Tuesday, 26 February 2008

L'Erotisme

L'Erotisme
Ritualis
Maldoror
Ass
KI
Le Fin De Notre Amour
Extase De Chair Brisee
Baby Doll
The Loneliest Little Boy In The World
Paranoid
D'Yeux
Imperatrix Cornicula
L'Erotisme is an anthology of eleven underground films, inspired by Georges Bataille's excellent book Eroticism, a study of sex and death as cultural taboos:

Ritualis
(a Black Mass ritual set to Heavy Metal music; directed by Pat Tremblay)

Maldoror: A Pact With Prostitution
(a man meets a prostitute in a cemetery, and kills a grotesque glow-worm [!] with a rock; directed by Nate Archer and Micki Pellerano)

Ass
(as a woman fingers herself, the red-tinted film intercuts rapidly between her face and her buttocks; directed by Usama Alshaibi)

KI
(partially obscured glimpses of a man receiving fellatio; directed by Karl Lemieux)

La Fin De Notre Amour
(an artist and an unidentified woman cut themselves with razors and surgical instruments; directed by Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani)

Extase De Chair Brisee
(a rape-revenge story: a woman kills two masked men with a drill, after they molest her in a park; directed by Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt and Frederick Maheaux)

Baby Doll
(a doll is tied up and fondled, in a bondage fantasy; directed by Serge de Cotret)

The Loneliest Little Boy In The World
(a pig's head is licked and worshipped by a nude woman; directed by Mike Dereniewski)

Paranoid
(a woman films herself with a camcorder as she inserts a dildo; directed by Anna Hanavan)

D'Yeux
(a slide-show of erotic photo-montages featuring body parts and meat; directed by Monk Boucher)

Imperatrix Cornicula
(a woman rubbing herself with feathers, and birds gathering in the sky; directed by Jerome Bertrand)

Almost all of these short films are silent, except for Ritualis (which features slowed-down incantations as dialogue, though would be more effective as a silent film). Maldoror even adds mock-Victorian inter-titles, to add to the silent film aesthetic.

Maldoror's occult symbols evoke Kenneth Anger's treatment of magick, and the film's decaying, abject glow-worm could be a refugee from David Lynch's Eraserhead. It's one of the best films in the anthology.

Another highlight is KI, the only film to cross the borderline into hardcore imagery. Its intentionally degraded and washed-out images resemble Peggy Ahwesh's The Color Of Love, another porn/sex scene rendered semi-abstract by degraded film-stock, though KI is less confrontational than Ahwesh's uncomfortable film.

I also like La Fin De Notre Amour very much. It's filmed as a series of static images (like La Jetee), and, though it's perhaps a bit too stylised (tinted red and blue), it is certainly disturbing.

In my opinion, the weakest films are Ritualis (cliched, verging on self-parody) and, especially, Extase De Chair Brisee. This latter film is like a cross between I Spit On Your Grave and The Driller Killer - in other words, it's an exercise in gratuitous exploitation; the unconvincing acting, costumes, and make-up remove any sense of empathy or engagement, and the camerawork is frequently out of focus.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

100 Best Films

The Sunday Telegraph
Today, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, in its magazine supplement Seven, has published a 100 Best Films list. The list was compiled by Catherine Shoard, Jenny McCartney, Alan Stanbrook, and Mike McCahill. It is divided into ten categories: drama, thriller/action, comedy, animation, horror, romance, kids, musicals, documentary, and world cinema. Each category has ten films, arranged preferentially.

Drama

1. The Conversation
2. Strangers On A Train
3. There Will Be Blood
4. Winter Light
5. Dogville
6. Raging Bull
7. The Godfather I-II
8. Double Indemnity
9. Apocalypse Now
10. Chinatown

Thriller/Action

1. North By Northwest
2. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
3. Manhattan Murder Mystery
4. Heat
5. The 39 Steps
6. Terminator II: Judgment Day
7. Once Upon A Time In The West
8. The Ladykillers
9. The Silence Of The Lambs
10. Die Hard

Comedy

1. Some Like It Hot
2. Annie Hall
3. Meet The Parents
4. Withnail & I
5. His Girl Friday
6. The Odd Couple
7. Zoolander
8. Stir Crazy
9. Gregory's Girl
10. Tootsie

Animation

1. Dimensions Of Dialogue
2. The Jungle Book
3. Spirited Away
4. Toy Story
5. Composition In Blue
6. Grave Of The Fireflies
7. The Secret Adventures Of Tom Thumb
8. Finding Nemo
9. Perfect Blue
10. Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

Horror

1. Psycho
2. Frankenstein
3. The Exorcist
4. Night Of The Living Dead
5. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
6. Dead Of Night
7. The Wicker Man
8. The Blair Witch Project
9. Vampyr
10. The Kingdom I-II

Romance

1. Before Sunset
2. Head-On
3. I Know Where I'm Going!
4. Brief Encounter
5. The Lady Vanishes
6. The Quiet American
7. Hannah & Her Sisters
8. Bringing Up Baby
9. Days Of Heaven
10. Casablanca

Kids

1. Back To The Future
2. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
3. Babe: Pig In The City
4. Freaky Friday
5. Addams Family Values
6. Mean Girls
7. Anne Of Green Gables
8. Clueless
9. Enchanted
10. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Musicals

1. West Side Story
2. The Sound Of Music
3. Cabaret
4. Top Hat
5. Chicago
6. Mary Poppins
7. Singin' In The Rain
8. Nashville
9. Woodstock
10. My Fair Lady

Documentary

1. American Splendor
2. The Sorrow & The Pity
3. American Movie
4. Touching The Void
5. Capturing The Friedmans
6. Spellbound
7. To Be & To Have
8. Hearts & Minds
9. My Kid Could Paint That
10. Neil Young: Heart Of Gold

World Cinema

1. Battleship Potemkin
2. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
3. The Rules Of The Game
4. Tokyo Story
5. Seven Samurai
6. Pather Panchali
7. Smiles Of A Sumer Night
8. A Man Escaped
9. Andrei Rublev
10. The Colour Of Pomegranates

The animation section is surprisingly diverse and even avant-garde. That's the exception rather than the rule, though, because, in general, this list is terrible.

Dividing the 100 titles into ten rigid categories is asking for trouble. Manhattan Murder Mystery, for example, is listed as a thriller/action film (the third greatest thriller/action film, no less), but it's actually a comedy. Why it's listed at all is a mystery, because it's a pale imitation of Annie Hall. Bringing Up Baby appears in the romance list, even though it's one of the most famous comedies ever made.

The inclusion of so many very recent films is bizarre. Is Enchanted (released last year) really one of the greatest children's films ever made? Is There Will Be Blood (released this year) really one of the best dramas of all time? Is it really necessary for seven of the ten documentaries to be films made after 2001? Emphatically no, in all cases.

Why is world cinema relegated to only ten films, as if it were a genre? Are 90% of the 100 'best films' really English-language? No. The world cinema category whitewashes whole chapters of film history: no German Expressionism, no French New Wave, and no Italian Neo-Realism.

Oh, and the compilers seem to have forgotten about science-fiction and westerns altogether. D'oh! So there's no place for Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey (no Kubrick films at all, in fact), Metropolis, Stagecoach, The Searchers, or High Noon.

Finally, what about Citizen Kane? I'd like to think that the compilers were making a revisionist statement by omitting it, but I'm more inclined to believe that they simply forgot about it because it doesn't fit into one of their ten categories.

(Note that Frankenstein is, of course, the superior James Whale sound version, not the Thomas Edison silent film. Also, Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the obscure 1939 comedy.)

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Politiken

Jyllands-Posten
Politiken
The most controversial of the twelve Mohammed caricatures published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 has been reprinted by various European newspapers. Kurt Westergaard's cartoon, of Mohammed wearing a bomb instead of a turban, came to symbolise the entire controversy. He was filmed by the BBC drawing a new version of the image last year.

His cartoon has been reprinted today by seventeen Danish newspapers (including Politiken, Berlingske Tidende, and Ekstra Bladet, as well as Jyllands-Posten) and by newspapers in Spain, Holland, and Sweden. (All twelve of the original cartoons were reprinted extensively in 2006.) Politiken has printed a partially-drawn version of the Westergaard image on its front page.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Cumhuriyet

Cumhuriyet
Cumhuriyet
Two Turkish cartoonists, Musa Kart and Zafer Temocin, have been charged with defamation, after the Cumhuriyet newspaper published their caricatures of Turkish President Abdullah Gul. Kart's cartoon, depicting Gul as a scarecrow, was published on 28th November 2007. Temocin's caricature, of Gul in an envelope, appeared the next day.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation
Richard Linklater's film Fast Food Nation is a drama inspired by the superb investigative book of the same name by Eric Schlosser. It follows two recent documentaries on the secretive and unhealthy nature of McDonald's and its products, McLibel and Super-Size Me.

The exploitation of the American fast food industry is illustrated by the experiences of Mexican immigrants working at a meat-packing factory, a student activist who has a McJob at Mickey's (the fictional company created for the film), and a Mickey's executive who investigates claims of contaminated beef. Though the characters are fictitious, the film concludes with genuine Blood Of The Beasts-style slaughterhouse footage.

The narrative intercuts between a series of concurrent stories, though characters from separate stories never meet (except for one shot in which vehicles from two different segments unknowingly stop beside each other at a traffic light). The structure doesn't quite work, though, because it's too episodic. Characters are introduced, they have one or two major scenes, then they are never seen again, leaving numerous plot points unresolved. This pattern is repeated throughout the film, which has an impressive ensemble cast but no strong central plot line to link everything together.

The Seven-Year Itch

The Seven-Year Itch
The Seven-Year Itch is a comedy directed by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. Like all 20th Century Fox productions of the period (the mid-1950s), it was filmed in CinemaScope. Wilder would later direct Monroe in his fantastic Some Like It Hot.

Ewell plays Richard Sherman, a New York publisher whose wife and son go on holiday for the summer. Monroe's un-named character sub-let's the apartment above Sherman's, and he fantasises about seducing her while his wife is away. In the earlier play of the same name, they do have an affair, though in the toned-down film version he is only unfaithful in his imagination. (Some of the fantasy sequences are parodies of popular films, such as From Here To Eternity.)

At the start, the premise is laboured a bit too much, with repeated emphasis on Sherman's regular office job and normal marriage, and several references to the New York wives who apparently all go on summer vacations without their husbands. It seems a bit strained, as if it were attempting to normalise an unrealistic scenario.

There's a bit too much of Ewell, who narrates the story and appears in every scene, though when Monroe appears she is sensational. She has some great lines, such as recognising classical music because "there's no vocal". This film also contains Monroe's most famous scene: standing over a subway grating, her skirt billowing above her waist. (A similar scene was filmed by George S Flemming and Edwin S Porter for What Happened On 23rd Street in 1901.)

A nude photograph of Monroe had been published by Playboy the year before the film was released, and in an interesting parallel, Monroe's character had also previously posed for a cheesecake photo. In an even more blatant in-joke, Sherman, discussing Monroe's character, says "Maybe it's Marilyn Monroe"!