Thursday, April 29, 2004

Better the devil you know

On Tuesday night I went to an early evening showing of Rosemary’s Baby at the Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square. It’s an undisputable fact (because I say so) that the Prince Charles is London’s best cinema. When most of the screens around the centre of London are charging over a tenner for a movie (which, in the case of over-sized TV screens like the Odeon Mezzanine, is a fucking crime), the Prince Charles has a varied programme of ever-changing features for, at the most, four quid.

The print they had sourced for the film was diabolical (pun intended). Crackling and popping throughout, dialogue and movement jumping all over the place, and at one point the film must have jumped straight off the reels as it flickered and disappeared completely for five minutes. It’s almost like they were trying to live up to Quentin Tarantino’s description of the place as an old-school grindhouse.

Where most of London’s picture palaces now have superb sound, pictures and auditoriums, the Prince Charles is stubbornly old-fashioned, and all the more loveable for it. Sticky floors, uncomfortable seats and a bizarre auditorium that seems to dip in the centre. If you end up sitting towards the back, you can actually find yourself looking up at the back of someone’s head.

Weird crowd in that night, too. It felt as though the whole audience had plastic bags in their laps that they insisted on crushing repeatedly throughout the film. There were at least two ongoing conversations non-stop in my immediate vicinity for the duration of the entire movie, and around four separate mobile phones went off as well, despite the on-screen plea before the movie started that phones must be turned off, as the cinema has “state-of-the-art sound”. Hah! But that’s what you get for going to the cheapest cinema in London.

Anyway, a very small price to pay for a movie-going experience that really is an experience.

Rosemary’s Baby was part of a day of Roman Polanski movies, and I’d never seen it before. I didn’t actually find it remotely scary at the time (The Ninth Gate scared me far more), but it’s really stuck with me for the last day or two, and it’s getting more and more retroactively creepy and disturbing the more I think about it.

The pop cultural significance and context of the movie is intriguing too. Frank Sinatra served Mia Farrow with divorce papers during the making of the film and, not long after, Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, and unborn child were horrifically slaughtered by Charles Manson and his gang of happy psychos. By the way, never, ever do a Google Image search for “Sharon Tate”. There are some really sick fucks out there. You have been warned.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Bloody Satisfaction

It’s finally here, and I’ve finally seen it.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 was like a hypodermic of adrenaline slammed straight into my breastplate, which left me stumbling out of the cinema with my eyeballs bleeding, my ears roaring with static and the word “Wow” on a continuous loop dribbling out the corner of my mouth.

Vol. 2 is something quite different. It’s more of a slow-burner, as befits QT’s latest pop culture cocktail of reference points, but just as good in its own way. Where Vol. 1 was a mess of Japanese influences, from anime and the pop yakuza stylings of Seijun Suzuki to the extreme cartoon gore of Takashi Miike and the raw brutality of Kinji Fukasaku, Vol. 2 is more preoccupied with the damaged romanticism of Sergio Leone, the burnt-out hardasses of Don Siegel and the wobbly zoom shots of the Shaw Brothers.

David Carradine is disturbingly sympathetic as Bill, and Daryl Hannah almost steals the entire movie as instant icon Elle Driver. Then there’s Gordon Liu as Pai Mei, Michael Parks as Esteban Vihaio (topping his return as From Dusk Till Dawn’s Earl McGraw in Vol. 1) and even a glorious little cameo from B-movie legend Bo Svenson.

Pure, visceral cinema with the dial set to eleven, and I can’t get it out of my head. I don’t want to, either.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Hip to be square

The 50 Worst Songs Ever (at least until the next time a magazine struggles to fill pages)

Now, I quite like Everybody Have Fun Tonight by Wang Chung, but it is possible that I just have a misguided affection for them because they helped to define the burnished orange day-glo 80s aesthetic of To Live and Die in L.A.

And The Heart of Rock & Roll by Huey Lewis and the News is a great record! If there’s one thing both Patrick Bateman and I can agree on is the unsung greatness of Huey and his funk-pop-rock classics. And I also remember that particular song from The Sure Thing, which surely must give it an extra cred point or two.

However, it does go without saying that Billy Ray Cyrus should be fucked in every orifice for all eternity with the spiky double-ended cocks of Satan’s minions like a redneck spitroast for his crimes against music, until his still-beating Achy Breaky Heart explodes in his chest.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

French tickler

Last night, I went to a preview screening of The Good Old Naughty Days (Polissons et galipettes) at The Other Cinema. Leaving aside the ever-so-slightly uncomfortable fact that I was a lone male going to view hardcore pornography, let’s have an up-close-and-personal gynaecological glance up the metaphorical snatch of this piece of celluloid exotica.

Essentially, the film is a collection of 12 silent porn movies dating from between 1905 and 1930, and every permutation is covered in the brief 70 minute running time of the movie. Straight, gay, lesbian, oral, anal, group, cumshots and, oh yeah, bestiality. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

First up, Michel Reilhac is credited as the director of the film. Director? Really? He sat through a bunch of archive porn, selected a handful, cut them together, wrote some vaguely amusing intertitles, chucked a score on it….but I don’t think he can in all fairness be designated the “director”. It’s highly unlikely we will ever know the real directors of this anonymous smut, but M. Reilhac is undoubtedly not the auteur behind this festival of filth.

On to the content. Anything that gets old enough eventually accrues a veneer of respectability but, let’s be honest, this is pornography. Filmed footage originally conceived purely with the aim of titillation and arousal. It ain’t art.

As archive footage, though, it’s genuinely fascinating. Evidently, some things are constants in the world of hardcore, even a century on. Loads of close-ups and, more often than not, a money-shot at the end of the reel. The plot lines (if you can call them that) are also old favourites, straddling the blurry line between saucy Carry On-style humour and the staples of hardcore fantasy: nuns and priests, teachers and pupils, nurses and patients.

The differences are also interesting. Although lesbian sex is common in modern porn, there is a fair bit of man-on-man action mixed in here as well, without worrying about self-consciously dividing things into “gay” and “straight” porn pigeonholes.

It’s also refreshing to see people with all sorts of different body types who, on the whole, look like they are really enjoying themselves, in movies that are well shot and well lit.

Now, the scene with the dog. I’m no prude, but I cringed at this. With almost no encouragement, a little fluffy white dog first laps away between a woman’s legs, before sharing a man’s cock with her later on, licking away like it was a water dish. So, so wrong. Kind of funny, but, for fuck’s sake, it’s a dog eating pussy and sucking cock! Archive footage or not, there are still some things that don’t accrue the veneer of respectability with the passage of time.

Riddle me this, Batman

So I’m looking at the U.S. Box Office Charts for last week. At number 1, the concluding half of Tarantino’s splatter-and-samurai epic Kill Bill. And at number 2 with a bullet, the big-screen outing of Marvel Comics anti-hero The Punisher.

I don’t get it. Why would you release not one but two bloody revenge movies IN THE SAME WEEK! Isn’t that just cannibalising an audience who, in all probability, want to see both movies?

Who schedules these things?? Couldn’t one of them have been held over for another week-end? Or do people walk out of one movie and think, “That was cool! But do you know what? I haven’t seen nearly enough violent retribution or arterial blood sprays for one day. I wonder what else is on?”

See also: Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead both in cinemas here. When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will fill the multiplex.

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