There was a teaser for this a few months ago but now, apparently, this has obliterated TiFF’s Midnight Madness crowd, and when you see the glimpses of what is on offer I think we can understand why;
Extensive drone footage, elaborate 4K digital long takes and a simulacrum of computer game FPS was inevitable I guess, although I do wonder if this evolving 21st century format has a narrative to support itself beyond the pyrotechnics. Still, this looks like quite a fucking experience eh?
How far would or could you go to protect your children? That’s the core question lurking at the heart of Denis Villeneuve’s new Hollywood thriller Prisoners, a surprisingly brutal police procedural which definitively signals the end of Summer season and marks the beginning of that brief serious window of pre-award product nervously skulking into cinemas. I’ve already recommended Villeneuve’s uncompromising Incendies on here before so I was already pre-disposed to give his first American picture a chance, it was one of my TiFF targets which I failed to nail due to competing priorities, so I was rather pleased to see such a quick European release for what may well be included in the top-tier of films of the year. Villeneuve’s credentials aside I was in the mood for some more mature material if I’m honest, I’ve had my fill of comic book ballast and action abrogations for the moment, having recently rewatched Star Trek: Into Darkness I was quite shocked at just how terrible that film is once the CGI scales fall from the lens flared eyes, so something much more intelligent and caustic was an oddly welcome confection as the nights start to draw in and the Autumn clouds gather.
Against a murky and bruised framed sky of mid West America two working class families gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman & Mario Bello) clearly love their son and younger daughter and are a relatively happy unit, her mildly mothering concern standing in muted contrast to his masculine stars n’ stripes stoicism. Nancy and Franklin Birch (Viola Davis & Terence Howard) are a little more happy-go-lucky, their similar affection for their daughter slipping into frantic histrionics when the two girls vanish after a post dinner stroll, the owner of a decrepit RV lurking in the area becoming the initial suspect in a desperate race to locate the missing children. Enter the oddly named Lt. Loki (a exhaustively blinky Jake Gyllenhaal) who of course has never failed to close a case, his initial suspicions of the greasy simpleton Alex (another mournful turn from Paul Dano) thwarted by a concrete lack of physical evidence. After Alex is released from custody a desperate Keller decides to take matters into his own bloodied hands, as his conviction that he can beat a confession out of his incarcerated suspect are surpassed by more inchoate discoveries….
It’s quite rare these days to be assaulted by a Hollywood product which is serious in intent and so sour in tone, as this is a very exhausting and oppressive picture which doesn’t compromise with its serious approach to severe themes. That said it unfortunately does resort to some textbook screenplay coincidences in its final manoeuvres which does taint the overall effect, but the quality of the performances, the gripping plot and unexpected clues and misdirection will keep audiences guessing right until the amputative end. The cast both supporting and lead are adequately painful and writhing in winterlit misery, Jackman in particular peddles a fine line of frustrated fury whilst Gyllenhaal elaborates on his Zodiac obsessive convictions with a physically orientated performance stuffed full of nervous tics and zen attuned observation. The religious iconography may be ladled on a little thick by Villeneuve including pendulous crucifi, slithering serpents and an opening monologue yearning for a biblical scale of ferocity, but those ambitions are partially met with a duo of scenes which are expertly orchestrated as the sinister saga damns then exonerates suspects in a constantly mutating manner.
The real star of the show however is cinematographer Roger Deakins outstanding work, I honestly hesitate to use the word genius as much as I can but he is just so consistently brilliant again and again and again that the man deserves every accolade in the cinephile dictionary, lacquering the piece with a frosty oppression which enshrines Prisoners as essential big-screen viewing, a rain drenched car chase elevated to a cardiac inducing hallucination, the cobalt beams of the police vehicles strafing through a desperate darkness of despair. The obvious antecedents are of a similarly smothering sort, from the aforementioned Zodiac to Se7en to Gone Baby Gone this is similarly uncompromising adult material in both content and approach, although the plot mechanisms may lapse into formula there is a clear metaphor of losing one’s humanity and moral authority in the face of an incomprehensible, ethereal and elusive foe. In that sense if you’re looking for torturous analogies you won’t need a forensic scientist to align this with wider moral US failures of recent years, like those righteous ambiguities this isn’t a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination but worth the price of admission for Deakins adumbral etching alone, a fevered American debut which Villeneuve needs to supplement with a more accomplished ambit;
Having just got back to the UK I’m too shattered to offer much at the moment, but I have made a start on a aftermath post which should hopefully wrap things up and highlight my top five – so here’s the final montage from TiFF to close the circle until the weekend;
I′m a big fan of symmetry, so it seemed apt to conclude this epic expedition film wise in a manner similar to how we opened all those movies ago – with another four hour documentary. As one of the all time great documentarians Frederick Wiseman′s At Berkerly may not appeal to everyone′s taste, but I found it be a fascinating peek behind the scenes at one of the learned centres of our civilization;
So that is indeed that, I have a day of shopping and maybe taking in a couple of museums tomorrow – I′m skipping Niagara Falls as the logistics are to irritating and I suspect I′ll be back here in the future anyway – before a stopover in Montreal for one night and then back to blightly and the return of the real world, can′t say I’m looking forward to that. I′ll probably write my general festival overview on the flight back to keep me distracted, especially as I′m back into the fray with the day job straight away and there has been some potentially interesting developments on that front whilst I’ve been away, but let′s not jinx that with any details here shall we?
Monday morning, and like a man possessed of the protestant work spirit I awoke at an ungodly hour and managed to get down to the media centre and crank out another review – the way I figure it only one a day is remotely feasible, and I can catch up with some of the flotsam and jetsam when I get back home. I then had the pleasure of Bullock & Cuaron’s company;
The more I think about Gravity, the more I like it, I;m definitely enlisting fora IMAX revisit back in London. Now I know everyones going crazy about 12 Years A Slave but believe me this opinion is not shared in every quarter – some colleagues I have been speaking to (and believe me you can’t grab a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza in this town without getting caught up in a debate, its great!) have outlined some concerns which at face value sound quite valid, I doubt I’ll make it to the last press screening given other priorities so I guess I’ll just wait until the LFF. Anyway, then it was time for another documentary, the contemporarily anticipated Known Unknowns by the mighty Errol Morris;
It was good, he never completely nails his quarry but of course Morris likes to give his subjects enough rope and let them construct their own noose, but Rumsfeld is one slippery bastard – Its quite a weary ride through the last decades still reverberating war crimes. Now since there is no trailer yet here is some footage from Venice;
The strongest indie’ film (whatever constitutes indie these days is a whole other article but I digress) of the festival so far, a packed screening of Reichardt’s Night Moves which was one of my most anticipated films of the whole schedule. I can’t do it justice here but if you like Meeks Cutoff or Wendy & Lucy then you’ll like this – she hasn’t ‘sold out’ by employing Fanning and Eisenberg who are both very good. Tomorrow we see if I can get Under The Skin;
One of the great pleasures of festivals is taking a chance on something new, of going to see a film sight unseen, a celluloid equivalent of Russian roulette without the potentially lethal consequences. In that vein I decided to go and see You’re Not Here on a hazy Sunday morning, I did have the deja vu inducing The Double in my headlights but I can slot that in further down the line – it looks like its worth a double-take;
With the benefit of hindsight I kinda wish I’d evaluated You Are Here beforehand as it would have warned me off such lunatic risk-taking, as this was an exceptionally flat and tedious film with maybe two mild laughs in the whole two hours, you know there might just be a problem when fellow colleagues are clandestinely exiting the screening around a half hour in. I genuinely shocked that such a run-of-the-mill fare was offered by the creative mind behind Mad Men, I think Mr. Weiner must ave been having a particularly poor day when he committed to that script. Then I thought some horror was required so I braved Eli Roth’s new massacre The Green Inferno, again no trailer has circulated yet despite the film getting it’s World Premiere here today – review here. I got chatting in a bar with a fellow festival goer in a bar when waiting for some friends, turns out the chap is the Film Programmer for the University of Maine and was a good personal friend of Ebert, which gives me an excuse to post this;
A poor day for celebrities number wise, but a personal best proximity wise, I was quite surprised to turn around during this morning queue efforts and seeing Robin Wright Penn standing next to me – she’s tiny;
OK, I think I′m getting the hang of this now, I get up, cleanse thyself, dress, wander down town and grab a hurried breakfast, peek into the morning press conference then it’s simply movies, movies, movies. Having fully got my bearings and located the majority of the screening venues I also think I’ve got a feel of the tempo of this celluloid circus, and I usually manage to squeeze in a review before retiring for the evening – although that ‘free’ time will shortly be dismissed as my schedule begins to expand to encompass more material. Much of the Midnight Madness and challenging Vanguard strands of the festival are beginning to appear on the horizon, and all these dramas, comedies and documentaries I’ve caught so far could really do with a few buckets of claret soaking the screen. Now, time to make the ladies jealous;
So after a intergalactically fraught wait I finally got to see Gravity in the 556 seating auditorium of the impressive Scotiabank theatre, this was my first taste of the real urgency that the bigger films can create as this throughly packed screening was quite an electric experience with enormous queues and a true festival like urgency – obligatory review link here. I really shouldn’t post this extended spot as it does give away details of some key sequences in the film and you really should go into this spectacular experience as cold as the distant recesses of the cosmos, I managed to avoid watching it until today and I should make it to the film’s press conference tomorrow;
So then a personal best thus far in celebrity spotting for day three, including Mark Cousins who had natter with some ladies queueing behind him from the Irish Film Council, Dexter ′Spike′ Flectcher, John ′Film Critic whom none of you will have the faintest idea who he is′ Powers, oh and Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, director Denis Villeneuve, Terence Howard , Huge Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Paul Dano. This exercise is beginning to sound like the cast to a Woody Allen picture;
We’re finally here gentle reader, work has been concluded, out of office notifications programmed, bags are packed and itineraries scrambled – TiFF 2013 is finally a go. So my intentions which will no doubt be obliterated when ‘in country’ is to produce a daily round-up style post and ad-hoc full reviews over at my patron sponsor Sound on Sight, like the LFF the maple syrup brigade produce daily video summaries of the red carpet activity so I’ll try my best to post those alongside any blistering hot press conference action to keep things simmering here at the Menagerie. Some more new trailers have slowly begin to struggle for the light, this looks like it should generate some debate;
I am intending to take a couple of ‘rest’ days and actually, y’know, go for a nose around Toronto whilst I’m there, given the fact that one of the planet’s most awe-inspiring natural features is only a couple of hours away I’d quite like to slot in some traditional tourist gawking as well – that’s where some of Superman II was shot, right? Then again, speaking of awe-inspiring natural features Scarlett Johansson is in town (for a full list of confirmed attendees check this out) so maybe I’ll just hang around the posh hotels and, erm, see what comes up;
Now that looks mildly terrifying (shivers), and early reviews from Venice are throwing around five star kudos and muttered allegations of a ‘masterpiece’ – wow. With a gobsmacking range of forty to fifty film screenings every day – yeah I know and that’s just the fucking press schedule – I’m certainly not going to be bereft of movie choices, thankfully some of the hot ticket items (your Gravity’s, your12 Years A Slave etc.) are getting duplicate screenings in order to sate outrageous demand, although I’m not entirely confident on how the various tiers of prestigious access badges will unfold out on the battlefield. One thing I hadn’t considered is the side strand of industry talks, discussions, workshops and debates, it honestly sounds as if the entire city goes celluloid crazy, so as initial sortee I’m aiming for a production discussion with the terrificly talented Sarah Polley and if I’m lucky a seat at the Spike Jonze interview and Q&A. So that’s that, please do bookmark my and my colleagues feed over at the impregnable Sound On Sight and we’ll see you on the other side;
Just to set the tone, here’s tonight’s Menagerie Watch-List just to get me in the mood – this looks hugely unusual;
Fuck man I dunno either, I just work here. Hitoshi Matsumoto is at the festival with his new effort R100 – looks like that will also go down well with the cult movie crowd. In other news, in a moment of unfortunate timing this years LFF crew announce this years programme tomorrow, (yeah I bit the bullet and ponied up the cash for my pass) somehow I doubt I’ll be giving them my full attention as my efforts must be focused elsewhere. Then we’ve got this to see;
This ties in nicely with The Green Inferno, Eli Roth’s new cannibal exploitation homage which of course should be quite painful. Finally here is a nice survivors guide for the uninitiated, then I’ll be getting into a movie which was shot in Toronto which has also generated its own cadre of quietly devoted cult movie fans;
One more post before tomorrow’s final summary and method statement, just to set the tone and expectations for the following ten days – Jesus, I clearly do need a holiday as my programme management speak is incrementally bleeding into my hobbies – I think it’s time to update the critical path risk register. Like all respected festivals with a few quid to chuck around this year’s specialist TIFF team have commissioned or acquired prints of recently restored classics, a historic celebration of the art form to align with new talents and contemporary voices, so here is a brief summary of what’s in store retrospective wise at this year’ festival;
Gun Crazy – I think it was during my ‘The Best Films You’ve Never Seen‘ post that I admitted to my omission of Gun Crazy from my noir list of the usual suspects, so the chance to finally apprehend this monochrome forerunner to Bonnie & Clyde, Badlands, and just about any other homicidal couple on the run picture, a series which continues with this years Malickian Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. I’m pretty sure that these must be the same prints that the BFI commissioned a couple of years back, so effectively I have travelled an ocean to finally plug this win with a bellyful of hot lead.
Rome Open City – One of the core texts of the Italian Neo-Realist film movement, those socially arrayed, macro attuned films shot in the closing months and immediate aftermath of the second world war, cobbled together on scraps of film stock with an urgent political reality by the likes of Vittorio De Sica, Luchino Visconti and in this case Roberto Rossellini (father of Isabella since you ask). This is text-book film studies 101 viewing for any budding cinephile although my personal favourite was always the devastating Umberto D, so we’ll see how the campaign develops – I’m fairly sure it clashes with All Cheerleaders Die and we all know who’s gonna win that conflict, right?
Shivers – As I mentioned before Cronenberg’s original infection has been given a digital antiseptic bath, as I only reviewed the film a couple of weeks ago I can’t say I’ll be killing myself to assimilate this horrid little herald of things to come, but we’ll see how events organically unfold with my competing priorities – I’m sick like that.
Hiroshima Mon Amour – I first saw this world cinema masterpiece around ten years ago when I was as my friends would have it a little bit squinty, quite what possessed me to fire up a black & white subtitled art house artefact after a Friday evening on the ales is beyond me, but nevertheless I remember a fantastically interwoven love story which flits and flutters through its cinematic temporal dimensions. This was a genuinely revolutionary film for its period which prefigured the mosaic methodologies of Roeg and more recently Nolan and Carruthers, by inspiring them to manipulate definitions of time and space and abandon the restraining straightjacket of causality and the strictly observed momentum of narrative logic, so the chance to see this with the celluloid still dripping fresh really should not be missed.
An Autumn Afternoon – A change of pace from the hectic speed of Canada’s most populous and economically driven city should be provided by a refreshing sip of one of Ozu’s modest masterpieces, I’m really going to make an effort to see this as other than that viewing of Tokyo Story a few years back my track record with the big screen sensei has been simply appalling, as in non-existent. I’m not sure if this is a digital scan or an analogue restoration, hopefully the latter for ancient authenticity but these days given the relentless march of technology I doubt it.
OK, so let’s keep this as brief and succinct as possible as I’ve got enough planning and essential errand running to do this final weekend as it is, having finally found the time to download the 23 page FAQ and Press Screening schedule my mind is whirling with imminent diary planning specifics, it’s all rather dauntingly exciting. I’ve also just received a rather charming invitation from the Toronto Film Critic Association to a soiree where they intend to welcome their foreign comrades to town with a booze and canapé fuelled event – I must remember not to get too hammered and engage with verbal fisticuffs with the Armand White’s of the industry eh? So roughly speaking this is my second tier of material, some curiosities with a mix of fiction and documentary, once again some international names return whom are well-known to cinephiles the world over alongside some relatively new talents all jostling for attention at the
celluloid digital maelstrom of TiFF – let’s continue;
Unforgiven – After a few decades of shameless Western pilfering of Asian cinema it’s fun to see the Oriental market turning the tables, Lee Song-ils transplant of Eastwood’s Unforgiven to Meiji era fuedal Japan could be a big budget blast.
Bastardo – Magical realism gut punches film noir in Nejib Belkhadi’s mystical realignment of urban unrest, with a Tunisian setting which alone makes this a curious sounding enterprise.
Almost Human – The first of many sacrifices for the Midnight Madness crowd, a brutal looking slice of pulp set in the Maine badlands. I do like to mix things up schedule wise with the serious stuff rubbing shoulders with the gleefully perverted, and the alien invasion angle could make this something different.
The Story Of Children & Film – Clearly not one to rest on his celluloid laurels, after projecting the astoundingly epic The Story Of Film cinephile enthusiast Mark Cousins is trotting his next around the globe, the agenda to examine the presentation of children in the cathedral of cinema. Given that his last effort was one of the best excavations of the art form of the last few decades the expectations are high….
The Station – Not a Bill & Ted’s tribute piece, this is another lightweight addition to my bruising schedule, as a retreating glacier warps the local wildlife in ravenous beasts looking for a lip-smacking snack. Yummy.
The Strange Colour of Your Bodies Tears – I wasn’t completely seduced by Amer’s posmodern giallo reckoning, but evidently the production team behind that black gloved hallucination have speared some new financiers for another stylish xerox of cult favourites of yesteryear. Another one for the Midnight Madness brigade, so count me in.
Cold Eyes – Surveillance paranoia evidently knows no borders in this South Korean critique of the all-seeing eyes infecting our public spaces, deftly recorded under the guise of an adrenaline flickered urban actioner. It’s had some middiling reviews from other festival reveals, I think it looks pretty cool….
A Touch Of Sin – More Chinese carnage from the blood streaked quill of Jia Zhangke, this Cannes screenwriting award winner looks brutally gripping, casting an eye back at the history of the worlds swiftest growing economy in order to predict its turbulent and turmeric future.
Burning Bush – A HBO Europe mini series gets a big screen graduation with this compelling dramatisation of the story of Jan Palach, a radical student who set himself on fire in a protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1969 – a frigid inversion of the Arab Spring?
Les Salauds – Claire Denis is one of the highly appreciated current filmmakers whom I’ve not fully got to grips with, clearly this is a deficiency in my attention span and viewing choices which should partially be corrected with this darkly brooding tale of family jealously and nefarious secrets. Any film which boasts a ‘labyrinthine’ plot is always worth a few hours of my time.
Jodorowski’s Dune – And finally a tantalising taste of what might have been, with one of the most bonkers films never made given the full imaginative, speculative treatment.
Although I claimed three lists in development I’ve had to collapse those streams to two, purely because much of the other material which is flying high on my prefered schedule simply don’t have trailers yet. So for the record I’ll also be seriously angling for Catherine Breillat’s Abuse Of Weakness, Fredrick Wiseman’s At Berkerly, Richard Adoyade’s The Double, Errol Morri’s The Known Unknown (a quite timely feature-length interview with war criminal Donald Rumsfeld as we Western cowards prepare to rain millions of dollars of cruise missles on yet another Middle Eastern country) Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves, Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno, Workman’s What Is Cinema and the potential thrilling shennigans of The Art Of The Steal.
Well the anticipation is certainly building now, as my email account starts to get swamped with invitations to conferences and interview opportunities begin to cascade the Toronto Film Festival is incrementally gaining traction. This leaves me with a quite staggeringly final busy weekend of errand running so I thought it best to make an early start on my proposed schedule, I’ve combed through the programme and identified three lists representing different tiers of interest and excitement, culled from the 300 films which are on offer over the ten days. This is my top-tier, the dozen films which represent a combined mixture of genre and cult movie anticipation alongside the potential breakthrough award courting material – the Argo’s and Silver Lining Playbooks of the industry if you will – with a brisk sentence or two to outline my interest in the sake of brevity – hopefully the trailer will speak for itself. So let’s begin in no particular order with an obvious big-hitter;
Twelve Years A Slave – After the spare economies of Hunger and Shame it should be fascinating to see what the remarkable Steve McQueen does with his first film from existing material, that trailer looks a little gong friendly though so I hope he retains some of his unusual predilections and this doesn’t get diluted to Academy Award cat-nip.
Like Father, Like Son – Kore-Eda is arguably one of the most accomplished directors to emerge from the Asian peninsula in the new millennium, and after charming Cannes with this Jury Prize winner this looks like essential viewing to me.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour – Again, keeping with the opening theme of high-profile world cinema this is another unavoidable acquisition, especially after its straight out of the blue Cannes winning shock.
Moebius – Now that’s enough of the chin stroking , what we want now is some genuine preconception challenging material, and this notorious sounding piece from Korean provocateur Kim ki-Duk might just be the film which prompts the most walk outs from the little I’ve heard of its transgressive plot and gruelling imagery. it looks like that trailer is playing it safe for now, but with that eternally looping name I’m already detecting Irreversible connections.
Why Don’t You Play In Hell – Looks like a crimson soaked laugh-riot, complete with The Bride from Kill Bill references unless my eyes are deceiving me. I’m not sure quite what we’ll be in for with a Sion Sono ‘comedy’, but I’m jolly excited to find out.
Gravity – Well this just got its world premiere in Venice and from the very little I’ve seen – I’m even avoiding those alternate trailers at this point – I think we’re on target for some something quite special here.
Visitors – Reggio’s experimental poems have had their ups and downs since the mesmerizing Koyaanisqatsi, I hope he can get back on track with another non-verbal, narrative defying epoch of our times.
Under The Skin – Also premiering at Venice Jonathan’s Glazer’s long-awaited follow-up to Birth – the opening to which you can see above – is guaranteed to be one of the hot tickets. Apparently with Scarlett Johanson as a flesh seeking alien in human form it might be better than Species III: The Specieing.
REAL – Another one of the more personal choices, I adore Kiyoshia Kurosawa who like Glazer has been absent from the world stage for far too long – welcome back with a compelling looking blend of Inception and Brainstorm.
Last of The Unjust – Time to get serious for a second, as this loose follow-up to Shoah from holocaust chronicler Claude Lanzman is said to be another devastating account of one of the most incomprehensible and terrible crimes of human civilisation.
Only Lovers Left Alive – Jim Jarmusch is a rarefied taste for some, I’ve avoided any reviews so I’m not entirely sure how this has gone down at Cannes, but with a cast like that I can’t wait to get my teeth into this one.
The Fifth Estate – Given wikileaks constant gyrating presence in the news this is sure to generate a whirlwind of interest, as the opening gala film of the festival I thought this apt to conclude my first list. Next up, the second tier oddities and curios to give me occupied…..
When it came to select a Canadian filmmaker to prelude my imminent sojourn across the pond there was really only one maple syruped shriek inducing candidate for the job – the arch deacon of the physical and physiological – David Cronenberg. As a horror fan I’ve followed his career closely over the years of course, unlike his splattery kin his career has evolved to stratospheric heights and is showered with serious academic and critical appreciation (compared with the genre ghettos that say Romero or Carpenter reside in), in fact he’s almost respectable these days with his literary adaptions and star wielded statements on society. Well, that’s all great and everything but we ‘real’ fans remember the dark old days of the 1970’s and early 1980’s when he forged a unique path of pricking body horror pictures which caused outrage in the conservative press, as government grants were shockingly seized to create his very visceral visions of modern society, although of course he did experience some of this tedious manufactured outrage with the still difficult to penetrate (if you’ll excuse the pun) automotive erotica of Crash.
Of course this mini season which I specifically restricted to the earliest portion of Dave’s career also produced some glimpses of Toronto of the late 20th century where many of his movies were lensed, just to get my juices flowing I have also programmed a viewing of Scott Pilgrim the night before my flight, I hope you’re positively pregnant with anticipation as this coming weekend should see a burst of final activity here as I’ve finally identified three separate Tiff lists to share with you, if you’re not positively sick of my constant bleating on about the festival then you soon will be. But first any excuse to revisit some of these macabre genre benchmarks in drooling and glistening upgraded high-definition, with all the remakes these days I can’t believe that much of his early material still remains untouched, I dunno if he is standing guardian over these properties (assuming he holds the rights to some of these which I doubt) or his particular surgeon like skills is just to cerebral for your modern executive. Spoilers from the very first clip so be warned, bourgeois drones;
Shivers (1975) – AKA The Parasite Murders AKA They Came From Within, this was Cronenberg’s first slithering feature, heavily influenced by the cold social scribing of J.G. Ballard this suffers somewhat from some dated production constraints, but as an early proponent of infectious Armageddon it’s quite a chilling and sterile vision of society in collapse, or maybe a illustrative evolution? Scorsese cited the finale seen above as one of the most chilling endings to a horror picture he’d ever seen, and its diagnosis many years before the AID’s pandemic seized popular attention seems eerily prophetic. It’s also received a digital restoration at this years Tiff, so maybe we’ll get to be creeped out on the big screen.
Scanners (1981) – The first thing that struck me about a long overdue off this VHS rental classic was just how shockingly violent is it. Now I’m not referring to that notorious scene, I’m talking about the litany of gruelling incidents that follow in the wake of the chilly, telekinetic cat and mouse chase narrative with the government goons intent on converting our mannequin hero Cameron Vale to their homicidal cause. Scores of fellow mutes are mercilessly mown down in scene after scene, it also has a very distanced, enamelled pose to its pyrotechnic proceedings, before the final showdown with the snarling Michael Ironside as the brilliantly named Daryl Revok in that hysterical finale. I have fond memories of seeing this format favourite at a throughly inappropriate age, such were the halcyon days of the VHS rental culture which is getting a well received documentary treatment here….
Videodrome (1982) – If there is one film which cold actually benefit from a remake given its prescience and mirror to modern times then it has to be this, that pulsating satire on the increasing atomization of the body in a society obsessed with image and surface, of the gulf between corporate mandated fantasy and isolated, atomised reality. Given the umbilical connection we have forged anew with our ironically named ‘smartphones’ and the vast volume of our walking lives we now spend perched in front of screens – PC’s, TV’s, phones, at work, rest and play – has disintegrating constructs such as the church, marriage and family been supplanted with that glowing silver screen? Like TV the film blurs the intersections between fantasy and reality, cinema hectoring its more prevalent and ubiquitous young brother as the current climate seems to be of celebrating a new golden age of longer form, less intimately digested storytelling. There’s a curious lack of any extras on this Blu-Ray which seems like a shocking oversight…..
The Brood (1979) – And finally a taste of that ancient cornerstone of horror yarns – the fear and resentment of children, always a potent miasma of sacrifice and struggle to mine. The little pastel garbed blighters are actually quite creepy in this one, as physical manifestations of a psychologically damaged mothers raging id they are partial to some particularly grisly assaults which come close that ancient internet meme ‘how many-five year-olds could you take out in a fight?’ I think I’d only seen once before many years ago, perhaps it’s most amazing special effect was getting a coherent and somber performance out of Oliver Reed. There are images and interrogations of the relation of the body to the mind in this movie that you’d never get past a censorship board today given the cultural veneration of the infant, the sequence where a primary school teacher is violently bludgeoned to death in front of her screaming pupils is really quite shocking. Also, this is previewing at Tiff which looks at Cronenberg’s increasing relevance.
Time permitting I might have expanded this out to include the deja who of Dead Ringers and my personal favourite The Dead Zone, I’ve always had a something of a soft spot for that underappreciated King adaption which is far superior and clairvoyantly compact than the book. For your real completests out there in the digitial ether then here are shards of his early short films Stereo and Crimes Of The Future, I wonder where they got to with that Cronenberg scripted The Fly remake which could also be fun? Long live the new flesh…..
Rated NC17 in the United States, probably at least a 15 certificate here in the UK, already awarded a 12 in France – gawd bless the French, the filthy swine;
Seriously though this does sound like one of the years most compelling films, and it’s got a high position on the trio of top-ten most anticipated Toronto lists which I’m going to finalize over the weekend (only 288 feature entries to consider) along with a couple of other articles and reviews, plus if I have the time – this new assignment is already fucking brutal in terms of workload and complexity so I’m working over the bank holiday – I must also track down Elysium, although alas the reviews have not been intergalactic…