Thursday 26 March 2015

BFI Cult: Anguish by Bigas Luna

"My name is Tom Goldman," a voice is heard announcing at the beginning of Bigas Luna's L.A.-set, English-language Spanish-American co-production Anguish (Angustia), "Welcome to our movie. As you've seen in the lobby, we have provided medical service which is free of charge on presenting your ticket stub. Oxygen masks are available…"

As the unseen Tom continues this arch introduction with conflicting advice to enjoy the film but not to hold the theatre legally responsible for what may happen, and certainly not to talk to any strangers during the projection, words appear on the screen declaring: "During the film you are about to see, you will be subject to subliminal messages and mild hypnosis. This will cause you no physical harm or lasting effect, but if for any reason you lose control or feel that your mind is leaving your body - leave the auditorium immediately." Next we see the title, and the film begins - although, of course, the film already has begun.

Wednesday 25 March 2015

SXSW 2015: He Never Died by Jason Krawczyk

He Never Died begins with a day in the life of protagonist Jack (Henry Rollins) - a 'muttering man' of reclusion, routine and relatively few words who spends most of his time alone in his New York apartment, sleeping or zoning out in front of the TV. Visited by his elderly landlady, Jack pays the rent from a chest beneath his bed that is full of hard cash and various antique items (including a visible gun), and in a brief conversation expresses to her his confusion about the precise date and time. He visits the local church - although, it will turn out, for bingo rather than religion, in the apparently incongruous company of senior citizens and retirees. He has a 'discreet' meeting with medical intern Jeremy (Booboo Stewart) in a carpark, paying him in cash for a plastic-wrapped package that ends up in his refrigerator. And he has a meal and a cup of tea, as always, at a diner in Times Square where he either fails to notice or simply ignores the interest shown him by waitress Cara (Kate Greenhouse).

Sunday 15 March 2015

Spotlight on BFI Flare 2015

Last year the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival became the BFI Flare, a name change that indicated its willingness to widen its focus and target a more diverse audience without losing sight of its core identity. It is an ongoing problem of LGB cinema that it cruelly lacks imagination, and I wish a new formalist and singular director would emerge, like Derek Jarman and Gregg Araki (and the later still going strong!). In the meantime, we'll have to settle for countless identikit coming of age stories and forbidden romance in conservative countries. Thankfully, while the BFI Flare has its fair share of those, you can trust its programmers for looking that little bit further in their line-up. And I am putting the spotlight on five films that I recommend, some I have already seen, others that have piqued my attention.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Jauja by Lisandro Alonso - Review

Jauja is a real city in Peru. In 1534 it briefly became the nation's provisional capital until a year later Pizarro settled on Lima instead - and it was also located in a rich area, well supplied with Inca food and clothing, which gave rise to its legendary status amongst Spaniards as a "land of abundance and happiness". Lisandro Alonso's film Jauja is set much further south and centuries later in Patagonia in the early 1880s, during the so-called 'Conquest of the Desert' [] when Argentine forces were carrying out the extermination of the indigenous populace, and 'civilising' the wild terrain with the help of European settlers. One of the latter, Captain Gunnar Dinesen (Viggo Mortensen; also the film's co-producer and composer), has come with his 15-year-old daughter Ingeborg (Viilbjørk Malling Agger) and a team of surveyors, and is even further from his Danish homeland than from the real Jauja.

Monday 2 March 2015

BFI Cult: Four of the Apocalypse by Lucio Fulci

"Salt Flats, Utah. 1873. A bad town for a law-abiding citizen, and for this reason, Stubby Preston, a professional cardsharp, made it a point to stop there at least once or twice a year. But little does he know that this time around, he's chosen to arrive on the very day that the citizens' committee has decided to clean house." These words, delivered in a jaunty voice-over at the very beginning of Four of the Apocalypse (I Quattro dell'Apocalisse) to the accompaniment of an even jauntier thigh-slapping score, immediately establish a tone of jocularity, irony and fun.