Before Leonard Cohen became known as a singer-songwriter, he was a trust-fund kid struggling to be a writer and poet. This is why the 1966 short Angel (a product of the National Film Board of Canada), credits him with, “Music by poet Leonard Cohen, played by The Stormy Clovers”; The Stormy Clovers were one of Cohen’s early musical projects—here’s their version of “Suzanne”. I’ve seen the film once before, but was excited to see it on Vimeo in high definition—the clarity really highlights the the stark contrast of what looks to be overexposed film that’s been run through an old school analog video switcher.
The premise isn’t elaborate; a woman in decorative wings frolics with a man (an uncredited Cohen), and a dog. The man then tries on the wings, before they are put on the dog. A tryst is implied, then the woman leaves, much to both their resigned dismay. It’s all incredibly lovely, with a striking minimalist aesthetic and an intimate soundtrack. The film received Honourable Mention at the (Canadian) International Annual Film Festival, a Chris Certificate Award in the Graphic Arts Category at the International Film and Video Festival (US), First Prize in the Arts and Experimental category at the Genie Awards (Canada) and Special Mention at the Festival of Canadian Films.
There’s no need to explain why this film is such a corker. Joe Massot’s Dance Craze is 84 minutes of absolutely mint performances from the best British ska acts of the early 80s, featuring 27 tracks from Madness, The Specials, The Beat, The Selecter, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers.
All the bands were signed to the iconic 2 Tone label, who also put out a soundtrack album featuring some of the best cuts from the film. I have that record and it’s excellent, but seeing the footage for the first time in full really puts it in perspective.
The energy, the passion, the clothes, the diversity and yet the sense of community, it’s no wonder ska was the biggest youth movement in the UK after punk. These gigs look great, and it’s a pity more modern live experiences aren’t as communal and just such goddam fun.
I mean, how could you possibly go wrong with a tracklist like this:
“Nite Klub” – The Specials
“The Prince” – Madness
“Ne-Ne-Na-Na-Na-Na-Nu-Nu” – Bad Manners
“007 (Shanty Town)” – The Bodysnatchers
“Three Minute Hero” – The Selecter
“Ranking Full Stop” – The Beat
“Big Shot” – The Beat
“Concrete Jungle” – The Specials
“Swan Lake” – Madness
“Razor Blade Alley” – Madness
“Missing Words” – The Selecter
“Let’s Do the Rock Steady” – The Bodysnatchers
“Lip Up Fatty” – Bad Manners
“Madness” – Madness
“Too Much Too Young” – The Specials
“On My Radio” – The Selecter
“Easy Life” – The Bodysnatchers
“Rough Rider” – The Beat
“Man at C&A” – The Specials
“Inner London Violence” – Bad Manners
“Night Boat to Cairo” – Madness
“Twist and Crawl” – The Beat
“Wooly Bully” – Bad Manners
“Too Much Pressure” – The Selecter
“Mirror in the Bathroom” – The Beat
“One Step Beyond” – Madness
“Nite Klub” – The Specials
Rob Ager is a Liverpool-based film theorist whose videos have been popping up on YouTube for the last few years. He tends to get lumped in with the usual conspiracy brigade, and while Ager’s work does approach material in the same analytical fashion his conclusions can be very different.
This close examination of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Oddessy theorises that Kubrick was working on this film with a “double narrative” structure. Thus, the imagery, set design and camera shots created a complex story all of their own that was separate, and sometimes in direct opposition to, the commonly accepted themes of the Arthur C. Clarke screenplay.
Ager’s work falls on just the right side of conspiracy-culture to be of interest to skeptics and conspiracist’s alike, and with this particular film analysis he is careful to avoid any “tin foil hat” readings of the text, which can be a major downfall of “critical” videos of this kind.
What Ager does posit is that Kubrick was working with a language of imagery that spoke directly to the subconscious and could be in contrast to the spoken words. This is more than a little believable when you take into account that Kubrick’s incredible talent and the huge amounts of time and effort that he spent on the various different aspects of his craft.
Kubrick’s Cover Story is in four parts, and comes in at just over an hour long. Not for everyone, perhaps, but definitely of interest to film students and the hardcore Stanley Kubrick fan (not to mention those who have a soft spot for a lilting Scouse accent):
The Units were one of the first “rock” bands in America to ditch guitars completely and focus their set-up on drums, vocals and synthesisers. Leaders of San Francisco’s post-punk synth-led music scene (a lot of which is now resurfacing with the current interest in “Minimal Wave”) the comparisons with Devo are clear, but still don’t detract from The Units’ cracking tunes and tangible influence on the new wave generation. Tracks like “High Pressure Days” and “I-Night” are still sought after by record collectors and forward thinking DJs alike, mainly because they still rock.
During live shows, The Units would perform to a video accompaniment of re-edited instructional shorts and found footage called the “Units Training Films”. Some of these films have been recreated and uploaded to Vimeo by founder member Scott Ryser. While still being very much of their time, they are excellent and definitely rank alongside similar efforts by the likes of Church of The Subgenius. Ryser has this to say about them:
The “Unit Training Film #1”, produced by Scott Ryser and Rachel Webber in 1980, was compiled from films that the band projected during their live performances. The films were satirical, instructional films critical of conformity and consumerism, compiled from found footage, home movies, and obsolete instructional shorts. In 1979 and 1980, Rick Prelinger was a frequent contributor and occasional projectionist at the bands live performances in San Francisco. The film was also shown sans band in movie theaters around the San Francisco Bay Area including the Roxie Cinema, Cinematheque, Intersection Theater and the Mill Valley Film Festival .
There was never a set length or definitive “finished version” of the original Unit Training Film. Just the current version. The film varied in length from about 10 to 45 minutes, depending on how long the Units set was on any particular night. Clips were constantly being added and others were deleted and discarded once their condition became too poor to project any longer. The film was constantly breaking, and the projectionists always kept a roll of Scotch Tape nearby for timely repairs.
This 5 minute version, compiled by Scott Ryser, includes some clips of the band playing along with a brief interview by a very young Fred Willard during the period 1980 - 1982.
Who’d have thought Fred Willard was a fan?!
Here is “Unit Training Film 1: Warm Moving Bodies”
After the jump, “Units Training FIlm 2: Cannibals” plus some more classics by The Units…
I have to say, this trailer looks good. I have been a big fan of Spike Jonze in the past (Being John Malkovich is a classic IMO) and an admirer of the Arcade Fire but have gone a bit, well, cold on them both more recently. This looks intriguing though, with its homeland war/terrorism and teenage love themes. I just hope the film (a short, clocking in at 30 minutes, and co-written by Win & Will Butler based on last year’s album The Suburbs) delivers:
You can watch Scenes From The Suburbs in full HERE for the next 24 hours only.
Peter Falk’s death today will bring back memories to Boomers and Gen X-ers of his title role as the good-natured and shambling L.A. detective in the ‘70s TV show Columbo. But by the time he donned that character’s famous trenchcoat, he had about 15 years of acting under his belt, most famously in gangster roles in films like Murder Inc. and Frank Capra’s last, Pocketful of Miracles. (Of course, he augmented the Columbo years with amazing performances like his role as Nick in John Cassavettes’s masterful A Woman Under The Influence.)
He also appeared as the Chief of Police in Joseph Strick’s 1963 adaptation of Jean Genet’s surreal play The Balcony. The film stayed faithful generally to Genet’s meditation on revolution, counter-revolution, and nationalism, which is set in a brothel/movie set/fantasy factory designed for its authoritarian allegorical characters while unrest boils over in the fictional country outside.
Here’s Falk’s big segment after his character breaks up the party. May he rest in peace.
Well, it feels like quite a while since we’ve had a genuine “ban this filth” furore kicked up over a horror film in the UK. Moral panic over celluloid work is something the British do very well - and not just the infamous Video (Nasties) Recording Act of 1984, but also the public and private reactions to films such as Reservoir Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, Child’s Play 3, The Exorcist, Visions of Ecstasy and more. Now there’s a new film to be added to that list, or if you will sown on to the end of the chain. The British Board of Film Classifications (the BBFC) has taken the decision to place an outright ban on director Tom Six’s soon-to-be-not-released Human Centipede II (Full Sequence).
The principal focus of The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is the sexual arousal of the central character at both the idea and the spectacle of the total degradation, humiliation, mutilation, torture, and murder of his naked victims. Examples of this include a scene early in the film in which he masturbates whilst he watches a DVD of the original Human Centipede film, with sandpaper wrapped around his penis, and a sequence later in the film in which he becomes aroused at the sight of the members of the ‘centipede’ being forced to defecate into one another’s mouths, culminating in sight of the man wrapping barbed wire around his penis and raping the woman at the rear of the ‘centipede’. There is little attempt to portray any of the victims in the film as anything other than objects to be brutalised, degraded and mutilated for the amusement and arousal of the central character, as well as for the pleasure of the audience. There is a strong focus throughout on the link between sexual arousal and sexual violence and a clear association between pain, perversity and sexual pleasure. It is the Board’s conclusion that the explicit presentation of the central character’s obsessive sexually violent fantasies is in breach of its Classification Guidelines and poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers.
I saw Human Centipede (First Sequence) at the cinema, and enjoyed it a lot (it was in fact a first date, and we are still very much together). While I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was a classic, it was well made, delivered some good scares (mostly centred around the excellent, unhinged performance by Dieter Laser as herr doktor, above) and it wasn’t as gory as I was expecting. The horror did indeed come from the central idea, a rare feat in today’s saturated, torture-porn market. While last year’s A Serbian Film featured some very heavy sexual violence, and was heavily cut by the BBFC, it still played in cinemas and on DVD systems across the land. It seems that mere graphic sexual violence is not enough to get a film banned, it is indeed about the film maker’s intent. And herein lies the problem.
Personally I do not believe in the power of prohibition, and feel particularly irked by the thought that there are a group of people somewhere making decisions on what I can and cannot watch without knowing a single thing about me (and yet assuming the worst about my character). What is the point in this day and age when uncut versions of pretty much anything can be obtained at the click of a mouse? However, I also know how the horror industry works, and absolutely any whiff of scandal that can be created must be exploited for maximum exposure. Human Centipede II (Final Sequence) was shot in England, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that director Tom Six knew the BBFC guidelines and decided to deliberately flout them. The UK has a relatively small market but a powerful media presence, and let’s face it, the film will get a hell of a lot more column inches now than it would have otherwise. For a series of horror films based on a truly disturbing central idea, getting one banned is a masterstroke. Because no amount of onscreen depravity will ever match up to the dark fantasies we create in our heads when imaging how bad a banned film might be.
Writing this post (which I wouldn’t have done were it not for the ban) I decided to look up the trailer for HC2FS, and was rather dismayed at the result. It’s all going a bit Von Trier for my liking - that is when a director’s ego and persona becomes much larger, and more of a focal point, than the actual work they are creating and promoting. Thus bad film making can be excused through a cult of personality. And before any fan people jump on me for that statement, it’s acknowledged that Von Trier has used his own persona, and people’s perception of it, to break his films out of the Danish art market and on to the international stage. It’s not a crime per se, but it still pisses me off, especially if the directors are just not as interesting as they think they are, as is the case here. So, principle photography and at least the first edit of HS2:FS must be ready for the BBFC to pass a judgement, but when it comes to trailers all the public can we see is this rather self-indulgent and poorly executed “personality director” clip. Is this supposed to brew disturbing images in my mind and make me want to see the new film? Sorry Tom Six, but it doesn’t. It bores me and makes me want to see it less:
It’s called Streetwise. Directed by Martin Bell and shot by his wife Mary Ellen Mark, it was inspired by an article on homeless youth from Life magazine written by Cheryl McCall. At times it’s harrowing, but it’s really very good, and was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1984.
It follows the exploits of a few different children living on the streets of Seattle, at that point apparently the States’ “most livable city”. There’s the tough, smart Rat and his older mentor Jack, who live in an abandoned hotel, sell drugs, scam pizzas and raid dumpsters. There’s teenage prostitutes Kim and Erin, waiting to get picked up off the kerb by older johns and discussing which local pimp is better to work for. Erin is also known as “Tiny” and has a troubled relationship with her alcoholic mother, who knows she is a prostitute but describes it as a “phase”. She thinks she may be pregnant after having unprotected sex with a john - that’s her in the picture above. Like Paris Is Burning this film deals with people society regards as the lowest of the low - and what on paper looks like being a major celluloid bummer is actually funny, insightful, tender and at times uplifting. Surprisingly a lot of these kids are still alive, though not kids anymore.
Mary Ellen Mark was also the photographer for the original Life magazine article, and has built up a large portfolio of stunning photographs of these kids, like the one above. She and her husband still see them occasionally too. From Steve Lafreniere’s excellent interview with Mark for Viceland (well worth reading as she’s a brilliant photographer who’s had an extraordinary career):
I’m still in contact with Tiny. A few years ago, Martin and I went back to Seattle and we updated her life. And I’ve been photographing her—I haven’t been back there in three years—but I have been photographing her. I photographed her after she had her ninth baby but we couldn’t make it out there for her tenth.
In Flagranti are a dance production duo consisting of Alex Gloor and Sasha Crnobrnja. who have been releasing records on labels like RVNG and Gomma for the best part of a decade. Their use of naggingly familiar disco samples combined with some old school analog electro synths has brought them a very loyal following all over the world, and seen them gain support from disparate scenes such as disco, Cosmic and electro-house.
But it’s not just about the music with these guys - Alex Gloor is also a very talented visual artist, and In Flagranti are as well known for their sleeves and videos as they are for their sounds. Making heavy use of vintage soft core porn imagery, the band have made accompanying videos for many of their tracks, and their upcoming album Worse For Wear (Codek Records) is no different. For these new tunes Gloor has hit a rich stream of found footage documenting the seedier side of New York in the late Seventies and early Eighties, featuring a lot of street kids, porno shop fronts and pissed off looking taxi drivers. Also featured in various videos are the Jonestown massacre, the infamous Ugly George cable TV show, and security footage of a bank robbery.
While definitely coming from the “club” side of visual montage, this isn’t full of annoying strobe editing and cheap computer graphics. Editing is in fact kept to a minimum and the visuals (in tandem with the music) are allowed to do all the talking themselves. My favorite clip is the appropriately titled “On The Fringe”, which features some battered and bruised looking street kids. I wonder where they are now?
“On The Fringe” and the rest of the album are all after the jump, but in the meantime to whet your appetite here’s “Latter Day Methods” (ft Ugly George) and the Worse For Wear album promo clip. You can buy Worse For Wearhere (so far it’s only available in the States on import) and there is more info on In Flagranti here.
In Flagranti - Worse For Wear album teaser 3
In Flagranti - “Latter-Day Methods”
After the jump the complete Worse For Wear videos.
It’s been an open secret among film fans, horror geeks and Hollywood executives for a long time. Rumors and innuendo have spread like wild fire but have always been rigorously denied. Until now. Finally, enough time has passed that the truth can be revealed. Without fear of reprisals, a back lash or any kind of black listing. The world has moved on and we’re now ready to accept the truth. So say it loud and say it proud people: A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge is GAY! Waaaay gay.
Yes, Nightmare… 2 has always been singled out among the franchise for its homosexual undertones (or overtones to be more precise) but now, over 25 years later, the cast and crew involved in the making of the film are coming clean with their intentions. Indeed, a fair number of the staff were gay (which is not so unusual for a film production) but writer David Caskin now openly admits that his script did indeed deal with homosexuality, and the lead character Jesse’s confusion over his own orientation. However, what he thought were subtexts in his writing and in the eventual movie were unintentionally ramped up over the course of the filming to become almost screamingly obvious. I guess it didn’t help that lead actor Mark Patton was openly gay (though not at the time of filming). The below clip is from the 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, and features enlightening and funny interviews with all the major players (including Robert Englund) on this most touchy of topics:
Still, for all the interesting subtextual analysis it offers, Nightmare… 2 is by far the weakest film in the series. It lacks tension and fear and contains no truly memorable death scenes (apart from maybe coach getting spanked to death in the locker room). And I should know about these things—you see, as a child I was obsessed with the Elm Street films. Yes, as a child. By the time I was eleven years old I had watched all the Nightmare films I could (which at that point was four, the latest being Nightmare… 4: The Dream Master which featured the recurring character Alice and an amazing “roach motel” death sequence). On my time off at school I would often find myself drawing Freddy Kreuger comics that involved nubile teens meeting an array of grisly deaths. I mean, all that stuff is completely natural for a ten year old. Right? And look at me now. I’m perfectly fine.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is available to buy here.
Many thanks to Peaches Christ!
After the jump, the trailers for Never Sleep Again and Nightmare on Elm Street part 2: Freddy’s Revenge...
Phone Sex Grandma is a short film by Jack Truman about an older female telephone sex worker that follows her routine for a day as she goes about her business. While it could be argued that this film has a lot to say about the socio-economic place of gender and the role of the elderly in declining late-capitalist society, you should probably just forget all that and admit that it’s really funny.
Old people having sex (or in this case talking sexy) is one of the oldest tropes in the comedy handbook - but you’ve gotta hand it to this woman, when it comes to sexy talk she is a pro. And I mean a professional. Check out 3:10 where she is taking a piss AND talking sexy AND pretending to be East Asian! Or 5:20 when she is taking a bath, reading Darwin, talking sexy AND pretending to be black! That is some epic multitasking right there. Phone Sex Grandma is my new (NSFW) hero:
What the hell?! How has this sailed under my radar for so long? And more to the point, how come nobody thought of this before? Tarantino and Rodriguez, I’m looking at you…
As the title may suggest, Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives is a very low budget exploitation flick about a group of transgendered, transvestite and cisgendered ladies who suffer a brutal trans-phobic bashing one night, and decide to take matters into their own hands. Knives, revenge and sheer-black catsuits ensue. Because it takes balls to get revenge. Of course, this isn’t some kind of modern masterpiece-in-waiting, but dammit, it looks like A LOT of fun! The premise is neat, the direction looks good, and the cast is very spirited. What more do you need out of an exploitation flick? Planet of Terror blog has this to say:
I know we all need another retrosploitation movie like we need a hole in the head. But writer/director Israel Luna is genuinely gifted and he has a knack for both the comedic as well as the over the top insanity which is needed to make these types of films work. ... It’s bloody, it’s gory, it’s howlingly good fun.
More on Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives at the official website (including DVD, screening and Netflix info)
Thanks to Dean Birkett for the tip off!
Although it’s a touch more interesting than most awards shows, we tend to treat the Oscars as little more than a gossip source, fashion show, or fun subject for betting pools.
With that said, there are gratifying aspects about the awards themselves, including the fact that French filmmaker Bastien Dubois‘s gorgeous and surreal Madagascar - Carnet de Voyage was nominated for Best Animated Short Film.
It lost, but that takes nothing away from this meditation on mortality on the intriguing African island nation. It’s a dizzying yet coherent display of what seems like a dozen different animation and mixed-media styles. Check it out.
In 1984 the British government drew up a list of 72 films which it deemed so reprehensible that they should be banned. Anyone found in possession of a copy, or actively distributing one of the films, could face a prison sentence. This was in the very early days of video, when distribution of movies on VHS was unregulated, and the new medium could be found in almost every small local corner shop. This is the story covered by the fantastic documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape by British horror director Jake West, which was released late last year in the UK.
More than just a look at the films that were banned by the UK Government in 1984, it’s an examination of the political climate of the era, and the moral panic whipped up by national newspapers, busy looking for an easy scapegoat for society’s problems (and probably a bit worried that their own medium was under threat). The most fascinating part, for me, are the interviews with the dubious, so-called “moral leaders” that decided the public couldn’t handle this type of thing in the first place. A quarter of a century later and society has relegated them to a status of mockery, yet they still cling dearly to the notion that they were doing something right and protecting stupid people from themselves, not just furthering their own mealy-mouthed careers. Sociopathic politicians aren’t just a new phenomena, you know.
Interestingly, one of the prime movers in the the banning of these films was a man called Peter Kruger, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Unit. It may be just one huge coincidence, but almost a year later saw the release of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, and the unleashing of one of the greatest horror characters of all time, Freddy Krueger. Was this Craven’s own F.U. to the British board of censors? Perhaps not, but it doesn’t take a wild leap of the imagination to draw this conclusion - Craven is a smart, politically aware man whose own Last House On The Left ended up on the list of 72 banned films.
The three-disc DVD set, called Video Nasties - the Definitive Guide, comes with the documentary itself, and split over a further two discs a guide to all 72 films on the list (almost half of which were unbanned at the time) with commentary from British horror critics like Kim Newman, Alan Jones and Stephen Thrower. It also comes lovingly packaged in a fake video cassette box with artwork by Graham Humphreys, who created the now iconic British sleeve for The Evil Dead (another banned film on the list). So far only available in the UK, for anyone with a multi-region DVD player the film can be found on Amazon.co.uk and comes highly recommended. This documentary is not just for horror buffs, it is for anyone with an interest in politics, culture, and how liberal ideals can be thwarted by a select, self-interested few.
Via the website kickstarter.com, director Leilah Weinraub is looking to raise $25,000 to finish the final cut of her film Shakedown, before the deadline of Monday 7th of February. Focusing on three main performers, the film is a look inside a black, lesbian strip club in L.A. called, appropriately, Shakedown, and also looks at the history of queer strip clubs in Los Angeles. From the Shakedown2011.com website:
SHAKEDOWN emphasizes the symbiotic nature of how things work in a system. Shakedown’s system functions like a family, put into motion for all the reasons that people need a family, support (financial and emotional), a place of self-growth and a place of self-expression. Through the lens of family, a desire for stability and love, the film meditates on dense topics like three generations of teenage pregnancy, lesbian motherhood, chosen family, and money as a symbol of that love.
Director Weinraub says:
I videotaped the shows at Shakedown every Thursday and Friday night for six years. The first two years I recorded the performances and created video installations at the club. The closed-circuit media making was parallel to the by-women for-women performances that were happening on stage, channeling back an instant history to the creators of the moment. On stage at Shakedown there is a narrative being performed, about sex and sexuality and pop music and the emotional interior of the performers. There is the narrative on the stage, then there is the narrative that is told by the stories of the protagonists in the film, then there is the story that is put together when I edit the film. They all work together.
I’m donating to this film, and so should you - it looks great, and has interest for viewers not just black or queer-identified. You can donate at the Kickstarter website , and there’s an interesting range of gifts for donors too. If you liked Paris Is Burning, check it out: