Thursday 22 January 2015

BFI Cult: In The Mouth Of Madness by John Carpenter

John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994) is the closing film of a loose trilogy taking as its narrative hook and theme ‘the end of the world’. The Thing (1982) and Prince of Darkness (1987) are the other titles that form the triptych of apocalypse-themed terror.

Insurance fraud investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) is hired by a book publisher (Charlton Heston) to track down missing author, Sutter Cane (Jürgen Prochnow). There is a manuscript to be delivered, and the guy’s gone AWOL. Yet, rather than slowly encroach the picture in the supernatural, In the Mouth of Madness is pure mayhem from the very beginning. The opening credits sequence, a montage of printing presses running off covers en masse, which looks very much like celluloid film running through a camera, to the accompaniment of Carpenter’s hard rock score, also signifies that we’re in for quite a ride.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

A Most Violent Year by J.C. Chandor

"If you do right, won't you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door." These words are uttered by God to Adam and Eve's first son Cain in Genesis 4.7. The path of righteousness, however, is not always easy to follow, and Cain opts instead to kill his brother Abel in what is the new world's first act of murder. In J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year, this Old Testament episode resonates through the wintry ports and streets of a second new world.

In the New York City of the early Eighties, another Abel (Oscar Isaac), surnamed Morales as an index to the film's moral concerns, is a Hispanic migrant trying to follow "the path that is most right" in pursuit of a very American dream. Unlike the other heating-oil suppliers with whom he is competing, Abel is trying to run his business by entirely legitimate means - and he has just laid down a deposit with some Orthodox Jews (another sly nod to the Old Testament) for a riverside oil depot that could, if he honours the full payment in time, cement his powerbase in the industry. He is a good man, a loving husband to Anna (Jessica Chastain) and father, a hard worker and a caring employer - but all this may be at odds with his upwardly mobile trajectory.

Thursday 15 January 2015

Notes On The Oscars 2015 Nominations (Oh Marion!)

Apart from our very first year, we have never covered the award season here at FilmLand Empire, not even the Oscars. I felt that with our limited resources, we were better off leaving it to other sites that cover them more extensively and frankly, better, and it is difficult to find a different angle to cover them or offer anything new. But with the nominations just announced, this year is proving to be a particularly interesting year which is why I feel the need to write a few notes on them. Besides, love them or loathe them, and even with the slowly declining television audiences (not to mention dwindling cinema audiences), there is no denying their importance.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Anton Bitel's Top 5 of 2014

Annual lists are arbitrary things. Bound to an individual's inevitably subjective and often changeable perspective, astrologically obsessed with the passage of the Earth around the Sun, and creating an artificial hierarchy between artworks that merit better than the butcher's crudity of such qualitative comparison, they reveal practically nothing meaningful or profound about the state of moviedom. Rather, these lists are frivolous, carefree pastimes - graffiti on the wall, notches on the bed, all marking a mere moment of experience in the universe (of film), and declaring one viewer's fleeting attachments to twelve months' worth of flickering, ephemeral projections.

All of which is also, of course, precisely what gives these lists their value. They are lone cries in the darkness, and assertions of singularity and self - as well as celebratory dips into cinema's moving stream. Your list will no doubt be different. Here is mine. For the sake of simplicity, I have restricted my choices to actual UK theatrical releases in the year 2014.

Monday 12 January 2015

BFI Cult: Re-Animator By Stuart Gordon

"I'm dead," declares medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott), lying beside his girlfriend Megan Halsey (Barbara Compton) in a state of post-coital exhaustion. When Megan questions his compliments of her physical beauty "coming from somebody who spends most of his time with cadavers", Dan insists, "Cadavers aren't beautiful - and besides, you know, they just don't jump when you tickle."

Behold The Glorious Cult Strand At The British Film Institute!

The British Film Institute has been spoiling us, fans of cult cinema, over the last few years. There was the Gothic season that spanned over several months at the end of 2013, which saw the memorable screening of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond in the main screen on a gorgeous 35mm print, as well as Hellraiser and countless others. There was the Science-Fiction season last year, with Alien presented in all its slimy glory on the big screen as well as the mind bending Altered States.

And since 2012, the London Film Festival has been split into strands including the Cult strand, which saw such wonderfully strange films such as Giallo's tribute The Strange Colour Of Your Body Tears, Lovecraft-esque romance Spring and many other oddities splattered over adoring audiences. As if to confirm its increasing place in cinema and if not recognition at least acknowledgement, the British Film Insitute has now launched a regular Cult strand, which will comprise of two films every month.

Friday 9 January 2015

Dark Summer by Paul Solet - Review

"Wow! You're like Shia LaBeouf from that movie with the creep next door." Here, catching her first glimpse of the electronic monitoring device tethered to the ankle of Daniel (Keir Gilchrist), Abby (Stella Maeve) is only giving voice to what we are already thinking. For like the LaBeouf-starring Disturbia (2007) and also not unlike the more recent Housebound (2014), Dark Summer concerns a young adult placed under house arrest and equally trapped in a genre scenario.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Enemy By Denis Villeneuve - Review

"Chaos is order yet undeciphered" reads text near the beginning of Denis Villeneuve's Enemy, proclaiming the film's status as a thorny puzzle in need of careful decoding. Enemy may be adapted from José Saramago's 2002 novel The Double, but it is equally haunted by the spirits of Hegel, Lynch and Antonioni. As university lecturer Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) addresses his students on control, distraction and the (Hegelian) repetitiveness of history, Hegel lurks in the background, his system of dialectics (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) visible in a web of associative ideas scrawled in spider-like script on the blackboard behind Adam. Adam is himself caught in a loop of history, his every day a drearily repeating pattern of teaching (and teaching what seems to be the same lesson, ad nauseam), then going home to mark papers and have passionless sex with his girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent), who always leaves shortly afterwards. Adam's ennui is written on his face, his dissatisfaction is audible in his regular sighs, and his jaundiced worldview is reflected in the sickly yellow filters through which Enemy has been shot.