Friday, 20 April 2007

Flesh For Frankenstein (2D)

Flesh For Frankenstein
Flesh For Frankenstein was filmed back-to-back with Blood For Dracula, and both were directed by Paul Morrissey, who made all of Andy Warhol's Factory films from Chelsea Girls onwards. Morrissey steadily increased the production values, narrative conventions, and cinematic techniques of the Factory films, gradually shedding the 'underground' aesthetic Warhol had initially established.

Warhol's Factory star Joe Dallesandro appears in Flesh For Frankenstein, and, although he is the film's most naturalistic performer (because he was one of the few native English speakers in the cast), he is also the most out of place. He has the attitude of a New York hustler, which, although perfect for his earlier roles in Morrissey's Lonesome Cowboys, Flesh, Trash, and Heat, seems incongruous in the European Gothic context of Frankenstein. The other cast-members, led by Udo Kier as Baron Frankenstein, speak with thick German accents, consequently appearing stilted and artificial.

The film was made in 3D, so there are numerous shots of organs and implements thrust at the camera. I've seen only the 'flat' version, which loses the stereoscopic effects though adds more nudity from Dallesandro. There are decapitations and disembowelings aplenty, though the campy atmosphere removes any vestige of real horror. The tone is set by the film's most famous line, though it's been quoted so often in reviews that repeating it here is hardly necessary.

There is some dispute regarding directorial credit, as, in the film's Italian prints, Morrissey is listed only as a supervising director. It was filmed in Italy (using the same sets as Blood For Dracula), with uncredited second-unit direction by Italian horror director Antonio Margheriti, though rumour has it that Margheriti actually directed the whole film. This rumour has been convincingly denied by Morrissey and the leading actors, though the nature of Margheriti's contribution remains unclear.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Free Thai Cinema Movement

Free Thai Cinema Movement No Cut, No Ban
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, one of the leading New Thai Cinema directors and one of the most original avant-garde filmmakers in world cinema, has withdrawn his film Syndromes & A Century from distribution in Thailand. Thai censors wanted to cut scenes of [shock!] a monk playing frisbee and guitar, and [gasp!] a doctor drinking liquor and his trousers bulging.

Understandably fed up with this nonsense, Apichatpong refused to censor the film and consequently one of Thailand's most important and impressive films will not be shown here. Apichatpong has now started a Free Thai Cinema Movement, calling for drastic changes in the Thai censorship system. The campaign will be officially launched at a press conference at the House Rama cinema in Bangkok on 23rd April, which will be attended by directors including Pen-ek Ratanaruang and Nonzee Nimibutr.

Monday, 9 April 2007

The Fountain

The Fountain
The Fountain is Darren Aronofsky's third film. His previous works, Pi and Requiem For A Dream, were both staggeringly original, hallucinogenic pieces of cinema.

The film, starring Hugh Jackman and Aronofsky's partner Rachel Weisz, is an exploration of the eternal pursuit of love, death, and immortality, in the past, present, and future. But it's impossible to put all this into a film lasting barely ninety minutes, especially as the short running time includes numerous repetitions of key scenes.

It begins with a quote from Genesis, though its narrative is explicitly derived from Mayan creation mythology and its future sequences seem inspired by Buddhism. The result is a conventional tragic love story with added 2001-style cosmic exploration and narrative ambiguity.

100 Greatest Movies Of All Time

The current issue of Empire magazine's Australian edition has published the results of their reader survey of the 100 greatest films ever made:

1. Star Wars IV: A New Hope
2. Pulp Fiction
3. The Shawshank Redemption
4. Aliens
5. A Clockwork Orange
6. Donnie Darko
7. The Lord Of The Rings III: The Return Of The King
8. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
9. Amelie
10. GoodFellas
11. The Matrix
12. American Beauty
13. Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
14. The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
15. The Godfather
16. Grease
17. Braveheart
18. A Nightmare On Elm Street
19. Fight Club
20. Back To The Future
21. Alien
22. Apocalypse Now
23. Gone With The Wind
24. Titanic
25. Forrest Gump
26. Raiders of the Lost Ark
27. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
28. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
29. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
30. Schindler's List
31. Kill Bill I
32. Scarface
33. The Princess Bride
34. Top Gun
35. Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery
36. Rocky
37. Casino Royale
38. An American Werewolf In London
39. The Wizard Of Oz
40. Casablanca
41. Zoolander
42. Gallipoli
43. The Lord Of The Rings II: The Two Towers
44. 2001: A Space Odyssey
45. Heat
46. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
47. Gladiator
48. Terminator II: Judgment Day
49. The Sound Of Music
50. Seven
51. Die Hard
52. Star Wars VI: Return Of The Jedi
53. Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
54. The Usual Suspects
55. Jaws
56. Memento
57. The Godfather II
58. The Big Lebowski
59. Taxi Driver
60. The Shining
61. Stand By Me
62. Clerks
63. The Silence Of The Lambs
64. Spider-Man
65. The Lion King
66. Chopper
67. Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ
68. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
69. Superman
70. Picnic At Hanging Rock
71. Batman
72. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
73. Platoon
74. To Kill A Mockingbird
75. Blade Runner
76. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
77. Mad Max
78. Brokeback Mountain
79. Chicago
80. Psycho
81. Moulin Rouge!
82. The Breakfast Club
83. Citizen Kane
84. Reservoir Dogs
85. The Crow
86. Mad Max II
87. Babel
88. Annie Hall
89. All About Eve
90. Animal House
91. Rear Window
92. Crocodile Dundee
93. Seven Samurai
94. The Blues Brothers
95. Romeo & Juliet
96. Monty Python's Life Of Brian
97. Flying High
98. X-Men
99. The Terminator
100. It's A Wonderful Life

Empire Australia's previous poll was in 2002, and was also won by Star Wars IV.

Some people still need to realise that 'greatest film of all time' is not the same as 'movie you saw recently that you liked'; what other explanation can there be for Casino Royale (the Martin Campbell remake) and Borat on the new list? Also, Scarface is the Brian de Palma remake rather than the superior Howard Hawks original, Ben-Hur is the William Wyler remake, Romeo & Juliet is the Baz Luhrmann version, and Titanic is the James Cameron version.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007


Taxidermia, directed by Gyorgy Palfi, is visually and thematically grotesque. It's full of startling, transgressive images. (Even the poster had to be censored.) It has the potential to be a midnight movie classic in the tradition of the similarly surreal Eraserhead and the equally transgressive/grotesque Pink Flamingos.

There are three sections, about three generations of men from the same family. Vendel is a soldier during World War II, a compulsive voyeur and fantasist. Vendel's son Kalman, an obese professional speed-eater, is the subject of the middle segment. Kalman's son Lajoska, the taxidermist of the film's title, is the final subject.

The initial segment, concerning Vendel, is sensational. The tone is dark and unsettling, and the concepts (Vendel's unique pyromania in the film's opening scene, his corruption of the Little Matchstick Girl, and his lust for a dead pig) are original and provocative. This segment also begins with a diatribe on the phonology and usage of my favourite word (or rather, its Hungarian equivalent), and contains the film's most transgressive images (real sex and death, and ingenious frontal nudity, though the latter is CGI).

Unfortunately, the disturbingly surreal atmosphere of the opening section is not sustained in the second section. The story of Kalman relies too much on pure abjection, with copious vomiting and mastication during eating competitions.

In the final section, Kalman has become a man-mountain resembling Jabba the Hutt (Star Wars) or Mr Creosote (Life Of Brian). Like the speed-eaters of the middle segment, Kalman is ultimately more comical than shocking. However, at the very end, in the film's most disturbing scene, Lajoska disembowels himself with surgical precision and constructs a self-decapitation machine.