Path Alias: 

The Devils

(1971, 107 mins)
CAST Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed, Dudley Sutton, Max Adrian, Gemma Jones, Michael Gothard, Georgina Hale.


In seventeenth century France, Father Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed) takes a rather liberal view of religious life, but does his best to protect the city of Loudun from the nefarious political designs of Cardinal Richelieu. But when a deranged nun, Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) accuses him of having seduced her and others in the convent in the form of an incubus, mass religious hysteria sweeps the town, egged on by charismatic exorcist.

Based on a notorious historical incident, Ken Russell’s searing movie kept censors busy all over the world with its shocking imagery and no-holds-barred assault on ecclesiastical hypocrisy. Forty years on it retains its power, not least for the astounding, career-best performances from Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jarman’s bold production design, and the electrifying score by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Never released on DVD or Bluray in North America. Please note some scenes may cause offence.

"The pinnacle of Russell’s astonishing career, blending the exuberant visuals and musical underpinning of his most most exotic fantasies wieh a serious undercurrent of outraged political intent… a fearsome, breathtaking masterwork." Mark Kermode, BBC

"A garish glossary of sado-masochism… a taste for visual sensation that makes scene after scene look like the masturbatory fantasies of a Roman Catholic boyhood." Alexander Walker, Evening Standard

Live Cinema: HAXAN, Witchcraft Through the Ages

(1922, 104 mins, DVD)
FEATURING Live score by Funerary Call
Tickets $20 ($15 students/seniors)


Vancouver’s Funerary Call performs a new, specially commissioned live score for this mind-blowing 1922 cult classic. Grave robbing, torture, possessed nuns and a satanic Sabbath are just a few of the ingredients that make up Benjamin Christensen’s witches’ brew of superstition, sorcery, surrealism and enlightenment.

As many as 50 000 people were burnt at the stake in Europe during the Middle Ages, including the deformed, the demented, and anyone who might be characterised as a dissident or non-conformist. Chistensen’s film contends that in many cases the prosecutors were the true demons. But it also mixes documentary rationalism with sinister dramatic vignettes that sometimes fly in the face of the movie’s avowed thesis. Not only does the devil play a prominent role in Haxan, he’s played by the director himself.

With its astonishing blend of production design, costume design, camera trickery and animated effects, Haxan stands as one of cinema’s earliest and most spectacular incursions into the phantastic.

Although it was a great success in Christensen’s native Denmark, the film was banned in most other countries. The 1923 Variety review concluded, "Wonderful though this picture is, it is absolutely unfit for public exhibition." That didn’t stop Hollywood from enticing the director over to the US, but sadly almost all of his American movies have been lost. He returned to Denmark in the 1930s and Haxan was rereleased there to great acclaim in 1941. Later a 76 minute version was edited and rereleased with narration by William S Burroughs and a score by Jean Luc Ponty.

About Funerary Call

Created by Vancouver musician Harlow Macfarlane in 1994, Funerary Call draws from a diverse palette of analog and digital hardware, found objects, field recordings and ritual implements to conjure an unsettling ancient atmosphere that aims to transcend the perceptive listener, spiritually and emotionally - beyond all boundaries and limitations. Joining Harlow for these shows is drummer Nathan Funk.

"A unique film for its boldness in dealing with its taboo subject, for its amazing visual inventiveness, and also for its complex structure." Fernando Martin Pena, Defining Moments in Movies

"A truly unique work that still holds the power to unnerve even in today’s jaded era." Jyotsna Kapur, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

"An amazing experience. The film is overflowing with dark fairytale imagery, incredible makeup effects (especially Christensen himself in the role of a leering Lucifer) and shocking portrayals of torture that still make viewers cringe over 90 years later." Gregory Burkart,

A Hijacking

(2012, 110 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
CAST Pilou Asbæk, Søren Malling, Dar Salem, Gary Skjoldmose Porter, Abdihakin Asgar


The writer of VIFF-favourite The Hunt fashions a lean, taut, morally ambiguous Scandinavian thriller out of the facts of the hijacking of a Danish-owned cargo boat by Somali pirates (the very incident captured in the documentary Stolen Seas, screening at Vancity Theatre immediately before this show).

Lindholm cuts back and forth between events on the MV Rosen after pirates hold the crew at gunpoint, and the boardroom back in Copenhagen, where the CEO of the shipping company declines to let a professional negotiator handle the ransom demand, insisting that as a successful businessman he is better equipped to strike a deal than anyone. It’s a high stakes strategy with the lives of his employees on the line.

96% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes

"No mainstream American thriller could ever be made about this subject that resisted simple-minded narrative clichés the way "A Hijacking" does, or that refused to depict its characters as either heroes or villains." Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

"A nail-biter of a thriller." Geoff Pevere, Globe & Mail

The Best Film You've Never Seen: THE SWIMMER

(1968, 94 mins, DCP)
CAST Burt Lancaster, Janet Langard, Janice Rule, Kim Hunter, Joan Rivers.
Introduced by author Robert K Elder (The Best Film You’ve Never Seen).


Author Robert K Elder asked 35 filmmakers to champion a movie that they love, but which had either been overlooked or reviled by critics and audiences. The result, ’The Best Film You’ve Never Seen’ is fascinating both for what it reveals about the directors he talked to - they include Richard Linklater (Same Came Running), Danny Boyle (Eureka), and Guy Maddin (The Chase) - and for their insights into some seriously neglected films. Case in point: Frank Perry’s The Swimmer, based on a short story by John Cheever, starring Burt Lancaster as a man who decides to swim his way home across Connecticut, one backyard swimming pool at a time.

Selected by the Australian director Alex Proyas - who has made more than a few neglected gems himself (Dark City; Knowing) - The Swimmer is a genuinely strange and surprising movie, a troubled production that shouldn’t work yet stays with you long afterwards. Lancaster called it "Death of a Salesman in swimming trunks". For Proyas, it’s "an exercise in delusion… He [Lancaster] has convinced himself he’s lived a very different life to the one he finds he’s lived… It’s a very brave movie, and a very brave role."

Author Robert K Elder will be here at Vancity Theatre to introduce The Swimmer and talk about his book.

"As do few movies, The Swimmer stays in the memory like an echo that never quite disappears." Vincent Canby, New York TImes

"Enigmatic, poetic, disturbing." Kim Newman, Empire

"Burt Lancaster is superb in his finest performance." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times