Nadja is a vampire movie of the most idiosyncratic sort—Bram Stoker by way of Breton. Produced by David Lynch, and staged primarily in modern Manhattan, the film offers a wry update of the old Universal picture Dracula’s Daughter (beloved in some circles for its sapphic subtext). The eponymous, undead protagonist, a glamorous Transylvanian expat, must journey to a land she has never seen—Brooklyn—to reunite with her estranged sibling in the wake of their father’s death, consumed all the while by a new love, and tailed by vampire hunter Van Helsing (a tweedy turn for Peter Fonda). As elsewhere, Almereyda puts the little PXL 2000 to work, using the contraption’s ethereal imagery to punctuate the stylish black and white cinematography throughout, further amplifying Nadja’s otherworldly undertones. Print courtesy of Harvard Film Archive.
Programmer Thomas Beard on Pixelvision, the “Underappreciated Flipside of ’90s Indie Cinema”:
I bought a PXL 2000 on eBay years ago, back when I was in college, but unfortunately I could never get it to work. The Pixelvision camera was kind of legendary, a plastic camcorder for kids put out by Fisher-Price in the late ’80s that recorded its ghostly, low-res images onto a regular audio cassette. As a toy, the PXL 2000 was rather a bust, yanked from the shelves after only a year—they were too expensive, they were temperamental—but the story of Pixelvision doesn’t end there. It had a look like nothing else, a dreamy visual texture, fuzzy as a faded memory, and the format had a surprise second act in the hands of experimental filmmakers, who used the device to shoot some truly remarkable movies, like Michael Almereyda’s Nadja, a wry riff on the vampire picture, or Sadie Benning’s teenage bedroom tapes, which, in my estimation, are among the most moving and imaginative records of queer adolescence ever made.
Over the years there have been a number of one-off Pixelvision screenings, but nothing this comprehensive, and many of the titles aren’t currently available on DVD or Netflix, so if you’re intrigued by the curious afterlife of the PXL 2000 and the challenging, strangely beautiful films it captured, now’s the time to check them out. Think of this series as the underappreciated flipside of ’90s independent cinema.