It’s slightly unusual to see a US studio backing such a limited appeal domestic project, but the notorious source material has propelled it as the most lucrative Argentinian domestic opening of recent memory. El Clan concerns a well-heeled Buenos Aires family who abducted people from their own neighborhood, demanding hefty ransoms, before executing their victims upon payment – ugly stuff to be sure. The twist of course is that this is based on a true story known to the population if you are of a certain age to recall the crimes, which occurred from 1982 to 1985;
After Wild Tales international success this seems like an ideal and organic continuation of possible breakthroughs, although given the saturated market I doubt that this film will get much more than potential festival exposure in our hemisphere. Still, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled as the profile of Pablo Trapero rises, more on him and his superb work later in the year…..
Bit of a messy pot-pourri today, culled mostly from my commute reading of this months Sight & Sound. It seems that I’ve missed a mind-expanding trick with the new Jodorowski which got a glowing Blu-Ray review, I don’t think this ever got any sort of domestic theatrical release which is a sign of the multiplex times;
In other new release news the great Kim Newman gave this a reasonable pass on the horror hectic front, yes its another zombie apocalypse premise – how interesting – but apparently it does have a fun antipodean spin to its putrid proceedings;
Some sad news is the unexpected demise of The Dissolve, depressing proof it needed that intelligent and insightful movie debate and analysis simply can’t survive in the contemporary stifling internet atmosphere of buzzfeed ‘best-of’ lists, of breathless exultations of ‘STOP THE PRESS – EXCLUSIVE’ regarding the most pointless and uncontextual movie-set photos, of obsessive frame by frame trailer dissections, of long rambling diatribes on the importance of which actress was cast as the new Aunt May in yet another fucking reboot of a fucking comic book fucking movie fucking franchise. I like my good blockbusters just as I like all other strains of cinema as long as they are ‘good’, but when some of the best writers around find themselves suffocated out of existence then there is something very, very wrong.
Just to close this rather scattergun thoughtblurt – I’m writing this on my commute in a sun addled train hurtling uncertainly through the Essex countryside – one little quote from the DVD review section of Sight & Sound concerning Peter Greenaway’s Drowning By Numbers is absolutely delicious – ‘Greenaway often looks too singular to produce a genuine inheritor but here Wes Anderson could be his kind hearted nephew’ – that is a brilliant insight and little gems like that make my entire yearly subscription worthwhile, that’s the kind of movie insight and analysis which needs to be preserved….
Christ, its all kicking off today isn’t it? Well to combat the malaise as I have no review this week here is some filler which is intended to provoke a grin of stirring appreciation. It’s far too Americentric for its own good but still reasonably effective with a good mix of classics;
I love the score from 06:51, always a favourite. So it’s been rather quiet lately here at Menagerie towers but I have a fairly intense month booked at the BFI for July, kicking off with a very odd horror cult curio which I’ve been trying to see again for years, and a couple of special events concerning one of the UK’s most fragmented film pioneers – remember this is on Sunday. Before then I suppose I might manufacture a review of the new Terminator film which by all accounts is as terrible as the trailer suggests, and there was me thinking that this summer couldn’t evolve a worse picture than Jurassic World…
Yes I’ve been quiet, and yes this is more mere filler, but when you see what I have been quietly beavering away on some of you SF genre fans should be intrigued. I have been toying with posting the ‘new’ Fantastic Four trailer but it just makes me want to clobber things, and yes I know a final Mad Max trailer is doing the rounds which I refuse to watch as anticipation levels are high enough as it is, so instead here’s the new M.Night Shayamalan’s alleged high quality return to his spooky case-studies;
Oh, I see it’s a found footage picture. Nothing desperate then after the catastrophe of Another Earth ’cause that terror delivery system’s not been done to fucking death….
One for cinephiles fascinated with the behind the scenes artistic insecurities and technical obstacles of physical filmmaking perhaps, but tonight I’m giving this a look;
It’s only 58 minutes long so isn’t exactly a stretch, and is a fine enough peek behind the viewfinder into the world of long days, of foreign crews and waning inspiration, a director grappiling with that very difficult follow-up to an adored critical and financial smash – Drive. Nothing particularly revelatory is contained therein, but it has prompted me to give Only God Forgives another look and see how it holds up to a third viewing……
Skegness, 1982, and after being annoyed that we couldn’t see Firefox Down as it was a 15 a disgruntled Minty is dragged along to see some bloody Star Trek movie. Of course everyone will be posting this scene for obvious reasons but it had a profound effect on the nine year old me, I revisted the film last year and it still stands up;
As others have succinctly put it I’m not much of a Star Trek fan but I was a Leonard Nimoy fan, so let’s mourn the passing of a pop cultutal icon…..
It’s been a while coming, if you’ll excuse the smutty gag, but finally Peter Strickland’s highly acclaimed homage The Duke Of Burgundy gets a full trailer;
Will it make Minty’s films of the year list? Well I’ll leave you in breathless anticipation, as I discreetly finish off this years magnum opus….
After a particularly gruelling week of work I’m afraid I’m too tired – dead tired – to fully celebrate the spookiest night of the year. The best I can offer is this blast from the past which some of you may remember watching back in the day, and Clive Barker’s mullet should be enough to send you all shrieking to the nearest house of worship;
In other news, this seems faintly apt…..
In last months S&S I was thrilled to read that the infrequently brilliant Miike Takashi had begun production on his next film Yakuza Apocalypse, a project which he announced as ‘goodbye to tedious boring Japanese films’ which alludes to some of the more traditional, historically muted Samurai genre inflected material he has cleaved over the last few years. In the interim the legendary prolific genre master has also constructed this,
Well, that should keep us Miike fans going eh? In the press relase concerning Apocalypse Miike claims that ‘No one wanted this, but I am making a rampage back to the classics’ – god help us all….
No Sundancing today, I had to take a break and focus my attention on some day job priorities, I’ll be back at the festival tomorrow for my final day and two final pictures. So here is the new Sin City trailer, which looks purty;
It’s not often I interrupt the movie coverage here and move into the murky world of politics, but sometimes sad news requires a small moment of respect. When I was a Politics A level student we once went on a field trip to that their scary London, visited the House of Commons and sat in the public gallery for Question Time (yes I have seen the medusa that was Thatcher in the flesh and lived to tell the tale ), and then attended a political debate in the afternoon. As some Tory MP made some speech about Europe or something to the braying applause of the Eton gaggle that also attended the session a quiet figure slipped into the room, sat quietly chugging on his pipe (which tells just how long ago this was, smoking in a public forum) and then got up, and without any notes or support materials made an impassioned, brilliant, off the cuff one hour speech on why the British Parliament should have a written constitution. I’ve never forgotten it, so RIP Tony, whilst we didn’t always agree on every policy he was certainly a brilliant dude who genuinely cared;
When was the last time I forged a list post? Seems like a long time ago, at least way back in the chilly depths of winter. The publication of a new interesting sounding book has got the cinephile community all a chatter, as author Robert K. Elder has interviewed thirty-five filmmakers, movers and shakers and asked them to identify one best ‘neglected’ or ‘overlooked’ film for inclusion into a fun sounding film discussion book. Debating the relative merits of the list and the inevitable argumentative framing of some of the texts as ‘obscure’ or underappreciated (c’mon, A Man For All Seasons is a well-known Oscar winner surely?) has been raging over the past few days, ever since the project was highlighted in the worlds most popular film cast Filmspotting which you can source here. There is nothing we cinephiles like more than a list we can tear into, and ever since last years Sight & Sound poll controversy has settled it feels like the right time to stir things back up, to indulge in mock battles and belittle each others scope and breadth of the medium of the movies, all in a very gentlemanly well-spirited fashion of jocularity of course you understand.
I’ll admit I was also disappointed at the near total lack of female directors out of the 35 or indeed many ‘people of colour’ if I can use that rather odd phrase, I know the pool from which to draw these opinions from is somewhat smaller than Male White Dude directors, but surely Charles Burnett or John Singleton, a Lynne Ramsey or Andrea Arnold could have been approached? I dunno, maybe Elder did spread his net wider than the dominant demographic, but I doubt it. Anyway out of the list I’ve seen 22 and have heard of 29 which isn’t a bad ratio for so-called deeply cult and obscured fare, hell I may even have reviewed a few of ’em here on the blog which I think cements some level of credible cinephile credentials, whilst others like Who’ll Stop The Rain? (AKA Dog Soliders) and Ugetsu Monogatari (Mizoguschi’s most famous film so again not really an obscure film, such an odd choice) have at least merited passing mentions. So I thought we’d have a look at a mix of those I’ve seen or not, some which I admire or not, purely in an instinctive, potpuorri sort of way for a fairly lazy blog post which will server as a prelude to a whole panoply of BFI visits I have planned over the next fortnight – six films, including one of the strangest double bills I’ve yet mustered, and I have to slot in Before Midnight somewhere as well which is getting ‘one of the films of the year’ level reportage. But for now let’s get started with a few drinks;
Under The Volcano (1984) – This was quite a shock, despite being a big John Huston fan and even having read of biography on him around a decade ago I’d never heard of this, poured during this retrospectively interesting twilight phase of his career (see also the strange Wise Blood) which begin back in the 1940’s with the The Maltese Falcon, The Asphalt Jungle, The African Queen, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre and other numerous classics. This is sweating in its entirety on YouTube but I think I’ll rent the disk and give this a proper viewing, just from the write-up it sounds like an ideal Peckinpah companion piece to the likes of Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia or The Getaway. Which takes us nicely from an authorial standpoint to this;
After Dark My Sweet (1990)- I do pride myself on my credentials when it comes to Film Noir and Neo-Noir, so yes I have heard and indeed seen this James Foley adaption of a nasty little Jim Thompson bruiser. Of the later cycle of lipstick smeared femme fatales, stupid & sleazy con-men, urban spiritual malaise and the greedy moral abyss of post-war capitalism this is one of the best, alongside the likes of The Last Seduction, One False Move or The Grifters.
Fearless (1993) – I’ve mentioned this before, one of the great unrated films of the 1990’s, with a career defining turn from Bridges despite his more visible turns in Starman, Liebowski and more recently True Grit. It’s interesting that Richard Kelly selected this as it shares something of an ambivalent and conflicted central character as his initial smash Donnie Darko, not to mention a plane crash serving as the inciting incident. After the patchy successes of 2010’s The Way Back Weir’s career seems to have returned to hibernation, a shame as I guess we’ll never see that Pattern Recognition adaption now. To be fair whilst it’s a great Gibson it already feels a decade out of date….
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) – I’d have opted for the shiver inducing Clownhouse myself if we’re going to reach for the Coulrophobia weapon, the subsequent sordid history of that film’s director alone is a terrifying thought. Killer Klowns however has its own devoted breed of fucked up fans, like other 1980’s horror fare – The Ghoulies, Gremlins, Street Trash, Basket Case, Reanimator – you do get some films which are indistinctly subversive of the genre and society which bred them, hence the seizure by some rabid fans – its only (un)natural. It’s not one of my favourites and I don’t remember a great deal of it to be honest but I’ll give it another whirl of the carousel for old times sake, I’m hoping it has something of a lurking dreadful sense of dark humor plastered underneath that elongated face paint and rainbow of colourful costumes…..
The Swimmer (1968) – I smirked when I saw this on the list, this is one of those strangely neglected gems which very rarely comes up for air. A personal project of Burt Lancaster it is the middle-aged companion piece to The Graduate which takes that upper middle-class sun-kissed Connecticut lifestyle and gives it a satirical dunking, with the titular and existential stranded swimmer having no option to reach home other than traversing through the backyard pools of his affluent neighbours.
L’Ange (1983) – I’ll confess this is another new one for me, I guess I just ain’t up to speed with my French experimental avant-garde texts. A time, a place and a requisite mood help to indulge yourself in this type of unorthodox material, but I think you have to keep your horizons broad and digesting such unusual and perhaps challenging feasts does feed the understanding of what can be done with moving images, their collusion with sound and uneasy partnership with the ubiquitous two-dimensional rectangular portal.
Ivans XTC (2000) – I think I may have touched on this before, possibly the most vicious take on Hollywood moral quagmire since Sunset boulevard, it’s certainly got more of a polished razor’s sheen than Altman’s The Player inflicted on the hands that feeds. Directed by Bernard Rose – he of Candyman and Paperhouse cult credentials – this has bitter and arrogant executive Danny Huston, himself a scion of Tinseltown royalty experiencing all his so-called friends and colleagues abandoning him as he contracts a terminal disease. Relentless and unforgiving, you’ll never want to eat lunch in this town again….
Breaking Away (1973) – Growing up with a cycling mad brother it was inevitable that I’d suddenly screech across this, one of the great coming-of-age teenage movies which could possibly be up there with Stand By Me. Funny, poignant, and direct in the telling, it also has one of the all time great jump cut gags which only makes sense if you’ve seen the film and understand the father character, regardless it’s a genius moment of comedy which actor Paul Dooley still gets fans quoting to him on the street. This sepia kissed genre has recently had a minor resurgence with Sundance smash The Kings Of Summer which has just opened in limited screens in the States, of course a certain Man Of Steel has unfortunately annihilated its chances at box office supremacy. Still, that’s one of the films of the year so if you have the means and temperament then support some independent cinema for a change, and monitor your local listings.
The Trial (1962) – It also strikes me as odd having two Welles movies on the list, sure F Is For Fake was notoriously difficult to see prior to the proliferation of the Internet with bootlegs and rare prints being digitally archived, but The Trial was widely available and showed on TV here in the UK a few times, and surely any Welles film would be on the cinemaeastes radar given that he, y’know, directed the widely accepted greatest film of all time from the 1950’s until 2012? In any case this has a curious serendipity as F Is For Fake is screening at the BFI in August which I may attend, before then we have another Welles screening tomorrow so he’s currently on my radar, cinematically speaking. His version of The Trial is a marvelously dense piece, both visually and dramatically, with a wonderfully European flavoured cast (Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider) – which befits its Cold War / Iron Curtain dimensions. An exhaustive documentary on arguably Welles last masterpiece here, I’ll just luxuriate in that deep focus framing seen above in the opening scene.
Trouble In Paradise (1932) – And finally another shameful omission by yours truly. I’ve never really gravitated to the Ernst Lubitsch champagne fizzing film frivolities, like Renoir he’s an early golden era director whose importance and influence I can certainly appreciate – the Rom-Com wouldn’t exist without Lubitsch or the subsequent careers of Preston Sturges and Woody Allen as we know them – but I do find the canyons of history and different cinematic styles, dialogue and social constructions quite difficult to overcome and thus enjoy his films on their own, period specific merits. It’s the arch theatrical acting, the (by our contemporary standards) unfunny gags and the gilded, opulent lives of the bourgeoise which obstruct me in giving a fuck about these privileged numbskulls, during he great depression and the imminent rise of Hitler one assumed they’d have slightly more serious things to worry about – the more things change etc. eh? Nevertheless one strives to widen one’s boundaries and I shall give this a visit and see if Bogdanovich is on the money, but I have to say I have sporadically been revisiting some Renoir such as La Grande Illusion in a similar vein and they really don’t connect at all….
In William Gibson’s 2003 novel Pattern Recognition a mysteriously binary filmmaker slowly and anonymously drip feeds footage of his homebrew masterpiece to an eagerly seduced audience of intellectually curious, avant-garde aligned internet film fanatics. Christened as a ‘garage Kubrick’ by the fictional on-line community this was prescience as normal from Gibson, as a year later filmmaker Shane Carruth released his paradoxical puzzler Primer, a film he had written, directed, edited, acted, produced and scored for an infinitesimally small sum, mostly capturing his doppelgänger debut on the off-cuts and donations from industrial and corporate sources. An instant cult classic the films time travel programming and unconventional disregard for plot progressions has fostered a deluge of debate on its contortions and purpose, with every year seeing the electronic publication of a new workflow to interrogate its syncretic structure, each of which increasingly resembling an IED assault on a PowerPoint presentation. Almost a decade later and Carruth has finally completed his sophomore sequencing, releasing the eagerly awaited Upstream Color to a simultaneously bewildered and beatific audience, through a production process that exemplifies the 21st century. There has been much cultural speculation that the advance of the internet and so-called digital emancipation would hand the keys of production to the public and wrestle it away from the corporate clutches of international finance, with the committed and cerebral able to digitally shoot their own projects with increasingly inexpensive cameras, cut them on bespoke editing platforms, score them in synthetic lap-top studios , and crucially distribute them electronically through social media platforms, maybe even funding their uncompromised visions through Kick-Starter and other emerging funding streams, with crews recruited from Craiglist. Although some filmmakers have adopted some of the techniques in that production chain of command no-one has fully embraced (or been pushed) more fully into that process than Carruth given the frustrations he suffered with the development of his abandoned project A Topiary, and these frustrations seems to have infected his work as Upstream Color operates on a panoply of meta and thematic levels, as either a mercurial masterpiece or pretension personified.
The film has a plot of sorts which doesn’t web together in an immediately lucid fashion, it’s just that Carruth isn’t particularly interested in telling a story as he is in materializing the Xerox of the story, subjecting the viewer to the same disorienting mind state as the two central characters, or more accurately ciphers. What we can discern is this – Kris (a brittle Amy Seimetz) is a office worker in a vaguely creative design or animation field, aimlessly shifting through a nameless American urban suburb. In a scenario which resembles a date-rape Kris is assaulted by a mysterious figure who inserts a bioengineered caecilian into her esophagus, an intrusion which renders her in a brainwashed and highly suggestible mindstate, and the ‘thief’ and her return to her identikit home. After signing away her life savings and assets to the nematode grifter she is drawn to the ‘sampler’ (Andrew Sensenig), a second intangible figure who is performing some strange auditorial field recordings of stone on metal, of brick on wood, out in the wilderness on the outskirts of civilisation. After an unexplained transfusion is conducted between Kris and one of the pigs that the Sampler is harvesting on his eerie farm we flash forward a year as a hesitant romance blossoms between Kris and Jeff (Carruth), he having endured a similar experience, as they both suffer a glitch in their lives and attempt to uncover the mystery of their contemporary lives.
There was a great Roger Ebert quote circulating after his sad passing , that ‘it’s not what a film’s about but how it is about it’, a statement that once unpacked can be thoroughly attributed to Upstream Colors disorienting design and infectious purpose. In this mechanistic narrative a ghost has possessed the machine, with human beings absorbed into the data set as another manipulated cog in the Sisyphean revolutions of daily society. Channelling early Cronenberg with shadows of Eraserhead’s nervous anxieties it’s a experimental work which is sure to divide audiences, given its transparent disregard for plot or narrative cohesion, as Kris and Jeff are locked in a symbiotic psychosis, malfunctioning protagonists deprogrammed as glitch. Through a densely rich visual environment there is a fascination with the beauty of replicating organisms and how organic spheres elide to our manufactured and sterile work places and cities, our species urgent to exert control over visible chaos. The gynaecology is simple to divine, from the man-machine of Chaplin’s Modern Times to The Tree of Life’s 21st century hymn to the complexities and mysteries of life on this planet, Upstream Color is the echo warning that we’ve veered from the path of the sacred, into the proliferation of nullified personalities and of animated machimina.
The medium is the message, a bewildering collusion of image and sound, elliptically edited like the repetitive push pauses of a Attention Deficit Disordered cerebellum, dialogue is phrased and repeated, and Kris and Jeff’s memories even merge and coalesce in a digital stew. The film isn’t completely indeciphersible nor is it completely alienating, movements and tempos in the narrative are signposted with discrete fades to black which signal the conclusion of a sequence, it has the aura of our distanced and surfaced times, the paradox of an interconnected and global aligned world resulting in higher temperatures of disconnect and mental malfunctions, with recitation and fragments collapsing the database of our memories and emotions. Every sequence seems to be spinning its head from side to side in a scan for potential predators, transmitting the bare minimum of information through a pacity of dialogue (the film has no speech in its final fifteen minutes), as the next algorithm stacks up in the films cache table, a malfunctioning malware which is CPU infected at the core. The presence of Henry David Thoreau anarchistic credo is one tumbler in the toolset to decipher some of the films wider drives, his work serving as a manifesto of return to a less industrialised purity, this suggests that the Thief may be a liberator not a plunderer, another of the films interpretative free-floating signifiers. Carruth’s repeated shallow focus framing concertinas the z-axis depth of field which surreptitiously visualizes the films coding , mirroring our absorption in the screens in our homes, on our commutes and in our corporate dronehouses, a calculated effect that squares the algorithms of the films editing patterns, it’s photochemical surface, the heuristic performances and obsolesce of the conventions of plot or narrative clearance.
As the films composer Carruth revealed to his dumbstruck Q&A audience how his original soundtrack developed as the material was visualised, with pieces ejected and repurposed for scenes and sequences as the film moved through its phased evolution, it moves to the rhythm of its soundtrack as opposed to the narrative logistics of tradition cinema, the deprogrammed protagonists paralysed like two whales beached on the oceans of the information superhighway, emitting a mournful electronica fog-horn mating call. Some mysteries remain obtuse and ill-defined – what is the significance of the children in the opening cycle? For what purpose are the Samplers field recordings? – but these and other ambiguities accelerate Upstream Colors processing prowess, as like Primer it is destined for a tsunami of translations and deconstructions of its anodic glyphs, destined for detailed diagnostics of its incredible, molten achievements – a phenomenal film concerned with phenomena;
And so another festival comes to a close, my Sundance virginity finally vanquished. Overall the festival was impeccably executed, all the public screenings projected in state of the art environments with attentive and committed audiences, all featuring debate and discussion with talent and filmmakers to discuss the movies after the screenings. The quality of material was also very high, sure a few movies were fairly average but there wasn’t one bad film that I caught on the programme, and believe me after doing this reviewing nonsense for a few years that is almost unique in my experience. As a platform for highlighting new and emerging talent it can’t be beaten, and three of the movies here may well be sitting on my annual top ten come December.
I’m not proud of it but I ducked out of the screening of In Fear, I do my best in supporting UK productions but I received a voicemail after the previous screening which forced me to set my weary bones homeward to exploit a potential opportunity with the day job, and homework needed to be done. In any case it was ideal to leave the festival on a high after a fantastic screening of The Kings Of Summer;
All I knew of this was that it was a comedy, and it had kids in it, I didn’t even watch the trailer despite posting it here. Let me be clear and I can’t stress this enough, this is an absolutely brilliant movie which is completely hilarious, it demands to be seen when it gets a release later in the year. Nick Offerman as a quietly furious father attempts to steal the movie but that accolade rests with the almighty Biaggio, an instant cult classic character, just recalling some of his schtick has been grinning like a demented loony. For shorthand sakes you could consider it a 21st century Stand By Me, funny and gently moving, it avoids all the pitfalls that could potentially hobble it – a mawkish voiceover, life lessons learned through a sepia toned melancholy – instead it’s one of those films that you’re genuinely sad to see go when it reaches its perfect conclusion. I’ll get cracking on full reviews of it and Mud, and the second viewing of Upstream Color was bafflingly brilliant, it raised more questions than it answers the second time around…..
Just in case you missed it, here’s my review of No which I caught at last years LFF and which opens today in the UK, I went in completely sight unseen I didn’t know anything about it other than it was set in South America and had that Gabriel-Garcia chap in it. I was very pleasantly surprised at a very contemporary political drama, and a compelling historical archive as well;
The cornerstone achievement that this years BFI Hitchcock season pivots upon is the restoration of nine early silent films, from The Ring to Champagne, from The Pleasure Garden to The Manxman these precursor movies are not only an instructive look at the development of one of the greatest directors to have blessed the art form, but also essential shards of the UK’s early film history and her infant studios technical prowess. It amuses me that writers and commentators refer to these films as Hitchcock’s early period , as Easy Virtue is no less than the portly ones 23rd picture (if you include the duo two reelers in that constitution as a full movie), although alas all but five of those films have been forever lost due to the criminal attitude to film preservation at the beginning of the business, with only fragments, singular reels and stills remaining of the mourned eighteen movies that have been cast into the midst of time. When I started this season I did want to manage as broad a panoply of material as possible, straddling the silents to the UK talkies, then on to the American period and his last few curios, alas I haven;t been quite as equitable as I’d liked as we enter the final stretch but I did manage one of the silents, the 1927 screen adaption of a Noel Coward play, the suggestively titled Easy Virtue.
Screening with a live musical accompaniment from Stephen Horne Easy Virtue is one of Hitchcock’s first films with a female lead – Isabel Jeans stars as Larita Filton, a young woman of dubious prudence due to her very scandalous divorce case, her drunk husband causing a scandal when he fought with her male companion who had been providing a shoulder to cry on. But it’s a man’s world and no matter whom is responsible for the marriage’s disintegration her reputation amongst genteel society is soiled, as soon as the highly publicised case is finished she flees the country with the press snapping at her heels, and attempts to establish a new life in France where she hopes to be immune from the damaging scandal. Life however has other plans and Larita meets and falls for John Whittaker (Robin Irvine), a charismatic young dandy and they embark on a whirlwind romance, swiftly marry and Larita joins his rich, well to do upper middle class family back in the UK. John’s family and his mother in particular is very suspicious of Larita, certain that they recognize her from somewhere irritably indefinable. Will Larita eventually be welcomed in the bosom of her new extended family with open arms, or will the family discover her secret and shameful past?
The restoration process is fascinating to me, with painstaking patience and dedication the BFI sanctioned technical team faced their most difficult challenge with Easy Virtue as no 35mm print exists and the master is long gone, so the only source materials they had to build the picture was from 16mm projection prints, all of which were of a significantly degraded quality with occasional fragmented and abridged sequences. Running a slight 69 minutes from a projected original elapse of 94 minutes, and after pulling in existing prints from around the world – Australia, the Netherlands, America – this was the longest and most comprehensive current version of the film possible, unless further material turns up in some foreign film collective or through a private collectors generosity. Print damage of a general wear and tear nature was repaired, the larger challenge was addressing the underlying picture quality and resolution on the 16mm print which had faded over the intervening eighty years. Considering the health warning we were given during the introduction by silent film curator Byrony Dixon I was expecting a difficult watch but this was perfectly and clearly enjoyable, there are shifts in quality as the film marches on from scene to scene to be sure but it’s not too distracting, you can clearly see the images and follow the tale of this woman struggling against the confines of polite society. The team also commissioned and created new intertitle inserts, using the original fonts and text from the existing stills library of the film.
In Easy Virtue you can detect the nuclei of things to come, the DNA of subsequent themes and obsessions, like an archeologist excavating the ruins of some ancient template the film elides ancient treasures which herald the further development of a crucial and hungry talent. The film opens with yet another revolutionary POV shot where the trial judge lifts a monocle to his eye, an effect replicated by a three-foot diameter glass sheet being made and replicating the eyepiece being erected over the camera plane of focus – inventive and surreal as always. In fact the film it littered with POV shots – quite a unusual employment of now standard issue film grammar – but its the narrative that lurks in the mind, concerning a fallen woman and her reputational shame, a foreign romance and disapproving family, the film is like a mute older cousin of Rebecca or The Paradine Case, Notorious or Suspicion. There are also a few flashes of humor of an unmistakable vintage – the necking horses, the telephone operators facial reactions to the call she is clandestinely eavesdropping upon – with a judiciary and jury of peers hostile to our heroine, the perennial outsider of Hitchcock’s films adrift in a cruel and indifferent world. It’s not often I see a silent movie at the big screen, truth be told I can probably count the number of times this has happened on the fingers of one hand, but they are fascinating to watch as a primitive precursor of all that was to come, the bedrock of modern cinema and its modes of storytelling, I must really try harder. Here is some further background on the painstaking restoration process;
Been wondering what music video maestro Chris Cunningham’s been up to? Here’s your answer although beware, it will make you speculate upon a darker future where he’s still at the helm of the Neuromancer adapation;
I would very much like to see him live, I wonder if he’s still performing….
So, just for old times sake, here’s that charming Aphex Twin video, sweet dreams….
Off to the BFI tonight for a members preview of the LFF where I shall be bemoaning the lack of The Master or the new Malick – Jesus, I knew he had three movies on the go but now there’s four? – before more Hitchcock of the avian variety. No rest for the wicked eh?…
Hmm, so now it’s 5 minute trailers then eh?
After the clusterfuck of the Matrix sequels and Speed Racer it’s curious to see the Wachowski’s back after a long exodus, and I have to say that this looks fairly impressive, albeit a bit syrupy and conflicted, they’ve got quite a task ahead of them in melding numerous threads together into a coherent, collected whole. There’s far too many shades of The Fountain for my liking, and director Tom Tykwer has been patchy at best since his urgent breakthrough Run Lola Run, Perfume was lightly fragrant, The International….erm….less so. I’ve read the book but remember little of it, so I’m not a die-hard fan who will have problems with any necessary page to screen compressions or changes, but after discussing this in the pub this evening I understand it has its fanatic fans so good luck to it, some of that future world imagery did tickle my fancy. What’s that? Keith ‘Childs‘ David’s in it? Oh, OK then, sold….
Another one bites the dust. No doubt the obituaries will be full of acclaim for his roles in the likes of Johnny Guitar, Bad Day At Black Rock, The Wild Bunch and of course his Oscar win for Marty – and quite rightly so – but for me he’ll always be Cabbie;
Here he is two months ago, talking about the movie. He looks pretty good to me, for a 95 year old;
Looks like he had a pretty good sense of humor as well….
Just thought I’d quickly pop in here and recommend that if you’re free you should catch Wendy & Lucy which is screening on Film 4 here in the UK this evening, you may recall that it featured as one of my favourite films of the year a while back, I’m looking forward to giving it another viewing;
More exultingly, if that’s the right word, is the screening of Kelly Reichardt’s earlier film River Of Grass which follows in the early hours of the morning, after catching over a hundred movies over the past couple of months of which I conservatively estimate that 80% of which is revisits of stuff I’ve already seen it’s nice to have something fresh to look forward to for a bloody change……
Like a receding dream disintegrating in the rays of a warm sunrise it all seems so long ago that I embarked on my most exhaustive and ambitious strand of film coverage that I’ve congregated in almost six years of blogging, to merge with the month-long BFI retrospective of David Lynch’s four decade career with a mirror season here at the Menagerie. Unfortunately my unanticipated injury has somewhat disrupted the momentum I had built toward the last film INLAND EMPIRE which I didn’t manage to see again at the cinema, so this final post should draw a veil over this detailed and lengthy enterprise with a collection of thoughts on his last movie and a few other snippets I have collected over the past couple of months, it’s helped me sail through 50,000 hits to this site and I’ve been rewarded with a handful of new subscribers, if you find footage like this as mesmerizingly amusing as I do then you’re in the right place;
Just to briefly alight on Lynch’s final movie from 2006 INLAND EMPIRE is very much a companion piece to Mulholland Drive given its fractious approach to characterization, with its squirming around the Hollywood dream factory and a playful tampering with elusive and slippery psychological conceits, like the stuttering, erratic needle grinding across that onyx vinyl it is a seductive, circular whirlpool of a film that once more drags us down the rabbit hole;
As I said in my original review it remains a staggering film, both with its extended 3 hours plus run-time, its unnerving visual, aural and textural alignments, its surface impenetrability affording repeat viewings and amorphous interpretations, the experimental formula potentially signalling a remake or re-imagining of its Siamese sister film which is as much about cinema and how stories are constructed, about how tales are told through the Tinseltown paradigm as it is the story of one (?) woman’s descent and fall. That said I am sympathetic to the opinion (see here) that the fluidity and freedom that digital shooting afforded Lynch has resulted in a unfocused, deleterious mess that doesn’t match the nightmare precision of Mulholland Drive or Blue Velvet, frankly it is a little self-indulgent (you could snip out 30 minutes and not lose much in the way of narrative complexity or overall effect) but like the best of Lynch’s most earnest dream films it will continue to warp and mature with time, like all the richest artefacts. Lynch was particularly aggravated that Laura Dern didn’t get an Academy nomination for her complex performance and took to the streets in an unusual bovine themed protest – some amusing footage here – and despite his embrace of new technologies there are some shifts in the cultural contract that he is famously less enamoured with – well said sir, well said.
In terms of other material here is the other core short movie The Cowboy & The Frenchmen which is loved amongst some aficionados, here is a lengthy and text heavy treatise on The Straight Story which is nevertheless worth a read, in terms of comprehensive coverage here is a link to the loathed On The Air (it is awful and is for masochistic completists’ only, although it does gel with Mulholland by having two starry-eyed actresses named Betty and Rita looking to make it big in the business of show) and below is a video introduction to perhaps his most detailed endeavour since 2006, the Interview Project which you can consider here and here;
I’ve enormously enjoyed putting these reviews together and hunting down the associated mellifluous material, working through a favourite directors career sequentially is quite an illuminating process which harvests new appreciations and dimensions to a filmmaker whom I quite arrogantly thought there was little more for me to learn about. Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet I think are his unvarnished masterpieces although every single film of his career is worthy of deep analysis and semi-frequent revisits, my appreciation of Fire Walk With Me has certainly expanded and that’s probably the best film post I’ve mustered so far this year. So let’s close this mammoth menagerie mission with a damn fine tribute to the mysterious and maleficently magnificent movies of one of the greatest film directors of the past forty years, and let’s pray that he finally gets the funds together to birth just one more smoke drenched, blazing phantasm to crown his disorienting career;
Another great double bill at the BFI, although the former was a little disappointing the second was quite an experience, with a great atmosphere in the sold out auditorium. Eerie, scratchy prints and I also spied a certain Danny Leigh looking quite amused. A short reminder;
I’m three reviews behind now – next week should be hectic….and this is, well it’s something;
I was waiting for a trailer before potentially bringing this to your attention, as one doesn’t seem to be forthcoming let’s go with a clip from the movie;
As you can imagine, the prospect of a documentary on The Shining was warmly welcomed around these parts, I was however a little disappointed to see it would focus on some of the wilder translations and readings that have coalesced around the masterpiece over the past thirty-two years. The Native Americans metaphor is perfectly valid and correct, and has been mused upon and considered in light of the original references in the source novel and the fairly obvious littering of indigenous American symbols, icons and portraits throughout the films mise-en-scene, heck the fact that the Overlook repelled a few attacks during its construction is mentioned by Ullman in an early scene. It’s most of the other psuedo-conspiracy theories which are clearly absurdly mentalist, such as the numerology stuff (e.g. today is the 30th January 2012 , 30+1+2012 = 2043, 2 times 3 times 7=42 and OMG 42 minus 2043 is 2001, we’ve matched A Space Odyssey!! Get with the programme sheeple!!) and the truly insane Moon landing hoax stuff which really doesn’t warrant a single second of serious speculation. Then again, maybe that’s the documentaries main point, to look at the crazies and loonies that gravitate to the deeply embedded symbols and designs in Stan’s work, all of which were intended but seem to be translated or absorbed in quite different ways – the eye of the beholder and all that eh? As mentioned before Stan loathed ever explaining ‘what he meant’ in a film and that’s because he never meant his work to be that obvious, he just used every conceivable aspect of a film’s production and technique to craft a piece of art, then the onus was on the viewer to make of it what they would, or indeed could – send in the clowns;
It’s always the same with these theories, they take fragments of the truth – in this case a NASA sourced lens which he did utilise for Barry Lyndon and some pioneering special effects, and then leap into the abyss of total paranoid insanity. Here’s some more meanderings, here’s one of the more amusing deconstructions which I imagine emerged from a lonely apartment which is choked with notebooks akin to John Doe’s charming domicile in Se7en, and I thought I was obsessed with the great mans work – I was particularly amused at the counting of 21 pieces of mail in the hotel lobby and this being numerically significant, ‘all work and no play’ indeed….obligitory meme here;
My original 2009 review here, slightly amended but some of the links will probably be borked. So that’s another Kubrick fix out of the way, I’ll move on to some slightly more heartwarming fare tomorrow – Eraserhead.