Who doesn't like fantastical artsy vampire movies, honestly? And with a live orchestral accompaniment to boot? Descending the escalators at MoMA to Titus Theater 1, surrounded by energetically costumed undergrads and aspiring hipsters, I thought of childhood trips with my hippie parents to the Pink Floyd laser show at the Boston planetarium, with a dash of Rocky Horror thrown in for good measure.
Five minutes into the performance, it became clear that these expectations were a little off; The Valerie Project is more cult than classic rock laser shows and Rocky Horror combined, Andy Warhol does Bram Stoker's Dracula, mashed into Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, if Jim Henson had had a penchant for non-linearity, high camera angles, lecherous priests, and frolicking woodland lesbian action. Hailed as the last film of the Czech New Wave, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is the screen adaptation of Vitezslav Nezval's short novel of the same name. The book was written in 1945, the film shot in 1970, and the new score composed in 2006, making The Valerie Project a venture of artistic hybridity, suspending our sense of expectation just enough to let this mythically overdone B-movie lull us into its dreamscape, creep us out and make us laugh out loud all at once. It's the coming-of-age story of thirteen year old Valerie (played by a hauntingly sexy, doe-eyed Jaroslava Schallerova, a cross between a young Tori Amos and the girl-muppet-fairy-creature from The Dark Crystal) whose innocence is lost when the traveling carnival comes to town, bringing in all sorts of sinful temptations that her goth-pale, soon-to-be-vamped-out-grandmother warns her sternly against (not for nothing, I should note that my own grandmother completely blamed my infatuation with "those theater people" when I came out to her at age 16). The narrative is so choppy, myopic and intentionally anti-diegetic at times, that it's hard to take anything in Valerie too seriously, from the frolicking group of girls making out with each other in the creek and slipping live fish down their dresses, to the sermon for virgins at the local church where the monstrous-looking priest (think Alan Cumming in X-Men 2, black-skinned and pointy-toothed) charges the village girls to guard their “unspoilt fruits” from the groping paws of lustful men, yatta yatta. Then there are the overlaid storylines of souls sacrificed for eternal youth, a pair of pearl