, “The Haunting of Venice,” set in 1947 Italy. That is Adaptation—a bolder twist than anything Branagh and Green tackled in Murder on the Orient Express (2017) or Death on the Nile (2022). I’m already looking forward to their next reimagining of Christie: Bodies in the Library, maybe moving to the freezer section of Walmart.
Branagh returns as Hercule Poirot, who has retired to a fortress in Venice. There, ignoring the pleas of those who pestered him with their private secrets, he tended his garden, inspecting his plants with a magnifying glass as if to expose any incriminating aphids. Local heavyweight Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio) sounds like a stockbroker but is actually an ex-cop who acts as a janitor. The only outsider he allows in is Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), a budding crime novelist. She urges the detective to accompany her to a séance, where famed medium Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) will make contact with the otherworld. Ariadne’s plan is that Poirot, an extreme rationalist, will debunk claims of the supernatural. Ever the cunning filmmaker, Branagh’s plan is to expose their lies once and for all.
So be prepared for all the tricks. The palace is said to be full of ghosts and is currently home to an operatic soprano, Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), ever since her daughter Alicia (Rowan Robinson) fell into a canal and drowned , she never sang a note again. A parrot named Harry keeps his mouth shut for the same reason. A housekeeper (Camille Curtin) who is accustomed to speaking Latin can only enter the daughter’s room. A British doctor (Jamie Dornan) is traumatized by his wartime experiences. A handsome, reliable, vacuous jerk (Kyle Allen) who was once engaged to Alicia but then ditched her, apparently for money, seems fair enough to me. A hidden basement full of skeletons. A knitted bunny. Missing bees. A typewriter whose keys press automatically. A violent night storm is so violent that when death strikes, the police are unable to reach the scene, meaning Poirot must lock everyone inside and then—my God——Crime solved before breakfast.
I remember reading “Halloween Party” as a kid and being scared because the first victim used to be A Child: A girl of twelve or thirteen years old, whose head was forced into a bucket of water while fishing for apples. (Christie can be cruel when it comes to fun gone awry if she wants to.) As if as a redemption, the most interesting character in “Ghosts of Venice” is another child – the doctor’s son Leo, played by Jude Podhill is the roguish little bastard in Branagh’s Belfast (2021). Here, there’s nothing lovable about Hill anymore. Instead, he shows us a precocious little Poirot, solemnly dressed in a dark suit and tie. Edgar Allan Poe read of Leopold’s concern for his trembling father, and when asked about his sympathy for the dead, he replied, “Some of them were my friends.” He and ” The boy in The Sixth Sense (1999) has a lot to talk about.
For a constitutionally sick man like Leopold, nowhere could one be more pessimistic than Venice. Henry James called it “the most beautiful tomb” and I’ve always been puzzled by its reputation as a romantic refuge. How can you honeymoon in a city defined by disintegration and decay? Think of Joseph Losey, who took the bad Hollywood movie “Eve” and, like Branagh, moved the action to Venice. The result was Eva (1962), a memorial to disillusionment in which Jeanne Moreau, as an insouciant hedonist, allows her lover’s dignity to be soaked and his heart to be a ruin. Part of the film unfolds on the island of Torcello in winter, away from the glare of the Grand Canal.
If every Venetian story is told, and every point of view is exhaustively documented in a print or painting, what else could “Haunting of Venice” hope to add? It’s only been a few months since Hayley Atwell and Rebecca Ferguson were busy fighting villains on one of the city’s bridges in the latest Mission: Impossible, and nothing can be said for the mourning of Venice’s drowned daughter Comparable to “Tang”. Watch Now” (1973). Yet Branagh’s film has a ludicrous charm to it: the ornate style is piled high in a treasure trove of gothic camp, and the shots, no matter how provocative, are shot in the most evocative Shocking angle tilt – what’s known in the trade as the “Dutch angle”. Monsieur Poirot, if you really want to feel at home, forget Venice. Head to Amsterdam!
According to historical records, Augusto Pinochet, who came to power in Chile after a military coup 50 years ago, was born in 1915 and died in 2006. Director Pablo Larraín says Pinochet has been around for centuries. He starts out as Claude Pinoch, a young French officer in Louis XVI’s army who observes the atrocities of the French Revolution up close – so close that in Marie Antoinette After his execution, he sneaked up to the guillotine and licked her blood. from the blade. You see, this is no ordinary savage. He is a vampire.
That’s the conceit that drives this unusual film. The book tracks Pinochet’s crimes, jumps to the present day, zips through his dictatorship, and lands on his coffin as he sleeps. A small window showed the calm face of the deceased, who opened his eyes, took a furtive glance, and rose again with apparent impatience to resume his thirsty work. We learn that mere pedigree did not satisfy Pinochet’s discerning palate. Instead, he would carve out the hearts of his victims, place them in a blender, and drink the liquefied liquid. Except for a final coda, “El Conde” – “The Count” – is entirely in black and white. The blood was as black as tar.
Much of the story takes place on a remote ranch in Chile. The only inhabitants are Pinochet (Jaime Waddell), his wife Lucia Hilliat (Gloria Munchmeier) and their servant Fyodor ( Alfredo Castro), Fyodor is very proud of his experience of abuse during the military rule. . Pinochet’s five children arrive in this desolate place claiming to have a faint love for their father but mostly for his money. An accountant named Carmencita (Paula Ruisinger) arrives to sort out the family’s finances, especially those funds that are hidden away like squirrel nuts. However, Carmencita has a secret plan: she’s a nun in disguise, and her suitcase is full of exorcist tools. The stakes are high.
Despite the vampires, no one in the film makes a more noticeable impact than Luch Singh. With short hair, sharp features, round eyes and a wide smile, she exudes a militant innocence. Yet her character’s purpose becomes dangerously vague, and the core of the plot is somewhat slack and unfocused. As the Pinochet family squabbles over their undead legacy, the more Larraín tries to grab your attention with moral eccentricities, the less willing you are to give in. I suspect “El Conde” is a one-trick story. The image of the tyrant as a true vampire, rather than as a stern conqueror of his fellow men, would be meat and drink, especially drink, for political cartoonists, but it has no narrative power to match its satirical nature. Very few jokes, no matter how disgusting and strong, can be told over and over again without them starting to fade away.
The film is narrated in the unmistakable voice of Margaret Thatcher (Stella Gonet), who deigns to make a cameo late on. Indeed, after Pinochet was accused of human rights abuses and placed under house arrest in Britain in 1998, Mrs Thatcher (and George H.W. Bush) argued that he should be released. Yet anyone who sees “Conde” with little knowledge of the period will be left with the impression that she was not so much Pinochet’s ally as his formidable companion—perhaps even his superior – with his own barbaric tastes. Like him, she flew calmly through the vast gray sky, her cloak spread like a bat’s wings. As a woman, she sips blood from a porcelain cup like Earl Gray tea.
In fact, Mrs Thatcher, unlike Pinochet, was fairly elected and she ruled a country where you could call the Prime Minister a vampire without getting thrown out of a helicopter or beaten into a pulp, this distinction may be too fine and boring. Cause trouble for Laraine. His situation was odd: as he matured, his work became dumber, not wiser. The baroque paranoia of “Jackie” (2016), “Spencer” (2021) and “El Conde”, a nightmare filled with conspiracy, are not as convincing as the urgency of “NO” (2012). This is Larraín’s best film, set against the backdrop of the campaign to defeat Pinochet in the 1988 referendum, in which ordinary Chileans have endured enough and come together to fight back. Where are these people in “El Conde”? Who needs a movie that’s almost entirely about predators, with the prey barely saying a word? ❖