Saturday, 30 January 2010
DIE NIKLASHAUSER FART (Germany,1970)
Written and Directed by Reiner Werner Fassbinder
Starring: Michael Kőnig, Hanna Shygulla, Reiner Werner Fassbinder
I didn’t enjoy “Niklashausen journey” upon initial viewing at all even though I tried to like it, being into early Fassbinder. The film gave me a headache. It felt purposely disjointed and way too eclectic. Still, a few moths later I felt like giving it another try. I tend to give almost any film a second chance(unless directed by Yossi Wein or Andreas Bethmann).
The influence of Godard is very obvious here. Rambling didactic speeches substitute for cinematic action. Strangely dressed people play drums in the woods and prepare a revolution – echoes of “Seine and Oise Liberation Front”. The 16-mm cinematography is quite dark at times, but there are a lot of interestingly composed and complex tracking shots. Locations from “Liebe ist kälter als der Tod” and “Das Americanische Soldat” show up: the road, the lakeside and a huge waste dump.
It’s great to see Fassbinder simply “knocking out” a film, just from a very broad theme and a bit of money. Even for an art-house enthusiast “Niklashausen” will probably be an over-indulgent, inaccessible and nigh-unbearable experience. Yet among this cacophony of pretentious posturing and bleeding, over-saturated colours there is something that rings true. I recall a brief but exciting shoot-out scene with machine-gun fire and Molotov cocktails flying around. But overall there’s far too much standing around and ponderous speeches to keep a viewer even half-awake.
Not a good or important film, "The Niklashausen Journey" is worth a look just to see how different a film can be from today’s mainstream standard.
Monday, 25 January 2010
Directed by Grigory Kromanov
Written by: the Strugatsky Brothers
Starring: Uldis Pucitis, Irina Kriauzaite, Jüri Järvet, Mikk Mikiver.
Based on a novel by the Strugatsky Brothers
These words only partially describe the complex brilliance of this picture.
There aren’t enough English-language reviews of this undeniable gem on the Internet, so I shall try and give this film some well-deserved coverage.
Inspector Glebsky arrives at the “Alpiniste Mort” hotel in the Swiss Alps.
Apparently, a murder has been committed there. Soon an avalanche comes down, cutting the hotel guests off from the outside world. Now Inspector will have to face his most unusual case which may or may not involve visitors from another Galaxy…
“Dead Mountaineer Hotel” is an absolutely unique picture which had me mesmerized and deeply emotionally moved upon initial viewing. It’s a hard-to-categorize film which has elements of a detective story, sci-fi and philosophical parable.
Now, what do I compare “Dead mountaineer Hotel” to?
It has the no-budget ambiance of Norman J.Warren’s underrated “Prey”, boundless melancholy of Jean Rollin’s “
Yet “Dead Mountaineer Hotel” stands proudly apart from any other work.
I cannot recommend this enough.
It's the film I wish I had directed.
Even if it didn’t touch upon humanistic issues similar to works of Tarkovsky, “Dead mountaineer Hotel” would still win me over with its sheer style and atmosphere.
Cinematography by Jüri Sillart is very unusual, full of sudden zooms, odd perspectives and precise lighting. Compositions are frequently bizarre and effective. Coupled with first-rate acting and a chilling synth score, they create a truly otherworldly effect.
This original picture was directed by a little-known Estonian director of Russian descent, Grigory Kromanov. It was shot using the facilities of Tallinfilm, film studio of Estonian capital. The cast was composed of top Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian actors. “Dead Mountaineer” Hotel was shot in Estonian language and premiered on 27 August
The tough but ultimately narrow-minded Inspector who can touch a cosmic Enigma but refuses to believe in its’ existence is portrayed excellently by Uldis Pucits, who looks a bit like Bo Svenson.
My favourite character has got to be Hinneckus, played by Mikk Mikiver. He’s a handlebar-mustached gaunt-faced man clad in a huge fur coat who wouldn’t look out-of-place pimping in a Deodato or Lenzi “poliziesco” movie.
I could say a lot about Sven Grünberg’s unusual music but I’d rather you just listened to the soundtrack for yourselves. It’s up there with such legends as Popol Vuh, Goblin, Vangelis and Trans Europa Express.
If there is one film that I wish was better-known to international audiences, it’s certainly “Dead mountaineer Hotel” – an original, fascinating and multi-levelled film…
Sunday, 24 January 2010
CANNIBALS/LES CANNIBALES (France/Germany,1981)
Directed by Jess Franco
Written by Marius Lesoeur
Starring: Al Cliver, Anouchka, Antonio Mayans, Lina Romay, Olivier Mathot, Pamela Stanford.
Plot in one sentence: One-armed anthropologist Jeremy Taylor accompanied by a group of “cannibal fodder” socialites heads into cannibal-infested jungle in search of his lost daughter.
What works: Hard to say. Music is occasionally good, there’s a an odd nicely framed shot, but otherwise it’s a mess.
What doesn’t work: Sabrina Siani can’t act for shit.
“Cannibals” is really hard to like.
The few minor redeeming values I’ve managed to decipher in this utterly third-rate cannibal cash-in are:
-Presence of beautiful Pamela Stanford and Eurocine stalwart Olivier Mathot.
Pamela Stanford only has one scene as Cliver’s hilariously British sounding wife who promptly gets eaten by some very fake cannibals. Olivier Mathot is good fun to watch as shallow Fenton, while director Jess himself turns in a memorable cameo as cynical poncho-clad Mr. Martin.
Flesh-eating scenes shot in extreme close-up and played out in smudged, protracted slow-motion are a standout, as instead of “gross-out factor” they add an odd arty touch to “Cannibals”. They possess an abstract quality, and occasional switches to grainy B/W also add a surreal, deliberately alienating aspect to the otherwise ultra-clichéd proceedings.
Al Cliver, to my mind, gave a (slightly) better than usual performance as
-Some of the framing is very interesting. I cannot help but admire a shot of brightly painted cannibal faces appearing in a darkened door frame, for one.
Most of the, ahem, “jungle” footage is a mishmash of amorphous zooms and pans guaranteed to nauseate all but the most jaded viewers.
Scene of Lina Romay having (implied) sex with Al Cliver after saying: “Don’t worry, - I know you don’t love me” is a standout.
Killer soundtrack! Wait till you hear the űber-groovy bassline track during the obligatory disco-dancing scene aboard Fenton’s yacht!
“Cannibals” is not worth watching. Leave it to guys like me, who can find arty traits even in most irredeemable schlock(especially if it’s European).
“Cannibals” shares some footage with “Terreur Cannibale” and “Devil Hunter”, as well as using stock footage to represent
Saturday, 23 January 2010
Friday, 22 January 2010
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Written by Tito
, Gianfranco Clerici, Renzo Genta, Giorgio Carlo Rossi (as Gigi Rossi) Carpi
Starring: Massimo Foschi, Me Me Lai, Ivan Rassimov.
Plot in one sentence: civilized men plane-crash in the jungle and are soon behaving like troglodytes.
Upon initial viewing I thought "Last Cannibal World" was rubbish. Boring, unoriginal, old-fashioned.
And I still think exactly the same today, only I have since discovered cannibal films which are even more boring and less original.
"Last Cannibal World" is not half as engaging as Deodato's excellent "Uomini si nasce poliziotti si muore" (1976) or La casa sperduta nel parco(1980). In fact, "Last Cannibal World" is perhaps the dullest Deodato film I've seen yet. Sure, he's directed more ridiculous films ("I predatori di Atlantide"), but "Last Cannibal World" is his least memorable for me.
Massimo Foschi actually manages a very decent job with what must have been a physically extremely demanding and critically unrewarding acting part. The best (least boring) parts of the film are from the middle section, when Foschi has already been separated from Ivan Rassimov and has to fight "Mother Nature" on his own.
I quite like Ivan Rassimov but his role in "Last Cannibal World" couldn't be called memorable. He's a lot more striking a s a villain, like in "Eaten Alive!" or "Spasmo".
All in all, "Last Cannibal World" is quite slow, derivative yet competently made picture in a subgenre that's acquired taste at best. For Ruggero Deodato enthusiasts and cannibal aficionados only.
If you want to see a fun cannibal movie, watch Umberto Lenzi's "Eaten Alive!" or Margheriti's "Cannibal Apocalypse".
Giovanni Lombardo Radice wrote an excellent review of "Last Cannibal World", which appeared in Jay Slater's "Eaten Alive!" book.
"Last Cannibal World" is also occasionally reliant on stock footage. Grainy insert shots are particularly evident in the scene where a native woman is feeding her new-born baby to a crocodile. The reptile, naturally, is never seen in the same shot as the people.
Thursday, 21 January 2010
"Naked Nazi", - an absurd,trashy sex comedy with hc elements will be screened at "PAINTED LIPS AND LOLLY LICKS" festival in Canada.
"Naked Nazi" is one of four films that I've co-produced with UK's horror/trash prodigy Jason Impey.
So far it has been the hardest one to distribute due to some "naughty" content.
Still, it was screened at "Hard Liquor and Porn" festival recently.
"Naked Nazi" features Michelle Young a.k.a Amber Lee - an actress best known for her collaborations with the likes of Rob Stone and Ben Dover.
In "Naked Nazi" Michelle plays a nameless attractive brunette who seemingly leads a normal life... except she keeps a gimp in her cellar whom she likes to beat and abuse.
One day a Nazi Officer busts into the house and tries to take Michelle prisoner, only the tables are soon turned on him. Time has come for more beatings and nudity...
Will a rookie cop (Jason Impey) be able to stop the sex-crazed gimp killer that Michelle has become?
Sure, this ain't no "Casablanca", but in case you liked "Death Shock"(1981) or "Porno Holocaust", "Naked Nazi" may be right up your alley!
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
I had only just discovered this amazing trailer for a long lost Renato Polselli film "MANIA"(1974) and already watched it six or seven times - there's so much energy, hysterical acting and promise on display!
In just three minutes we get:
-typical "Ralph Brown" style acting: wide-eyed people yelling in close-up while funky music (by Gianfranco Reverberi) is blasting away on the soundtrack.
-A hooded, crusty, cruddy-looking "zombie" reminiscent both of Etruscan ghouls of "Le Notte del Terrore" and resurrected Baron Von Kleist from Mario Bava's dull but pretty "Baron Blood".
-woman nearly run over by a wheelchair (foreshadowing "Nightmare Concert")
"Mania" interiors seem to be shot in the same house as "Delirio Caldo".
Was that Polselli's own villa, perhaps?
In an interview the director claimed to have shot additional footage for US version of "Delirio Caldo" in his own basement...
I've only seen 2 films by Polselli plus this incredible trailer, but I can already say that works of "Ralph Brown" have altered my perception of what cinema should be.
Thank you, Signor Polselli!
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
La nuit des traquées (
, 1980) France
Written and Directed by Jean Rollin
Starring: Brigitte Lahaie, Vincent Gardère, Bernard Papineau, Dominique Journet.
A hypnotic minimalist drama lamenting an individual’s nearly total helplessness against the authorities…
Even in acclaimed Rollin horror films corpses can be often found blinking (“Les Raisins de
None blink in the excellent and underrated “
This is a masterpiece of minimalism, capable of producing an emotionally devastating effect upon the first viewing.
Forget about such commonly accepted cinema aspects as “editing”, “pacing”, “action”.
The prevailing qualities here are despair and hypnotic emptiness.
Brigitte Lahaie gives a terrific performance and her presence holds the film together during the thinner parts of the story.
Bernard Papineau as an intelligent but cynical Dr. Francis creates an image both tormented and predatory.
Now whoever plays the frenzied patient whom Lahaie and Dominique Journet encounter in the elevator should also be noted: he treats the viewer to a bona fide pantomime worthy of Franco Garofalo.
My personal favourite Rollin film.
Atypical for the director, yes.
But also a triumph.
Who else could bring viewers to a state of deep melancholy using a handful of hc actors put in the austere environment of an after-hours office block for a measly two-week shoot?
This picture cannot be labeled is “just” erotica, or horror, or social critique.
Blending of themes brought up by Rollin in “La nuit…” remains unique to this day.
Yes, it’s an unpolished and sketchy picture but it is never a common exploitation item and hits every target it’s maker has set.
Yes, the sex scene is overlong and the dance towards the end – absurd.
However, these moments do not badly mar the overall exceptional achievement.
A rare film with very warm scenes unfolding in a cold, hostile environment that represents the world today all too well to be written off as an old curio.
I shall go as far as saying : that’s how a Fassbinder picture would probably look had he turned his hand to horror in the early days of his career.
Cinematography is almost documentary-style without gratuitous traveling shots or elaborate lighting effects. It captures the doom and desolation of deserted locations wonderfully, allowing decaying train-yards and sterile, mesmerizing empty corridors take on an almost autonomous character status.
“La nuit” has retained a lot of its power because it so clearly grieves over an individual’s nearly total helplessness in the hands of the state.
Despite the surreal atmosphere and childlike innocence of the amnesiac characters the harsh tone of disillusionment and doom permeates the film. These “hunted” are in too deep…
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Produced by Georges De Beauregard.
A bleak, uncanny and haphazard film, “Le Petit Soldat” feels like it’s been projected straight out of Godard’s head onto the screen - still half-formed.
Plot in one sentence: A Franco-Swiss intellectual is blackmailed into committing a political assassination.
“Le Petit Soldat” is a fairly little-known entry among “canonized” early Godard films. It’s a grave, not terribly well-structured and quickly shot picture. Sharing monochrome shakiness with “A bout de Souffle”, “Le Petit Soldat” has a much thinner story stretched over similar running time.
I’ve seen it two or three times but still don’t quite understand the story – a mishmash of assassination attempts, torture, blackmail.
What doesn’t work:
Not sure what it is, but he’s meek and annoying as the hero. Jean-Pierre Leaud would have been a lot easier to watch in the role as reflexive double agent.
-minimalism bordering on dearth. There’s nothing in the way of disguising we’re watching a strain of thought, a political subject, not a “proper” film in a traditional sense.
And that’s just great.
The film was actually completed in 1960, but was shelved for three years by the French censors.