Monday, 13 March 2017

Cult Cinema #5: the mechanics of brainwashing

Ticket to Heaven (1981); Faults (2014)

In this post, as well as talking about brainwashing and cults in a general sense, I'm going to talk about Faults, which is a good, interesting and everso slightly disturbing film that came out a couple of years ago, but in order to do that, I'll have to nest in a discussion of another film which is not very good.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

We Don't Go Back #38: The Devils (1971)

(This post should also be considered Cult Cinema #4)
When you're writing about a film based upon historical events, especially one that sticks as (relatively) closely to the bare facts of a narrative as Ken Russell's masterpiece The Devils, the idea that there might be plot elements to give away becomes a nonsense. The important thing with a film like this is not the content of the plot, but the way in which the story is used, the statement it makes.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

On a Thousand Walls #6: After Hours (1985)

All you have to do with some directors is to say the name and the average cinema fan will immediately have a picture in their head of the sort of films the director in question makes. Tim Burton has his signature aesthetic, so much so that it arguably chokes all the good out of his later movies; you could probably say the same for Wes Anderson. David Lynch and David Cronenberg raise expectations of certain sorts of tension by simply having their names on film posters. But what about Martin Scorsese? He's of the same generation as Spielberg, but unlike the latter, who makes all sorts of movies and isn't pinned down to any stereotype, when you think of Scorsese movies, you think of mean streets and wise guys, good fellas and mobsters; you think of New York hustlers, you think of wannabe kings of comedy and vigilante taxi drivers demanding to know whether you're looking at them. You think of something gritty and grimy and street level, full of flawed antiheroes and the painful consequences of violence.

And this is something you get in reviews, even reviews by critics in respectable newspapers, and this is almost completely wrong.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

We Don't Go Back #37: The Exorcism (1972)

When you call a story The Exorcism, you raise the expectation of such a thing happening, but of course, the word "exorcism" has many more meanings than the first one that comes to mind. It refers to the laying to rest of a spirit, and while this single television episode from a series junked long ago, one of only three rescued from the bin, has a vengeful ghost in its ancient house, there will be no bells or books, and no candles lit by ritual.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

WDGB #36 / OaTW #5: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988)

(This post is #36 in the series We Don't Go Back
and #5 in On a Thousand Walls
The Navigator is one of my favourite films. Fair warning, right?

I first caught Vincent Ward's 1988 masterpiece on a rare TV showing in my late teens, taped on a Sunday night off BBC2, and kept for years until the tape wore out. Finding a DVD copy isn't an immediately straightforward affair, unless you find an import, since it's not purchasable in any format on the primary market in the UK, and hasn't been since a single VHS release in the 1990s. I'm able to wait until Masters of Cinema or Criterion or Artificial Eye or whoever do a lovingly restored Blu Ray and accept that the Spanish DVD I have with the shoddy pan and scan transfer is better than nothing.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

On a Thousand Walls #4: Marebito (The Stranger from Afar) (2004)

I went through a phase about fifteen years ago where I watched as many Japanese horror movies as I could find – I'd started with Ring, and moved to Uzumaki, Pulse (Kairo), Audition, The Grudge – and then that phase ended, as phases do. And I moved on to other fads. So I think I saw a review of Marebito somewhere and thought, hmm, looks interesting, and then forgot about it, which, as you'll probably have realised if you're a regular reader, something I do. It was a regular reader of this blog who, when I announced I was doing an urban wyrd series, asked what I thought about Marebito.

So I went and looked, and it's that film that Shimizu Takashi did after doing the English language remake of his breakout hit The Grudge (Ju-On) and so I picked up a copy of Marebito because I'd liked The Grudge, and I watched it and... this is the sort of film that has me knitting my brows and taking in a deep breath through my teeth when you ask me what I think of it.

Note that nudity in one of the screenshots below makes this post NSFW. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

In defence of flowers taped to lamp posts

The tree, which stands alone on one of the gentle slopes of the park near my home, not far from the boundary of the local comprehensive, is entirely covered with hundreds of cloth flowers fixed to its bark with drawing pins, graffiti, gifts tucked in its nooks, laminated Christmas and birthday cards, letters. Beads and trinkets hang from its branches. A bouquet of flowers lies at its roots.