Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mooted Autumn: false shadows

This is not the line up of a new Shadows season. It's all pretend. Now read on...

Almost every Friday evening, whether going out or staying in, something feels a little wrong and then I remember that I don't have a film night to host anymore. I really miss this but rather than moan about it or just tap out a light nostalgia piece about what I would be preparing I've taken a leaf out o' my own blog and gone with my own suggestions as to what might form a season of Shadows. Two of the three years I ran the Shadows began in Autumn which starts on Friday. 

Going on what I've noted in the year and a bit since the last screening the following might well serve as the program I'd present. Got some sci fi, kabuki, indy, politics, comedy, mysticism and folky vengeance. Your chair!

Part 1
TIMECRIMES (Spain 2006)
A man sees what looks like an attack on a woman in the nearby woods and runs to help but instead finds himself in the middle of a very weird situation. Time travel has seldom played so lean and mean. Never has a head scratch felt like this much fun.

 Showed it before but it's out of print and probably will never make it to blu-ray. The first Shadows film proves a hit with everyone who sees it. Rock Hudson's role as the renovated old white collar who rebels against the fakery of his new life is a poignant reminder of Hudson's own duality as a hetero hunk on screen and a gay man behind doors. The real Twilight Zone the Movie.

Fable from the middle ages in which a remote mountain village sacrifices one of its own annually to cope with food shortages. Everyone loves grandma Orin until her time, at sixty-nine, comes up and then it's all gossip and snidery. The problem is that Orin has no problem. She is willing to go. It means a death by exposure at the fozen mountain peak. Hard life lessons ensue for everyone though many don't heed them. And then, as can only happen in a Japanese movie, the climax is both heartrending and unsentimental.

Easter film.

A young couple eager to find some direction in freelance investigative journalism infiltrate a cult based around a charismatic young woman who claims to be from the future. Intriguing tale of committment and trust backed by solid performances. A golden hue to the scenes in the cult stronghold seems to provide its own physical warmth.

QUEIMADA (Italy 1969)
A gripping tale of empire, slavery and revolution from the master of The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo, Queimada (aka Burn). A powerful mid-career Marlon Brando is William Walker, aristocratic shitstirrer for hire who destabilises the Portugese colonial admin by picking out Jose, a slave, who shows some potential to lead a revolt. Years later Walker is back, this time to erase Jose. Marxist history shouldn't be as gripping and fun as it is here. But there it is. Oh, and Morricone's most gloriously rich score ever.

Part 2

SAUNA (Finland 2008)

At the unmapped waste left alone even by decades of war there is a swamp and in the swamp there is a sauna house which might cleanse sinners of their sins or bring the world to an end. John Carpenter meets Andrei Tarkovsky. Absorbing.

RASHOMON (Japan 1950)
Four retellings of one incident contradict each other. Even the spirit of the dead hasn't seen everything. This itself is the subject of a number of tales told between a small group of men taking shelter from a rainstorm. Timeless fable of human nature runs the gamut of emotion and sobers the intellect. Genius from a master, Akira Kurosawa.

Before Kubrick ruled the earth he made this student piece which stands between his professional photography and his film career. It's an intriguing piece. A group of soldiers wander the woods behind enemy lines and confront the difficulties of being soldiers without the backing of the military machine. Fevered voice over streams of consciousness and exquisite open air lighting work and the Kubrick framing that was there when he tabled his photos at the Look magazine editor's desk. He hasn't yet developed any real skill with action sequences and some of the character motivation is too forced. This is a young filmmaker's piece, all big statement and attempted virtuosity, but its strengths shine through the overstated characterisation and wobbly narrative joints to serve up a war movie with a conscience. The debate over the point where he emerged as an auteur rages still but whether you call it Paths of Glory or The Killing Fear and Desire, finally released, can now stand as a very real first glimpse into greatness.

Sion Sonno has shifted toward conventionality in the narrative cohesion and timeline departments but still going through the outer rings of the human heart and psyche. Izumi, married to a romance novelist, lives a life of ritualistic perfection knowing neither eros nor amor. Getting a job to get out of the house she discovers both but, a quick learner, moves well beyond them. Sonno uses the more grounded narrative approach to fill the screen with candy coloured Tokyo that goes from bubblegum pink to the black of a blood spatter on a seedy hotelroom wall. Neither purient nor stilted and scholarly, Guilty of Romance entertains and challenges.
Extraordinary tale of redemption set in the Carpathian mountains. Katalin is rejected by her husband and spurned by her village for admitting that her son is the result of a rape. She hits the road in a horse and cart with her son in search of the perpetrator. When she locates him her infiltration of his household and path to his confrontation is sobering but also, oddly uplifting. The picturesque but forbidding Transylvanian landscape and forests provide a reminder of the coversion of the crime and the life surrounding it. Seldom has revenge been so quiet and deeply effective.  Director went on to make the extraordinary Berberian Sound Studio.

Before John Carpenter made his game-changing action and horror pieces he expanded his student graduation piece into one of the funniest and most authentically existential sci-fi films ever. The crew of a planet disposal ship go about their routine of stumping duty for future inter-galatic trade routes and go steadily insane. Worth it for the beach ball alien and the magnificent phenomenology lesson delivered to a bomb, Dark Star's riches go well beyond its gimmickry. Trumped the following year by the megabudgeted hollow vessel Star Wars, this was long the victim of cultural perdition but its reputation as a sleeping pioneer has grown steadily.

There you are. Just pretend you can head down to Collingwood curl up beside the fire with something good in a glass and watch some fine things on the screen. Nostalgia over and out ....

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