Saturday, 31 August 2013

R Is For... Rabbit (2005)

From http://www.animateonline.org/stillsfull/rabbit01.jpg

Dir: Run Wrake

Another short. I remember learning about this one from a television program which showed clips from various British made short films, mostly all animated in some form to my memory. If there one good thing about the British film culture, short films, while not getting enough attention they deserve, do still get some. They are/were shown on non-cable TV, are available online, and in some cases are shown before films at certain cinemas. What they need now is some sense that they can be just as significant and powerful as feature length films, and this already existing structure would help bring a potential renaissance in short form animation and live action works. The quality of the shorts themselves  depend on each short individually, but the following from the late director is a great example of what they can be like.

Review Link - http://www.videotapeswapshop.co.uk/15835/r-is-for-rabbit-2005-director-run-wrake/

From http://pivot.glenbow.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Rabbit-3_2005-Run-Wrake6.jpg

Q Is For… Quattro Volte, Le (2010)

From http://www.newwavefilms.co.uk/assets/directory/49/Le_quattro_volte_quad_vs5.jpg

Dir: Michelangelo Frammartino

I have fond memories of viewing this the first time. I was lucky enough to see this at the cinema at the Showroom in Sheffield. Unfortunately my geographical location means that I have to watch most of my non-mainstream cinema at home on DVD. The availability of this sort of non-studio cinema outside of metropolitan areas or large, middle class cultural centers is disappointing. It has probably forced a lot of film viewers living out of these areas to have to find these areas through DVD, streaming, import or even illegally, thus denting the potential cinema box office for these films. And it could seem snobbish to say this, but in most cases the best films are even not the blockbusters, or even the indie American films released by the studios but the films like Le Quattro Volte, which means that unfortunately people couldn't say that their best films for that year where seen on a big screen. 

Thankfully, despite the prices and time that have to be dealt with for me to go to the Showroom for one day, I've managed to see some great films there. In fact nearly every film has been great, the rarity of going there meaning I go when I desperately want to see something, or has been a memorable moment. I saw Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers (2009) there. This has even more importance to it since, viewing it with an older brother who doesn't watch art cinema let alone knew what he was expecting, we had a lengthy debate all the way back to his apartment that, even if he was offended by the film, was constructive and led to us bonding over the idea of someone, somewhere, humping a bin in the city at the same time. I saw Uncle Boonmie Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010), the film this post is about, Holy Motors (2012), and at the beginning of this year, Bullhead (2011). Its also where I've had my only experience of a film festival, seeing two films at last year's Sheffield Documentary Festival, one of which was where I saw Planet of Snail (2011). Not only a great documentary from South Korea, but the experience taught me an important lesson, when shaking the director Yi Seung-jun's hand but baffling him with my thoughts on what I saw, that the viewer can over interpret a film or a creation when the creator's view on it was so much more upfront in it already. This causes one to ask whether film critics have the same problem, and the realization, alongside given me a hilarious anecdote I can look back on fondly, really helps with viewing cinema even as a hobby without having to write an amateur review about it. Even if all the other films I saw were terrible, this moment would make those rare trips to the Showroom completely worth it.

And with that, it adds a great deal of fondness to viewing this film over and over again. But Le Quattro Volte certainly holds up incredibly well even if these memories were separated from it.

Review Link - http://www.videotapeswapshop.co.uk/15966/q-is-for-quattro-volte-le-2010-director-michelangelo-frammartino/

From http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-6dkR9rBSSdw/TaOEyB943bI/
AAAAAAAAIFI/RS4dXYmN1Sg/s400/lequattrovolte2.jpg

Friday, 30 August 2013

Mini-Review: Yellow Sky (1948)

From http://annyas.com/screenshots/images/1948/yellow-sky-title-still.jpg
Dir. William A. Wellman

After a group of outlaws, led by Gregory Peck, rob a small town bank, they escape through into a barren desert wasteland. It sets up a great deal of promise to keep for the black-and-white shot western. A great amount of time is spent with just these characters at first. The actors - Peck, Richard Widmark, Robert Arthur, John Russell, Harry Morgan and Charles Kemper - have a good repartee, already established that the outlaws can easily gun other down if pushed to it. The lifeless landscape emphasises the great cinematography on display in the film and the use of locations, as the journey to an unknown place is physically felt. One of the biggest virtues of the western, in any country's cinema or language, is that it requires the use of landscape outside of human comfort, giant rock formations for characters to hide behind in shoot-outs, vast desert plains, and grand valleys that are silent and overbearing. Geo-formations that are as much part of the characters as well as the natural landscape. Unlike how Meek's Cutoff (2010) forgot to use the land halfway through to depict the characters' minds physically, the straight forward western, at its best visually, uses the landscapes to emphasise the actions and journeys of the characters onscreen. Eventually the outlaws almost halfway through encounter an abandoned ghost town called Yellow Sky. Lifeless, the dilapidated saloon and buildings set up what could be a very good film.

It has some flaws. It suffers from being too talky. While its idea of the conflicting relationship between the outlaws and the two remaining people there, an old prospector and his granddaughter (James Barton and Anne Baxter), engages immensely, it over depends on dramatic scenes of dialogue to the point of padding its runtime too much. Also annoyingly it drifts away from what is the most interesting aspect of Yellow Sky, the granddaughter, nicknamed Mike, being a tomboy who can handle a rifle, who shows no interest in the males, and can knock Peck off his feet with a strong right hook. The relationship between her and the lustful outlaws gets very uncomfortable, surprisingly sexual and going for discomforting moments that stick out considering the Hays Code would be in full effect at the time. The sexual tension is palpable, Mike threatened but still able to exhibit a toughness liable to take down any of the outlaws. It is only because there are many of them, pressuring the two occupants of the town for a stash of gold, that she and her grandfather are in danger, with only the "Indians" that arrive at one point being stronger than anyone else. It's a shame however she is not this character to the end. Mike stands out because of Baxter's performance and prescience, so it hurts a great deal that once the end credits finish Mike will be shoved into a dress, and be expected to be respectable and "feminine". Even in terms of placing it in the period it was made, there are American film noirs that, even if they could be killed or arrested, had femme fatales, in dresses or not, who stood toe-to-toe with the males by the end with no changes to their personality. It makes Yellow Sky disappointing in this area.

Still, the film is good despite its flaw. Despite being padded in drama, enough of the dialogue scenes feel like they are worth their existence in the narrative. It's very much a great ensemble cast working well together; even if Peck stands out as the matinee idol he's surrounded by a cast on equal grounds to him. Its visually rich and the narrative reaches a good conclusion even despite the problems depicting Mike. It is not up there with the best of the classic American western, my personal canon still needing to be developed, but it makes a solid inclusion for one of the earlier entries within it.

From http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l221n6T6NU1qavi9wo1_500.jpg

Thursday, 29 August 2013

P Is For...The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

From http://magnoliaforever.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/the-phantom-of-liberty.jpg

Dir. Luis Buñuel

It took many years for me to finally appreciate Buñuel as a film director, but I wouldn't have been surprised if I liked this film back when I thought he was overrated. It may have helped me love his films a lot more earlier. This and his autobiography My Last Breath would have helped me admire his craft immensely. In terms of my favorite of the director's, The Milky Way (1969) is his best for me so far, but this is just behind it. It does reach back the furthest to his origins in the Surrealistic art movement; research his past especially a project involving a giraffe and it makes a lot of the moments in this, including his obsession with strange bird life, even more significant. Its absurdity and sketch-like nature does make it an interesting film in his filmography in that it can both be seen as a very accessible movie and yet still difficult because Buñuel's sense of sketch comedy is completely dry and acidic. 


Review Link - http://www.videotapeswapshop.co.uk/15354/p-is-for-the-phantom-of-liberty-1974-director-luis-bunuel/


From http://imageshack.us/a/img571/3017/thephantomoflibertyavi0.jpg

O Is For...Orpheus (1950)

From http://images.moviepostershop.com/orphee-movie-poster-1949-1020143787.jpg
Dir. Jean Cocteau

Another classic film covered for this series. In digging through the canonised films for this topic, I've realised how a lot of them do stay distinct and legitimately subversive still all these decades. Orpheus is a dreamlike fantasy, but it still feels completely unique all these years later. It proves how talented Jean Cocteau was.


From http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mebpqo5S6D1rib0hxo1_400.jpg

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Mini-Review: Meek's Cutoff (2010)

From http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-8IWl9sRMnB4/Tvls-09fCCI/AAAAAAAAahk/QskTg1L-p2g/s566/Meek%2527s%2BCutoff%2BDVD.JPG

Dir. Kelly Reichardt

1845. On the Oregon trail westward, two families are on a pilgrimage across the untamed American landscape to a new civilisation. They follow the advice of a bold stranger Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), who guides them across the trail only for it to become clear that they are lost with dwindling amounts of water and food available to survive. When they encounter  a lone Native American, the families against Meek's desires use him as a new guide. But their relationships are breaking down, they have no idea if there are any more Native Americans in the desert around them, creating paranoia, and they don't know if they'll reach anything.

The film has promise. A female director taking on a typically masculine genre in the western. Three core female characters - Michelle Williams, Shirley Henderson and Zoe Kazan - Williams the most distinct if just for the fact that she is willing to lift up a rifle with intent. Stripped of the tropes of the genre in favour of a minimalist drama. It baffles at first, but the beginning half suggest something special. Very minimalistic. Little dialogue. Stunning shots of western frontier desert, barren but evoking. Reichardt name checks Nanook of the North (1922), one of the first momentous documentaries in cinema's history, and the first half consists of the actors working on everyday tasks as they travel, promising a journey which draws you into a trance-like tone of these activities against the participants asking each other if they will ever get to their goal or die. Moments in the first part visually almost become abstract, mistaking the core cast far away as mirages or ghosts.

When the Native American character is introduced and the film becomes more dynamic in story, it sadly becomes a bad drama. I suspect Meek's Cutoff would still be as flimsy on another viewing. It has no tension with what will happen to the characters, their potential deaths or paranoia of Native Americans attacking them in the night never having a sense of real fear or suffocation. The visual potency of the landscape is dropped in favour of a lacking narrative where it feels its cast - including Paul Dano - are just going off a story that feels lifeless. It never feels like the viewer should concern themselves with the group falling to pieces, and both the mundanely of doing tasks and the potential feminist tone are not used at all by its final. Worse is its attempt at being profound. The setting evokes the concepts of "Manifest Destiny", conquering land presumed to be there for white colonists, but never feels like a fully evocative look at it. It's too slight for it to tackle the historical issues of the time subtly, and the scenes with monologues, like Meek saying women are chaos and men are destruction, feel useless attempts at profundity within the structure around them to be significant and linger in your thoughts. The ending is anti-climatic in a terrible way, finishing abruptly. It was support to, clearly, leave the viewer thinking, but for me felt like an ending wasn't written at all. By the end of Meek's Cutoff, there is nothing said in it of worth, of mood, historical analysis, even a good drama. Its actors in period garb  in a film which squanders it promise. Neither does it dissect the western in a profound way like an actual western film could.

From http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-LJXCpD6pskw/TkcQKzC24_I/AAAAAAAADng/czA8e_7MsKk/s400/Meeks.Cutoff.LIMITED.DVDRip.XviD-DoNE.avi_snapshot_00.19.10_%255B2011.08.13_16.59.06%255D.jpg

Monday, 26 August 2013

N Is For...Night of the Living Dead (1968)

From http://www.cinemasterpieces.com/92010a/night3.jpg
Dir. George A. Romero

A legendary film. And its amazing to think that its lead to zombie board games having their own stand in my local Waterstones bookstore when the origins of it is a film this sober and deathly serious. So much has happened in this form of horror cinema - Italian interpretations, porn versions, shot-on-video films in someone's backyard, and any profession being zombified - that to see its beginning is to see a film from an entirely different reality, something unique again when other films and pop culture have taken its ideas in such drastically different directions. For such a small movie, its done a lot for the history of the entirety of horror let alone cinema.

Review Link - http://www.videotapeswapshop.co.uk/16107/n-is-for-night-of-the-living-dead-1968-director-george-a-romero/

From http://johndodge.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/livingdead.jpg

M Is For...Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

From http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_xCykdpQhXe8/TA4b4AktfqI/AAAAAAAAL-g/NtoS15tafKM/s400/maya+deren.bmp
Dirs. Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid

A short review for a short film. Short films deserve to be included in this series as well, especially one as important as this.

Review Link - http://www.videotapeswapshop.co.uk/15844/m-is-for-meshes-of-the-afternoon-1943-director-maya-deren/

From http://old.dokument-festival.cz/files/zk_pictures_232_1422_e0c685d9.jpg

Sunday, 25 August 2013

One Screen Distortion Makes You L-A-R-G-E-R [*Corpus Callosum (2002)]

From http://img134.imageshack.us/img134/1255/corp1cd7.jpg

Dir. Michael Snow

One of the first avant garde films I saw was Michael Snow's legendary Wavelength (1967). Depending on your opinion, it is a) an examination of space and time in a single forty or so camera zoom, or b) forty or so minutes of staring at a wall. I hated it, and it didn't help that, since Snow's work is not officially released outside of cinema screenings, that it was a murky and digitally blurred version. I want to rewatch it, more so if I could see a good 35mm print on a big screen in my dreams. The films of the Canadian avant garde filmmaker/jazz musician have now become of immense interest for me, thanks to my growing flexibility with unconventional and experimental cinema. It also helped that I have discovered Michael Snow has a sense of humour. So Is This (1983) has you read a film as a text, complete black screen with sentences, one word at a time, being shown. Its already a brilliant work but gets better when I discovered this secret behind Snow. It also admits how most people would react with it with a self reflecting sense of humour, and takes pot shots at Canadian film censors with additional subliminal swear words. This discovery may make Snow even more accessible now, as a normal man who is willing to use humour within his experimental works to emphasise the points made, and *Corpus Callosum is such a film.

From http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/corpus-callosum_michael_snow.jpg

*Corpus Callosum is a ninety minute series of absurd moments. Most of it consists of people in a Toronto office stuck in dead end work, with tangents including an extended one of a family in a gaudy, pop art decorated living room. Using what he could afford, or intentionally using cheap looking computer effects for a cartoonish feel, Snow distorts both what is in these scenes and the film itself. People contort or become one single rectangular entity. Some, using distinct same clothes on different actors, are duplicated and interact with their mirrors. People abruptly disappear, expand or have any conceivable body part expand to absurd proportions. The rooms and objects in them do this too, the sequences in the gaudy living room having a wall of props move, disappear and even explode on cue, while the image the viewer sees are manipulated too. Continually moving to the right when the camera does move, the filmed image is bent as well with one sequence literally turning the world upside down.

From http://deeperintomovies.net/journal/image10/corpuscallosum2.jpg

The result is playful. Knowing absurd in how it causes you to keep an eye on what will be effected. Objects, people, environment, even colour is effected and manipulated in the film. It's an experiment in image and content, but it comes off as bizarre segments which go out of their way to distort everything into peculiar shapes and types, the very rudimentary nature of some of the effects actually adding to the idea. If it wasn't for a lack of a narrative, the already thin wall between avant garde cinema, absurdist comedy and cult cinema would be pierced by a film like this. A film like this undermines the division between the sides by using "weird" images and comedic skits to their own effect in showing the manipulation of the image too. *Corpus Callosum is all the moments of breaking expectations and what is expected in conventional cinema stripped of a narrative, put together as a full ninety minute compilation. It's very much an avant garde film, minimal at times with prolonged moments of nothing happening as you wait for what's next and get absorbed by the droning mood of the work. But it still plays with the exact type of bizarre image manipulations that take place in something like Nobuhiko Obayashi's Hausu (1977). It even shows some vulgar humour with a truly giant member, coming off as a sexual fantasy cut short by the work office bell.

From http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/corpuscallosum-home.gif

The settings in the film are Snow poking fun at real life drudgery. We don't know what the office workers do around their computer desks, and for all we know they aren't doing anything adding to the joke, but seeing them at times be as bendable as taffy and in strange manipulations is liberating, the recesses of the mind's imagination having fun with bending reality. The living room sequences are traditional family life - pop art crossed with a sitcom set - put through the same bendings. The other sequence, at first out of place but finally making sense, is a God's eye view of a class of school kids during an exam, only for them to all notice us, the camera eye, and deal with it. By physically manipulating their own surroundings, the kids are the only individuals in control of their world in a reality where the adults are manipulated themselves. It's also seen as an auto-retrospective of Snow's work. Having not seen a lot of his films, it's difficult for me to comment on this, but I can comment on one of the final sequences, where characters watch one of Snow's own films from the fifties in a cinema screening room, the director weaving together his life into a self reflection. It evokes Lisandro Alonso's Fantasma (2006), set in a cinema complex where, as we follow a man in a minimalist journey around the rooms, he eventually goes see one of Alonso's own films. Like it, *Corpus Callosum becomes a theatre-within-a-theatre by doing this, seeing Snow's own mind within a creation of his, best amplified by the beginning showing the camera zoom into the security camera screen and view the doorway it will eventually go through within a reflection of the reality. Everything after this is understandably, because of this potential symbolism, possible because it sets up having its own set of rules. So far as to even have its own end credits, in a ninety minute film, at fifty to sixty minutes into itself, catching this viewer off and furthering the breaking of convention for a joke.

From http://deeperintomovies.net/journal/image10/corpuscallosum4.jpg

Considering the exclusive nature that dangerous coats this sort of cinema - difficult to see, acclaimed by privilege film critics at festivals that could be argued to be elitist - this is only "difficult" in that avant garde cinema requires some patience and a willingness to follow it by its own rules before making a judgement on it. The distinction that understandably causes a lot of people to badly react to this sort of cinema is in most cases likely a surprise at having to try to view something which plays with a different tone, this film at times liable to be frustrating to even those who love it. But this is why "experiment" is the perfect word for this cinema to use, in that breaking from conventions of cinema on purpose, the reaction it causes can be anything. Even with the same minutes of the film, the experiment can cause two or more different emotional reactions. But like genre and cult films, this one presents its rule breaking by the use of comedy, absurdity, and in one moment, eroticism grossly exaggerated, the same playfulness that with a vulgar sense of the strange it has no shame is using.

From http://www.news.wisc.edu/newsphotos/images/Wfilmfest03_Corpus_Callosum.jpg


Its lack of availability is a shame, for by being only available in cinema showings at art museums and specialist film theatres, it becomes an elitist product against the tone and purpose of the film, Snow disconnecting perceived expectations from an art film in favour of making the dumbfounding and silly the examples of reality being questioned. The punchlines are the examples given to his discussions of the form of image, sound and framing, and you are allowed to laugh and think about them together at the same time. Not the presentation you think of when you think of experimental films you can only see rarely at museums, and frankly even those films are unfairly ostracised into being education rather than ventures into experimentation a viewer should be able to enjoy just for disrupting images and sounds in new ones. *Corpus Callosum emphasises for me that it is possible for avant garde cinema can be just as rewarding in terms of creating new, enticing images and sounds as well as provoking deep questions, that they are possible to actually enjoy for creating said new images and sounds like an optical illusion or an  absurd gag do when they manipulate the same things. The film never feels serious as what is stereotyped for an experimental film to be, undermining the notion by being legitimately hilarious in its intentional moments of weirdness. Viewing it, the idea that experimental film is seen as only education, filmic vegetables to the meat of entertainment cinema, is baffling when it gets as much glee from a penis gag as well as with its structuralist presentation. In many ways, the broadening of my palette for this type of cinema is because, like finding that Snow had a sense of humour, I found these films weren't just educating my eyes and brain, but could be as entertaining a blockbuster, silly like a comedy, titillating like porn, frightening like horror films, kinetic like action cinema or animation, and that they could be as much inclined to the basic delights of entertaining you through their subversions as well as using the formalist camera zooms and minimalist soundtracks to force you to question the meaning of the visual and audible.  This is where *Corpus Callosum gains its greatest virtues from, and this is how someone should enter the film through. That if it has a very intellectual message behind it, you should not try to drag it out viewing it but find entertainment through the base pleasures of stuffed foxes exploding and a man literally being given birth to through dodgy CGI, and realising the intellectual meat of the film will come when you enjoy these absurd pleasures first and then think about them. And considering how bizarre those images sound even in a review, it's impossible to consider the film on just cerebral levels as, using the area between the two hemispheres of the brain as its title, it has the same purpose as that area of brain matter in having two different sides, the creative and logical, the serious and the absurd, have an interconnecting conversation with each other with the film.

From http://deeperintomovies.net/journal/image10/corpuscallosum6.jpg

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Filthiness Is Reality [Pink Flamingos (1972)]

From http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_m47RlRiYoAg/SNwetpuHu0I
/AAAAAAAAArE/4WZNSKsO_oY/s400/Pink_Flamingos.png
Dir. John Waters

My first John Waters film. What would happen and how would I react? I was not expecting how rough it was. I admit to expecting something with a glossy camp, even this early in the director's career, candy coloured to match the titular garden ornament outside the Divine family trailer home. Instead its very much a homespun creation. Zooms are John Waters' friend in dialogue exchanges instead of editing, and its unexpected for me to hear a young, nasally Waters narrating over the images with the same heightened tone as the characters onscreen. What was welcomed was how lurid and purposely tasteless the dialogue was. The dialogue brings the film up in quality. It'll be amazing for readers to know too that the infamous "singing arsehole" sequence was actually normal for me. The only concern with it was if the man performing it could end up with a ruptured rectum if he kept doing the stunt. The other infamous aspects on the other hand were as surprising now in 2013 as it was in 1972. And there are some things never talked about that would raise a vicar's eyebrows let alone my own.

From http://www.virginmedia.com/images/weirdfetishes-pink-flamingos-590x350.jpg

When all she wants is to be left alone with her son Crackers (Danny Mills), lodger and ideological soul mate Cotton (Mary Vivian Pearce), and her egg obsessed mother (Edith Massey), "the filthiest person alive" Divine (Divine, real name Harris Glen Milstead) finds herself tormented by the Marbles. A couple (Mink Stole and David Lochary) who happen to run an illegal baby breeding organisation, kidnapping women and having their servant (Channing Wilroy) rape them to sell the resulting babies to lesbians, and want to take the title of "filthiest people alive" for themselves. At first it was slow to start, suggesting what would be offensive and bad taste for others was just pure camp for me. Then the moments that made it a midnight film legend took place. The chicken sex scene which John Waters defends as allowing a chicken to live longer, be on film, fucked on film, and then eaten after scene. The illegal baby breeding operation. Divine and Cracker's intimate mother and son relationship. The infamous ending that I knew about long ago, when I was a young teenager looking into these sorts of films online when I couldn't see them, and admit I gagged a little watching. It's very much a first film, though not Water's debut at all, which intentionally goes out of its way to shock. But it does come off as playful to. It's a film which saddles itself in lurid Hollywood films like Elia Kazan's Baby Doll (1956) and the intentionally provocative takes on human society like Pier Paolo Pasolini's Theorem (1968), comparisons I can make because, to my surprise, posters for films like this, alongside Elizabeth Taylor films I've yet to see, are on the walls on the Marbles' home. But these two examples befit the film's tone, even if it is its own creation. At one end, tackling taboos with no restraint to purposely undermine good social taste - real sexual acts, real faecal matter, extreme anti-social behaviour like cannibalism and celebrating Divine because she is the personification of it. At the same time it's a director-writer writing the most arch dialogue as possible and improvising anything that came to mind. Deleted scenes included with the version I saw, narrated by Waters, prove this when you even have cast members singing a song about being the filthiest in Pig Latin. It nestles itself well in the bosom of confrontation art cinema and the excess of American exploitative cinema on its own home grown budget.

From http://ktismatics.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/pink-tongue.png

It's the charisma of everyone within it that makes Pink Flamingos  a great film. Divine's onscreen magnetism is clear. John Waters' use of sixties pop songs is inspired, managing to get the rights to it all making a sizable impact on the film's playful tone, and Divine's prescience is enough so that a version of The Girl Can't Help It by Little Richard is justified to be played over scenes of her walking the streets as if she's a bombshell. Everyone else is the same. Edith Massey, in a playpen, is charming despite being utterly bizarre in her prescience asking for the Egg Man, everytime that name is brought up causing me to have acid flashbacks of The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour (1967). Danny Mills as Crackers suitably demented, and making a nice one-two interaction with Mary Vivian Pearce. David Lochary is great as Mr Marble, blue hair, both collar and cuffs matching, thanks to felt tip pen, and with his habit of public exposure compromised by who I confess openly to being an extremely attractive and game transvestite. But I have to give some extra credit to Mink Stole, really exemplifying how you can't help but love the dialogue's luridness when she's swearing and spurting obscene lines from her mouth. The nice subplot of how her servant is completely sick of his place in life emphasises a deliciously distorted taste on reality here where all the gaudiness of it and vulgar language is strengthened and emphased, made to work because of the actors' personalities onscreen like Stole.

From http://s1.favim.com/orig/5/1972-john-waters-pink-flamingos-Favim.com-161044.jpg

A large sizable chunk of why the film works is that every transgressive and campy thing within it feels connected to real life and the ridiculous at the same time. Ordinary people are literally acting on screen rather than Hollywood actors. Ironically like Pasolini, Waters has no hesitance to using non-actors in his films, even if making such a low budget film meant he would have to, and make them as important, or more so, than a professional one. Like Jack Smith though, like the director of Pin Narcissus (1971) James Bidgood, his desire was to recreate Hollywood melodrama through the sensibility of mixing high and low art with no distinction. I'm grateful to say I've seen Baby Doll too, and a film like it, even if it's great, and well made and shot, is very much a grubby little movie with scuzzy dialogue. Hollywood has its fair share of sleazy films hiding in glossy clothing, and aside from being able to get away with far more, Waters was clearly recreating one here. You're watching effectively a story that could have been seen in a Oscar worthy drama, a conflict between a trailer home family unit and a snobbier middle class couple, like one is watching a soap opera with more pyromania and shit eating. The result of these potentially contradictory sides, fitting to depict through those two film posters seen in the backdrop, is seen here in how it goes about mixing the homespun with the absurd. It's a film with no shame in enjoying its taboos rather than telling the viewer off for them as they get their rocks off with the material beforehand. It has no intentions of taking itself seriously, yet the act of doing what it does, while made in places very rudimentary, feel like something taking advise from art cinema of how being transgressive means weaving it through a sense of reality. It drags the desire to make a Hollywood melodrama into a Baltimore trailer park home, glamorous costumes and sets against grassy ditches and grotty basements. The fantastical and ridiculous is played off with ordinary people off the streets in their hometown.

From http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/images/P-473-488-90/67/6722/FIUA100Z/posters/pink-flamingos-edith-massey-1972.jpg

Recently I found a hilarious quote from Waters, a lover of trashy cinema, that his true guilty pleasures were art house films, going to them as if he was going to a porn theatre in a filthy mack. This willingness to balance both sides in the film, while very much being part of a new type of cinema of the time called the "midnight movie", is clear. Seeing a film of his now confirms, now a wise and unbelievably charming older man in interviews, so polite even when discussing bizarre sexual fetishes, fully explains the clear idea of his that anything offensive is of reward if done right. Nothing in bad taste is morally wrong, but more mature an attitude if it plays it off beyond merely shocking to being perversely charming. He's able to get away with it because his mindset is very progressive and open. A gay man, his film is pansexual. The women are as strong as the males, and probably have the most biting, foul mouthed insults. Male and female full frontal nudity is a given, and no one is left out from something really taboo or memorable. It shows so much to make me excited about watching his other work. Why did it take so long to see one of his films though? A viewer of anything, there are still substantial gaps in my film viewing considering my interests. But I've now started with his work. And it was what I was hoping for.

From http://cdn.mos.totalfilm.com/images/p/pink-flamingos-1972--05.jpg

L Is For... Last Year At Marienbad (1961)

From http://th04.deviantart.net/fs71/PRE/i/2011/240/e/a/last_year_at_marienbad_by_mamamatrix-d486es2.png

Dir. Alain Resnais

Last Year At Marienbad has been an interesting film to rewatch. I wasn't fond of it on the first viewing, but was compelled by how fantastic it looked and how it was made as well as it was. Viewing it again for this series, I'm still trying to grasp it, but its elusive nature mixed with the gorgeous production value grows in virtue. It is certainly a film that is more about the sensation of viewing it than a clear narrative, and far from a feeble defense of it, this proves to be its greatest virtue. To make every scene startle you while still adding a deeper connection to the fact that no one onscreen may be able to leave the situation and have to continue it continually...


Review Link - http://www.videotapeswapshop.co.uk/15183/l-is-for-last-year-at-marienbad-1961-director-alain-resnais/

From http://lisathatcher.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/last_year_at_marienbad.jpg

K Is For... Killer of Sheep (1979)

From http://www.killerofsheep.com/images/killer-of-sheep_poster-lg.jpg
Dir. Charles Burnett

A realistic drama is a rarity for me to cover, but it makes a nice change of pace. Realism can be subversive if reality is taken as ordinary people and ordinary lives being depicted than trying to make a film look its real. A great example of this is Killer of Sheep which shows how drama can feel like you're seeing real people.


From http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/killer-of-sheep-dance.jpg

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

J Is For Johnny Guitar (1954)

From http://softmorningcity.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/johnny_guitar.jpg
Dir. Nicholas Ray

There is a lot of classic American westerns I want to watch, more so now that I have an appreciation for them. I admit I've been more positive about the later revisionist and lurid films, from The Wild Bunch (1969) and spaghetti westerns, but that was because they all had a distinct personality, even as part of a collective sub-genre, that made them all unique and have something to make them stand out. Johnny Guitar, revisiting it, is the sort of film that exemplified this. My first viewing of it years ago I thought there was nothing special about it, but with a lot of time to see more films, including westerns, that opinion is baffling now considering how unconventional it truly is. Its drastically different from the classical American Western of the fifties and before admittedly, but it showed me there are probably a lot of distinct and interesting films in its golden period I once dismissed as potentially dull.


From http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film4/blu-ray_reviews57/johnny_guitar_blu-ray_/large/large_johnny_guitar_blu-ray_x08.jpg