Irreversible begins with an old man sat in a room (Philippe Nahon of Seul Contre Tous) telling another man that "time destroys all things" and that he slept with his daughter, while outside we can hear a commotion. This is the start of the back-to-front story, which goes from frenzy, chaos, violence, then finally concludes with peace and tranquillity. The main three characters are Marcus (Vincent Cassel), his partner, Alex (Monica Bellucci), and her ex, Pierre (Albert Dupontel). The first time we see Marcus and Pierre they are frantically searching a gay club called The Rectum for a man called Le Tenia, who they believe raped and badly beat Alex. They come across two men in a doorway in the club, one of whom Marcus thinks is Le Tenia. He fights one of the men, who then breaks Marcus' arm and is about to rape him. The next sequence is an amazing attack, and one of the most realistic killings I have ever seen in a film. Pierre intervenes with a fire-extinguisher and proceeds to the ram the butt of the object into the man's face no less than twenty-three times. It is very effective. What is also ironic is the man who is killed isn't the man who raped Alex - it was the other man in the doorway. But the most controversial scene is the vicious rape and assault of Alex. She is trying to cross the road and is ironically told by a woman to use the underpass because it's safer. It is a distressing scene and it is more traumatic for the spectator than the ones in Straw Dogs and I Spit on Your Grave because the camera never moves. It is perched very low on a tripod and stays there. We can't escape the ordeal on screen. After this we witness the events leading up to a party, sexual talk between the trio, and the love between Marcus and Alex. It is a skillfully made film. I also liked the music. I'm glad I watched it.
A worthy exploration of multimedia
The Moab Story is a fascinating cinematic experiment - it really is an encyclopedic CD-ROM-like film - it reminded me of The Pillow Book and A TV Dante in its presentation. The screen is predominantly busy with informative movement. I watched the film on DVD and the text on screen is small, but I was constantly zooming in on the picture to read it so it wasn't a problem. But the viewing would be enhanced watching it on as large a screen as possible, but having said that it is appropriate for DVD with its interactivity. The project as a whole begs for interactivity with the individual user.
The film begins with showing us actors auditioning for roles, which is also used later. Tulse is a young boy with his friend Martino Knockavelli in the back yard of his house in Newport, Wales. A red brick wall collapses on Tulse and then we progress through history, with war footage in the background. Tulse travels to Moab where he is abused and jailed, and then later travels to Antwerp and faces the sinister Red Fox fascists. Throughout the film a small box with the head of a talking expert inside appears (like A TV Dante) describing the background of what is happening. Characters are noted on screen with name and number when they appear. It was fun reading all of Luper's Lost Films that scrolled down the screen, as well as seeing the other suitcases (suitcases 1 - 21 are featured in this film). It was good to see former Greenaway films - Vertical Features Remake, Water Wrackets, A Zed & Two Noughts, and The Belly of an Architect - referenced and appear. Greenaway is really experimenting here with image and sound, using repetitive sound at times giving an echoing effect. He plays with connecting numbers to draw shapes on screen when Percy strikes Tulse. Sometimes the screenplay is shown on screen after the characters have said it. The cinematography by Reinier Van Brummelen is good. The music by Borut Krzisnik is superb and feels appropriate. In the acting stakes Caroline Dhavernas is the stand out, and J.J. Feild does a capable job as Tulse. It's a film that (like all Greenaway films) needs to be watched several times. I look forward to seeing Vaux to the Sea.
Mix-Up ou Meli-melo (1986)
An innovative, inventive and unique documentary
The premise for a 60-minute documentary: Two female babies were mixed-up at birth by mistake in England in 1936, and we are told the story through all the people involved. That description could sound like a dullish BBC documentary from the 70s, but this example is far from dull. The film begins with two old ladies introducing themselves to us - the first one is Margaret Wheeler, the natural mother of Peggy and the foster-mother of Valerie, who were born in Nottingham, England 48 years previously. The other is Blanche Rylatt, the natural mother of Valerie and the foster-mother of Peggy. They tell us the circumstances of how the babies were mistakenly mixed-up. Then Margaret's eccentric husband, Charles, introduces himself to us through an open window, telling us about the 8mm films he's made. Each of these scenes is carefully set up with people walking into shot and out again and then in the background. Indeed, most of the scenes in this unorthodox gem of a film are structured in different ways. It's unusual that an all-French crew made a documentary film about English people in England. The end credits are appropriately playful, with each of the crew entering the frame from below onto some scales and smiling and waving, then returning from where they came.
Mix-up ou Meli-Melo is a peculiar film that is innovative, inventive and intriguing, and turns a possibly dour documentary film into something unique.
Les convoyeurs attendent (1999)
Surreal and charming dark comedy
This is an absurdist dark comedy from Belgium. Shot perfectly in crisp black and white, Benoît Poelvoorde (Man Bites Dog) is on fine form as Roger, the angry, obsessive father of a family in a small, sullen Belgian mining town. Roger is a photographer who, along with his young daughter Luise, visits road accidents to take photos. He is also obsessed with winning a car by entering a competition where the contestant has to break a record - and he decides that his son, Michel, must attempt to break the record of perpetually walking through a door - he even hires an overweight coach to train him. Michel dresses as Elvis and has a spot on a radio show called 'Cinema Lies', where he describes mistakes in films. Luise is friendly with near neighbour Felix, a pigeon fancier. Roger is a callous figure as he pushes Michel right over the limit during the record attempt, which almost results in his death. Interspersed throughout the film are Magritte-like surreal images. It's undeniably charming and well worth your time.
Zorns Lemma (1970)
This is an amazing experimental film from American avant-garde filmmaker Hollis Frampton. It begins with a dark screen and a woman narrating from The Bay State Primer, an early American grammar textbook that teaches the letters of the alphabet by using them in sentences derived from the Bible, then the rest of the film is mostly silent. It presents us with a recurring structure that perpetually moves throughout a 24-letter alphabet via various signs in New York with words that propel the film along. Gradually other images are added to the loop, some of them themselves slowly developing as we arrive at them the next time around. It concludes with a man, woman and dog crossing a snowy field, while several narrators each narrate one word at a time read from an 11th century treatise, "On Light, or the Ingression of Forms", by Robert Grosseteste. Ambiguous, metaphorical and fascinating. A veritable masterpiece of structural filmmaking.
The film is also a major influence on Peter Greenaway - it is one of the films he most admires.
J'irai comme un cheval fou (1973)
Another masterly piece of cinematic surrealism from Arrabal
Three years after Viva la Muerte, Fernando Arrabal created J'Irai Comme Un Cheval Fou (I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse), another masterly piece of cinematic surrealism. It follows two men, Aden and Marvel. Aden is sought by the police and on the run after the death of his mother, when he meets the appropriately named Marvel, a mystical loner who lives in the desert with his goat. One of his Marvel's skills is turning day immediately into night (and vice versa) with the click off his thumbs. Aden falls in love with Marvel, and decides to show him the big city. This is where Arrabal shows us the chaos of humanity. Many memorable images ensue. This is imperative viewing for any people interested in surrealism in film. I can't recommend it enough.
Greaser's Palace (1972)
Surreal, absurd, unique
Greaser's Palace is a comical, chaotic, absurdist and surreal religious parody. It's like El Topo meets The Life of Brian. Alan Arrbus plays a strange messiah-like zoot-suited actor/singer/dancer called Jessy, who one day parachutes into a field close to a Western town where a host of odd characters hang out, the main one being a constipated chap called Seaweedhead Greaser, who runs the titular saloon. Jessy has some miraculous traits - he can walk on water and heals some of the locals by telling them: "If you feel, you heal". One of the most memorable scenes (and my favourite) is when Jessy approaches a group of people praying and says to them: "I bring you a message. Exactly six miles north of Skagg Mountain in the Valley of Pain, there lives an evil devil-monster. His name is Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger With A Side Of Aircraft Noise And You'll Be Gary Indiana. And he loves to hurt people. The last time I saw Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger With A Side Of Aircraft Noise And You'll Be Gary Indiana, he told me what he wants to do. He wants to come down here and kill each and every one of you. But I said to him: 'Bingo, wait a minute!'. And the reason I said that is because I believe in you people. I believe you can do the job. I believe you can help each other. I believe you can make this world a better place to live in. That's it".
If you haven't seen this film then it must go on your must-see list of films, category surrealism. Chaotic cineastes will approve.
Viva la muerte (1971)
Essential viewing for surrealist cineastes
Viva la Muerte begins with the credits over a view of surreal Roland Topor images while a pleasant tune plays. The film's central figure is a young boy named Fando, who lives with his mother. His father has been arrested during the Spanish Civil War. Fando later finds a letter and discovers his mother turned his father in to the authorities. This triggers off the many fantasy sequences of Fando. Arrabal uses grainy filtered footage during these sequences and gives them several different colours. The film is full of frenzy. It was created by someone with a furious imagination. The bull slaughter scene is a masterful surrealist sequence. It is a remarkable film and essential viewing for anyone interested in surrealism.
The Bed Sitting Room (1969)
An absurdist classic
This is a wonderful surreal comedy based on the play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus. You know that it is going to be an odd film right at the beginning, when the opening credits list the cast in order of their height. The film begins with the BBC (Frank Thornton) telling us through the facade of an old television that this is the third, or is it the fourth?, anniversary of the shortest war in history, lasting 2 hours and 28 minutes. England is now a barren landscape, littered with derelict cars and buildings, hills of old boots, broken crockery, and other debris. Forty million people perished and there are only 20 known survivors. The Queen did not survive, and of the 20 known survivors the next in line for the throne is a Mrs Ethel Schroake of 393a High Street, Leytonstone. Among the other survivors are Ralph Richardson (O Lucky Man!) as Lord Fortnum of Alamein, who isn't looking forward to his impending mutation into a bed sitting room. Michael Hordern is Bules Martin, who wears a 18-carat Hovis bread ring. Spike Milligan is a postman who wanders around and delivers some memorable dialogue, for example: "And in come the three bears - the daddy bear said, 'Who's been sleeping in my porridge?' - and the mummy bear said, 'that's no porridge, that was my wife' ". Arthur Lowe is slowly turning into a parrot (which is then eaten by Spike Milligan), while his wife, the owner of her own death certificate, turns into a wardrobe. His daughter is pregnant with a strange creature, which she has held inside her for seventeen months. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are a pair of policemen who perpetually tell the others to "keep moving!". Moore growls a lot and turns into a dog at the end. Marty Feldman is a wellington-boot-wearing nurse. It's a hilarious, absurdist treat, and one of my treasured filmic pleasures.
The Sea in Their Blood (1983)
This is an astounding documentary film showing (and describing to us) what it is like to be beside the sea in Britain. The film was started in 1976 and shelved for a while, then completed in 1983. Greenaway offers us an eclectic array of images related to the sea - boats, slides of fish, photographs, huge waves crashing against the rocks, piers, Blackpool Tower, lighthouses - while a narrator describes a mind-boggling set of statistics and information of the British Coastline.
Vertical Features Remake (1978)
An absurdist masterpiece of structural filmmaking
An examination by a group of rival academics to remake an incomplete and largely missing film allegedly made by Tulse Luper. The film in question is called Vertical Lists, or Vertical Features, which shows vertical objects like posts, poles, tree trunks etc in a domestic landscape. Each remake uses a differing structure of counting and musical technique to count the 121 (11x11) vertical objects that Tulse Luper allegedly planned for the project.
Statistical, eclectic, lyrical, death
This was filmed at the same location as H is for House, an early 19th century house in the English countryside at Wardour in Wiltshire that belonged to a friend of Greenaway's. Concerned with the statistics of the defenestration of political prisoners emanating from South Africa, Greenaway created this short film in which he narrates the statistics of people falling out of windows, while Rameau's La Poule plays in the background, and the camera looks out of the windows of the house onto the beautiful landscape of this area of rural England.
In 1973 in the parish of W, 37 people were killed as a result of falling out of windows. Of the 37 people who fell, 7 were children under 11, 11 were adolescents under 18 and the remaining adults were all under 71 save for a man believed by some to be 103.
Five of the 7 children fell from bedroom windows as did 4 of the 11 adolescents and 3 of the 19 adults. Of the 7 children who fell all cases were of misadventure save for one of infanticide.
Of the 11 adolescents, 3 committed suicide for reasons of the heart, 2 fell through misadventure, 2 were drunk, one was pushed, one was accredited insane, one jumped for a bet and one was experimenting with a parachute.
Of the 18 men, 2 jumped deliberately, 4 were pushed, 5 were cases of misadventure and one, under the influence of an unknown drug, thought he could fly.
Of the 11 adolescents who fell, 2 were clerks, 2 were unemployed, 1 was married, 1 was a window cleaner and 5 were students of aeronautics, one of whom played a harpsichord.
Among the 19 adults who fell were an air-stewardess, 2 politicians, an ornithologist, a glazier and a seamstress.
Of the 37 people, 19 fell in summer before midday, 8 fell on summer afternoons and 3 fell into snow. The ornithologist, the adolescent experimenting with the parachute and the man who thought he could fly, all fell or were pushed in spring evenings. At sunset on the 14th of April 1973, the seamstress and the student of aeronautics who played the harpsichord, jumped into a plum tree from the window in this house.
An abstract examination of structure & sound
A short examination of structure and sound, this film shot in black and white in the location of Venice presents three sections of similar film to us over its duration of six minutes. In the first section a metronome is used to count events in the film. People walk across the frame, sometimes in the foreground, which is accompanied precisely by a different sound. In the second section a male Italian voice can be heard counting through the alphabet. Music by Vivaldi is heard in the third. Shot 26 December 1968 - 8 January 1969. Dubbed 30 October 1973.
Arthur's Dyke (2001)
Nice location, but dull
I watched this film because I have recently returned from visiting the Offa's Dyke Information Centre in Prestatyn. I have an interest in the ancient path. Unfortunately the film isn't interesting enough. The story follows three chaps who previously walked along the route during their university days, and twenty years later they attempt to do it again. Meanwhile, housewife Janet (Pauline Quirke) wants to walk the path, too, but her ignorant husband (Brian Conley) isn't interested in her or what she wants. So Janet decides to set off on her own. The three chaps are Arthur, the loud, obnoxious womaniser; Geoffrey, the rich businessman who takes his laptop and mobile on the trip; and Andy, the quieter one who has a disease and hasn't long to live. Janet meets the fellows and we follow the four of them. Throw into the mix Dennis Waterman has a private investigator, two Swedish lady walkers, a woman who stalks Geoffrey and demands him to impregnate her, a twitcher who dies, a bar of rowdy squaddies and a country Western dance, and it might sound appealing and lively, but somehow it isn't. It ultimately feels vacuous. I think the running time of 106 minutes is too long. This would have worked better has a one-hour TV programme.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
Mystery, abstract, arcane, sublime
I have just returned from seeing Mulholland Drive for the first time. It's been a long wait for it to show at a cinema relatively close to me in England, and it was worth the wait. It's a film that is best watched than described (most of you will have seen it anyway), so I'll keep this as brief as I can because there's so much to discover for the first (and second)-time spectator. It's a film that is at first, and for quite a way through it, seemingly straightforward. Straight from the opening sequence there are some of the many clues in the film. A group of young people are dancing and then three whitened figures are projected onto the dancers. This is relevant.
The main narrative follows a beautiful lady who we first see in the back seat of a limo at night. The car stops and a man in the car produces a gun. The limo is then hit by a speeding car. The lady stumbles from the wreckage and later finds herself at a house where she meets a budding actress who has come from Ontario, and who met an eccentric old couple on her flight. The lady from the limo is suffering from amnesia and the aspiring actress is to help her discover her identity. There are many other adjuncts - a man in a diner tells another man about a strange figure he has dreamt of who resides behind the diner (who we then see). There's a comical scene involving a hit man. A film director with an unfaithful wife is being leaned on by some executives who insist that a certain actress must appear in his film. There's a mysterious and menacing figure called the Cowboy (not dissimilar to the Mystery Man in Lost Highway). There's more, there's much more. It's during the last reel when the main narrative twists and the film delves into deeper ambiguous territory. There's an arcane box (similar to the one in Buñuel's Belle du Jour). The curtains, sparks of electricity, sound and smoke are classic Lynch. The atmospheric music by Angelo Badalamenti (who also appears in a scene involving an espresso and a napkin) is as accomplished and appropriate as ever. I don't want to say anything else except to recommend that those of you who haven't seen it do so as soon as possible. This is a treat for fans of surreal films. I'm looking forward to seeing it again soon and purchasing the DVD.
Sexy Beast (2000)
Better than the usual mediocre English crime flicks
Gal (Ray Winstone) is a retired crook now residing in Spain with his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). He likes to spend his time shooting rabbits and relaxing in the blazing sun at the side of his pool, that is until a huge boulder comes crashing down a hill and lands in it. Gal's idyllic life is interrupted when a bloke from his criminal past phones his friend and tells him he will be soon paying Gal a visit. The bloke in question is Don Logan (played menacingly by Ben Kingsley). Don is a frightening psychopathic figure. In one scene a man asks Don to put his cigarette out and Don replies, "I'll cut your hands off and stub it out on your eyeball". We first see Don walking through an airport (a scene not unlike when we first see Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday). On Don's arrival at Gal's villa, not many words are spoken. Don asks Gal to come to London to do a bank job with his firm. Gal declines, but Don won't take no for an answer. Eventually, Gal must go and do the job. There are some dream sequences where Gal is sat at a dinner table in the desert and Don appears in the shape of a human rabbit, shooting a machine gun at him. The film has a sort of romantic theme with Gal and his wife, and the theme of this enormous ogre that must be overcome. Winstone is as solid as ever playing a cockney crook, but it's Kingsley who (not surprisingly) stands out with his manic turn. It's stylishly shot and a film well worth seeing, and it doesn't outstay its welcome with its running time of just 84 minutes.
Sånger från andra våningen (2000)
Forceful, nightmarish & brilliant surreal cinema
'Beloved be the one who sits down.' - Cesar Vallejo
This is an outstanding, surreal, nightmarish, apathetic, absurd, indelible, and at times, darkly amusing picture from Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson. The film offers us a selection of chaotic, compelling and haunting still sequence shots (the camera doesn't move once throughout the entire film), each of them wonderfully presented in dull, lifeless colours and framed in stylish composition. Most of the people in the film seem to be disenchanted nomads, lost in a futile world. Their faces are very pale, as though they have been white-powdered to death. The film is affecting because it is stationary, yet it's conveying so much forceful emotion. It wants to move but it can't. It's stuck in a state of perpetual inertia, just like the constant gridlock of traffic that is strangling the city.
The film opens with a man talking to a man under a sun bed (we can only see his feet), who tells him, "Everything has its day. What's the point of staying where there's only misery? When that day comes I'll be long gone... and so should you!". Shortly after this we see the man who was in the opening scene firing one of his staff of thirty years service. The man hangs around his leg, pleading with him, and is dragged along while the boss tries to walk away (he's in a hurry has he's got a game of golf to play). The next sequence shows a man stabbed and beaten by a group of men in an unprovoked attack, whilst a line of people stood at a bus stop look on regardless. The next scene offers some dark humour. A magician attempts to cut a volunteer in half but it all goes terribly wrong. We then briefly see the the poor chap in hospital and later at home with his wife, groaning in agony.
The central figure of the film, though, is Kalle, the portly owner of a furniture shop. He sets his shop on fire to get the insurance money. The first time we see Kalle is on a tube train. The sequence is in slow motion and the other passengers on the train open their mouths in unison to classical music. Kalle is distraught and disillusioned with his world. "It's hard being human", he moans. One of his sons has, in Kalle's words, "Wrote poetry till he went nuts". His son now resides in a mental hospital. Kalle's other son is a taxi driver whose wife has left him. One scene has Kalle being questioned by two insurance investigators while a group of flagellants walk past his furniture shop in the road outside. Kalle is tormented by dead people following him, including his associate Sven who committed suicide, and a Russian boy hanged by the Nazis.
Other memorable scenes include one at an airport where a line of overloaded trolleys, piled high with towers of luggage, are all being attemptedly pushed by people (with great difficulty). A former general on his 100th birthday gives a Nazi salute to some military personnel who are visiting him in a rest home. A man tries to set up a business selling crucifixes but finds the business venture fails - "He's just a crucified loser", the man says. A young girl is blindfolded and pushed over a cliff in an act of sacrifice by a religious sect. A man's hand gets trapped in a train door. A man vomits on a bar while an inebriated woman clasps a stool, unable to find her feet. The film reminded me of Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty. It's a magnificent film that will linger in the mind of the spectator for quite some time. Unique surreal cinema.
An interesting documentary
This is an interesting documentary focusing on the subject of the death penalty and the execution of human beings. The program begins by showing us the guillotine from France, a century ago, and then moves to the current day. We are shown the various forms of execution from shootings, stonings and decapitations to electrocutions, gassings and lethal-injections. World War Two is looked at, with the Nazi's mass genocide of the Jews. Other atrocities are also shown in Bosnia, China, Iraq, Rwanda and South America. An executioner in a Virginia, USA prison shows us the procedure of an execution by electric chair. Some of the images are quite graphic, especially the shooting of a man in Beirut at the end, but overall it isn't too disturbing. The program is narrated well and is engaging enough, although it only runs for 57 minutes. Worth a look.
Three Businessmen (1998)
A duo's surreal search for sustenance
The film begins by showing us the grand old buildings of Liverpool, England. An old man walks in front of one of them and in the next shot enters Lime Street Station. You wouldn't think that this is relevant, but it is. In Alex Cox's Three Businessmen most things that are on view in the frame are relevant. Cox describes the film as "Buñuelian". You could say that it is something along the lines of one of the maestro's films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeosie, because the two main protagonists have the same problem they can't seem to find a meal and a place to eat. The two main protagonists in question are art dealers Bennie Reyes (Miguel Sandoval) and Frank King (Alex Cox). Bennie arrives at Liverpool Lime Street Station with his luggage in tow. He is greeted outside by the damp Liverpool weather. He hails a cab, which then drops him off about one hundred yards away at a plush hotel. Bennie enters the hotel, and after saying "ding ding" at the desk to get some attention, the Desk Clerk pops up (Andrew Schofield of the Scully TV series). He recommends Room 147 to Bennie "It's got a jacuzzi", he tells him.
Bennie takes the elevator to his room, which he has trouble finding. The corridors in the hotel are dark and difficult to navigate (the film was shot in the Adelphi Hotel). On arrival in his room the first thing he unpacks is his printer. There's a knock on the door Bennie opens it but there's no-one there. He reads some books to pass some time the books are: The Seed and the Sower (Laurens Van der Post), The Doubter's Companion (John Ralston Saul), The Multi-Orgasmic Man (Mantak Chia & Douglas Abrams Arava), Urban Voodoo (Edgardo Cozarinsky), and a Johnson Smith catalogue, Things You Never Knew Existed.
Bennie decides to visit the hotel's dining room to eat. The eerie dining room is occupied by just two people - a large waiter and Frank. The waiter leads Bennie down to the end of the room to a table close to Frank's table. The camera shot in this scene stays in the location as we enter the room, and then, very slowly and methodically, moves closer to the end of the room where Bennie and Frank are. Bennie is an affable chap and is eager to strike up a conversation with Frank. Frank is more reserved and would rather not be disturbed at all, just left on his own reading his newspaper - but Bennie gets the conversation going. We learn Bennie is an art dealer from New Mexico, whose main office is in California. Frank is also an art dealer, but he specialises in African art. The two men have their habits - Bennie taps his fork and spoon together - Frank continually tears pieces of paper from his newspaper. Bennie asks the waiter for some wine and the waiter leaves the room. We don't see him again. The two men visit the kitchen to investigate and find it is empty. They go to the main desk and the clerk has vanished.
"I suppose it's time we fended for ourselves", announces Frank. They both set off into the Liverpool night seeking sustenance. Bennie fancies a nice juicy rare steak, but Frank is a vegetarian. Frank also doesn't like Italian food. They visit Matthew Street, where The Beatles used to play in the Cavern Club. Bennie says he hates The Beatles. They come across a bust of Carl Jung - "Maybe we took a wrong turn and ended up in Switzerland", remarks Bennie. They arrive at a Porsche showroom - "This is a poor neighbourhood - so who's buying these cars?", asks Frank. Later, on a bus, Frank tells Bennie, "We are on the verge on absolute chaos. The revival of Eastern Mysticism - all these people running around believing they are the re-incarnation of Marie Curie - it's insane".
Throughout the film there is a strange poster that is displayed in abundance on many walls in different locations that the two men find themselves in. "Daddy Z" is written on the poster and there is the image of a man's face (which is actually the face of Zander Schloss). The purpose of the posters will be revealed at the end of the film.
The two men enter a bar, but there is no food available, but at least they are bought a drink by a kind local karaoke-bar owner. The next stop on their journey is an underground station. They take a train and during the journey the lights go out for a few seconds on the train. It is now a different train - a poster on the side where Bennie is sat has disappeared. On arrival at its destination the train has changed colour and the location is now Rotterdam. Not that it matters to the chaps, as far as they're concerned they are still in Liverpool, just a little disoriented. In another bar Bennie tells Frank about his Plutonium Card, which he says offers him dismemberment insurance and, the best benefit of all, total salvation.
The next chance of nourishment for the two gentlemen comes when they visit a Greek restaurant. A large selection of food is put on the table for them, then Bennie has a panic attack and storms out of the restaurant, deliriously running around the town square (the film amusingly speeded up) and then lying down. Bennie claims the sight of the abundance of food caused the panic attack. The discussion subject turns to laptop computers and it isn't long before the panic attack is forgotten.
On another bus ride, Bennie gives us a rendition of "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" in a cockney accent, mainly to get the attention of Frank. Frank suggests a boat ride across the Mersey, although it is Hong Kong Harbour, but it's still Liverpool to the boys. Frank reads a section from his newspaper about a virus on a space station (a nod to 2001). Next they find themselves in Tokyo. "It's the Japanese Gardens in Liverpool", Frank says, "It's in the guide". They enter another restaurant and things look promising. Bennie is agitated now and demands to be served. The food arrives but it is plastic. Foiled again. Another small restaurant visit is abruptly ended when it closes while they are waiting.
Next is a taxi journey that leaves them in the desert countryside. Bennie phones the Plutonium Card Company for help, but all he gets is an answering machine. A ride on a cart pulled by a donkey leads them to a small village where they encounter another businessman, Leroy (Robert Wisdom), who is in a similar predicament as Bennie and Frank, but he got lost in Chicago buying a toy for his kid. I won't reveal the final outcome - I recommend you see the film for yourself to discover that. Debbie Harry performs the catchy end-credits song called "Ghost Riders in the Sky", and the other music in the film by Pray For Rain is effective. It's a very enjoyable and inventive surreal film.
A depressing & dull look at NYC youth
This is a controversial look at teenage life in New York City by Larry Clark. Written by Harmony Korine (director of Gummo), it focuses on two skateboarders, Telly and Casper. Telly boasts about how he likes to have sex with virgins. "There's nothing better than deflowering young women", he tells us. Casper doesn't say as much, he'd much rather steal beer from liquor stores and savagely beat up a man in a park for getting in his way. Most of the characters take drugs and talk about sex. The other main character is Jennie (Chloe Sevigny of Boys Don't Cry, Gummo & American Psycho). She has a blood test and finds she is HIV positive - but she has only slept with one guy, Telly. It's a depressing film, but it is a worthwhile look at the problems of drugs and promiscuity of young people in the Big Apple. Worth a look, but it's not a film you'll be watching many times.
In the Company of Men (1997)
An ambitious & troubling film
The film begins with two men in an airport lounge, both discussing how they recently broke-up with their girlfriends. The first man is named Chad (played by Aaron Eckhart). He is seemingly cordial to talk to but behind the smiling facade lies a loathsome, callous, spiteful fellow - one who is ruthless without showing any sign of remorse - in fact, he seems to derive great pleasure and pride from inflicting anguish on others, especially women. The other man is Howard (Mike Mallory), Chad's colleague at work and also a former member of the same college as Chad. Howard is a quieter chap, and seems to just go along with Chad's comments.
The two men have just arrived in a new town on a six week stay regarding their office work. Chad suggests that they date the same woman for the duration of the six week stay then dump her. Howard eventually agrees. The woman they pick is Christine (Stacy Edwards), a deaf woman who works in their office block. Chad thinks Christine is the perfect victim, with her being deaf, and mocks her distorted speech to Howard, and refers to her as a 'freak'. The two men start to date Christine, but problems start to arise when Howard bumps into them both in a restaurant. The film displays the start of each of the six weeks with a title and a burst of chaotic music. There are a few memorable scenes towards the conclusion of the film. The film focuses on the dog-eat-dog materialistic corporate world, and some of the envious and vindictive people that exist within it. I don't want to reveal any more, but I recommend you see this troubling film.
The Hole (2001)
Sort of like a cross between Cube & Fatal Attraction
Sort of. Liz (Thora Birch of American Beauty) stumbles dazed into a public school and raises the alarm. We learn that she has been 'trapped' in a old war bomb shelter for weeks, along with her girlfriend Frankie, Frankie's boyfriend Geoff, and Mike, an American student with whom Liz has a fixation with, and was the main reason she went into the 'Hole' in the first place, to get to know Mike better.
The story is told by Liz as she is interviewed by Embeth Davidtz. In the first version of her story she accuses a school pal, Martin, of locking the group in the shelter. Martin is then arrested and denies it. Later, Liz offers another version of events that took place, and we learn the fate of the other three. Needless to say, Liz is not all what she initially seems. The acting isn't bad from the cast of unknowns. An English tale of dangerous obsession that is watchable, but loses itself, and ultimately, isn't quite convincing.
The Belly of an Architect (1987)
A study of the tortures of unappreciated architects
The ebullient Brian Dennehy gives a fine performance as Stourley Kracklite, an American architect who is in Rome with his younger wife Louisa (Chloe Webb) to arrange an exhibition on the French architect Etienne-Louis Boullée. Kracklite is obsessed with Boullée and even writes letters to him. Kracklite's life soon begins to deteriorate. He starts to suffer excruciating stomach pains and vomits each time he eats. He even thinks that his wife is poisoning him. His wife then falls pregnant and has an affair with Kracklite's rival architect, Caspasian Speckler (Lambert Wilson). Kracklite then sleeps with Speckler's sister, to get some sort of satisfaction. Speckler intrudes while they are having sex, and announces, "having sex with your pregnant wife is perfect, because I don't need to use contraception". Kracklite then punches him on the nose. Speckler's sister then says, "Don't put your blood on my white towel."
The film follows the parallels of these two unappreciated architects from different eras. The film is memorable for Dennehy's (an actor who is also unappreciated) remarkable performance. Also, the beautiful cinematography by Greenaway's trusty DOP Sacha Vierny makes the film very easy to look at. From the ancient architecture of Rome, to a painting-like bowl of figs, it is pristine-looking. Michael Nyman is absent, but the music by Wim Mertens is splendid. This film was made in between A Zed & Two Noughts and Drowning by Numbers, and it is quite unlike those two films, which, I think, are superior to this in the way they offer us a much more enigmatic, abstract concept. But even an ever so slightly lesser Greenaway film is a thing to behold.
H Is for House (1973)
Playful, delightful & exquisitely English
This is a delightful little film. Suddenly we are thrust into a most tranquil location: the pleasant rural English countryside. Apple trees and the birds singing. The director narrates to us a short tale about a naturalist and the title is shown, accompanied by a spurt of music by Vivaldi. The narrator is Colin Cantlie, the familiar voice heard on the other Greenaway films, Water Wrackets, Vertical Features Remake, Dear Phone, A Walk Through H and The Falls. A little girl plays in the garden, while her mother tends to her and other chores. H is for many things. Other letters of the alphabet are narrated. The film concludes with another witty story.
H is for House. Delightful.
A powerful and perturbing film that deserves to be seen
This is a notorious and infamous film that has been unavailable in the UK for a long time. The BBFC have finally passed the film uncut. I watched the film for the first time last night and it was an experience. I've watched a lot of graphic disturbing films down the years and this is certainly one of the more indelible ones. It was director Pier Paolo Pasolini's final film before his death.
The film is based on the Marquis de Sade's novel 120 Days of Sodom, and is set in the Fascist Republic of Salo, Italy in 1944. A group of young people (eight boys and eight girls) are selected by a group of perverted Fascists and taken to a secluded mansion. While there, the group of youngsters are given rules, which they must stringently abide to, otherwise the consequence is death.
The group are naked most of the time in the main room. A woman reads out a perverse sexual story, which is then acted out on a member of the group. These depraved acts include rape, whippings and eating excrement. This continues until the final stages, when the group are taken into a courtyard, and we see the horrific graphic torture perpetrated on them. A powerful, perturbing film that focuses on the ugly debased side of humanity, and one that deserves to be seen.