SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE
2000, Lionsgate, 90 min, UK/USA/Luxembourg, Dir: Elias Merhige

This fictional meditation about F.W. Murnau (John Malkovich) and the making of NOSFERATU is based on the conceit that the director was so determined to make the most authentic movie ever that he employed a real vampire, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe), to play the title character. Attributing Schreck's weird behavior and ghastly appearances to "Method" acting, Murnau indulges his leading man's every exigency, shooting only at night and at the remote locations the "actor" calls home. But Schreck hungers for human blood, and as cast and crew fall ill at a terrifying rate, Murnau races to finish his film before Schreck finishes him. An exceedingly witty exploration of creation, in which demanding artist and demanding star - the genius and the monster - reveal their uncontrollable, potentially destructive but unusually seductive compulsions.


EMPIRE OF THE SUN
1987, Warner Bros., 152 min, USA, Dir: Steven Spielberg

Director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tom Stoppard created one of their most ambitious and acclaimed works with this adaptation of J.G. Ballard's autobiographical novel. A young Christian Bale stars as a boy growing up in Shanghai, where he lives a sheltered life until the Japanese invasion separates him from his parents and changes his life forever. In Spielberg's hands, the result is a character study that is epic and intimate in equal parts, with a stirring score by John Williams.


THE SHELTERING SKY
1990, Warner Bros., 138 min, Italy, Dir: Bernardo Bertolucci

Kit (Debra Winger) and Port (John Malkovich) journey to the Sahara as "travelers," not "tourists" - they make the distinction because they see tourists as seeking the comforts of home wherever they go, whereas Kit and Port want adventure. As their vacation progresses, however, it becomes clear that what they're really in search of is the love they used to have. Stunning landscape photography by Vittorio Storaro and career-best performances by Malkovich and Winger make this a must-see masterpiece.


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