I have three sources of inspiration for this post. Firstly, the UK has just been struck with this mysteriously frigid perspiration that has caused our entire transport infrastructure to grind to a halt. Second, I didn’t want to turn this place into a mausoleum with yet another RIP post but Mr. Kershner does deserve a quick nod of appreciation - so here is the Hoth scene – but here is the superbly illuminating interview with him from Vanity Fair some months back. Third and finally I have eventually caught up with Winters Bone over the weekend through illicit methods, it was very good and should be seen but no cinema visit means no full review – that’s the rules. So as I was mentally musing about what I could write about this week, given that there is nothing hitting cinemas for at least a few weeks I thought I’d turn the menagerie to another list post – Winter Movies. As per usual I’ll do my best to avoid the blatantly obvious, I haven’t thought this through so I’m not sure if I can even muster* a list of ten or so, thus we’ll see how it goes. First up, lets skip over to Sweden for some hilarity;
I’ve inadvertently caught a few more of Ingmar’s movies this year but Winter Light which I saw a few years back is one of the most ‘Bergman’ Bergman’s I’ve seen and enjoyed, if that’s the right word. Stoic, meditative, brilliant and baleful, he really is one of the cruellest directors to his characters, in terms of other characters relations to their anguished souls. This reminds me of The White Ribbon which I must watch again. This is fun!!
What was that about being obvious? Oh well, this is still one of the Coens most loved movies and I like it, I watched it again last winter and it really does build a great antarctic atmosphere.
One of the great and most quietly moving movies of the Nineties, with a terrific performance from Ian Holm. What happened to him? Haven’t seen him in anything for ages.
Back before the prevalence of studio masking and special effect subterfuge, films were shot for real out in dangerous and demanding conditions. This is a celebrated sequence of an early Griffith, the hoary old grandfather of American cinema. I’m not mature enough to really enjoy all of these elderly films as I’m of a generation that does find them occasionally hokey and well, let me be honest, mostly dull, even if on an aesthetic level I can appreciate the birthing of an art.
A change of temperature and era to a nasty little noir, proof positive that when Raimi abandons the cartoon (and I love the cartoon of course, I’m just saying) he really is a talented, ’serious’ film-maker that when given the opportunity can produce a compact, dark little tale of greed and retribution.
Strange that this clip is disabled, considering that this isn’t? Still, as I said on my Ingrid Pitt post Where Eagles Dare is one of the greatest action films, and you quite clearly do not fuck with Eastwood. It’s amusing that it has its own fan site and for me it’s Burton’s finest hour, a great mesh of agility and suspense with that double and triple agent intrigue….
Unsurprisingly Spielberg’s favourite Kurosawa. It shows what a versatile director he was, not only a crime and samurai pedagogue but also someone who could turn his talents to more humanist concerns, a modest tale of one man’s regret and salvation. Through the reasearch of this post I’ve unearthed this which could be interesting , a Vangelis score always stokes my aural interest.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before….
And finally abandoning any pretence of seriousness, I want my $2. It makes me laugh. So that’s enough, I’m off to see if there is anything remotely interesting being released over the next couple of weeks, it’s a frigid wasteland out there….
* A lame joke but it could have been worse, right?
I’m constructing far too many of these posts this year. Before we get to the obvious, let’s remember that Leslie was the leading man in one of the all time great atmospheric SF pictures, and he will always be fondly remembered as a murderous cuckold in an episode of the first Creepshow, but of course its the comedy roles that etched themselves on a generation ot two, apart from the obvious Airplane and Naked Gun series there was the brilliance of Police Squad;
I had tickets to see at the BFI earlier this year which of course was cancelled due to ill health, I guess he wasn’t joking around that time.
Rest in Peace you hilarious bastard….
I think I deserve an award for self-control. Too many times over the past two months since Machete’s US release have I heard the siren call of certain websites, on a bored week night I could easily pass a couple of hours with some Mexploitation fuelled mayhem now couldn’t I? How could I resist the allure of cult favourite Danny Trejo carving his way through a horde of criminal henchmen? Could the spectacle of De Niro starring in a gore soaked Rodriguez flick cause me to abandon my principes of intently seeing the good-looking flicks on the big screen as god intended? But no, my self-control has prevailed for a change, I really wanted to see this at the cinema with a paying audience in order to achieve optimum viewing conditions, and earlier today I popped over to a local Southwark cinema for a potential 100 minutes of giggle packed carnage.The modicum of reviews I’ve glanced through seemed to point to this being exactly what it said on the tin – an unfussy, inventive, thrill packed action-fest so I am considering legal action against those miscreant reviewers, it is my solemn duty to report that Machete is a blunt waste of talent from the directors chair down.
Lifted from the blistering first trailer of 2007′s scabrous Grindhouse project Machete expands its spoof intentions out to feature film length , following the revenge flick model as a Mexican cop named Machete loses his wife and partner in an opening salvo due to the treachery of his colleagues and their criminal puppet masters, returning to his border town three years later to exact a bloody vengeance. Teaming up with a local immigration officer (Jessica Alba) and a secret resistance fighter whom is offering foreigners safe border passage (Michelle Rodriguez), the sun bleached visage of Danny Trejo faces off against a criminal quartet of corrupt politicians and lawman including Robert De Niro as a right-wing senator, Don Johnson as a murderous vigilante, Stephen Segal as a portly drug lord and Jeff Fahey as a corporate lummox. Bubbling under the action histrionics are some attempts of commentary on the smouldering US immigration debate, but the central focus is on entertainment, on kinetic thrills and spills with Trejo carving a bloody path through an assortment of dark suited and sunglass sporting expendable goons, as he incrementally inches toward his brutal retribution.
What a disappointment. I can’t fathom how the team behind the hilarious and genuinely exciting Planet Terror who pitched that homage perfectly with its terrific blend of humor, horror and hoopla could produce such a dulled blunder. There are moments of genuine amusement to be sure, the opening melee is fun and the film is patched with a half-dozen genuine laughs throughout its excessive run-time, but it’s just too serious and pedestrian with very little in the way of genuine invention or exploitative excess. The film soon degenerates into a mental check-list of the finer beats of the trailer which when extracted out of that context parade limply across the screen, even the fervent wish of the final battle being some sort of resuscitation is ultimately denied. Trejo is fine as the granite hewed hero but he doesn’t get many good lines and the intrinsically comic persona of Segal is throughly wasted – how difficult can it be to give him some absurd yet convivial dialogue and duties? Rodriguez and Alba are easy on the eye but don’t get much to do, Robert De Niro is invisible and only Jeff Fahey manages some wry smiles when seething at the news of Machete seducing his wife and daughter, the latter being a mis-cast Lindsay Lohan. Cult superstar Tom Savini makes a pointless appearance as a leather clad assassin but you know what, as I write this I can’t even remember what happened to his character, a lapse that speaks volumes about his contribution to the picture. After this and the Predators debacle Rodriguez needs a serious bout of inspiration, he can pull off this type of movie with panache as per the aforementioned Planet Terror and Sin City, and the prospect of two Machete sequels that are jokingly referenced as the credits rolled don’t exactly lacerate with excitement. To cheer myself up I’ve trawled through the web to find some finer moments of grindhouse merriment, now that’s what I call having a blast….
Better than last weeks;
That’s right gentle reader, the modest menagerie is a stultifying 500 posts young. That’s over four years, over 26,000 visitors and at a very conservative estimate of 500 words a post almost a quarter of a million words. I struggled for inspiration at first for this celebration, briefly musing over my favourite British films or my favourite actresses but neither option was particularly inspiring, in fact the whole list structure of a post seemed a little obvious and moribund, then as part of the London Film Festival marketing drive I stumbled across this and the requisite eureka moment struck with all the force of a Cynthia Rothrock roundhouse kick. To make this celebration something of a more personal nature, to relate back to my ten years in our fair capital, here are some film clips that thread back through my history in London interweaved with some of my favourite pictures that were shot here, with some brief commentary to follow. Spoilers abound so beware.
The first one is not a difficult choice as St. Anne’s church in Limehouse, the interior of which can be seen above, is directly behind my block of flats. Can’t say that I’ve actually popped in for a for a cup of tea and digestive biscuit with the local paedophile, judging by the above I’ve made a wise choice….
Two stops down the road in Shadwell are some locations from Children of Men which I thought looked familiar, I’ve not investigated this neck of the woods very much but some of the locations look eerily domestic, particularly some of the early stuff when Clive Owen is catching up with Julianne Moore. I thought the use of the Tate Modern turbine hall was quite memorable as well, I’ve been there more times than I can remember over the past decade. Hmm, some further research has revealed that the woods where Michael Caine’s character Jasper is hiding out is filmed where I went to college in Farnham, that’s also where the celebrated opening battle of Gladiator was filmed.
During my current commute out to Essex I follow the Thames out past the footprint of the capital, out through the industrial estates that flank the river, some of which I can easily imagine being converted into useful locations for any number of dystopian SF movies, it’s actually quite atmospheric during my evening commute to see the industrial plants belching fire out over the water whilst traversing a clutch of abandoned, desolate warehouses and storage facilities. I haven’t quite made it there yet but on the South side of the river is Beckton gas works (my line traverses the Northern stretch) where a certain Kubrick film was crafted, some of which you can see above.
I see that The Elephant Man was shot close to where I first lived when I moved here up in North West London, one assumes it would have been crafted around the sordid, grime choked back alleys of the East End but maybe some studio work was involved. It’s a beautiful, haunting work that Lynch seemed to shy away from in subsequent years, preferring to move into even more nightmarish waters. I defy anyone with a soul to see it and not suffer from ocular emissions during its heart wrenching finale.
Everyone knows that some of An American Werewolf In London was lensed at Tottenham Court Road station right? On the Northern line intersection? It springs to mind every time I connect through there and I mentally yell ‘I can assure you that this is not in the least bit amusing’…..and did you spot the See You Next Wednesday poster?
Hitchcock spent some time in Limehouse as a youth, after his family moved from his birthplace of Leytonstone down south to Salmon Lane which is about five minutes walk from my flat. No doubt his impressionable years stalking the fog shrouded east end found their way into The Lodger as seen above, I also wonder if it was whilst in Limehouse that his potentially apocryphal story about being sent to the police by his father for some minor infraction occurred, a crime that resulted in his being locked up for a few minutes in the cells, to teach him a lesson as a young lad, with the mental fallout of that torture being channeled into his films for the next sixty years.
Moving out of London again brings us to Fish Tank, a film that I will always have a fondness for as it was the first film I submitted a ‘professional’ review for, and as such it will always be memorable to me. I sit across from the Thurrock local licensing officers in my current assignment and a quick chat with them revealed that certain portions of the film were shot over in nearby Tilbury, a curious coincidence don’t you think? OK, maybe its a tenuous connection but I’m sticking with it so there. I haven’t watched it again since the cinema visit but I have heard that Andrea Arnold has moved on to the classics, and I like the idea of a grittier, dour version of the Bronte classic.
I was born far out in south east London and thus was surprised to see this area marked by Blow-Up on the map, a film I always imagined was shot around St. James Park or somewhere else suitably central. I’m cheating a little as I’m not overly fond of the film, it has some moments but overall it was drastically pretentious and distant, give me L’Aventura or The Red Desert over this any day.
This is the best I can find in reference to my years in Richmond, although I never visited Hampton Court Palace it is within the jurisdiction of Richmond Council where I was on assignment for a year, although plenty of other films were shot in and around this part of the world none of them are anywhere near my favourites, so this will have to do. That transcendent finale is absolutely liberating, moving and magical, like some of my other favourite films I’ve taken to watching The New World at least once a year, just to remind myself of how unique and brilliant Malick still is. He’s at work again you know, and there will be more on the reclusive magician on my films of the year round-up.
Let us finish, appropriately enough, on Kubrick’s last film with the Midnight Sonata interior where Bill convinces Nick to give him the password to gain entrance to the party, a location doubled from Madame JoJo’s in Soho which is next door to the press company that I picked up my LFF press pass back in October - so it all comes full circle. So here’s to the next 500 eh? My Christmas has also come early with one of my regular podcasts launching a massive retrospective on Stan, what I like about this crew is that they circumnavigate the usual media umbrella and go straight to the horse’s mouth so to speak, getting fresh anecdotes and observations from industry figures that have not been covered before. There should also be some further good news coming out of the award nominations from Sound On Sight and I’ve been speaking with my colleagues behind the site, they have some big plans for their project next year which sound very promising. Finally my final review of the year round-up is gathering momentum, I think its the best crafted post of that ilk that I’ve convened so far. So a couple of more reviews should be mustered before the year is out – Machete is finally here and I have tickets to see Tron: Legacy in mind-bending 3D IMAX on the 17th, then a well deserved holiday in foreign climes. Shop smart during the festive season and I’ll see you at the weekend…
How can I put this delicately? I was a big fan as a teenager, both for the Hammer movies and of course her supporting role in one of the all time great action movies Where Eagles Dare, but amongst the cult community she will probably be best remembered for this;
..although this was good fun as well;
Very quickly as I haven’t posted for a while, here is a duo of amusement;
Apparently some commercial directors made up a faux trailer for an Eli Roth movie and he likes it so much it’s actually being developed – welcome to Hollywood circa 2010. Like many others I loathe clowns but this looks like it could be fun, if they keep it as a Z-List 75 minute scare. Speaking of clowns;
So I guess I should go and see Peeping Tom this weekend and avoid the teenage magi onslaught, as I’ve mentioned before I’m not the film’s biggest fan from the couple of times I’ve seen it before but I’m inclined to give it another chance on the big screen, even if the prints are digital which alone makes the exercise meta-textual. Just like the potential Clown project. I apologise. Anyway, it would also slot in nicely to the other retrospective efforts I’ve made this year (and apart from the 2010 Cannes winner nothing else is even remotely attractive this weekend), as has been pointed out by others 1960 was an interesting year for cinema, and just like Psycho and Breathless all three are seeing their 50 year anniversary in 2010.
I really only have myself to blame. As if the presence of Aliens Versus Predator on the CV wasn’t enough, the appearance of Brett fucking Ratner as an Executive Producer should have extinguished any faltering concerns that Skyline, the new zero budget alien invasion picture might not be the best investment of my leisure time. If there is a lesson to be learnt then I must stop being so lazy, I had tickets to see Metropolis, an unalloyed, genuine, bona fide masterpiece over at the Rio in Hackney which would have killed two birds with one stone – both seeing an essential viewing of one of the re-releases of the year and a visit to a virgin repertory cinema would also have been welcome – its just that after another long gruelling work week charging around the length and breadth of Essex I really just wasn’t in the mood for a 150 minute B&W silent picture, I wanted to see things go BOOM and gadgets and fighting and aliens and nukes and lasers n’stuff. The latter was delivered in spades I have to say, Skyline is certainly an unabashed, unsubtle picture that is not exactly leaving its reveals for its final act, it’s just a shame that some that some genuinely effective SFX work is arranged around such a badly written, badly designed and badly acted folly that makes Independence Day look like Citizen Kane in comparison.
Los Angeles, the present. In an opening twenty minutes designed to elicit some warmth and identification with our hapless protagonists the best friend from Scrubs, the ginger birds boyfriend from Six Feet Under, the Mexican Sergeant from Dexter and a couple of aspiring models cum actresses all emerge as faintly unlikeable and unsympathetic, even when one of them is revealed to be pregnant. After staying over at one of their penthouse apartments following a typically glitzy tinsel town party a series of unexplained cobalt blue streams of energy descend from the heavens, hypnotising observant humans to be sucked into their path and ominously despatched to an uncertain fate. They are merely the harbingers of a full-blown invasion force of extraterrestrial insurgents of various varieties that soon wreck havoc amongst the city of the angels, slaying or enslaving all humans they see for particular nourishment that becomes horrifically apparent as the film onslaught expands. Hemmed into their apartment block our stranded heroes must decide to flee or hide, hoping that the government will be able to muster a rescue effort before the planet is overrun.
The quicket way to sum up this film would be to warn you that it has a heavy metal blitzkreig running out over its end credits, a crime which I like to label as the Daredevil effect, and a clear warning of the pedigree of product. Skyline would have been several light years better if it just didn’t take itself so seriously but instead it adopts a tone of mock Armageddon, its first crucial mis-step as there is never ever any sense of context or scale to proceedings which would suggest that the entire species is in jeopardy. The acting is poor and thoroughly unconvincing throughout, even from the aforementioned TV figures whose work is usually agreeable on the smaller screen. Skyline is a world where actresses whom have evidently escaped from the pages of sports illustrated periodicals awake at 4.00am with perfectly coiffured hair and in full make-up, whilst the males become immediate action heroes and are soon ducking and tumbling around the screen like Jackie Chan at a gymnast convention.
Skyline also adopts that most hackneyed, irritating and masturbatory technique of this brand of cinema, the frequent employment of ssssllllooowww mmmooottttiiiooonnn to show off just how cool and hip and edgy their effects are. It’s a terrible, terrible tool which I loathe; it jerks the audience out of the picture, its garish, it’s obtrusive and it’s vulgar. When it is revealed what these interstellar terrorists are really after, or what they’re really harvesting I raised a wry smile, and there is something in the region of ten minutes of interest once aboard one of the interlopers battle cruisers following some intermittent flashes of kinetics and combat when the characters attempt to escape their partitioned apartment block, but this is then superseded by one of the very worst and most clichéd conceits of genre cinema I’ve seen for quite a while. Adopting some of the elements of its obvious precursors District Nine and Cloverfield, complemented with a dash of Spielberg’s War of The Worlds (one sequence in particular is almost completely replicated without the originals panache or tension) and a garnish of The Matrix with those infuriating Octodroids Skyline fails as fun, is devoid of excitement and for me it can’t recede into the horizon fast enough.
The voice artist gag has had me giggiling all day;
Might, and I stress the might, go and see this tomorrow at my local fleapit;
I haven’t been to the cinema in a while and whilst I have tickets for Metropolis I’m not sure I can be bothered to hike across town during the inclement weather. It also looks like it has some competition as Sony Pictures is suing the effects house that did Skyline as they appear to have done the same SFX for this;
Pretty similar huh? Not to mention that the same crew behind Skyline are the same cretins behind Aliens Versus Predator, and I’d rather not contribute to their careers thank you very much. What does this tell us? After Monsters I think more star absent vehicles with effective but cheaper SFX are on the horizon. And the cultural temprature of Aliens as a concept is zeroing in on the outsider, evil interloper model. I’ll shut up now.
What the fuck is a ‘exercycle’ Steve?
Another film colossus falls. As regular readers will attest I finally saw the first installment of Coppola’s classic crime drama during a limited re-release last year and some twenty years ago I saw the slightly unfairly maligned third and concluding episode to the finest criminal odyssey to ever grace the silver screen. This was the first film I’d seen in weeks back in September and it has certainly been far too long since I luxuriated in a three-hour epic at the National Film Theatre, I can’t imagine a purer fix to my celluloid itch . Any suspicions that this wasn’t my favourite picture of the three were swiftly dispelled, I have an enormous amount of admiration for The Godfather but I do prefer the wider grandeur of Part II with its transitions between the time frames, the mirroring of the rise of the Corleone empire with its final moral plunge into the abyss , an organic expansion from the previous films compact criminality. As for the third one, yeah it pales in comparison to the first two but which crime films of this epic variety don’t? Well, apart from Once Upon A Time In America anyway? Then again, I haven’t actually seen Part III in quite a few years, maybe its really bad. Anyway, enough of these delays, its time to revisit Francis Ford Coppola’s 1975 masterpiece….
In a lyrical swoon The Godfather II moves between the story of the young Vito Corleone at the turn of the century and his son Michael’s final consolidation of power in the 1950′s and 1960′s, a graceful symmetry that also charts the omnipotent rise and saturnalian fall of the Corleone empire, as their influence and power proliferates their souls are utterly destroyed, a fall that culminates in a murder within their most precious and prized commodity, the family and the blood ties of kith and kin. Newly decanted from New York to Nevada with Michael ensconced as godfather (Al Pacino, never better), the family is looking to move into the lucrative Las Vegas casino business with the influence and assistance of the corrupt Senator Pat Geary (a fantastic G.D Spradlin* whom you may recall is the mission instigator of Apocalypse Now) and in a pincer movement the family is also looking to extend its tendrils to foreign climes, to move into Cuba with the patronage of a certain Hyman Roth, an ancient ally of the Corleone family, a duplicitous snake performed with a beguiling intensity by Lee Strasberg, the legendary Actors Studio teacher. Against these strands the film also looks backward to chart the rise of the young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro, also never better) and his escape from Sicily to New York in 1903, an abandonment of his homeland due to a blood feud that has left his brother, father and mother dead. Amongst the swirling immigrant communities of New York during the infancy of a new century the young Vito comes of age and questions the validity of the local criminal gangs who shake down and exploit their own local communities, and in partnership with his young countrymen plots to usurp their power as his own brood are born.
The projection was of a fairly scratchy print but this did not detract from my enjoyment, in fact this was proof that the screening was of a genuine nature, of an original splice from 1974 and not a digitally rendered facsimile, as seems to increasingly be the case in London. This does give a sense of authenticity to us film weirdos and a more fulfilling experience as although some groans were emitted when reel changes resulted in fragments of dialogue being obscured (and some quite important pieces of dialogue as it happens) this was a film I’m sure the majority of the audience had seen before. On the big screen you can really appreciate its operatic, epic sweep, those lyrical dissolves from father to son refracting and reflecting upon each other, as they both carve out a bloody existence amongst the American dream.
The cast, from the principles to the supporting players are impeccable. To bang the drum again I would argue the case that Pacino’s achievement is one of the all-time great screen performances, he instinctively knows screen acting – as opposed to stage acting – when entire reams of information and subtlety can be encapsulated in the movement of the eyes or his stalking movements within the frame. De Niro equals his finest moments in Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy or Heat or The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (one of those might be a joke) and if you squint you can also see the likes of Roger Corman, Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior in The Sopranos) Robert Duvall and Harry Dean Stanton floating around as supporting players. Perhaps the films most quietly brilliant performance is that of John Cazele however, a man whose every screen appearance was in a best picture nominated film (Both Godfathers, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter) before his untimely death at the tragically young age of 42 . A new documentary on his career has just been released in the states with contributions from the likes of Streep, Pacino and De Niro whom actually worked with him and contemporary admirers such as Sam Rockwell and Philip Seymour Hoffman – you can see the connection I think so that’s one Blu-Ray for the Christmas list.
Being an early fan of Coppola I picked up some of the names that repeatedly cropped up in the credits of his films – Fred Roos, his father Carmine Coppola, editor Barry Malkin but its production design Dean Tavoularis who really excels himself here, in tandem with Gordon Willis ground-breaking lighting schemes they craft a murky stage for the Machiavellian maneuvering, beautifully creating a heaving, sepia tinged New York of the 1900′s and a ruthless clutch of hematic amphitheatres around the middle of the century in which the drama unfolds. That Nino Rota score is a bona fide classic, up there with Jaws, and Gone With The Wind or The Good The Bad & The Ugly as immediately identifying the picture, a tempo that has burrowed itself into the cultural consciousness. The rituals of family provide the spine for the film – the weddings, the christenings, the funerals – and an emphasis on food prefiguring death, whether its Vito breaking bread with his potential allies in the opening catenations of the film, or Michael munching on a quartered orange as he plots the assassination of his surviving adversaries during the final denouements. But it’s the script and plot that are most celebrated (at least by me), the interweaving libretto and the labyrinthine plots of Michael’s empire that build to their brilliant apex as he slowly unveils the traitor within, compelling him to issue orders that leave him all-powerful but spiritually wretched, eternally and forever damned.
There is a whole host of deleted scenes on youtube which is something of a surprise, I’m sure they were not included in the DVD box set I got a few years ago so I assume they are culled from the horrific re-cut for TV version of the saga which moves through the odyssey historically and therefore removes all of the mirroring qualities that I mentioned beforehand. You know, I might give part 3 a spin this weekend and see how it pans out, it could be good right? Well? No, I’ve just remembered the scene with the pastry, and the stupidly over-cooked machine gun attacks, and lets face it, Joe Mantegna is no Virgil Sollozzo or Hyman Roth is he? Oh well, anyway, a little bit of a fun to finish on – if you call an infuriating brain scrambler fun – here is a fiendishly difficult film quiz set by the great David Thompson, its one of those where you have to really think about the questions before assembling an answer, at a first glance I’ve got perhaps fourteen or fifteen out of fifty which isn’t a bad start as man, those questions are nasty. I’ve posted it here as one of them is coincidently answered up-post, how many others can you solve? So that’s me all caught up, this leaves the field clear for my 500th post extravaganza, although I do have a plan for the weekend to catch another restored classic. EDIT – damn, just caught this and to keep with the classic and Italian themes ciao Dino, and thanks for Danger Diabolik, Dune, Blue Velvet, Manhunter, Evil Dead 2, The Dead Zone and La Strada just to name my favourites out of a epic career.
* God I hate that new IMDB design, it’s terrible and removes the opportunity to easily scroll through a figures entire CV. I think there’s a petition to change it back somewhere….
The financial cataclysm of 2008 seems to be finally finding a worthy quality of reportage on the big screen just as the repercussions of that perfectly avoidable hurricane are being fully realised in households and organisations across the planet. Although last year saw the investment of Michael Moore’s Capitalism – A Love Story it failed to ignite the same cultural returns and box office receipts of his incendiary Fahrenheit 9/11 and earlier this year Oliver Stone scented an opportunity with the futile Wall Street 2 to attempt to catch the current zeitgeist in his increasingly clumsy manner. Against the emergence of bankers and corporate sycophants being the new bad guys in recent Hollywood product – The Other Guys, Up In The Air, Daybreakers, Avatar and Despicable Me - the non-fiction Inside Job emerges as the true lancet of the current situation and how it came to be. What it is lacking in Moore’s facile pranks or Stone’s self aggrandizing it pays dividends in securing the facts of what happened, in investing in a précis of the environment that allowed such greed to prosper, both accompanied with a phosphorescent anger at how they got away with it all - with my money, with your money and your children’s money – as well as disintegrating the next generations future chances of prosperity. This film is angry.
Narrated by Matt Damon the documentary comprises of 5 sections and a prologue which signals the precursors of the tsunami with a concise summary of the Iceland situation – a small, stable European democracy which until the late nineties enjoyed a high standard of living due to its natural resources coupled with a strong oversight and regulation on corporate activities. A new political idiom led to a financial boom as the regulation was dismantled, the migration of core specialists from the regulatory bodies to be corporate consultants, and the nationalisation of the countries three national banks eventually bankrupting of the nation due to the absurd and unsustainable lending practices this insanity has predicated. Following this scene setting example the documentary moves through the era of late period capitalism, kindled by Reagan and Thatcher that has inexorably lead to the current crisis with its unwavering and poisonous obsession with growth and acquisition, with market forces and the dismissal of oversight, of vigilance or decree that pays even lip service to working for the interests of the greater society. Any claims of political partisanship are hollow as both Clinton and his repeal of the Glass Steaghall act in 1999 is poised as a central tenet of the system, as is Obama’s appointment of the likes of Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner - all architects of the continuing deregulation and the embrace of financial weapons of mass destruction which prove that the problem is endemic and pervasive, regardless of political affiliation. In one of many striking scenes the destruction of the modest attempts to place an oversight and evaluation infrastructure over untested new instruments such as the lethal credit default obligations is eviscerated due to the influence of the likes of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and the other Wall Street hucksters.
Inside Job then dexterously leads the audience through the supposedly arcane world of the financial industry and the specific cadre of incidents that led to the current catastrophe. Through a sequence of direct ‘talking head’ glimpses and intercut with a digestible parade of diagrams and slides to support their thesis the film takes you through the language of credit default swaps and shorting, of hedge funds, sub-prime and toxic assets, lifting the veil on these supposedly complex and mysterious realms which when exposed are revealed to be quite straightforward, but we won’t want the common proles to know that would we? Goldman Sachs for example is exposed for handling assets on behalf of its clients on one arm, and actively disparaging and deriding the support of those assets, for financial remuneration, in direct opposition to the legal agreements they have with those clients on the other. The credit rating agencies are complicit, taking as granted the company balance sheets which effectively prove nothing, as evidenced by the likes of Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers achieving a triple ‘A’ rating – ‘A’ meaning solid, safe and secure – a month before they went bankrupt. The astonishing level of outright, undisputed, unquestionable fraud that the mortgage agents and organisations conducted on a herculean level with the sale of homes to people who quite obviously could not afford them is sickening, and also looks to be a second cataclysm in the making. The widening gulf between Executive pay and average staff salaries is at its widest in human history, and the practice of CEO’s appointing their friends and colleagues on the boards of organisations that decide their salaries, share options and golden parachutes is regarded as perfectly reasonable by the government and oversight committees, I think its fair to say that this strata of humanity has all the morals of a mafia capo, whose wanton lust of greed would make Daniel Plainview blush.
Another myth of the fiscal collapse was that unforseen and unavoidable but again and again Inside Job identifies individuals and organisations that repeatedly voiced their concerns, who produced the warning reports, who were repeatedly crushed and dismissed by the banking cartel. Some of the documentaries best moments however are reserved for its final stretch where it takes an interesting turn, to examine the supporting stricture of the hegemony, of the the intellectual and academic elite of the Ivy league institutions that all propagated and disseminated the status quo, who sit as executive directors on the banks yet claim independence when they produce financial analysis and advice. The documentation gives these interviewees just enough rope to hang themselves, these henchmen becoming quite combative and aggressive when their deceit is revealed - in one breathtaking scene that provoked gasps and yells a report entitled Financial Stability In Iceland is shown to have been changed, once the country had fallen, to Financial Instability In Iceland - the same report, on the same websites and the same economist’s CV who nervously exclaims that ‘it must be a typo’.
Inside Job should make its audiences incandescent with rage – not one person has been arrested, not one person has been charged, no bonuses have been suspended, virtually no regulation has been introduced and literally nothing has changed. These vultures have pocketed hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars whilst the pathetic veneer of some supposed ‘new age of austerity’ leads to hundreds of thousands of job losses, millions of homes seized, and the associated mental torment and anxiety for millions as the dominion continues. Inside Job concludes on the sobering revelation that we are all working longer hours for less pay and for the first time in history the current generation of children will be less educated than their parents, and soldiered with a vaster burden of debt and diminished opportunities. Just like No End In Sight, Charles Ferguson’s previously volatile and incendiary documentary examination of the Iraq atrocity Inside Job will leave you impotent and infuriated, yet also exhilarated at a truth well told.
(removes tinfoil beanie): Well, I don’t think I’ll be submitting that anywhere as its more of an ideological rant than a film review, suffice to say that whatever your politics, unless of course you’re some rabid arch-capitalist that honestly believes that a national health system is socialist and that government-run transport infrastructure reeks of the Soviet gulag then you’ll find Inside Job an inspiringly depressing piece of work that dilutes the complex and mystic into a palatable celluloid morsel, an achievement which should be seen on that basis alone. When we finally come to understand that unceasing consumption and growth inevitably aggregates the destruction and unceasing erosion of our natural resources for all the future generations then just maybe they’ll finally be some progress in this called civilisation - I’ll get off the soapbox now shall I? Still, in true David Brent fashion there is some good news, Sound on Sight has been nominated for some high-profile Canadian media awards and they’ve decided to celebrate with some complementary staff awards and I’ve got a few nominations. I didn’t quite realise they were so young, I started writing for them when they were barely ten months old so that’s quite an achievement I’d say. Oh dear, I’ve just read that last sentence back which seems to imply that I’m responsible for this success which isn’t quite what I meant,still I’ll make a start on the speech and does anyone know where I can get a reasonably priced tuxedo?
OK, OK, I’m nearing the end of my final LFF film festival review, Inside Job has got a little out of hand - it’s currently at a dense 1,100 words and counting – but it should be finished and uploaded tomorrow night. I got sidetracked by this over the weekend which is one of the most addictive and brilliant computer games I’ve ever played (I’ve ploughed through two of three acts over the weekend) and then tonight I’ve been diverted by this;
Like I said, I doubt the plot will be up too much but boy, it looks real purty don’t it? It’s nice to have a big event movie to look forward to round off the year I think. I watched both Catfish and Due Date last night, both of which were very ‘meh’, but at least Machete is imminent. Oh, and this has been doing the rounds.
A change of pace, and welcome back;
I think it’s fair to say that the work of Sophia Coppola is an acquired taste. Whilst the woozy romanticism of her cherished Lost In Translation garnered her lavish praise and an Oscar for best screenplay, her follow-up Marie Antoinette attracted the same accusations as the films titular character, that a privileged, upper middles class white woman really had no place whining about the angst ridden dimensions of her mournful, restricted existence. Although her contemporaries are the likes of David O. Russell, Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne and ex-husband Spike Jonze her work seems more akin to those independent auteurs who achieved notoriety in the early nineties, the likes of Hal Hartley, Jim Jarmusch or Alison Anders in that they all favour a very mannered, potentially alienating style (and Sofia’s work in particular is all about alienation) that ejects strong characterisation and emphasis on plots in favour of a austere, distancing affect, a edgy, detached sensibility which can either attract or repel audiences. In her new film Somewhere, hot from its win of the prestigious Golden Lion at Venice these techniques and stylistics find a new apotheosis, although this time Coppola appears to have leafed through the Bret Easton Ellis section of her local Barnes & Noble before heading back to the Antonioni DVD boxed set for fresh inspiration.
Stephen Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a Hollywood reprobate in the vein of Colin Farrell or Errol Flynn who is stumbling through a life of hollow excess, wallowing in a series of numbing sexual liaisons and tranquilizer fuelled sloth at the Chateau Marmont when he receives an unexpected visit from his 11-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning). During her stay their relationship seems tender and warm, although Johnny’s relationship seems more akin to a friend than father. When her mother unexpectedly abandons Cleo with Johnny, citing her own emotional crisis to avert, he takes his daughter with him on a promotional trip to Rome, with all the attendant pomp and pageantry that an ‘A’ list member of Tinsel Town royalty is accustomed too. As their relationship coolly evolves Johnny begins to reassess his lifestyle as he contemplates some radical changes…
The obvious beauty of Somewhere will lie in the eye of the beholder – those attracted to a nuanced, slyly evocative if a little too svelte tale will find much to enjoy, others will find it pretentious, pointless and annoying, for the record I found myself in the former camp. Critics who bemoaned the unconscious racism in Lost In Translation (quite memorably cinematographer Christopher Doyle lambasted its portrayal of the Japanese as marking it as ‘the ultimate Bush era movie’ – insular, ignorant and ugly – quite the insulting affinity) will have similar ammunition given Coppola’s presentation of the garish and incomprehensible Italians in this movie, but they may be missing the point that Somewhere is actually a comedy of sorts, and its casual satire of those in vogue stretches from the West coast of the States to the centre of Europe.
Stephen Dorrf is phlegmatic and listless, sporting his hipster t-shirts (usually emblazoned with the sigils of the punk band Black Flag or Sub Pop record label markers) with a nonchalance that perfectly captures the films score and ambience, the likes of Phoenix, The Strokes and Bryan Ferry parading through the soundtrack with a studied ‘cool’ that we’ve come to expect from Coppola. A duo of high level cameos from Michelle Monaghan and Benicio Del Toro add to the subdued charm, and in its distant yet edifying way the film is a subdual of celebrity culture, a mocking of the vacuous world where figures are questioned by the press on their favourite colour in one instant before enquiries on the postmodern malaise at the heart of their latest project come next. The opening visual motif of moving in circles, of being in a rut, is re-purposed in the final frames with a new aspiration in life for the reinvigorated Johnny, a conclusion that surprisingly ignited a round of applause at the festival screening I attended. An existential comedy with a skewed vision of the cult of celebrity, Somewhere knows where it is and those that find it will be glad they did.
So that’s another belated review, there’s one more to follow and that’s it for the LFF. The only major news of note floating around has of course been the Batman 3 announcement and Hobbit casting revelations (no compliants from me but who’s voicing Smaug? ten to one on John Rhys-Davis, five to one on Chris), at least its finally ‘lensing’ as they say next February – you can find your own links on either project as just like Johnny Marco, I simply can’t be bothered.
Fans of transgressive cinema were overjoyed to see Sion Sono’s latest atrocity appear on the London Film Festival schedule, the Japanese malcontent is almost as prolific as his countryman Miike Takashi, both of them delivering bold and challenging freshly wrought movies year in, year out. After satirising emerging fads and consumerism in Suicide Club and taking a skewed look at teen romance, religion and the Japanese nuclear family in Love Exposure a further dysfunctional analysis runs throughout Cold Fish, a serial killer themed tale on the surface that obscures a lurking lampoon on present notions of masculinity, progeny and the contemporary status of morality in Japanese society. Based on a true story which one sincerely prays has been amplified through Sono’s warped vision, Cold Fish is telegraphed as a fusion of Hitchcock’s The Trouble With Harry splattered with Hershell Gordon Lewis Blood Feast, its final half hour emerging as some of the most depraved imagery to infect this years festival.
A meek and modest tropical fish seller Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukkoshi) is the father to his precocious daughter Mitsuko (Hikari Kajiwara) and husband to his second wife (Megumi Kagurazaka), between whom tensions simmer as she quietly loathes her motherly surrogate. After she is caught shoplifting Shamoto rushes to her aid with his wife in tow, only to find that a exuberant businessman named Mr. Muratu (Japanese character actor Denden) who also runs a tropical fish store has already secured her pardon. At first glance this new friend is everything that Shamoto is not – confident, charismatic and wealthy - his business operating on a more grandiose level where he employs rehabilitated teen waifs and strays, and soon Mitsuko has a stabilising responsibility in the organisation. This veneer however is all a cover for Denden’s real intentions and motivations, he is a psychopath whom with his similarly deranged wife (Asuka Kurosawa) enjoys murdering and robbing local businessmen, making Samoto a reluctant accomplice in their grisly crimes and most disturbingly the liquidation of the inconvenient corpses that soon litter Mr. Muratu’s activities.
Unflinching and unconscionable, Cold Fish is a black comedy with an obsidian pitch, a queer balancing act of outrageous humor and fathomless gore. Sly religious icons clutter the screen and the fetishistic fascination of Sono’s previous work is apparent, all wrapped up in an atypical analysis of madness and neurosis that he excels at. Although it doesn’t equal the numbing run time of Sono’s previous film – Love Exposure ran for a gruelling four hours, Cold Fish comes in at two and a half – the film does not feel laboured or lurched as it brusquely moves toward its shocking termination. Denden is ostentatiously the films hero, driving the meek Shamoto to fulfil his masculine obligations that are enforced by society, to conform to the status quo and control his distant wife and rebellious daughter. In its last half hour the film descends into a charnel house carnival with a typhoon of sloppy, gelatine intestines bursting across the screen, a crimson detritus that will provoke gasps and laughs in equal measure. Controversial yet controlled, Cold Fish is a fine example of challenging world cinema, with a planned adaption of the book Lords Of Chaos in the works Sono is proving to be an exceptional talent to watch.