I am velvety-smoothReview is BELOWI am veltely smooth, too
DVD: Case of Howard Phillips Lovecraft / Un siècle d'écrivains: Le cas Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1999)
Review Rating:   Good  
...back to Index
Facets Multimedia / Arte
Catalog #:
...or start from scratch
1 (NTSC)

October 23, 2007



Genre: Documentary / Experimental  
The life, prose, and obsessions of famous horror writer H.P. Lovecraft are profiled in this experimental film.  



Directed by:

Patrick Mario Bernard, Pierre Trividic
Screenplay by: Patrick Mario Bernard, Pierre Trividic
Music by: Patrick Mario Bernard
Produced by: Laurent Mini, Cati Couteau

Ben Smith (English narration). Bruno Delvoldere (French narration)

Film Length: 45 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.33:1
Black & White / Colour
Anamorphic DVD: No
Languages:   Dolby Stereo English, Dolby Stereo French
Subtitles:   English (on titled chapters only)
Special Features :  

Interview / making-of featurette: “Weird” (20:02) in French with optional English subtitles / English and French DVD menu option

Comments :

In the short interview/making-of featurette, co-director Patrick Mario Bernard admits a major problem in meeting the challenges of this French bio-doc, commissioned as part of the Century of Writers Series, was how to document famed horror writer H.P. Lovecraft when about 20 photographs are known to exist. With no voice recordings or film clips (born in 1890 and dead by 1937 at the age of 46), all that's left are Lovecraft's published works, which ultimately prove to be more than enough to tell his life story, give samples of his florid prose, and present short glimpses of the eras and environments that shaped his life and work, which includes "Herbert West, Re-Animator," "Dagon," "The Dunwich Horror," and "Cthulhu."

Those wanting a straightforward talking head documentary on Lovecraft may not be happy with the way filmmakers Patrick Mario Bernard and Pierre Trividic have created an experimental, arty collage of images, sounds, music, and rippling prose, but it's a brilliant approach that manages to hit all the major marks: it informs, educates, and ignites an interest and curiosity, largely due to the cinematic images that evoke the obsessive locales, fears, and language within Lovecraft's work.

Unfolding like an old newsreel, The Case of Howard Phillip Lovecraft consists of a mélange of images culled from stock film libraries (unfurling vegetation, vintage shots of New York City, and some disturbing medical footage), stills, and a life-sized black silhouette that creeps about an apartment set, evoking the author's self-imposed isolation when he wasn't partaking in meetings with fellow writers, or with his wife, Sonia.

The moving silhouette might sound like an odd device, but the filmmakers also use myriad digital filters and effects to create shimmering visuals that punctuate the film's narration. Made in 1999, the effects – some animated, mimicking vintage instructional shorts – are still gorgeously rendered, and while shot on video, the mostly black & white photography and layered collages demonstrate how well filmmakers can exploit sparse resources using imaginative film techniques, augmented by a rich sound design and original score.

A fine example of the filmmakers' time transition devices occurs when the silhouette, pacing about the apartment, butts into a bowl meant to catch a leak from upstairs – an apparent problem in many of the low rent apartments Lovecraft migrated to – and a boyhood picture that's fallen into the bowl spins and morphs into an older image of the author; subtle yet seamless, it's an example of how the filmmakers convey the progression of the author's life without relying on talking heads and experts.

By also eschewing film clips of movies based on Lovecraft's tales, the doc also emphasizes the author's prose, which, over the film's 45 mins., should convince a few viewers to seek out some samples and explore for themselves the author's obsessive, fear-ridden world.

The interview featurette, filmed in 2007 and done in a similarly arty style, also acts as a postscript to the film, with co-director Patrick Mario Bernard explaining the origin and ultimate function of the silhouette, and in the featurette's final third, there are clips from prior works showing the unique fusion of animation, puppetry, and live action employed by the directors.

More of a stylized bio sketch than documentary, but rewarding for those wanting a creative alternative to the usual generic film clips, straightforward interviews and sound-bites.


© 2007 Mark R. Hasan

_IMDB Entry________Script Online _________Fan/Author site___________Cast/Crew Link
_IMDB Detailed Entry_______Scripts available online ________Fan/Official Film Site__________Additional Related Sites
____Amazon.com __________Amazon.ca _________Bay Street Video_______Comparisons_
__Amazon.com info____Amazon.com info____Basy Street Video info______Compare Different Region releases_
_Soundtrack CD__________CD Review__________LP Review__________Composer Filmog.
Soundtrack Album_________Soundtrack Review_______Yes, VINYL_________Composer Filmography/Discography at Soundtrack Collector.com

Site designed for 1024 x 768 resolution, using 16M colours, and optimized for MS Explorer 6.0. KQEK Logo and All Original KQEK Art, Interviews, Profiles, and Reviews Copyright © 2001-Present by Mark R. Hasan. All Rights Reserved. Additional Review Content by Contributors 2001-Present used by Permission of Authors. Additional Art Copyrighted by Respective Owners. Reproduction of any Original KQEK Content Requires Written Permission from Copyright Holder and/or Author. Links to non-KQEK sites have been included for your convenience; KQEK is not responsible for their content nor their possible use of any pop-ups, cookies, or information gathering.