Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Winter Part 1

The auld cauld sea mist sighs in from the strait and the brown leaves i' the gutter soak to compost in the rain: the towers o' the Housing Commission flats glow through the fog, floor by floor until they are consumed by the solid night air ; winter again and my default mood is contentment. Time to get some stories on the screen that give pause for the great indoors and its thoughts of embers and mortality. Milos will fire up the wood heater, the lights will go down. Arm yourself with a glass of something good and take your chair, your table or your couch (if you're early). We'll do the rest.

Then stay afterward for opinions, drink and good music.

2C G8, as the Melway would say.
through the heavy door by the corner.


Friday June 4th 7 pm

NO SCREENING on this day. None at all. Next week there will be and the one that was meant to happen on Friday June 4th 2010 wil be presented on June 18. but none tonight.

Friday June 11th 7 pm
(Julien Temple U.K. 1980)
Ok, The Filth and the Fury and the Classic Albums episode on Never Mind the Bollocks have been out for ten years and we all know the real story. This is the fun version.

As a contemporary fan of the Pistols I learned to revile Swindle as McClaren's rocket polishing account of how he started punk rock. So, now you know better, don't you think your true faith can withstand the effects of the devil's tale? Oh go on, I'm pressing the play button, get into some insanely incorrect chaos cash-cowing and revel. Besides all of which, someone (I wish it had been me) pointed out that between this version and the later revisions, Swindle is far closer to the spirit of the times it depicts. So there are no ponderous retrospective damnations or balance redressings. This is the crook's tale so there's plenty of unfair and unrepresentative abandon. There's a really good message in all of this, as well and it's one not intended by its supervisor: don't revere the Sex Pistols, dig 'em!

This film will be supported (and followed) by my birthday drinks so there's no short feature this night.

Friday June 18 7pm

(Hal Ashby, USA 1971)

Harold is a teenager who's trying to get and keep his mother's attention. His mother is actually doing a lot to get her son out into the world but her methods seem designed to play out without his involvement. Harold's idea of bridging this communication gap is to stage highly authentic looking suicide attempts. His psychiatrist asks what he does to reach out to the world at large and join society. "I go to funerals," says Harold.

At one of those his attention is agressively pursued by an old lady who is curious at seeing him at all the funerals she goes to. This starts an end of winter start of spring romance like no other. Harold's death wish steadily erodes under Maude's raging life force, and he embraces the beauty of the world, knowing that it doesn't have to be as stifling as the one his mother uses all that valium to navigate. But the bony guy with the scythe isn't going anywhere.

That's why this film works. As quirky as it gets, as airily whimsical Ruth Gordon's rhapsodies become, this film never descends to a series of goofy scenes gaffer taped together in the hope that the sum of them works. There is a committed narrative here borne by strong performances and textured characterisation.

If there was any justice in this world people like Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson would be forced to watch this film and learn how it's done. Here is the range of themes celebrated by those two and almost every other indy film maker from the 1970s onward. Anti-conformity and the strength of the outcast form the centre of this film and they have seldom been examined as well (and never bettered). But this was made in 1971 why haven't those other directors learned anything is this old thing is so good, haven't they seen it? Oh they've seen it, they just can't reproduce it.

Oh, and using pre-existing songs by one artist to add to the experience isn't cloying here. Like the earlier The Graduate with Simon and Garfunkel tracks, Harold and Maude's use of Cat Stevens works more effectively than an orchestral score ever could. They just sit right. Hey Wes, don't just throw your record collection at the screen, think about it.

Best. Rom com. Ever.

Friday June 25th 7 pm
(Carlos Saura Spain 1976)

Young Ana lives in a troubled house. She and her sisters are being tended by their highly starched aunt while their father, a ranking army officer is having loud affairs when he deigns to come home. Ana's mother walks the house as a ghost, offering consolation to her daughter from beyond the grave. Ana believes he killed her mother through neglect and also considers herself the agent of her mother's vengeance when her father, too, dies at the start of the story.

A plot summary does little to communicate the power of this film as it has so much to do with the observations of a child struggling to balance what her imagination can do to terrify her and what her sense can do to control the world that seems to bring nothing but grief with every change.

Ana Torrent carries with her the strange and spooky intensity that made The Spirit of the Beehive so magnetic. If it was strong then it's a little older and wiser here, knowing more anger and resolve. Carlos Saura uses the pause following the death of Spain's dictator Franco as a breathing space to take stock of what it felt like to be free of oppression for the first time in decades. Perhaps the times were less than clear about that forcing his storytelling to keep allusive rather than explicit. Perhaps he was artist enough to know better than cry freedom when so many were still suffering.

Friday July 2nd 7pm
(Bruce McDonald Canada 2009)
DJ Grant Mazzy, exiled by his own big mouth from the major radio stations now announces school fetes and the unchanging weather of the sub arctic Canadian backwater he's landed in. The morning shift on this day begins like any other, too early and frozen. A shot of the old stuff and the Grantster feels ready to "take no prisoners". His producer cautions him against it but only because he would be impossible to replace at this notice. Now here's Frank with the weather. Well, yeah, he's got the way the wind's blowing, aright. He goes on air with a report of a mountain of slow moving people consuming a small family in their car. Details are hard to come by. Trying to contact the outside world Grant finds himself suddenly being interviewed by the BBC who are trying to work out if his hometown is really being destroyed by zombies.

This inversion of the Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio scare starts from a position of difference and cheekiness from the word go. Without resorting to mockery of the Romero canon, Bruce Robinson gets to work on a zombie movie with something new to say, quite literally. The mind that created the wonderful Roadkill and adventurous Tracey Fragments here rides on the riches of the possibilities. This script began as a radio play and the film only intensifies the isolation of the medium. Not without its false steps but like the equally daring (and equally Canadian Ginger Snaps), Pontypool's moves toward putting some innovation in the revived zombie genre are confident and sassy.

July 9th th 7.30 pm
(Bela Tarr, Hungary 2000)

Leonard Maltin once ingeniously described Night of the Living Dead as a cinema verite record of a nightmare. I'll steal the thought and describe Bela Tarr's epic as the cinema verite record of a middle European folk tale.

Valushka, innocent lad about the village who can get a barroom full of belicose drunks to perform a ballet that explains what happens during a solar eclipse is still unschooled in the ways of men. He is a kind of gopher to his uncle, aunt and various authority figures of the village (even the local postman gets him to deliver mail) and while he likes his life well enough is pursued by a restless curiosity about the universe he inhabits.

The sun and the moon and the stars generally have to do to provide him with questions to answer, the village life itself offers little more than drunkenness and shiftless boredom. Then one night his path is literally crossed by the longest lorry he has ever seen. It parks in the village square and contains a wonder, a taxidermised blue whale.

Valushka is speechless at the sight of it (his eye off with the great mammals big dead peeper is a modern classic scene) but then, lingering in the darkness of the truck he overhears the lesser trumpeted attraction, a circus freak known as the Prince whose tirade against reason and order is strident and terrifying. Emerging from the darkness of the exhibit, Valushka learns that this ranter is the real attraction, a messianic figure whose rumoured advent has drawn the men of the village to surround the lorry in the square in a single angering mass.

Is this a fable about the end of religion, the decline of Soviet domination of the Hungarian homeland and its subsequent fatherless status? Maybe, but it doesn't have to be. Tarr's mesmerising style (using long takes to involve rather than alienate the viewer) takes us into Valushka's world, we easily share his worries and sorrow at the world he finds he lives in. This is great storytelling that doesn't have to go a mile a minute nor have an edit every thirty milliseconds to draw you in. One of my favourite films of the noughties, if not THE favourite.

Trailer (French subtitles but that's the only one on Youtube)

July 16th 7 pm
(Kyohsi Kurosawa Japan 2006)
A woman is found dead in a disused industrial lot, drowned by seawater. The detective on the case, a world-bearing pair of shoulders supplied by the ever dependable Koji Yakusho, finds something worrying about the case as the evidence comes in: he might have done it.

Contemporary Japanese cinemaster Kyoshi Kurosawa likes a challenge. Sometimes, as in the case of Cure, his success at surmounting the problem soars beyond it. More recently, his attempts at genre bending or remixing have resulted in some cringeworthy moments such as Loft or Doppleganger. Here, his intention to make a non scary ghost story is not only delivered but surpassed. Whereas Loft quickly descended into a smug attack on the popular J-horror genre, Retribution (aka Sakebi or The Scream) uses highly generic traits like the female ghost with the long black silk curtain hair but here they exist in a world more troubled by stress and guilt than sudden shocks.

Enjoy a drink the relaxed lounge and listen for your flight details to the tune of Nena or Throbbing Gristle

Here's a map.