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Film review: Nadja

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A black-and-white experimental piece, "Nadja" uses Pixelvision, which employs a plastic Fisher-Price toy video camera for an eerie effect whenever the title character is about to seduce and/or put the bite on someone. (The result is similar to computer imaging, only more blurry.)

But the device becomes tiresome after awhile, and the film stumbles with hackneyed plotting, uneven performances and a deadly-dull centerpiece that goes on forever.

It's a stylish-looking movie, however, directed by Michael Almereyda, going over familiar terrain with its story of Nadja (Elina Lowensohn), who is Dracula's daughter, living in contemporary New York and dabbling in lesbianism. She also has a twin brother named Edgar (Jared Harris).

The plot kicks in as a troubled Manhattan couple, Jim and Lucy (Martin Donovan and Galazy Craze), and his half-sister Cassandra (Suzy Amis), become involved with Nadja and her brother. Meanwhile, Jim's uncle, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Fonda, with wispy long hair), has killed Dracula and is arrested for murder, after which he tries to convince Jim to help him destroy Nadja and Edgar.

There is the expected AIDS metaphor and a few moments of wit, though it's hard to tell how much humor Almereyda is after. Mostly, he's chasing dark and downbeat atmosphere — and he only partially succeeds.

Though some cast members are rather weak, Lowensohn is good, as are Donovan and Fonda, the latter giving an appropriately crazed performance. (Director David Lynch also has a cameo as a morgue attendant.)

"Nadja" is rated R for violence, sex, nudity, profanity and vulgarity.