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Critics reviews
Story of My Death
Albert Serra Spain, 2013
One vanishing roué’s tragedy is another’s comedy in Serra’s cerebral anti-period piece, a string of captivating-lugubrious digital compositions with a lambent natural light that progressively darkens, as if wrapped more and more within the Transylvanian Count’s cape.
November 17, 2015
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Serra’s approach risks ridicule – throughout the film, Casanova grazes on an endless variety of foods, including shit and blood, while acknowledging rather than contributing to philosophical debates… and the glowering Dracula is so austere a representation of vampirism that he makes Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932) seem like a Terence Fisher Hammer film.
July 31, 2015
Ultimately it’s the filmmaking itself, not the ideas ostensibly being explored, which strands this willfully esoteric dress-up show from any sense of heft or cinematic vitality. Those familiar with the Catalan filmmaker’s work will recognize Story of My Death’s long-winded scenes and inflexible static shots as auteurist tics (though, to be sure, he’s hardly a game-changer in this regard), but here they register as mere affectation.
November 20, 2014
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Since around 1600 there have been no lack of Caravaggio knock-offs that get everything but his ineffable qualities, and there’s not an image in this movie that speaks above its monotonous drone—it’s a baggy, listless thing, cut with neither gravity nor levity, in which rigidly adhered-to tics are passed off as spontaneity.
November 20, 2014
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Like the sly change it makes to the title of Casanova’s memoirs (Story of My Life), Serra’s film refocuses from life towards the eternally approaching end. Cryptic, patient, and playful, Story of My Death is a singular if taxing fantasy, leaving much to be uncovered.
November 19, 2014
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Mr. Serra has said his film portrays the eclipse of Enlightenment rationality by the violent forces of Romanticism. It’s a tidy overarching conceit, but the film’s lived-in feel does make for one vivid way of imagining shifts in thought.
November 19, 2014
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To describe Serra’s vision out loud is to parody it, but the picture is drenched in allusions, meanings, and whispers of games; as a viewer, your guess on the narrative significance of any individual scene is as good as anybody else’s. One way of putting it might be that the thirty-eight-year-old Catalan filmmaker builds a narrative with isolated tableaux—his shots linger in my memory like the Met’s most opulent still lifes.
November 18, 2014
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Story of My Death is a singular work, and its originality is apparent in every frame. This is in large part a consequence of Serra’s methods, which are wholly unconventional… This is a film of dazzling vitality and animation. Serra draws from traditions of literature and art history, but reconfigures them into something new.
November 18, 2014
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Like some key moments in Birdsong, there are passages in the second half of Story which push the medium to its limits of visual definition, black on black so subtle the figures barely register. But this is precisely the point: the Age of Enlightenment is waning, and the superstition of the Gothic era is on its way.
August 09, 2014
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These modest, meaningless shocks reverberate a little, of course, but are less notable than Mr. Serra’s grave self-seriousness and his embrace of so many familiar art film strategies, from nonprofessional actors to long takes, cryptic aperçus and silences. The movie’s high jinks, deadpan humor (inadvertent or not) and uneven production values suggest Ed Wood by way of Alexander Sokurov.
March 24, 2014
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[Story of My Death] brings exotic passions of the eighteenth century to furious life… along with his obsessive attention to bodily functions there will be blood, and his curiosities fuse the empirical with the vampirical. Filming in spare settings dominated by velvety light and hidden sounds—wind and birdsong, footfalls and the crunch of chewed food—Serra creates poised, highly pressurized images on the verge of shattering with the force of mystery and desire.
March 24, 2014
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The result is something which manages to work in parody of itself without diminishing its serious impact, that comic spirit only thickening the miasma of ideas floating around the coarse action… In Story of My Death, the tendency of all things toward decay isn’t a cause for despair, it’s just another confirmation of the vivid life force hiding inside them, another excuse to revel in the fun, frightening spectacle of their undoing.
March 20, 2014
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…Story of My Death is a worthy successor to Honor de cavalleria (2006) and Birdsong, as it careens between being by turns invigorating and baffling, puerile and contemplative, gleefully provocative and sheerly beautiful.
December 17, 2013
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…The film’s serene flamboyance, its complete confidence in pacing and casting (Serra as usual working with nonprofessional actors), and the sheer pleasure in filmmaking on display make Story of My Death feel like a piece of pure cinematic luxury. There’s something uncompromisingly singular about Serra’s cinema (he’s described this film as “unfuckable,” i.e., beyond critique, and he’s wrong of course, but I can see what he’s getting at), and it reminds me, oddly enough, of Fassbinder.
November 12, 2013
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These two and a half hours bring about a mortal boredom (let’s insist: mortal) and would perhaps only bring pleasure to fans that can’t wait to discuss it, just to prove that they are as clever as what is actually an ineptitude that has nothing to impart, except for surely a despair, that like the films of Serra, are envious to die watching this bloated caricature of radical chic cinema, which is as pretentious as it is insignificant.
October 01, 2013
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This is as direct and honest a film as one can imagine, but luminous (in what Casanova dubs the half-light of undergarments) in its muffled, sad-bawdy sensibility. It expresses not just a beautiful historical idea but, in its wispy, pensive thoughtfulness and corporeal presence, a true tone history’s uncanny strangeness.
September 12, 2013
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Lighted like a Caravaggio painting and shot in long, lulling takes, it exerts an intoxicating pull into black nothingness.
September 11, 2013
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Serra’s brazen, batshit-crazy audacity—at one point, focusing on actual feces turning into glistening gold—is undeniable, yet his impish impulses are stretched thin as vampirism reigns supreme, leading to a pervading listlessness that drains the film of any blood and energy.
September 07, 2013
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Featuring protracted scenes of arousal, defilement, and neck-biting, as well as an extended dismemberment of a cow, Serra’s ponderous ode to excess somehow manages to beguile with its lugubrious tone and painterly digital video compositions.
August 25, 2013
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No one else working today makes movies remotely like Serra, a cerebral oddball and improbable master of cinematic antiquity… Against a backdrop of candlelit conversation and barnyard carnality, Serra sets in motion contrasting ideas about pleasure and desire, alternating between winding philosophical dialogue and wordless passages of savage beauty.
August 20, 2013
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[Compared to Mary, Queen of Scots,] Serra’s epic… is a far more beguiling exercise in blending narratives and transcending tropes. Following Casanova (played by poet and art curator Vicenç Altaió) in his final days, both the character and the iconic image he represents are ultimately consumed by a Dracula-like figure. Using static, long takes, Serra’s film is visually stunning, but is rooted in complex questions that add depth to its imagery.
August 19, 2013
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I was so enthralled by Albert Serra’s Story of My Death that I saw it three times in four days. Billed as the film in which Casanova (Vincenç Altaió) meets Dracula (Eliseu Huertas), Serra’s slow-burn 150-minute romp depicts in enchanting natural light the revolutionary shift from the Enlightenment to irrationalism. Broadly symbolic, the film is also detailed enough that we can see particles of dust move through the air; it’s as if the very atmosphere is charged with transition.
August 19, 2013
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