Thursday, March 14, 2013

Films I was probably too old to see when they came out

John Hughes: 16 Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and The Breakfast Club all came across to me as groups of born-yesterday teens workshopping the carpe diem philosophy. I saw these in my 20s and they felt cutesy and forced. I could see some poignant issues raised but these were all but masked by the squeaky clean sheen of Hughes attempts to make the comedy palatable to all, teen and parent of teen alike. Wether grinning in recognition of daily life or recalling it, audiences who were meant to sig teh sugar without noticing the medicine. While not as hateful as 80s teen fare from the Spielberg diaspora, Hughes movies nevertheless always seemed to cop out with something goofy at the apex like the marijuana scene in Breakfast Club or the cringey Twist and Shout bit on the parade float Ferris Bueller. Would I have responded better if I'd been five years younger? Would I have relaxed into it like everybody else and enjoyed the ride? Dunno. I do know that at the end of the decade Heathers felt like a slamming response to all of the above and achieved everything they had failed.

Also, for honourable mention, Risky Business which delved much deeper into the darkness of adolesence and competition was better even though it came across like a Hughes movie (saw it on tv years after its release) even to the extent of the Chicago setting. Still nothing in the field beats Heathers.

I joked in one of my remake posts that The Breakfast Club should be remade as a severe Swedish black comedy.  As long as Lasse Hallstrom is not involved that would work for the lot.

Star Wars: I've already covered this a fair bit here but the short version goes like this: I saw this when I was fifteen and immediately loved the detail of things like rust on spaceships which felt like sci fi was being pushed forward. But then the cantina scene began to ruin it as it just felt cute. Everything after that, even if more solidly dramatic, just felt like a con, like teacher who went all goofy when faced with a hard question and tried to cover it with a joke.

Fairly recently, an acquaintance was surprised to find my antipathy to this series stemmed from seeing it while young. "Why didn't you like it?" he bellowed, "because it wasn't Breathless?" Well, no. While the year 1977 for me meant punk rock, alternative culture and the still-surprising programming of movies like Zabriskie Point, Husbands and Five Easy Pieces on the local commercial channel did make anything mainstream fade on sight, the real reason I hated Star Wars was that its cuteness made me cringe. My acquaintance's bizzarre assumption that if I didn't like Star Wars then I must be some overrefined snob just reveals his reverse snobbery.

Would I have enjoyed it more younger? Maybe, but I knew so many people my age who dug it and then Grease and Raiders of the Lost Ark (both of which I grimace to recall). I don't remember feeling particularly mature or sophisticated I just disliked what I started seeing as market-designed culture rather than things created from passion. That's a naieve position and has long since been tempered by experience to separate the wishfulness from the annoyance.

Actually, I think I would've enjoyed Star Wars if I'd seen it before 1977. Whether I would recall it fondly now, even with nostalgia which comes in handy when remembering the garbage of one's childhood years, I don't know.

Tarrantino: The one that did impress me was Jackie Brown. You're meant to say that but in this case it's true. I'm not a fan of the endless quoting and cleverness substituting for content ..... anymore. Anymore for QT began with Reservoir Dogs. I have enjoyed every one of them I've seen and then I've forgotten them. I'm just beyond thinking that laboriously constructed self-reflexive gags are anything but annoying. If I'd been an undergrad when I'd seen them I bet I'd be a big fan today. That's not a slight. The context is that I'd already seen it done more subtlety and style by Scorsese for over a decade by the time Dogs came around. Then it looked like teenage overstatement. I don't buy cinema tickets for his stuff anymore.

Wes Anderson: The cuteness and whimsy might have appealed to me if I were still in my twenties. This is possibly why I still like early Hal Hartley films but gag at Anderson's. I was in my twenties when I first saw Harold and Maude and still rank it among the best American films of all time. Anderson's films seemed intent on recreating the experience of that film and its cousins as though trying to make a new Shakespeare from a drawing of his DNA sequence. Trying to imagine liking his stuff if I were younger brings to mind a lot of trash I went to see and raved about then that I'd seen at arthouses when there were arthouses. I know that I feel almost none of the fun of Repo Man that I felt first go. There are so many others. So, maybe not, all up, I'd still see the lazy writing and sudden explosions of drama amid the precious quirky bullshit as misfires.

Blues Brothers and Animal House: I revere Landis as a film scholar. He doesn't just have an encyclopedic knowledge of the form but a very even handed approach that allows effortless comparison of sacred cow classics with 2c grindhouse fare. But I dislike the movies that he makes. Two in particular because they are aimed at such a neanderthal sensibility that the idea of riding along with them and laughing at all the gags makes me feel unclean. I can see where it comes from. Wouldn't it be funny if a marching band kept trying to march forward in a dead end? Imagine at the end the two guys have more guns than in the entire state of Texas pointed at them. This kind of thing is funny when you are young and unused to intoxicants and can't tell the difference between their IQ suppressing power and your own powers of invention. Nothing wrong with that until you spend insane amounts of money putting it on a screen. These films make me cringe. They made me cringe when I saw them in my late teens and early twenties. But maybe if I'd been ten to twelve and watching them on home video ....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: ELLES: it's not about the money ... this time

There were a few choices on my Friday off but I picked this one because I felt like something a little darker and sharper than average. After I got out of the screening I realised it was International Women's Day and was very pleased with myself.

We begin with a blowjob. Man writhing on bed then track down to woman's head slowly bobbing at his crotch. It's all desaturated gunmetal grey like a chocolate ad but instead of a praline materialising in the corner of the frame as life's real colour we hear a young male voice call for his mother. Snap out!

Anne is a freelance investigative journalist who lives with her husband and two sons in a palatial apartment in what we might call a heritage listed neighbourhood of Paris. She's French so I can call her bourgeoise without sneering. She has an illtempered bicker with her son about what he should have for breakfast before deciding against another cigarette and looking at her computer's blank screen. She's been listening to recordings of interviews she's done with tertiary students who have turned to prostitution for income during their studies. She's having trouble shaping the article and the family around her is not helping. Still, she gets on with it.

Her day is not much more help as she has to prepare a dinner party for her husband's colleagues, try and find her teenage son who has been wagging school and cope with the potentially life changing thoughts she has elicited from two of her interviewees.

It's worth pointing out from the get go that this is not a Gaspar Noe plunge into depravity nor even an ice cold Hanneke stare at banal evil: it is a subtle unsharp mask that reveals the focus between the decisions and start that have brought Anne to her enviable lifestyle and those that might prove risky for the young women who taken this path.

A lot of the encounters reported by the two subjects of focus are quite positive to the extent of being erotic. These women, one of whom is studying economics, are models of organisation and serious about ensuring their income and maintaining the distinctions between work, study, family and partners. They are in business and appear to be successful.

If anything, their concerns are class based. At one point "Lola", sensing superiority in attitude from Anne is downcast and says: "You can smell it on me, can't you?" A few lines later she reveals that she meant her welfare family background growing up in public housing. Young Polish Alicia (I just wanted to write that string of capitalised words) guides Anne back into the tasty wilderness of youth and the vodka-dance they share to The Knife's Pass This On completely avoids the cheesiness that would drag it to the floor if this were an American movie.

The envy goes both ways and the sense of constraint follows. Anne, throughout the day that frames all these encounters, grows more restless by the hour as she puts the dinner party together and at one point feels the ache to be with some of the better clients her interviewees have told her about that she is suddenly imbibing and laughing with them. Snapping back to reality is such a disappointment that she stands and leaves the house.

While I was watching this in the dark of the cinema I kept wanting it to spark up and start peaking but the more I went through it the more I found in its carefully folded information and polished emotion. The two younger women are cast to provide a narrow but telling contrast. Their control over their subcareer and how that might benefit them outweighs the need another film might have of showing them degraded. (All this without a moment's recommendation of prostitution; as hot as the topic usually is, it's the character's ability to adapt that is on show here.)

And then there is Juliet Binoche who seems to have aged with beauty intact and gravitas in tow. She carries her maturity with a lack of screen vanity that her transatlantic colleagues only approach when they want a nomination. The moment when she breaks from her near constant stress and laughs it's like the sun coming out and announcing that everyone in the audience has won Tatts.  Long may she reign o'er us.

I suspect Elles will leave the local screens as it arrived, quietly and underappreciated. It probably won't be released on disc. SBS might program it. You should see it while you can. Not because it's worthy but because it will haunt you.

Favourite Movie Songs VI: The Quickening

JERUSALEM: Privilege. Beautiful jangling mid-60s version of Anglican hymn set to Blake poem. Watkins' film, which improves on repeated viewing, posits the perceived fear of the British establishment that rock music would stir youth to toppling revolution. The rock star absorbed by the powers that be (a kind of pre-Bowie damaged idol) is played by real life rock star Paul Jones. The mix of documentary harshness, British TV hard edge and pop colour make this story of culture crush all the more poignant. This song appears at a rally somewhere between Nuremberg and religious revivalism. The band has been seen earlier doing a goofy version of Onward Christian Soldiers dressed as monks. Here they are in uniform and salute the crowd like Nazis. Sobering.

CUCURRUCUCU PALOMA: Talk To Her. Almodovar's tale of intertwined relationships and line crossing to the extent of the brink of death features this cool cooing spooky number sung by the man who made it a hit decades before but here delivered in a sparser arrangement which highlights the spaceiness of of the piece.

HOW DO: The Wicker Man. Britt Eckland sings this naked in her bed, thumping the wall like a drum while sawdust and porridge protestant celibate Edward Woodward all but gnaws his bedpost in resistance. He will find a kind of futility in his own virtue. Later covered by triphoppers-come-lately Sneaker Pimps, but beautifully. Lost of songs from this movie that isn't a musical. That's ok, though, is isn't a horror movie nor a hippy feelgood back to nature nor a ... you get the idea.

PUT THE BLAME ON MAME: Gilda. Sung by Gilda as realised with Geiger counter stressing radiance by Rita Hayworth, this ode to bad thrums under all the bad this apex-dwelling noir can deliver.

To Have and Have Not.
Lauren Bacall at nineteen. What the hell else do you want?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Favourite Movie Songs Redux: Original: Newer, Faster, Personal ... mixedupier

Seven more o' these. A mix of sourced and orignal, favouring original. More to follow, over....

Sky High: The Man from Hong Kong. I saw the film much later than I heard this song from the mid-70s. From it's beautiful floating verse you wouldn't expect the beat-em-up crime basher you get (featuring everyone's forgotten Bond, George Lazenby who, on the strength of this film did about a million commercials for .... sorry, can't remember). I still quite like the difference. Even the bouncy chorus ends on that soaring falsetto: "Ski Hiiiiiiiiiigh!" Dig it! (Oh, you can youtube the opening sequence of the film if you like - the floaty hang glider works well with the song - but this is the version with the great use of delay on the verse that got the radio play and I'd rather you listened to this one first.)

Up the Junction: Up the Junction. I saw the movie from halfway through in my first year in Brisbane. This song is folded through it like a layer of honey. Beautiful late 60s London pop. Almost just-post-Syd Floyd. Movie is good but is a dilution of Ken Loach's original tv play. Song's still great, though.

Ich Liebe Dich: Baxter. Imagine Lassie remade by Michael Hanneke. Baxter is a bull terrier who narrates through a voiceover that makes him sound like a bar-propping sailor in a Jacques Brel song. He goes through several owners and most of them come to a bad end. Then he meets the boy, a Hitler fan who sees his own one dog SS in Baxter. This song occurs at a point when you think the sweet and natural young girl in the clip below will provide a civilising influence. The tune and vocals themselves seem to be spun from sugar and spice and all things nice. Don't be taken in. This film is a deadly portrayal of dependence at any cost and no one is innocent. Make that Lassie directed by Michael Hanneke and written by Gunther Grass.

Call Me: American Gigolo. They didn't know it at the time but Blondie were about to nose dive into the post fame void. Before that happened they had the time and force for one last slice of greatness. Call Me is a concentration of their successful collision of power pop and Georgio Moroder electrodisco. This time they did it with Moroder himself and the result is a blast, a great charging warcry of demand over a tide of energy. Even before you saw Schrader's movie you felt like you knew what it was like to drive around it in a convertible. Chaaaaaaaarge ... it!

Marcy's Song: Martha Marcy May Marlene. Intensely creepy song from the extraordinary 2012 film sung by the cult leader to the protagonist whose journey into identity hyperspace is given a big push by this scene. Too hard to find a clip from the film but here's a studio version with a montage from the film.

Happiness: Happiness. This is one aspect of why this unsettling film is so effective. When the hopeless character Joy sings this at home as something she wrote herself it engendered howls of derision among its audience at the screening I attended. And then when it played again over the end credits but this time powered up by REM with Michael Stipe's stadium rock vocals roaring through it no one seemed to notice.

Georgy Girl: Georgie Girl. Great song from the 60s to a great Brit movie of the time. Whaddaya want?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Favourite Movie Songs: Sourced

This one is much harder than I thought. I had supposed that since the outsourcing of pop songs had only been in practice since the 60s and then only mandatory since the 80s (eg The Big Chill) the narrowed field would make it easy. You won't find Tarrantino selections here as, while he does use sourced music well I have too much trouble connecting with the films (and my loathing of Wes Anderson is a curious element actually discernable in my DNA). My ground rules were that the moment must particularly delight or surprise rather than just be apt (like the almost decorative use of all the music in The Big Chill). I suspect there will be more of these 'uns.

THE END: Apocalypse Now. The first time I heard this song was in the opening sequence of the movie. Second viewing was at a drive-in in Townsville when it rained lightly all through the movie and felt like the heat visible on screen. There were military helicopters going overhead frequently.  It was so sensuously powerful otherworldly that I bought every Doors album throughout the following months. Still a fan. (PS- The End was also used earlier to good effect in Scorsese's Who's That Knocking at My Door .... but I didn't know that then ;)

BANANA SPLITS: Kickass. Always thought this great version would play well under comic book style action. It does.

IN DREAMS: Blue Velvet. a toss-up between this and the title track. I went with this because it comes out of nowhere and takes over the scene it's in, forming Frank's only equal.

MY WAY: Goodfellas. Runs over the freezframe and end credits but Sid's version with its goopy intro and panzer division arrangement and pisstake lyric form an even closer bond than the more celebrated use of the Stones in the paranoia sequence.

LITTLE DRUMMER BOY: Class. 80s teen movie where schoolboy assignations up with best friend's mother (Jacquiline Bissett). This played as the friends set out to the family mansion for Christmas and was meant to be all sassy and contemporary. It kind of was but this tune survives anything thrown at it. I don't know why this works but it does. Best bit in a resolutely ok film.

DREAMS: Sound of My Voice. No clip but that doesn't surprise me as the song is not used the way these others are. It is sung by a character and an extraordinary claim made for it. During the performance you want to shout your recognition of it because you don't think the other characters will. But they do. What follows forms part of a highly accomplished cinematic delayed sleight of hand. Uncomfortable, expertly uncomfortable.

Favourite Movie Songs: Original

Two qualifiers: songs written for movies that are not musicals. So, no chance of Over the Rainbow or Singing in the Rain (neither of which I like anyway). And no chance of other songs I'm supposed to like but am indifferent to like As Time Goes By or songs I flatly hate like Eye of the Tiger. So ....

IN HEAVEN: Eraserhead. It comes out of nowhere just like the Lady in the Radiator who sings it moves into the light from complete darkness. It's beautiful and unnerving. We don't know what it means or why it's there until the end. We think.

BECAUSE THE DEAD: Suicide Circle.  An ambush number that falls somewhere between Ziggy era Bowie and post-punk melange sung by the cult leader (digetically, there's a band around his throne) while various atrocities are taking place under bloodied sheets around him while two of his victims are forced to watch. "Because the dead shine all night long..." And then that's it, no more songs apart from the insanely catchy Mail Me by the J-pop girlband whose name keeps getting spelled differently. Nothing plays fair in this film.

THE WINDMILLS OF YOUR MIND: The Thomas Crown Affair. Brilliant controlled explosion of free association played under the pleasing motion of Steve McQueen gliding over a landscape. Pity it was Noel Harrison's anaemic version rather than Dusty's but you can't have everything.

AVE SATANI: The Omen. A few years after The Exorcist had overhauled horror film music with judicious use of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells everyone wanted a tinkly eerie piece. The Omen's brief was larger scale, however, so consistently brilliant Jerry Goldsmith churned out this tense and creepy burst of power. Of course that then was copied for everything after that as Exorcist ripoffs gave way to antichrist stories with big choirs. Goldsmith kept working with the series and produced consistenly high scores (the one for Damien: Omen II is worth having the cd for as it's written as a full black mass and is insanely good) as the quality of the film fell from the acceptable silliness of the first one to the style perdition of the third. Don't get me started on the remake.

GOLDFINGER: Goldfinger. After I lost interest in James Bond movies sometime in my teens my affection for the music remained. My self-imposed no instrumentals rule has prevented inclusion of the Bond theme so here's another goodie.

WALK AWAY: Trust. It's cheesy and all 90s/60s and indy but still packs a wallop with me and is placed expertly in the credits sequence. Not strictly written for the film but picked by Hartley who had become friends with Hub Moore during an earlier film. I loved the opening sequence anyway but when this song kicked in just after it was going to take a lot for me to dislike the rest of the film.

No clip for this one but here's another good tune by the same artist from an earlier film. Surviving Desire. The Music from the Films of Hal Hartley cd is worth it if you can find it anywhere.

MYSTERIES OF LOVE: Blue Velvet. Plays over Geoffrey and Sandy's slow dance which is a golden hued pool of warmth between bouts of violence and tension and comes on like codeine. Slice of what makes David Lynch movies work; heartrending, dark, vaguely troubling and ethereal all at once. Also plays very beautifully over the end credits. When heard out of context feels like a whispered memory after midnight.

THE BRAIN: The Brain. Great late 60s title tune with a British line in vocal harmony but a thumping Memphis groove. Much better than the pop art master criminal movie it was written for. Same folk as had a hit with Bend Me Shape Me.

TO SIR WITH LOVE: To Sir With Love. Irresistible 60s pop tastes like musk sticks and champagne. Exact poignancy as demandedby the film. A favourite. Almost always get to the brink of welling up when I hear this.

MOON RIVER: Breakfast at Tiffanys. Audrey Hepburn strumming on the fire escape and cooing this kills the rest of the film (which I like, erky Mickey Rooney performance as Japanese character notwithstanding). Moonlight, sighs and a dry Manhattan ....

Monday, March 4, 2013

Top ten: 040313

Network: No one ever speaks as eloquently as these characters, regardless of education and class position. The reason you don't care is that these highly literate speeches are being delivered by one of the best casts ever assembled. Now add an accurate prediction of the future of public media and corporate volatility that felt fresh thirty years after release and you have satire that kills.

Night of the Living Dead: Made for about five dollars with local theatre and tv commercial cast and crew, Night rewrote the zombie movie by removing the magic and just presenting the threat. The living dead. Yes, but also ourselves who will be joining them. As powerful and important to American independent cinema as anything by Cassavettes or Brakhage.


Deep Red: While this wasn't Argento's final giallo it remains the point to which he took the still youthful crime genre to heights of design and plot contrivance clearly indicated by the originals by Bava et al in the 60s. It's a kind of apotheosis. David Hemmings plays a British composer working in Rome who witnesses a horrific murder and runs to the crime scene. He is too late but he is committed to solving the crime. Teaming up with crime journalist played by Daria Niccolodi he goes on an ever more intriguing journey into mystery. A mix of Elizabethan invention (I can only think of one case in an Argento movie in which someone is killed with a bullet; mostly its blades or glass shards or whatever you don't want to see lying around the house used fatally) and high baroque style with the lights off, Deep Red is a masterpiece.

Eraserhead: Worlds from daydreams are often pleasant places and those created in attempts to mask the real life fears of their protagonists characteristically involve a redemption narrative arc. Until Eraserhead you had to go to someone like Tarkovsky or Jodorowski for alternatives to this, individualist auteurs from the DNA up. With Eraserhead this lonely stage had one more figure and appropriately he, like they, didn't look like any of the others.

The Eye: Took a currently popular meme from the massive American hit The Sixth Sense and outdid it by making it scarier AND providing so much new material and different narrative currents that it - bizarrely - was one of the first American remakes of an Asian horror hit in the 2000s. Angelica Lee carries the weight of a difficult role that requires her to not quite see what we can and still feel it. I used to dislike the big Hollywood action movie ending but repeat views showed me a lot more in the silent coda than I'd first noticed. The output of the Pang brothers has been patchy but they always put something in there that has never occured to their audiences before.

Trust: The '90s indy boom was by no means the last time American movies could have literary qualities that were neither dusty nor overwhimsical but solid and rewarding but this was the era were this quality could be expected. Like everything it was waterlogged by copying error by its final act but this from its peaks of achievement blended an antisentimentality with carefully observed behaviour and some of the hardest edged intellectual dialogue imaginable in context. And it was funny and when it wasn't funny it was poignant. Actually, Trust was as good as the era's best song lyrics.

The Haunting: Any film that could make us listen intently to Julie Harris rather than look at Claire Bloom has something. As always, wrap your scares around tragedy and no one will resent you for the time taken in unpacking. Citizen Kane and Val Lewton alumnus, Robert Wise would go on to The Sound of Music and more beyond that but this is like a childhood present I need to have around.

Audition: Begins like a slightly iffy rom com but turns into your life's worst dental appointment. From dodgy to edgy before you know it. This is how to make a crazy stalker movie without the morally timorous endings of things like Fatal Attraction or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. No one in this film gets away scott free. When I saw it at the Lumiere while still a new release the audience of the small cinema looked at each other as the lights came up as though making sure we'd all gone through the same thing.

Rollerball: In the future there will be no wars but there will be rollerball. This clever satire on the corporatisation of sport (along with the rest of society) and the commodification of its stars (top dog Jonathon E comes home after a particular victory to find a fresh new trophy wife almost wrapped in a bow with a card from the company. Also, what a great action movie. This is what the 70s could do without a single ironic wink.

Stalker: This wish story is as earthy as a folktale but as refined and weird as a sci-fi or religious story. A great literary adaptation as it forms a companion to rather than a cinematic masking of the source novel (see also Naked Lunch). Tarkovsky once suggested that he, like Robert Bresson, didn't not emulate the world through film but created his own. And Stalker, like Eraserhead or Mouchette gives the sense of witnessing someone else's dream as it is happening.

Friday, March 1, 2013


Denis Diderot's novel Jacques the Fatalist includes a wonderful anecdote told by Jacques that goes like this: When I was working for the Comte de N__ his young boychild took sick and it was feared he might die. The family and staff gathered around his bed and a priest was summoned. Though very weak he lifted his head to speak. His distraught father leant in to hear what might be the boy's dying request and heard: " I would like everybody to hold hands." Without being asked, everyone in the room held hands with the person next to them. The boy spoke again: "Could you form a circle around my bed, please?" In seconds everyone had formed a circle. they waited. "Now'" said the boy, "could you all start dancing around the room?"

The joke goes nowhere. Diderot himself has to interrupt it going any further by putting a distraction in the story. This film tells a more serious version of this joke.

We open in a diner which we know is going to be in trouble with its menu from the get go. The freezer was turned off overnight and the the stock is now garbage. There is a strong suspicion that one of the staff members has done it on purpose. The middleaged Sandra, manager, has to cope with this and the disrespect of her typically adolescent staff. One telling moment finds her first trying to impress the younger Marti and Becky by hinting at a wild sex life. The younger women ridicule her when she has gone but we see Sandra witnessing it, worried, embarrassed. The shift begins. It is busy and fraught with the complaints of customers sending substandard food back or the lack of menu items due to the shortages due to the freezer incident.

In the middle of this Sandra gets a phone call. It's the police. A staff member fitting Becky's description has been accused by a customer of stealing money from her purse. Sandra is instucted to take Becky aside and sort it out while the cop stays on the phone. She takes the teenager into a storeroom and follows the prompts of the police officer on the phone in interrogating Becky about the accusation. Becky is at first defiantly outraged at the suggestion but, threatened with jail her inexperience bids her to comply. Sandra is visibly distressed, trying to do the right thing at the same time as maintain her authority in front of this teenager who has just made fun of her. Her own compliance is thus sealed.

At this point and right up to the extent of Becky's strip search the viewer's anxiety over no one questioning the authenticity of the caller's authority and it is at this point where we might recall that we have already seen a thirtyish man in the car park shouting into the phone and catching sight of Becky as she walks to the diner to start her shift. Not too long after this we see him in a plush suburban home, on the phone as Officer Daniels, plugging on with his phone prank.

Back at the diner the prank turns into a constant humiliation of Becky leading to nightmarish  extremes.

Well, they would be nightmarish but there's a problem here. Even though we've been driven to all but yell at the screen for someone to ask for a badge number or even outright refuse we've kept it in because the hand on the helm has been steady. Our own compliance with the film's manipulation has been pleasurable. But something happens when we get the big reveal. (This reveal, by the way, is made obvious in the trailer that Nova was playing before every movie for a month or so.) The victims of the prank lose our sympathy and immediately turn into suckers. The delight frequently twisting the bonetight ginger perpetrator's face, however vile his actions are, however shameful, being the more powerful force he begins to command our sympathy.

There is an attempt to counterbalance this by keeping the pace so even that it takes on a documentary veracity but the problem is that feels slower rather than even, the victims, now dupes, however degraded look increasingly stupid and worthy of their humiliation. Is this itself a comment on us, a kind of Funny Games without the big blinding pointers? No, it's a miscalculation.

We have been primed for a thriller, primed to feel a joyous outrage at the injustice and cruelty we will witness. The pitiable hierarchy of the diner with its fear-yellow decor and staff uniforms, the mediocrity of its standards and ideals serve as a fecund field for the exploitation of anyone who wants to play with it. The kind of psychopathy driving the prankster would find this destructible thing as irresistable as an OCD cleaner a spot on a tabletop. When we are forced to conclude he is so compelled we are similarly compelled to view his victims as contemptible. Past this point, Becky's degradation has a self-shamingly satisfying feel to it. Why? Because we are watching superiority and we side with it whether we like it or not. See also Schindler's List or almost any Speilberg movie where the bad guy, be it SS officer or shark, is the centre of gravity while some flavourless goose of a protagonist waits around for the director to throw him a break.

This is such a pity as having subverted its own outrage, Compliance can neither recover and resume its path nor find another into any real examination of the perp; he's just a bad guy; they are victims. It's also a pity as there is real talent happening there on screen. The cinematography continually surprises us by finding sublime beauty in this dowdy wrapper of Americana. The sound mix is splendid and the score mercifully restrained. The performances throughout are natrualistic and assured. The setup is outstanding. The final moments are also highly poignant or would be if the film as whole hadn't just shot itself in the foot. You could take ten to fifteen minutes of screen time away from this already short (by current standards) film and you'd have a heart tearer. As it is you get to sing "hey we all got grime" merrily ever after without the thrills or genuinely examined darkness of a Celine or a Lynch. But who are the dupes? We for watching? The filmmakers for losing control of their own purposes? What a bloody pity but I couldn't care less.