Festival Burnout

More Edinburgh goodies.

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Some of the movies showing here are eligible for an audience award — you tear a special cardboard tab to register your vote. The lowest category is “Not My Kind of Thing.”

UNMADE BEDS — a youth film about London squatters and little else. Tempting to nickname it “UNMADE FILM” but it’s beautifully shot, and has the most madly photogenic cast of any recent Brit flick. In theory it should be very watchable, but alas it has no reason to exist, no dramatic tension, no structure, and not really any distinct point of view. Not My kind of Thing.

FISH TANK — Andrea Arnold’s slice of social realism builds on the critical success of RED ROAD and is more convincing but no better structured. It pads solemnly on for two hours without delivering a single surprise, but there are compensations in the fine photography and superb performances. Not My kind of Thing.

ANTICHRIST — Lars Von Trier’s marital horror movie is weird, which is fine, but incoherent, which is not so good. I asked the cinematographer if it was deliberately funny, and he said it wasn’t, strongly hinting that there’s something the matter with me if I find it so. Not My Kind of Thing. More later.

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Regular Shadowplayer Chris B, wearing the face of Peter Greenaway upon his abdomen, stands athwart the great Joe Dante.

By contrast, Joe Dante and Roger Corman’s public appearances have been a joy, and I’ll write more on them later too.

Interviewed Bruce MacDonald, director of the excellent PONTYPOOL, for the Auteurs’ Notebook, and hopefully you’ll be able to read that soon.

LITTLE RED HOODIE — my friend Joern Utkilen’s jet-black comedy about the sexualisation of little girls in modern society covers much of the same territory as FISH TANK, but in 15 minutes. It’s sick, funny, compelling and makes a serious point. I’m not sure the point is enough to justify the very dark territory it gets into (via a modern-dress recounting of the Little Red Riding Hood story), but the film earns the right to be considered seriously.

THE ST VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE — a Corman I’d only seen a few moments of before, and hadn’t fancied, but it proved to be a dry, factual, brutal, amoral and compelling little history lesson in capitalism and homicide. Especially pleasing to get faces like Bruce Dern, Dick Miller and Joe Turkel popping up, and the essentially gentle Jason Robards and George Segal make the most of their psychopathic scenery-chewing roles. Jack Nicholson has one line, and delivers it in a comedy gangster voice.

Quote of the day came from a friend of a friend of a friend of the late David Tomlinson, who is said to have said, “Sodomy’s overrated. I mean, I’m not knocking it. It got me work at Disney.”

23 Responses to “Festival Burnout”

  1. Christopher Says:

    I’d seen St. Valentine’s Day Massacre tons of times on TV as a kid..never realized it was a Corman film..I’d like to see it again..

  2. Great quote from Tomlinson, wicked. Funny, the first face that popped into my head from ST VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE belonged to Ralph Meeker, who you neglected to mention among the others. Saw it on basic cable a few years back, Robards really chews up the scenery in it. Come to think of it, you didn’t mention him either. But you did mention Turkel, bless you, from Kubrick to BLADE RUNNER (who can forget Tyrell, and his fateful encounter with Roy Batty?)

  3. Whoops, you did mention Robards after all.

  4. Meeker is certainly the most convincing gangster in the film. I guess I was focussing on bit parts and the more surprising casting.

    Corman tells us that Robards originally had his part and he wanted Orson Welles for Capone. The studio persuaded him that Welles would be unmanageable. “Later I met Orson and he said ‘I would have LOVED to play Al Capone!'”

    This was a studio film, Corman’s biggest budget, a whole million dollars. He claims it’s thoroughly researched and almost 100% accurate.

  5. Glad you discovered The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. It;s a solid little B picture with A values and an A cast.

    <i.Roger Corman's Frankenstein Unbound is also lovely, with Roger in a Raul Ruiz mode. Quite appropriate in that Roger finance Ruiz’s The Territory but declined to distribuite it when he discovered that while the story involved cannibalism all the flesh-eating took place off screen.

    Wim Wenders visited the set to see his then-grilfriend Isabelle Weingarten, and was so taken with the atmosphere that he used it (and the entire Ruiz cast) to make what remains his best film to date, The State of Things

  6. Wow, to think, Orson Welles as Capone in a Corman film. Kind of a shame that didn’t happen, it would’ve been one for the ages.

  7. And here I thought ALL Corman’s films were thoroughly researched and almost 100% accurate.

  8. Christopher Says:

    ..lol..WHAT?..Oh..I would have LUVED to play Al Capone…

  9. Well, Corman did research The Trip personally by taking LSD… then he ignored the experience completely when he made the film.

    When it screened earlier this week he sat in to check the print, and actually heckled his own movie when the disclaimer scrolled up at the start!

  10. Thought I’d been deprived this year by not RSVPing the opening gala invite *tries to keep a straight, suitably deferent face*. Thanks for the skinny – not that there’s been much national coverage, especially for homegrown stuff. So what’s new?

  11. He sounds cheeky.

  12. Christopher Says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen an acid trip successfully portrayed on film..maybe “Skidoo”..lol..parts of “The Tingler”…Nope..Jesus and LSD,they just don’t rise to expectations on film..

  13. Maybe Tracks, which is about post-traumatic stress disorder, but seems to base its vision of a reality out of joint on drug experiences. That one is convincingly freaky without any fake psychedelics.

    Corman is a very humorous fellow.

    Homegrown: quite a lot of Scottish films this year. Yet to catch up with Crying with Laughter, made by pals Justin Molotnikov and Claire Mundell. Matt Hulse’s Follow the Master is nice, the Irish-Scots co-production Wide Open Spaces doesn’t quite hit the mark but is enjoyable all the same, haven’t seen Wasted, produced by my old chum Wendy Griffin (once edited a film for her). I seem to be neglecting my friends!

  14. Must see The Territory! I always assumed The State of Things was entirely inspired by the experience of working for Coppola.

  15. Nope. It’s not about Coppola at all.

    I think the best LSD movie is Conrad Rooks’ Chappaqua (1966), which was shot by the great Robert Frank.

    Performance has some lovely acid moments as well.

  16. Arthur S. Says:

    Wenders is good friends with Francis Ford Coppola. ‘is’ as in present tense. He says that the HAMMETT thing was blown out of proportion by various people involved. According to him, Coppola actually helped him during the production of that film which went out of hand and that Coppola’s active interest allowed him to salvage what he wanted from the film. thehollywoodinterview.blogspot.com/2008/03/wim-wenders-hollywood-interview.html

    I have never seen THE STATE OF THINGS. But you aren’t the only one who calls it his best…although most who do don’t seem to be Wenders fans.

    My favourite is ALICE IN THE CITIES and WINGS OF DESIRE.

  17. State is not only a fine movie, it’s very Wenders, although I guess it has different flavours to it as well which allow it to appeal to non-Wendersians. Patrick Bauchau is a terrific lead, he really ought to have had more big roles, and Sam Fuller is great in it.

    The fact that Allen Garfield from The Conversation plays the producer made me think he was kind of a Coppola figure. That and the presence of gangsters…

  18. Tony Williams Says:

    So a Corman retrospective some 40+ years after The Millenic Vision? This is very encouraging since his maverick presence is very much missed today.

  19. At Bloody Mama today they presented him with a fest programme from the 1970 with two tickets to see the film THEN. A sweet gesture.

    Corman is planning to reunite with Dante to do a horror serial for Netflix! A Halloween show where the audience gets to choose the victims, kind of like Mr Sardonicus with its alternative endings, but for real!

  20. Tony Williams Says:

    If the victims will be the Bush and Cheney families plus Karl Rove and Ann Coulter, then he will have a winner!

  21. Well Dante’s already had Karl Rove’s head eaten in his excellent Masters of Horror movie, Homecoming. Dante regular Robert Piccardi made an excellent Rove (with slight name change). The first movie or TV show to tackle the present war.

  22. But on the bright side you managed to get through Fish Tank all in one sitting, which must mean Arnold is becoming a slightly better filmmaker.

    …Or is it just a testament to DVD allowing the viewer to escape an unsatisfactory experience over a theatrical screening allowing no escape? :)

  23. My joke was that it was only two hours but it FELT like a week. In some respects she’s definitely improving, but I’m not sure I should write about her work anymore because it’s manifestly not my thing.

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