Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Autumn 2010 Program

You can rock up around 7pm from April 23rd till the end of time (well the end of 2010) and know you'll be able to see some tasty cinematic fare. So rock up and rock on!

Oh my God! The Lumiere and other cinemas have closed, leaving only the megaplexes that screen nothing but the same few films under ever changing titles. Our only hope is to plant the surviving seeds and see if they take.

Dvds projected on to a white wall in a gallery rich with the paintings of Milos Manojlovic who will serve anything from a cappucino to a shiraz or scotch at decent prices and a word or two of worldliness. Stay for opinions, music and imbibing after the film. Go on, dare ya!

ABC Gallery 127 Campbell St Collingwood (See map at end of post or follow link to Google Maps with street view picture of the Gallery)
Melway Ref. 2C G8


Friday April 23rd 7.30 pm

(Michael Lehmann USA 1989)

After the dust had settled in the late 80s the spirit of punk had well and truly shuffled off. What Gen X replaced it with was cynicism, a kind of knee-jerk distrust. Leads you to the same bullshit that credulity does but it does end up feeling better. The abovementioned punkdust had been gathered up by major record labels and now filled the pixels of MTV in the form of the kind of automata that the folks at Sony and Geffen thought would thrill the kids of the day. Who can fault the cynicism?

It meant that genres like the teen com had to grow up and get wise. Didn't really happen, though ... apart from this one.

Wynona Ryder plays Veronica, smart and malcontent about her own luck in being part of the uber clique of bitches in excelsis, the Heathers of the title. The school where the Heathers hold court is a Darwinian hell of survivalism and social entropy. Then JD appears.

Christian Slater, a kind of baby Jack Nicholson, is chaotic and cool all at once. Actually, really cool, cool enough to render the Heathers into magic-free bitchfaces who deserve some recompense. It's sagely said that a compulsive gambler is created by an early win. That's kind of what happens here.

Michael Lehmann's black comedy of manners plays out freshly still, despite the dilutions of later imitators Clueless or Mean Girls. It's fresh in a creepy way, actually, reminding us of the Columbine massacre, having been made a full decade before it. This might be the most mainstream movie I'll show this year but it's one case where origin is overridden by sheer bloody wit and energy.

Christian Slater faded under the ressurected carreers of people like John Travolta, Wynona learned how to shoplift (but not very well) and Shannen Doherty found a couple of years glory in 90210. I guess all of them peaked early because here they each touch something very like genuine cynicism-free glory.

Screens with TBA

Friday April 30th 7.30 pm


(Kyoshi Kurosawa Japan 2002)

Maturity, youth and jellyfish are on the table in this story about the generations to come in contemporary Japan. Two friends serve time in a clock watching job at a laundry that washes towels for restaurants. One of them, Mamoru has a pet jellyfish that at first just looks beautiful and scary in its tank. He has big plans for it, as it happens. But then something goes wrong. His friend, Nimura, already holding in a tide of undirected rage commits an atrocity. Mamoru who has unsuccessfully attempted to guide Nimura in the harnessing and uses of rage steps in to save his friend. It is a very dire salvation but as events develop, Mamoru's legacy is fulfilled and the bigger picture of his plan is revealed. An extraordinary modern fable from the always (or mostly) extraordinary K. Kurosawa (Cure and Seance both shown at Shadows previously) and one rendered far more accessible than any of his other non-horror outings (eg Charisma). Kurosawa has said that this story contains no irony and is a straight-up vision of the state of things in Japan but I'd trust that assertion as far as I could throw a sumo wrestler. Screens with TBA.


Friday May 7th 7.00 pm

(Lindsay Anderson UK 1968)

Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell's screen debut) comes back to school from holidays, wincing from the constraining effect of the change. So what? Well, it's a British public school, ancient and near-fatally proud of itself. It's not hard to feel for Mick when you watch the daily grind of icily observed meaningless rituals and routine cruelty that form his school days. Like everyone outside the centres of power (ie teachers and prefects) he hates where he is and is learning nothing from the experience. The weave twirling between the suffocating conformity expected of him and his growing sense of freedom tighten to a knot that can only be solved by scission which happens violently with the training and weapons unwittingly given him by the Establishment.

Lindsay Anderson's tale of personal anarchy came at a time when public youth led protest was spreading throughout the world. The UK might not have had a May '68 like them folks over the channel (which was a failure, anyway) and maybe that was because a lot of the potential was anesthetised with the soma of acid and the Summer of Love. This film was a warning and a call to arms. The frown that drives the story, though, is tempered (in a very Brit way) by a healthy injection of anti-authoritarian absurdism.

Did the warning or call work? Does it ever? See also, Heathers, made twenty-one years later.

Friday May 14th 7.00 pm

(Neil La Bute USA 1997)

Two white collars travel to a marginal centre to set up a local branch of their unidentified business. They get to talking about career and women and one step at a time arrive at a vague plan to find a woman and destroy her. The woman they find is beautiful, accomplished and to round off the checklist for a perfect victim, disabled. She is deaf, assuring one of them at one point: I can't hear you when you lie. This is interpersonal politics at its most frightening and sophisticated. Like the Restoration comedies it was inspired by, it examines what it would condemn to the extent of sometimes appearing to be indistinguishable from it. There is a one liner that shocks through its severe misogyny and sheer wit. This is a writer who understands that names can break bones far more efficiently than sticks and stones. Based on director Neil La Bute's own stage play, this film made for about $10.50 in the late '90s, never feels stagey. Aaron Eckhart reported that a woman approached him after an early screening and told him that she hated him. He corrected her, saying, "No, you hate my character, Chad." "No," replied the woman, "I hate you." La Bute was softened by success in Hollywood, however modest it was, and reached a career nadir with a pointless remake of The Wicker Man. He's since returned to writing for the stage. Perhaps he'll find his way back with something like this. We can only hope.

Friday May 21st 7.00 pm

(Hioshi Teshigahara Japan 1960)

An entomologist arrives on an island seeking insects for his collection. He's so carried away with his hobby that he misses the last boat. The locals direct him to lodgings with a widow. It takes a climb down to get there but he is grateful for the comfort. In the morning he wakes to find the house is in a huge pit, the rope ladder has gone and he is captive like a beetle in a sand trap. When the locals respond to his cries they inform him of his new career as a sand miner. Looking to the woman he is told that they must dig the sand for their own survival as it results in sustenance from the locals and prevents the house from being buried. Hiroshi Teshigahara's second collaboration with novellist Kobo Abe and composer Toru Takemistu is his most celebrated film. Like the other two collaborations (Pitfall and last year' program's The Face of Another) there is a frequent blurring between the stark reality of the characters' predicament and the fabulous influence of the strangeness of the story. The man's initial attempts to escape his detention are perfectly rational but no more so than his eventual acceptance of the life he has fallen into. Kyoko Kishida as the widow might be seen as spider-like in her sand trap habitat but she is completely human for all that and the aching attraction the wells between the pair is as life affirming as it is preadatory. Anyone who likes their absurdism mixed with the everyday (see also Samuel Beckett's similar works like Happy Days or Waiting for Godot) will find riches here. Otherwise, the philosophical centre of the film is kept visible but below the surface of what is, all up, a danged fine yarn.

Friday May 28th 7.00 pm

(Michael Sarne USA 1970)

The most fascinating trainwreck outside of Ishtar, Myra Breckinridge is the film adaptation of Gore Vidal's smirking look at Hollywood in Decay at the end of the 60s. Man about Swinging London, Michael Sarne was imported by Twentieth Century Fox to inject the kind of psychedelic pizazz into the story whose title character held all hippy culture in icy contempt. A kind of mashup effect is achieved through the rhythmic use of clips from vintage Hollywood cut into the main narrative, even taking part in the dialogue here and there. There really are some good, sharp ideas here but at the time they were heavily overshadowed by the casting choices. John Huston, rugged and craggy veteran director and action man, was chosen to play Buck Loner, rugged and craggy veteran western star and head of a film school. A reanimated Mae West as a sassy and monstrously libidinous talent agent. Queen Bimbo Supreme Raquel Welch in the title role and Queen Bitch of the New York Observer movie review Rex Reed as her alter ego, Myron. It was commonly joked that Reed's inclusion in the cast was insurance against bad reviews. But then his performance is fine, having real screen presence and natural youthful beauty. Mae West refused to appear on screen with Raquel Welch or even work in the set on the same day. She wasn't threatened. Welch, better known in the loincloth of A Million Years B.C. or in the cat suit of Fantastic Voyage, here delivers both intelligence and bitchiness in a role that offers opportunity for some payback for an industry that trivialised her (to say nothing of a million dollar costume change for every scene). Huston fits his character but he pushes himself to a respectable self-parody. Mae West ... Mae West was not informed by anyone that she hadn't been a sultry siren for some decades. To her credit, though, her big number at the film's heart includes what might be the first rap song (but maybe she was just rekindling memories of seeing Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club for real). Aficionados of 70s and 80s prime time tv might be tickled pink to see young and natural incarnations of Farrah Fawcett and Tom Selleck. As to the plot? After all that you still care about the plot? Ok, Myra B. goes to Hollywood to take up a position teaching at her deceased husband's uncle's acting school with the intention of destroying the new Hollywood from within, having first failed to secure her inferitance. She is taken with a shiny young couple among her students and picks them for grooming as her chief weapons in a dream factory that has become more Hugh Hefner than Howard Hawks. Weird hilarity ensues. So why does this film work? Who said it did? This is a film that is best viewed as a record of a dream recounted by someone sky high on acid when he was told it. That said, the ending does provide a kind of logic to the proceedings. But the thrill is in the ride. Roll up! Roll on up! Screens with TBA. Raquel Welch talks to Dick Cavett at the time of the movie's release while janis Joplin looks on.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Liquid Sky@SHADOWS

Friday March 19 8pm
Location: ABC Gallery 127 Campbell St Collingwood (See map at end of post or follow link to Google Maps with street view picture of the Gallery) Melway Ref. 2C G8

(Slava Tsukerman, USA, 1982)

Aliens vs designer punks! 1982, Manhattan. The earth sustains an alien invasion. But this is not the day the earth stands still. The invaders are so ethereal that they are invisible to the human eye, being less bodies than impulses. Previous and future cinematic visitors have variously wanted conquest or resources and these ones do too. But it's neither gold nor water they're after, it's good old fashioned smack. Yup, ethereal they might be but their spirit-hands are out and they're chasin'!

But this is sci-fi and needs some science. It comes (future pun warning) in their discovery that the endorphins released in the brain during human orgasm the high to end all highs. Where better to make such a discovery than through the life of Margaret, a country girl awash in a tide of drugs, affected nihilism, real nihilism, rotten synth pop, execrable dancing, high fashion, plain human vileness and easy easy sex. She ain't in Kansas anymore but, as she observes with a quiet strength in a striking monologue: "I can kill with my c**t."

The time capsule element in this film is not the look and copped feel of the new romantic scene in New York in the early 80s as much as the mood of independent film making at the time. Following the decade of the midnight movie (El Topo, Eraserhead, Pink Flamingoes) independent filmakers had a newly established public tradition to mine but this time also had a newly powerful indy music force that had made a virtue of intensity over formal skill. Liquid Sky is made very much from the latter spirit. Glimpses of conventionally assured cinematic skill surface throughout from the openly cheap execution of most of what's on the screen. This is self aware trash but it bears a real gravity and delivers a real saddening blow in its extraordinary closing sequence.

SCREENS WITH HANGING AT PICNIC ROCK introduced by its writer/director Clint Cure