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High-Rise (2016) Trailer

Like I said, I wasn’t crazy about it, but it’s worth seeing if only to support slightly more esoteric fare emanating from our spectred isle;

If you listen closely, way out in the North Sea, you can hear the tsunami of ‘What did Ballard get right about the 21st century?’ think-pieces already starting to coalesce….

Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast

A fantastic new acquisition of the year, the best podcast discovery I’ve made for quite some time. You might recognise Gilbert Goddfried as the ‘memorable’ comedian / character actor from movies dating back to Beverley Hill Cop II, but his podcast casts the cultural net wider to conduct interviews with some fascinating characters and examine a broad swathe of Americana, from stand-up comedy to B-Movies, from ancient TV bloopers to pulp comic book controversies. If I said it was the kind of podcast whose theme tune centred on a slide guitar which wouldn’t be out of place during a lurid biker flick title sequence then I think you might get the flavour of proceedings;

Case in point, I’ve barely scratched the surface but have listened to a 90 minute interview with Bruce Dern, and he’s already spilled solid anecdote gold on working with Hitchcock on Family Plot, some early  B-movie antics with Roger Corman, general bitching and chewing rhe fat over the studios and movie world colleagues over his fifty year career, all of which is completely devoid of any anxious publicist sanction over slander or defamation orders.. A final piece of pub trivia – which family is the only to have the mother, father and child all be blessed with a Hollywood Star on the Walk of Fame? The Fondas? No. What about  the Hustons? A decent guess but no cigar buckaroo. No, it’s the rather more underrated Derns, with Bruce, ex-wife Diane Ladd and daughter Laura being the proud recipient of such pointless trivia. In other news I also finally caught up with a strongly regarded documentary on Brando from last year, and pretty good it was too;

Quite an interesting take to construct the entire piece out of Brando’s own interview clips, vocal reminiscences and radio snippets with a total dearth of talking heads or experts pontificating on his genius – the Apocalypse Now insights are essential. It also doesn’t gloss over his family tragedy which has unsurprising echoes with his own familial abuse. Meanwhile, on rather more upbeat news, its the end of the world soon…..

The Coens at 30

As we prepare for their new feature which hits British shores in a couple of weeks it’s a sobering thought to consider that this is the Coen’s 30th year of operations, and what a body of work is has been;

COENS | 30 from somersetVII on Vimeo.

Damn, I remember going to see Millers Crossing on a Sunday morning preview back in 1990 like it was yesterday

Bone Tomahawk (2015) Capsule Review

boneI gave this ravenous little genre Western short thrift last year following it’s initial LFF rodeo, so now that it has miraculously secured a theatrical release in the UK I feel obliged to craft some deeper thoughts of support. Bone Tomahawk follows the grisly, exhausted trail of a number of Westerns that have unexpectedly clustered together over the past twenty-four months, and apart from the obvious high-profile expeditions The Reverent and The Hateful Eight can I once again strongly recommend Slow West and specifically The Homesman as a heart-breaking modern addition to the historical paddock? This movie however is an altogether different beast, more Andre De Toth or Robert Aldritch than John Ford given its leather weathered tautology, the frontier as an unforgiving nest of lethal flora and fauna where the ungodly savage walks abroad. When his fiancé is kidnapped by a mysterious faction of brutal indigenous troglodytes the inconveniently disabled Arthur O’Dwyer  (Patrick Wilson) whips up a posse to retrieve her from a fate worse than death, with noble Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) and his slightly eccentric deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins) in tow. Arthur has broken his leg which slows the pursuit in frantic frustration, even with the dogged determinism of the sharply dressed but deadly John Brooder (Matthew Fox) who harbours a deep homicidal hatred for this particular tribe of natives. We’ll draw a line in the sand  here synopsis wise as the film cantors into deeply ghoulish territory, more Deadwood than Drums Across The Mohawk in terms of its grisly authenticity of the era, a contemporarily shocking disregard for mercy or clemency from either the indigenous imps or interloping Europeans.

When will these ignorant, haughty Christian white devils finally learn that one does not disrespect with nor fuck with ancient Indian burial grounds eh? Bone Tomahawk has been shot as a movie, cast as a movie, written as movie and directed as a movie, so it’s such a shame that according to the distributor gods it wasn’t judged to be projected as a movie, as apart from a handful of nominal festival screenings the film went straight to the streaming and VOD ghetto in North America. It is quite a wonder then that its got a modest theatrical release here, but it certainly deserves the format as a immensely entertaining remorseless slice of frontier horror. It’s a men on a mission picture where a rag-tag group of well defined characters group together to conquer the wilderness and battle hidden elemental foes, the savages seeming to rise from the primordial ooze as agents of grotesque fury. There is plenty of banter and period specific dialogue which reminds one of the best of a Hawksian camaraderie or even John Carpenter genre classical contraptions, but it doesn’t labour the context and drives forward on a clear narrative arrow which has thrills and gut slashed spills in equal measure. Rather than offer some lyrical or elegiac genre statement the pace is more compact and brutal, Bone Tomahawk is a hard bitten genre piece more attuned to a tobacco stained dime-store periodical than a Cormac McCarthy epic, although it share his relentless gaze on the grotesque and cruel, almost alien wilderness.

It is also a prime example of the ever widening gulf between the micro budgeted films and the franchise behemoths, as nervous industry distributors and exhibitors are increasingly unwilling to book precious theatre time and take a minor gamble on a picture with a few named stars. Sure Russell, Jenkins and Fox are not exactly A list pedigree but they are still recognizable talents, and although the genre isn’t normally seen as moneyspinner you’d think they could have some salute Kurt whom’s agreement to the project for scale essentially unlocked the sluice gates to the rest of the funding and the talent trailing acting posse. Sure you could hack twenty, maybe thirty minutes out of the films middle section without any recognizable deterioration which is not uncommon for a slightly hesitant debut, but the film retains an assured voice with one sequence in particular that immediately goes down in the annals of genre history as shudderingly severe. Of the well oiled cast Kurt slips into the 19th century with the dour ease that he always musters, Fox is surprisingly memorable as the merciless pistolsmith, but it is Richard Jenkins who once again steals the show, murmuring all the best lines with  ease with a haggard self deprecation that got numerous laughs when I saw it last year. Genre fans should look out for exploitation totem Sid Haig in a small but pivotal opening role as seen above, and a frankly unrecognisable Sean Young which suggests she will not be awarded a cameo in the soon to be lensing Blade Runner sequel. The news is a few months old but I’m sure some of you will share in the glee that despite all the omens HBO have finally sanctioned a two-hour revisit to Deadwood which is just fantastic news, and I have to wonder if this small yet not insignificant spike in horse operas hasn’t loosened those tightly wound purse strings?

Secret Cinephile Circles

AHHey everybody, how are you doing? I keep trying to find the time to craft a think piece on the whole digital versus analogue debate but alas I keep getting distracted, especially when index posts like this arise and start earnest debates a,ong on-line cinephilia circles, mostly decrying these choices as being valid ‘under-the-radar’ secret cinephile handshakes. ‘How can you miss Observations?’ some accurately yell, while others snort dismissively that they haven’t even heard of Senses of Cinema or Cinephila & Beyond (special bonus Barry Lyndon repository here fellow Kubrickophiles). For the record most of these are known to me and I agree that the omissions are unfortunate, but some of the alternate offerings are actually quite well known. Such frivolities has lead me to this 2015 round-up which actually made laugh out loud as the kids are saying these days, especially the ‘Paul Giamatti Award for Overacting’ and the ‘Jaume Collet-Serra Award for Achievement in Films Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra’. The opening commentary asserting The Hateful Eight as being the perfect encapsulation of 2015 was also exquisitely written, now here is a compelling and unpretentious little primer on how to enhance your cinema appreciation;

While we’re on the subject of movies for a change I haven’t delved into the detail on Sundance which recently wrapped, but suffice to say The Birth Of A Nation sounds extraordinary and is already been whispered as next years Oscar favourite, and this year’s ceremony doesn’t even air for another fortnight. It does sound amazing, politically incendiary and brilliantly made although Rebecca Hall’s Christine also sounds great – let’s hope they both make it to London in the Summer. Now don’t mind me, I’ll just be whimpering here in  the corner, quietly licking my wounds at missing out on tickets for a March Curzon Soho special preview screening of Anomolisa with Charlie Kaufman present at an exclusive Q&A – sold out in two minutes apparently….

Grind Wars (1977)

Whilst I’m fairly sure that the world has not exactly been plunged into a hideous famine of Lucasfilm related parodies this is very well done, right down to the sound editing and use of exploitative marketing pull quotes;

BFI Jean-Luc Godard Season – Weekend (1967)

week1The more you drive, the less intelligent you are‘ (MillerRepo Man, 1984) Wiser words were never said, but before we jump into the driving seat of Jean-Luc Godard scathing Sixties satire I think we might all benefit from a contextual history lesson. In a blinding crash of stating the obvious the world was very different in those agitated, pre-internet days, the homes fires across Europe and North America smouldering with insurrection due to the twin instincts conflicts of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam catastrophe. It seems like a thousand generations ago but the emergence of a rebellious youth culture twinned with a virulent anti-establishment ideology swept across the education and cultural sectors, leading to violent altercations as the state enforced its iron grip against the left-wing insurrection , and although these flashpoints have been covered in numerous US baby boomer generation movies I’ve always thought that mirrored events in Europe have rarely made screen appearances – some might even say it’s as if such deviant discourse had somehow been suppressed. Just conducting some cursory reading around this shows the threatening detail that occurred across the channel, with 11 million workers, more than 22% of the total population of France at the time downing tools and intellect for two weeks which must have savaged billions of francs in economic activity. These frictions are predated by Godard’s 1967 Weekend, the only other Godard film I previously held any affection for, any my revisit has revealed further depths to what I recalled as a particularly Gallic vision of dystopian disfunction.

week2Despite this context Weekend is still eyebrow raising, as in certain stretches its nothing less than a ferocious political manifesto which actively agitates for armed insurrection, as a thought experiment if someone with the surname Mohammed made an identical piece today then they would shortly receive a call from some government officials who’d like to have a quiet word and extensive audit of their recent travel schedule. The structure is that of a surreal odyssey, as a deviant bourgeois couple Roland (Jean Yanne) and Corinne (Mireille Darc) flee their apartment and make their way through a chaotic vision of the modern European state disintegrating into dystopian ruin, most famously exemplified with this long tracking shot which elicited quite a few giggles at the BFI screening. Interspersed with Corinne and Roland’s episodic adventures are cutaway interludes to Algerian immigrants and African insurgents, exemplifying the contemporary political concerns of Western imperialism and the legacy of first world exploitation which may have transmogrified over the past fifty years but essential remain the same in 2016. As the journey advances and the couples secret plans to betray the other comes to light the sense of the absurd and insane begins to accelerate, among the guerrilla snipers, the burning vehicular cataclysms and bizarre encounters with Lewis Carroll’s fantastical creations Weekend becomes like a Hogarth lampoon animated to 20th century life, in all its chaotic and derisive glory. The film doesn’t merely parrot a left wing manifesto without an internal ideological audit, in the final sequences Godard becomes equally scathing of the revolutionary affinities as the ‘People’s Front of Judea’ cliché goes, with splinter groups falling into infighting and score settling rather than joining ranks against the proletariat’s common foe. Despite the flippant, burlesque model if can also easily lurch into the horrifying, in one section a bourgeoisie family, including children, are mercilessly machine gunned off-camera, it might be a discrete massacre but that’s still executing innocent kids which, y’know, might be just a little harsh? In another aside Corinne is raped in a ditch while her husband listlessly lights a cigarette and shockingly fails to intervene, blasphemously offering his wife as property with an attached index linked economic value. The overall effect is of a churning, slightly deranged political manifesto which nevertheless remains amusing and infused with a certain cinematic sense of joie de vivre, even as it sanctions the mass overthrow of the capitalist hegemony, without offering any structured sense of a more equitable and balanced replacement – the Occupy movement a generation before its genesis.

week3As you may infer the film at certain points does begin to feel like Godard is hectoring a secret rally down at the docks, and depending on your politics you may find the systemic critiques amusing or exasperating, or maybe a little quaint given the intervening fifty years of globalization, the accrual of fathomless wealth and power within the hands of the then unquantified 1% and the deeper entrenchment of a supplicant propaganda belching media – comrades. Visually speaking the embedded colour scheme of red, white and blue punches through the screen as a clever subconscious affectation, probably a discrete reference to the tricolor, the Stars and Stripes, or even the Union Jack as an indoctrinating nationalism that deviates from the Marxist dream of a united plebeian front across borders and nations. Looking at the contemporary films of Hollywood in 1967 is quite an amusing exercise, as the radicals manned the ideological battlements and indulged in rehearsed protest Tinseltown was churning out the likes of CamelotThe Happiest Millionaire or Tobruk, a perfect palette of irrelevancy that the imminent 1970’s brats would supersede and surpass with their quietly political, character framed films, although this was the year of The Graduate and Bonnie & Clyde which foreshadowed, to use a screenwriting terminology, the shape of things to come. There is a sense of J.G Ballard who was just coming into cultural attention in 1967, I mean it’s just now possible to see the emblem of the combustion engine and the car are as a central metaphor in a dystopian landscape and not think of Ballard, Oddly the film also reminded me of Children Of Men with the rural tranches and infighting between the hapless, rudderless and naïve insurgents, and last years The Lobster clearly takes inspiration from the arch surrealism, of the squatting in the wilderness, shivering in the woods on the outskirts of society, as the polite façade of bourgeoisie hypocrisy demands the – marry and reproduce, a new generation of docile little consumer drones. There are also umbilical connections to this year’s High Rise which are apt as both texts operates in the same satirical, cruel atmosphere, of the bourgeois values and culture a bumpers breath away from cannibalistic savagery, which is the final grim film that the film closes upon, a spectacle of death and ending which is a binary reaction to the film’s opening, and the deviant discussion of a sex.

week4So like the irrelevant Gitane guzzling scamp himself let’s break with the form and close this review with the beginning of the film, a rather striking sequence that is a prelude for the political pornography to come. Throughout the film and indeed this phase of Godard’s career he indulged in sophisticated long takes, dollying horizontally so the perspective shifts from character interactions to ‘dead’ space, shifting focus mid-sentence as the discourse continues, a puzziling technique which is difficult to decipher – is this merely another cue that we are digesting an artificial construct? It is noteworthy that the camera doesn’t tilt or pan which would suggest a different relationship between space and the differing focal planes of activity, I’m still not confidently assured as to why this defiant movement is here, but that’s what makes these films on some level an intellectual conundrum to be solved. Through an uninterrupted single take the context setting prologue (I’ve  searched for a video link but I’m damned if I can fine one) remains static along the x axis, shrouding a heavily back-lit confessional between the partially clothed Corinne and her interrogator Roland, urging his wife to comprehensively detail the sordid details of her recent sexual encounter with two partners. It remains unclear if this is a fantasy or reportage of a genuine encounter but the context is clear, a decadent liaison involving role-play and foodstuffs which was probably quite controversially lurid for its time. It sets the tone of the odyssey where those foodstuffs make alternative appearances, the series of vignettes moving through rural landscapes as the characters even mutter that everyone we meet in this film are mad’, again shattering the fourth wall with a court jesters jeremiad glee. This was a much richer film than I appreciated when placed in its political and cultural context, I’m sure for a younger and stupider Mint the original attraction would have been the dystopian, degenerate setting, while the ideological engine would have flown straight over my head which I’ll admit is a rather ugly combination of allegories. Like Alphaville, Godard’s homage to film noir detective stories which he crossed with a rather sour SF parable this was one of those texts which cropped up in SF film reference books, another entry point like Psycho from genre genesis to the wider world of international film appreciation, cinema as time machine across borders and epochs. With Jacque Rivette’s passing last week he’s one of the last standing founders of the nouvelle vague along with Agnès Varda, the pop provocateur whose manifestos on class and culture remain as discursive and divisive as they were in 1967;

The 6th Street Bridge RIP (1932 – 2016)

Excellent work, now please do the same celebration for the 2nd street tunnel please;

THE 6TH STREET BRIDGE from Vashi Nedomansky on Vimeo.

Southbound (2016) Trailer

I’m not sure that the ‘from the makers of the V/H/S series’ is much of a recommendation, especially after grimacing through the atrocious third instalment of that exhausted series this week, but portmanteau horror films can be fun, so this could have some promise;

The Chickening (2016) Trailer

Yes, I’ve fucking heard about this and no, I’m not certain whether sometime slipped me some particularly potent brown acid at lunchtime. What the fuck is this?;

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