Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SPRING PART 1 : Every little chromosome


Ah...all the little snowdrops are pushing up outta the stony earth and curly green things are sprouting from dry branches. Sunshine and longer days and I'm sneezing like a semi-automatic. Here then are six tales of reproduction, generation and transition from around the world and a spread of decades.

SHADOWS is a cinema in a gallery.  There's heating and a licensed bar.  The mood is informal and the invitation is for you to enjoy some films from the shadows of the mainstream and stick around for some fireside opining or (as the start time allows for it) the rest of the still young night and its great dark and terrifying promises.

The ABC Gallery is at 127 Campbell Street, Collingwood (Google is your friend). Entrance is by the heavy door near the corner of Campbell and Perry Streets.

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!


Friday September 3rd 8pm

(France 1961)

Angela wants a baby. Emile doesn't. Their mutual friend Alfred is happy to settle matters with ideas and donable substances of his own. What? Jean Luc Godard, sworn enemy of Hollywood convention makes a rom com? Not just that, it's a musical...kinda...

Godard's joke that it's a neorealist musical (a gleeful impossibility, given the Italian genre's grimness) is not so far off as he goes about murdering every generic trait he can think of. Dance sequences are chopped into a few silent stills, the backing track stops abruptly when the vocals kick in. Angela's exotic dance in that scene is shown entirely as a facial closeup. The entire soundtrack is turned off for moments that would call for a bright flourish.  The only full song in the film is played on a juke box as the heroine stares tearfully back at the audience. There are injokes about friends and colleagues (Alfred can't make a date as the actor playing him is on tv that night). Alfred and Emile argue through book titles. Neo-realist musical?

Well, a Nouvelle Vague one: the criminally beautiful and genuinely comedic Anna Karina (then Godard's wife, muse and the star of his films), hunque de spunque Jean Paul Belmondo (Breathless and Pierrot le fou), luxuriantly colourful cinemascope Parisian imagery, and the restless invention of an enfant terrible at the top of his game. Godard's only completely joyous film is a delight but one always qualified by a flimmaker who knows we're out there in the dark and shouldn't get too comfy knowing he can't actually see us. It wasn't long before his anger took over. He never made a flim as whimsical or approachable as this again.

Screens with TBA

Friday September 10th 8pm

(USA 1956)
Small town USA.  Lawns are sprinkled, cars are washed, teeth are pulled and kids skip streets that ring with their laughter, and people are being taken over by emotionless pods from another planet.

They look like you. They talk like you. They want you and they'll have you. Imagine a life without pain, stress, grief or violence. All this could be yours. All we need is for you to lie down and take a nap. It's that easy.

This paranoia tale from the dawn of the cold war was claimed by both sides. Cold, hard commies or robotic, braindead McCarthyites it works either way.  Don Seigel just wanted to make a good scary story. Sure he did. Kevin McCarthy is perfect as the everyman whose intelligence must override his fear. He must be like the pods to defeat them. That, too, applies to both sides of the 50's US divide.

Bodysnatchers is a rare case of a timely story that can survive pop culture fashion. It has survived the rigours of two remakes (1978 by Phillip Kaufman and 1993 by Abel Ferrara with a script by Larry Cohen -- rockin!) which easily absorbed a current issue into the tale. The Nicole Kidman vehicle Invasion is an exception to this but to each crowd there must be one.

Screens with TBA

Friday September 17th 8pm

 sex, lies and videotape
 (USA 1989)
Ann loves her comfortable middle class life but doesn't like sex. Husband John is having an affair with her sister. And into town comes Graham, onanistically preferring talk about sex to sex itself, with a video camera slung over his shoulder to record the confessions of anyone who wants to debase herself in front of him.  There's your title, right there.

Stephen Soderberg's debut is often held up as the kickstarter of US indy film, opening the door for the Hartleys, Smiths and Tarrantinos of the world. While I'd dispute that the fact is that this shoestring film was a massive worldwide hit and brought a return of serious grown up themes and values to cinema, mainstream and marginal, containing enough daring and accessible characterisation and dialogue to entice all cinemagoers. The central theme of the comfort of alienation vs the riskiness of intimacy is timeless and made highly appealing by such a capable and beautiful cast.

Canadian Atom Egoyan was pushing the envelope a little further at the time in his use of video aesthetics and home video's use as a weapon but Soderberg had his eyes on the wider market and broke it without contest, using self reflecting yuppies in trouble to appeal to self absorbed yuppies in trouble. You could do a contemporary one using social media but would you need to? This one still works and would if it were sex, lies and stone tablets. A controlled masterpiece.

Screens with TBA

Friday September 24th 
I'll be going to see Peter Hook play the Unknown Pleasures album at the Palais.  Wish me luck and Hooky a broken string.

Friday October 1st 8pm

(Thailand 2004)
Two Bangkok yuppies accidentally run down a woman on a lonely country road. They try to rationalise their way out of responsibility only to find that the victim is nowhere to be found.  Getting back to town they can find no report of any such incident in the media or police records. The man, Tun, finds odd spectral figures appearing in the photographs he takes for a living. Jane, his wife, is haunted while asleep. Their friends seem to be dropping like flies around them. Not your average few weeks in the life.

But this is not your average Asian horror.  From Ringu onwards the horror from the east has led the world in innovating the tired film genre but by 2003 (with Ju-on) the newness stopped and the copying set in with every film and its best boy being plagued by a slow moving girl with a long black silk curtain of hair over her face. Shutter is happy to begin in familiar territory but, once it hits its stride, proves happier still to leave the beaten deserted country road for new destinations. An effective chiller with social resonance. Beware of US remakes, this is the original.

Screens with TBA

Friday October 8th 8pm

(UK 2008)

Withdrawn teen, Helen, is chosen to stand in for a missing girl in a police reconstruction. As her curiosity takes her into the girl's life she warms to this possible new identity as a replacement to the void she feels in her own. Her happy immersion, however, is under threat. She is about to turn 18 and be confronted by the evidence of who she really is. The government care program she's known for all her living memory is about to confront her with the files of her origins.

This might be a satire on New Labour's sharing and caring oafishness or simply a heartrending double whammy of two girls who both fall into tragedy in their own ways. Told in a series of underplayed scenes, often formed by a glacially slow tracking shot, there is a real sense of awkwardness following shock to this tale. A mix of script and improvisations and professional and amateur actors makes for an often unnerving atmosphere of detachment. The clash of the extreme slickness in the colour palette and composition of the widescreen frame, eeriness of the soundtrack and the stumbling or often expressionless dialogue make for something rich and strange, like an episode of The Bill written by Samuel Beckett and directed by Stanley Kubrick. 

Screens with TBA

Friday October 15th 8pm

(USA 1964)
Ralph, completely bald at 17 is an intellectual infant. Virginia, his sister, thinks she's a spider and catches the odd postman in a home made web. Remaining sister Elizabeth seems perfectly normal. I said "seems"... Meet the Merryes the last remnants of an old landowning family with their own aristocratic curse, a neurological condition that inflicts a galloping dementia on its sufferers from the age of 10.  Keeping the three children from the dangers of the world and the world from the dangers of the children is butler Bruno (Lon Wolfman Chaney jr. in his last significant film role), long suffering but compassionate and crushed by the knowledge that this equilibrium is about to tumble out of all stability.  A pair of greedy cousins appear to lay their claim on the family estate and they won't be turned away by a few minor grotesqueries.

Spider Baby sits somewhere in a multiple crash of Venn diagrams. Is it horror, black comedy, satire, exploitation, what? All and none. The budgetary limitations and shortfalls in the director's expertise provide a lot of creaking but there is a lot in this strange exercise to compel.  There is a real sense of creepy menace in the performances by the kids (particularly Jill Banner, pictured, 17 during production) and it extends beyond the Addams Family kookiness to suggest something disturbing about the world beyond the walls of the mansion as much as anything within them.

Screens with TBA