The purity (one might use the word ‘cleanness’) of this mise en scène implicitly opposes the corruption it reveals. Whereas so many modern American films attempt to sell us something (a product, a lifestyle), Brooks’ interest is in a cinema whose pleasures are immediately apparent. In Dracula Dead and Loving It (1995), Brooks introduces his own character, Professor Van Helsing, performing an autopsy for his freshman class. Essentially a two-minute sequence-shot interrupted by a couple of brief cut-ins, the scene, though partaking of that gross-out comedy so prevalent in the 1990s, achieves its effects through a combination of performance and mise en scène. After a frontal view of Van Helsing and the students standing over a sheet-covered cadaver, the camera moves in to frame the professor more closely, implying that Brooks’ skills as an actor will be the main source of laughter, but also economically removing the cadaver from sight, thus allowing its subsequent dissection to take place off-screen: the humour of what follows arises not so much from the grossness of the procedure (which Brooks does not allow us to see) as from our gradual realisation that the professor is more interested in causing his students to faint than in demonstrating autopsy technique. The final twist – despite the assumption of Van Helsing and ourselves that every student has passed out, one is still on his feet – is conveyed via the careful choreography of the actors and the camera, which follows Van Helsing as he moves right and left to display a string of intestines, but carefully conceals the presence of one individual until he emerges from behind the professor and declares “I am still standing”. Cinematic space is thus simultaneously manipulated (for comic reasons) and respected (for aesthetic/moral reasons), the director’s apparent egotism traceable to a belief in the body’s primacy within an image that, however much it may be distorted by lighting and colour effects, still has a fundamental integrity.

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