Film Text: Dracula Sex Tape
Film Text: Dracula Sex Tape
Dracula Sex Tape
By José Teodoro
There is a subgenre of movies in which fictional directors talk about making films that no one in the real world, including the makers of the subgeneric movie in question, would have the slightest interest in filming. Dracula Sex Tape—whose title is misleading on every count—is just such a movie.
The latest short from French-Canadian writer-director Olivier Godin depicts a pair of meetings and a fleeting moment of solitude on a stretch of stark tundra pierced by a distant river and punctuated with spindly barren trees against a powder-blue sky. It’s a purgatorial non-place, somewhere to wait shivering for Godot, a platform for hysterical encounters.
Geneviève (Chloé Germentier), an excitable woman robed in punchy red and blue, scampers across crunchy snow to a complicated flute theme until she reaches her pal Mésuline (Leslie Mavangui). Geneviève has come to inform Mésuline that she’s to be offered a part in a film entitled Dracula Sex Tape, helmed by one Cassius, a man who “makes films about vampires and swords.” As luck would have it, Mésuline is writing a play about vampires. Geneviève and Mésuline smoke cigarettes in celebration.
Sometime after Geneviève’s departure, along comes Cassius (Dominick Rustam Chartrand), whose high-strung pretentiousness is signaled by his smoking while wearing gloves—with a few tweaks, and some coffee, Dracula Sex Tape could be an episode from Coffee and Cigarettes—and his unwillingness to kiss-kiss like a normal Quebecois. The role he has in mind for Mésuline, who is Black, is “a victim representing diversity.” It is at this point in Dracula Sex Tape that a current of cheerful absurdism is overtaken by a satirical swipe at the outer limits of political correctness: Dracula’s Tinder profile, explains Cassius, will clarify that he’s “a seducer, not a stalker,” a measure that, with any luck, will render the horny revenant un-cancelable. “The spectator will have to be active,” Cassius says, “otherwise I will face an important ethical dilemma.”
Much of Godin’s purple, declarative dialogue is delivered at a breakneck pace, as though these verbally nimble actors are running lines at auctioneer-speed (or “running Italians” as in a theater rehearsal) while simultaneously playing their intentions to the hilt. (Audience members who do not understand French will need to speed-read the subtitles.) The film is an exercise in radical compression, its velocity integral to its comic effects, though all the rapid-fire yakking and spastically edited reverse-shot sequences lead to a wordless denouement in which Mésuline searches her pockets for a cigarette in a shot that’s hardly protracted yet still takes up about one-fifth of this taut little film’s runtime. Her pleasure in finally lighting up is fairly adorable.
If there is a single line that rings out as Dracula Sex Tape’s thesis statement, lending itself to both the diegetic and the meta, it is this: “To lose one’s humanity is to win one’s freedom.” It is a plea to surrender your throat to Dracula or your narrative expectations to the allure of high style and winky mischief. The great caveat that plays devil’s advocate to such claims, however, was most elegantly stated by none other than the patron saint of cinematic absurdity. In his autobiography, My Last Sigh, Luis Buñuel wrote what I consider to be the most eloquent rebuttal to every declaration promising liberation. “You aren’t free,” the great surrealist wrote, “no matter what you say. Your freedom is only a phantom that travels the world in a cloak of fog. You try to grab hold of it, but it will always slip away. All you’ll have left is a dampness on your fingers.”