Pablo Picasso Would Have Loved ‘Dark Shadows’

Guest Blog: The movie's look is straight out of his Harlequin Period — but its story is a different matter altogether

 

Pablo Picasso would have loved "Dark Shadows." The fantasy make-up of Depp and Co. is straight out of Picasso's Harlequin Period. Cubism and its mates would have cheered the art direction. Braque and Matisse would have enjoyed this film, simply just to look at it.

How do I know? I was engaged to Pablo Picasso's son, Claude, and lived in Paris with his family — including Paloma, who dressed as though she had just stepped out of "Dark Shadows." Her body was an art form that she delighted in camping up with old clothing.

Mind you, the old was Givenchy or Dior, but she never threw anything out, One Christmas, Francoise Gilot, Picasso's mistress, wore a purple wig to the family dinner and never once cracked a smile. Claude wore a floor-length pastel-patterned bunny fur coat — and though it was in varying shades of pink, mint green and mauve, Claude still looked masculine and drop-dead handsome like Johnny Depp does in "Dark Shadows." As camp and nasty as his make up is, he still is sexy as all get-out.

Still, I was irritated by the chaos and confusion of this forced gothic Tim Burton nightmare, based on the vampire soap opera from 1966. One minute you are terrified. The next, you are laughing and then again, terrified. Finally with a crashing thud, as you watch thundering waves dash onto the cliffs, you realize you are bored.

Long … it is so long that you wish you had brought your cell phone into the theater. And while the makeup and sets by John Bush and costumes by Colleen Atwood are over-the-top fab, these splendid special effects cannot make up for a tedious script by Seth Grahame-Smith and story by John August, which drags and milks each moment like the vampire's last bite

In 1752, the rich powerful playboy Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) rejects Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who is a witch and who is in love with him. To seek revenge, she kills the young girl he loves, then turns him into a vampire, and buries him alive for 200 years. The early sets glow in macabre midnight blues to signify the sinister if-I-don't-have-you-laughing-I-could-kill-you spirit of this film.

In 1972, former playboy Collins awakens in Collinsport, Maine, chained inside a coffin. (One wonders if metaphorically this signifies the Depp/Burton relationship.) In need of sustenance, he sucks the blood of nearby victims, then makes his way to Collinwood Manor, where he meets the continually youthful beauty, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is the mistress of the manor.

Barnabas is shocked at the dilapidated condition of his once grand estate and vows to Elizabeth to restore her mansion to its glory if she keeps his secret that he is a vampire. He proves to Elizabeth that he is, indeed, the former playboy Barnabas from 200 years ago by showing her a secret passage in the manor that leads to a hidden treasure. Elizabeth had no idea these riches were on her estate and realizes Barnabas is a vampire.

When Elizabeth offers to show the Collins Cannery on Angel Bay to Barnabas, who has not made the adjustment from 1752, he says, "Would someone fetch the horses?"

"We don't have horses, we have a Chevy," Elizabeth replies with her signature deadpan expression.

A quickie interlude of oral sex with Barnabas occurs when he is seduced by Helena Bonham Carter's Dr. Julia Hoffman, who is secretly draining Barnabas' blood for her own hidden stash. Just in case. One never knows, when hanging out with vampires, should the need arise for her own fix.

Barnabas restores the Collins fishing business on Angel Bay and takes it away from being under the spell of the witchcraft of his old nemesis, Angelique Bouchard, who has been stealing the rightful profits belonging to the Collins. In a charming cameo, Clarney (Christoper Lee) plays the captain who works for Angelique until Barnabas hypnotizes him to work for Barnabas and the Collins.

Alice Cooper makes a brief but exciting appearance at a 'happening' given by the Collins', and Barnabas refers to Alice as "she." This gets a laugh once, but the second time , the joke dies along with the film.