“It is now, in the small hours, that Satan sends his secret agents, whispering with their messages of doubt.”
You and the night and the heresy. A reunion has been arranged for the three of you this weekend at the Coolidge, and it would be a shame if you missed it. The Coolidge’s ongoing After Midnite series of screenings careens serenely from the starkly, hysterically stupid (THE ROOM) to the really frankly super-fine (THIS VERY FILM), but every installment makes good on the midnight movie’s fundamental promise of eccentricity and excess — and who more reliably fulfills that promise than Ken Russell? (No need to answer that — there are legitimate contenders, sure, but not too many.) Russell at his best is Grand Guignol cinema at its most deluxe: vivid unto garishness, nerve-racked and overwrought, riven by eruptions of subterranean impulse. One poet of delirium meets another and yet another in this adaptation of John Whiting’s theatrical adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s novel of witch-hunting hysteria in 17th century France, “The Devils of Loudun” (1952). A thought-provoking, sumptuously designed procession of tableaux ranging from the austerely churchly to the orgiastically debased, THE DEVILS stars Oliver Reed as renegade priest Urbain Grandier, an imperfect, lust-weakened, but basically decent reformer who seeks to protect his medieval walled town from the tyranically centralizing Cardinal Richelieu, and who is charged and tried as a tool of the Dark Lord for his troubles. Vanessa Redgrave writhes and curses and craves to perfection as the “possessed” nun who, her amorous advances rebuffed, provides Richelieu with just the pretext he needs to brand and burn Grandier in a climactic spectacle as dazzling as it is dispiriting. Swagger in, stagger out. These reunions always end in tears.
7/18 & 7/19 // Midnight
Coolidge Corner Theatre
290 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446