Saturday, July 10, 2010

Winter Part 2: Singular

The silver drizzle falls and whispers.  The houselights glow dimly. The sky is low and solid with damp cover. It's the dead of winter.  Time for fires and tales beside them, fuelled by good wine and ale. Welcome to  SHADOWS, an evening of rare or locally unavailable film every Friday night.  Doors open at 7pm.  Screening starts at 8pm.  Wood fire heating, large canvas screen, licenced bar and other people there for the films they love or new experiences. This is what art house cinema used to be (when it existed) except it's warmer and easier to get a drink while you watch.  Stay afterward for wine and music and opinion, lots of opinion. Your chair, mesdames et messieurs!
Winter Part 2 is called Singular and features six tales of extraordinary individuals told with an eye to fiercely independent vision. As the title of the season finale has it Come and See!

ABC Gallery is a spacious venue with a good sized screen for projection.  It is run by Milos Manojlovic whose intriguing and dramatic work adorns the walls and will give you a tour of them upon request. He will also sell you a local or imported beer or glass wine for $5. All that and some rare gems from the world of great cinema. What on earth are you doing moping around your bar heater feeling guilty about not putting your tax return in? Come and get some warmth and great movie goodness!

127 Campbell Street Collingwood.  Google it!


Friday July 23rd 7pm
HENRY FOOL (Hal Hartley USA 1998)

Young trashman Simon Grim hates his life.  He's bullied outdoors and in and barely gets through each day with a kind of controlled seethe. Grumbling into town comes Henry Fool, poet and troublemaker.  He insinuates himself into Henry's household and colonises what passes for family life, sexually conquering both mother and daughter.  He also buys Simon a notebook for him to express the fury there that no one else acknowledges.  When he reads what Simon writes, he is stopped in his tracks.  Simon's rambling literary anger verges on the pornographic but it has fallen, untrained, into iambic pentameter. Henry has discovered that rarest of things, a genius who doesn't know it.

Hal Hartley began the 90s with a handful of other inspired younger film makers whose work promised a resurgence of new, stylish  and original cinema. His approach was unconventional but mainstream friendly, ensuring he started off with a decent across the board support.  Then in the mid 90s he committed a kind of indie suicide with a pair of failed experiments that alienated even his staunchest fans. Henry Fool, at the end of the 90s was less a return to form than a consolidation of previous strengths with a renewed vigour. It was as though he had nothing more to prove but much more to say.  This is one of his strongest statements. 

Friday July 30th7pm
NORIKO'S DINNER TABLE (Sion Sonno Japan 2005)

Noriko, like a lot of teenagers feels alienated by everything around her. Taking solace in social networking, she finds a soul mate and resolves to find her.  One night, during a power failure, she decamps her comfortable small town home and boards a train to Tokyo. After some hours wandering she deduces the contact and finds her new friend. But all is not as expected. The big city girl peels off her online identity and introduces herself as Kumiko. Now meet the rest of her family. Before Noriko knows it, she and the group are off to see granny who welcomes them in a kimono and feasts them with love and food. The happiness of the family is so infectious that Noriko is quickly caught up and blushes with joy at being called Mitsuko by the grandmother. She belongs somewhere, at last. Then everyone packs up they do it all again with another grandmother.

Welcome to the strangest cult of all as they professionally stand in for lost family members in the laity. Only in Japan! They are looking for points of identity and people who are connected to themselves rather than part of the great servant culture that modern Japan appears to have become. Sion Sonno's second part in a mooted trilogy that began with Suicide Circle (Winter Part 1 last year)is less a sequel than an examination of the mindset that got the lethal juggernaut rolling. The events of the first film are referred to directly and are contained within the new film's timeline. Though there is really none of the wrenching gore of Suicide Circle here, Noriko's Dinner Table does disturb. If you thought the cult was creepy in the first one, get a load of how it works behind the scenes.

Sonno uses an energetic mix of stocks from 35 mm film to what looks like VHS to enhance the restlessly shifting points of view. Different characters deliver voice over narration in the past tense as though giving testimony, sometimes even speaking it to camera while strolling through the streets. The long standing theme of identity in Japanese cinema raises its head again and doesn't duck back down to cover.


Friday August 6th 7pm
HEARTLESS (Phillip Ridley UK 2010)

Jamie, young and good looking but rendered cripplingly shy by the great red birthmark that spreads across half his face, works as a professional photographer. He keeps the shutter going after hours, finding visual treasure in his crumbling area of town. One day, shooting a derelict house that has caught his eye, he sees something he can't quite make out in the window.  Developing it later (he's romantically committed to film photography rather than digital) he finds something that looks like it escaped from a Hieronymous Bosch painting of Hell. He goes back later to check and finds more than he bargained for, quite literally. 

Phillip Ridley makes few films and they are far apart in time.  That's probably because their characteristic strangeness scares off financial backers. Ridley is also a visual artist and author and illustrator of children's books and it's worth keeping that in mind when watching his movies as they delve deeply into the world of fable and grotesquery. Of his three feature films, Heartless is the closest he has come to mainstream filmmaking but that's not saying that much when the initial conventional premise starts warping until it is only barely in the viewer's control. There's a nice mix of the imagined and the real on a quite superficial level, as a bonus: I have never seen the dowdier parts of old London rendered quite as beautifully as here.  Ridely took great pains to celebrate the beauty in the North American rustic settings of The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon but here seems to have relished the chance to do the same to his native city.

Friday August 13th 7pm
KURONEKO (Kaneto Shindo Japan 1968)

A rural cottage by a wood. One by one a band of samurai emerge from the trees and converge on the house. The two women inside are settling down to a meal.  The samurai enter.  Five minutes later in screen time the house is burnt to the ground and the strangely intact women's bodies lie lifeless in the ashes. Some cats, strays and considered vermin in the medieval Japanese setting, slink by and lick the blood off the necks of the victims. Fade. 

A strapping young samurai riding alone at night is stopped by the sight of a lone gentlewoman on her way home.  He offers to escort her to safety and for this is treated to the exact opposite of the opening scene including his violent demise at the hands of the women. This becomes a regular supply of warrior loss. An ambitious young samurai is called from his duties in an unending war to deal with the problem with the warning that it might have a supernatural cause.  Ambitious, he accepts the mission and finds far more than he'd expected. 

Kaneto Shindo had already stunned the world's cinephile's with his extraordinary film Onibaba (which stuns to this day) but this time he took a path away from the spooky sensuality of the marshland and into the more traditional Japanese ghost tale with this stylish, beautiful and eerie story.  Like the earlier film, a mix of choreography and location work add up to something of its own tribe.  Add some pretty dazzling wirework and you have a piece as strong as Onibaba at the same time as being completely distinct from it.

Friday August 20 8pm
COME AND SEE (Ellem Klimov USSR 1985)
Farm boy Florya tries to make it through each day intact as the blitzkrieg eviscerates the land and people around him. There are moments of fascination in the great Russian forests, even some eroticism, but these are fleeting as the nazi machine finds its way into every last quiet place. Still a teenager at the end of the flim, Florya seems to have aged a hundred years as he confronts an image of the cause of this hell on earth. A film that holds its anger like a newborn child.

Writer/Director Ellem Klimov declared this his final  film.  Sure, you've heard that before. Well, he's still alive and he  hasn't directed another film since. Now, if (insert name of cinematic  disappointment here) had done that, s/he would have a rich legacy to  offer the screen and its disciples. I have one irk about Klimov being a  man of his word, though.  He was slated to helm a film version of The  Master and Margarita with Speilberg backing. On the strength of Come and  See I think the world has missed out on that one.

So, come and see...