With A Dame To Kill For and its tepid (being kind) reviews on the horizon, coupled with teaching students for who this is a seminal film, I wanted to watch it again as I haven’t in years and I enjoyed it first time round.
I still enjoyed it for the most part. It’s nihilism is enthralling in parts and it’s a fascinating visual experience. The Oirish accents are a joke, and it’s really hard to not read into it retrospectively following the recent, infamous outbursts of Frank Miller. It leaves a different taste in the mouth now in respect of the female characters.
But overall it works, the cast give it all, the violence is shocking at times and gasp-inducingly funny at others. The performances of Elijah Wood and Nick Stahl are full on horrific-creepy. Wood reminds me of a friend’s film - Tom Barndt’s incredible The Walking Ink.
And Mickey Rourke is incredible.
So, still fun, by no means seminal beyond the realisation through, essentially, digital tracing of the graphic novel. It’s hard to see it as an adaptation given that it is so literal a transfer. Nothing has been ‘adapted’ or ‘modified’ in any real sense, which makes it interesting in itself, for a short while.
And I adore Carla Gugino. So sue me.
Tough and brutal prison movie starring a top of his game Burt. It raises serious questions about the dehumanisation of offenders and the attraction of prison to power crazy sociopaths a mere step away from the other side of the bars.
Dassin’s control of Richard Brooks’s script is majestic. Great performances, brilliantly shot. Claustrophobic, sultry, tightly wound. Peerless filmmaking of the old school.
Blu-ray / DVD Release: Monday August 25th 2014
In a summer of Ukraine, Russia and shot down planes; Israel and Palestine and targeted civilian killings; Ferguson; Fleeing refugees and migrants dying in shipping containers, the rise of the Islamic State and the West bundling back into countries their ego has already destroyed beyond repair; and everything else; this is not fiction, it’s documentary.
Brutal and matter of fact. Life as worthless. The killing of people and dogs like bugs. Exterminated with no regard for their consciousness. Corruption flowing like a waterfall.
Horrifying and depressing but vital.
So matter of fact. No protection for the poor. Survival of the meanest. State and capitalist power locked in a death drive embrace,
Some of the filmic effects are startling. The realism of the violence against people and dogs is gut wrenchingly terrifying.
12 year old girls regarded as toys.
Sickening. Sad. The real life of millions. Get angry.
Composed with a stark cinematic brio that is captivating and a much needed reminder of the power and need for cinema. Especially now. As the world burns,
The horror is so matter of fact that you realise it’s not horror. It’s fact.
The hard question of - is surviving hope? is getting through an ordeal such a displayed here as a family is destroyed by drugs they don’t take, subjected to a wrath caused by someone external, enough? What if you survive but are too traumatised to live?
To be fair the film loses its way a little in the final quarter. It’s as if it doesn’t know how to not be horrific but so desperately wants to not be. It loses conviction in its blackness and wobbles.
The film does pull it back round in its final, closing moments and a glimmer appears. Family. Life at its essence. What else is there?
And the introduction of the music as the credits roll is an exhalation that makes its absence over the previous 100 minutes becomes achingly. explicit.
Fuck that was hard work, but scintillating filmmaking.
It would be disrespectful to suddenly claim that Richard Attenborough was one of my favourite filmmakers on news of his death. He wasn’t. But he was a massive inspiration.
In 2007 Justin, my dear friend and co-cultural saboteur had the honour of meeting and listening to the man speak at a press conference for his final film, Closing The Ring. His passion for films and making films and life was infectious and incredible. It gave us renewed faith as filmmakers and curators and creators, to see this man who had given so much still giving - his time and his knowledge, to anyone who asked and needed.
It was also a sad press conference though, as he spoke of his one major regret. It was that he never got to make his cherished Thomas Paine project.
Myself and Justin sat there and talked after we’d had our moment with him. We knew he may not have many years left and that when he died the tributes would flood in and many would say how sad it was that he never got to make his beloved project.
We thought that was not on.
We thought there was still time and at the very least, he should know while he was alive how much he meant to people rather than the normal situation of oceans of tributes pouring in after you’ve gone and can’t appreciate them.
What did we do? In hindsight something insane. Crowdfunding before Crowdfunding. We set up a campaign called A Gift For Dickie, to try and raise £40million to help him make his film.
(the original site is now closed)
Did it work? Erm, no.
It took a few months to get it ready, then literally, as soon as it did, the global economy collapsed and not long after that Dickie had a fall that seriously affected his mobility in his final years.
We persevered with it, and had some lovely donations and responses. We never thought we’d raise £40million but we thought we would raise enough to get attention in the project and get some momentum to get the rest, but it never happened. Alas.
We did get the attention of one person though, Dickie himself. Word got to him, and while he was recovering from his fall, his beloved Poppy wrote to us to say how happy, honoured and humbled he was to know of our campaign. Out of the blue.
It was a folly sure, but that was enough, because too often those we admire are gone before we have the sense to speak of their impact and even as fans, as people, we can tell those we admire of what they mean and we should. Especially the likes of Dickie, who was a giver. Approachable, modest, insanely passionate about cinema and art. I’m glad he knew we adored him and that he would be missed. For whatever that is worth.
Rest in Peace Dickie.
I’m a huge Kelly Reichardt fan and I’ve written about this and some of her earlier films for Directors Notes, so I’ll link that when it’s live.
For now though, know that I love 3/4 of this. Mercurial. The last 1/4. WTF? Jumps the shark in terrible, terrible ways. Such a shame. Don’t get it.
I needed this.
After a long day of emails, doctorate reading, quote pulling and thinking I just needed to sit there and veg in front of nonsense.
I needed it so much I didn’t mind the gaping holes in logic that yelled throughout.
I needed it so much I didn’t mind the fact that Martin Sheen and Kirk Douglas (one of my all time favourite film stars) looked bored and as if they spent the entire time pre-takes engaged in snide in jokes at the expense of it all, so much they could barely contain from corpseing once action was yelled.
It’s so anticlimactic it feels as if the entire thing is a joke at our expense with a ludicrous twist. Time travel is hard at the best of times, harder still when no one seems to give a shit.
Four screenwriters. Never a good sign.
If it wasn’t for Netflix though, I would never have known of its existence, or how much I needed it in my life.
Blu Ray / DVD Released: Monday August 18th 2014
My first encounter with the wünderkind/enfant terrible (depending on your persuasion) that is Xavier Dolan was a mesmerising one. This dark drama is sensual, romantic, unhinged and awfully sad. It’s creepy and edge of the seat stuff, despite giving the impression that there’s not all that much going on.
Dolan himself plays Tom, who arrives at a remote French Canadian village farm to attend the funeral of his recently deceased boyfriend. The boyfriend Guillame’s family however don’t know he was gay. Well, Guy’s older brother Francis kind of does, or suspects, or knows fully and utterly resents it. The murk slowly clears as Tom stays beyond the funeral despite the threats, beatings and psychological torture inflicted by Francis.
The sense of dread is palpable, much as it is in the similarly eerie and erotically charged Stranger By The Lake, a sun drenched counterpart to this drizzly, muddy nightmare. The Stockholm Syndrome is delicately handled and characters race down archetypal roads before sharply turning unexpected corners thanks to sharp writing and sharp performances.
Dolan as director plays fast and loose with traditional narrative storytelling; leaving out stuff normally shown and lingering on sweet or uncomfortable moments where the point has already been made. The dialogue verges on the beatnik in terms of its out of place colloquialism that you need to be down with to roll with. The film mines movie lore aurally and as well as creating its own space and mark visually. The way things are kept out of focus, or people’s heads are cut off through the composition is bravura, confident and potent.
Before the credits rolled I was reaching for my phone to order his other films, but not before witnessing the majestically powerful final moments of one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
Time passes and it doesn’t stop. You can’t stop it. In life, or the cinema, without an act of violence. Moments happen with joy, fear, awkwardness and they are gone and we can’t get them back. On to the next.
'I thought there would be more'.
But this is what there is. We see things later on that we missed earlier. Patterns emerge. Our hindsight gets sharper and our nostalgia blurs and we see the decisions and the intentions and our younger selves and our younger parents and we realise we really all are the same. No one with any clue. Everyone just trying to get by. Some beating on others, some taking beatings. Failed loves, failed lives.
When those moments of drama come in real life there is no orchestral swell, there is no rain soaked run to destiny. There’s that moment where the fist comes, to the head or the heart and it’s gone. The orchestra arrives for the replay in our heads.
The death of cool. Moustaches and minivans. Paint stains and polo shirts. Mavericks on the peripheries flying the flag even if their days of saluting the flag in class are no more.
White men fuck shit up and they can’t help but fuck shit up by default for their straight white kids.
Unless they have good Mothers? What constitutes a good Mother? A woman who raises children to be people and fights to remain one herself? Easy to judge and reduce. Different shoes.
The story and the craft. The art and the practice. Side by side. Achievable by anyone in essence, but seen by this person and delivered through their sensibility.
Life is not easy or simple. For everyone it’s always, around. It’s across. Under. Over. Every. Moments seen by us, ones we never know if they were seen by them. My life. Your life. Their lives. Different eyes, brains, hearts. Same flying ball in space. Same shit different day. What we give up everyday. Our privacy. Our personal idea of faith. Our children to the world. Or nothing. Fuck ‘em, let ‘em burn.
Music and dogs are the answer. Always. I want the Black Album.
DVD Released: Monday August 11th 2014
Honky Tonk Freeway mines the same thematic territory as Pixar’s Cars, John Lasseter’s lament over the effect of ‘progress’ that came with freeways and destroyed a, probably mythical, old America. Here, the town of Ticlaw in Florida pays a $10,000 bribe to ensure an ramp for the new freeway is built next to their humble and colourful town. It doesn’t happen and so the residents, led by William Devane’s enigmatic mayor cum preacher take matters into their own hands in increasingly imaginative, dangerous and unlawful ways.
Meanwhile, across the US of A myriad characters are leaving their grey or desolate environs for the promise of the sunshine state and it’s clear that all their roads will eventually, likely simultaneously, lead to Ticlaw. And they do.
The film, directed by John Schlesinger and featuring a plethora of recognisable faces including Beau Bridges, Beverly D’Angelo and Jessica Tandy is ambitious to say the least. The two stories butt up against the each other and there are many characters to enjoy and endure along the journey. The problem is no-one’s heart is really in it, certainly not Schlesinger’s and the result is a tepid affair that needs chaos and maniacal fervour to work, as it does in the likes of The Cannonball Run. It’s a screwball comedy that’s not screwy, has no balls and isn’t all that funny.
What it does have is charm and some good performances. D’Angelo is the stand out turn as a refreshingly sexual female character who for once isn’t demonised or ends up suffering a tragic comeuppance. The chemistry between Tandy and her husband, played by Hume Cronyn, is sweet and Devane gives his all as a browbeaten but determined preacher and mayor in service to his town, including its frankly terrible safari park.
The lack of effort on the whole though means that as a fable of the effects of ‘progress’ it never really works and is rooted in its time of backward attitudes and terrible soundtracks. A real shame.
the world’s cemeteries are full of people who thought they could use extremists for their own ends and then dispose of thempatrick cockburn