The Fall of the House of Usher
Jean Epstein / 1928 / 60 min. / digital video
Southside Hub of Production, 1448 E. 57th St.
Friday, October 30, 2015 at 8pm
Live accompaniment by Gel Set.
Jean Epstein’s surrealist masterpiece La Chute de la maison Usher (1928, ~60 min., DVD) is the greatest film version of Edgar Allan Poe’s greatest story, The Fall of the House of Usher. We realize that’s saying a lot: Americans James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber made another avant garde classic in 1928, and Roger Corman’s 1960 version is superb. But Epstein, with a little help from Luis Buñuel (who quit before the film was finished), leaves the others in the dust with this expressionist masterpiece that moves to the underwater rhythms of nightmares. The film blends the sad tale of the last of the Usher family with elements from other Poe stories, most notably “The Oval Portrait”; here, Roderick Usher’s obsession with perfecting a portrait of his long-suffering wife slowly sucks her life away. But is she really dead?
The film will be paired with a new score composed and performed live by Gel Set, the one-person darkwave synth brainchild of Chicago-based musician Laura Callier. The Chicago Tribune called Gel Set “ambient and dark, with minimal, airy vocals over hazy synths, samples, and drum machine beats,” and Bullett Media says “If Carrie didn’t go to prom and stayed locked in that prayer room writing murderous love songs through the collapse of civilization, she’d sound something like Gel Set.”