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The Servant

Director – Joseph Losey – 1963 – UK – Cert. 12 – 115m

*****

A highly capable working class manservant slowly takes control of his foppish, upper class master’s life – out in cinemas on Friday, September 10th

Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) enters the curiously unlocked Chelsea house of Tony (James Fox) to interview for the position of manservant. He finds the unkempt Tony asleep in a chair. He seems to fit Tony’s bill and gets the job. Tony got the house very cheap, although it’s in need of repair and decoration. Barrett has any number of useful suggestions, but Tony overrides one or two of them. A servant should know their place, after all.

At a club Tony tells his date Susan (Wendy Craig) that he’s involved in clearing jungle to build three cities. When he brings her back to the house, she finds her attempts at both romantic intimacy and imposing her ideas on his home consistently thwarted by Barrett’s intrusions.

Barrett secures a job for his “sister” Vera (Sarah Miles) as a maid. She is actually his lover. And she sets about seducing Tony. All of this will come to a head, with Tony throwing the pair of them out.… Read the rest

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Censor

Director – Prano Bailey-Bond – 2021 – UK – Cert. – 84m

****

In the 1980s so-called ‘video nasties’ era, a BBFC examiner increasingly confuses horror films with reality – in cinemas from Friday, August 20th

A peculiarly British film in that it pertains to the way so-called ‘video nasties’ were dealt with by the UK censor in the 1980s. With the rise of video technology, a legal loophole meant that while cinema films were given a certificate by the UK censor, films released straight to video were not. A number of horror films far more violent and bloody than the censor would allow for cinema exhibition thus found their way onto VHS videotape, into video stores and onto the nation’s home TV screens via the video player.

Sections of the UK press ran stories of ‘video nasties’ suggesting that seeing such videos would corrupt children and impressionable members of society. One or two Tory MPs campaigned for changes to the law, resulting in the 1984 Video Recordings Act. Now videos came under the BBFC’s remit (it changed its name from the British Board Of Film Censors to the British Board Of Film Classification) and video titles were examined then passed, passed with cuts or banned.… Read the rest

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Wendy

Director – Benh Zeitlin – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 111m

*****

A bold re-imagining of Peter Pan told through the eyes of Wendy which is unlike any other version of the story you’re likely to see – out in cinemas on Friday, August 13th

Her mother runs a fast and furious restaurant. Wendy (Tommie Lynn Milazzo) crawls along the long tables.

Boys play on trains on the nearby tracks outside.

Her brothers James (Gavin Naquin) and Douglas (Gage Naquin) come out to play on the jukebox, but quickly get thrown out for causing disruption. Through the night the goods trains pass. There’s a spark. Wendy, slightly older now (Devin France) sees something atop a train. A boy. She runs outside to chase the train. Her mother’s voice calls her back in.

The fast trains pass. One day she is on one, riding the rails. The boy (Dwight Henry) is in the freight car. He tells them to stand close to the open boxcar door. The train crosses a bridge over water. He pushes them out. They’re in the water.

Then they’re all in the boat, crossing the ocean to the island, Mother. They land. Beach. Forest. Geysers erupt.… Read the rest

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The Isle (Seom)

Director – Kim Ki-duk – 2000 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 89m

***

Review originally published in What’s On In London to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.

Latest UK release from Korean maverick director Kim Ki-duk (Bad Guy; Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring) has a unique setting: an isolated lake upon which float small chalets on rafts available for hire by punters. The proceedings never leave these immediate surroundings, which include the shack with a jetty on the shore – from which proprietress Hee-Jin (Im Suh Jung) hires out the chalets and sometimes her body – and a mysterious isle in the lake’s centre.

She embarks upon a relationship with life-weary punter and ex-cop Hyun-shik (Kim Yoo-suk), bringing unexpected changes to them both.

This is not a film for the faint-hearted, containing as it does some pretty unsettling imagery involving physical sexual activity and fish hooks, even if much of this is suggested rather than shown.

What we’re seeing here has been slightly pruned at the request of the UK censor the BBFC, notably of scenes involving the slicing off of a live fish’s sides before the camera which have been removed on grounds of animal cruelty.… Read the rest

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Crash

Director – David Cronenberg – 1996 – Canada – Cert. 18 – 100m

*****

This review was originally published in the Arts Centre Group‘s member’s newsletter. See also my review for What DVD.

All stills from Crash apart from the one from Videodrome.

Canadian film director David Cronenberg has a reputation for filming the unfilmable. Formerly dubbed The King Of Venereal Horror (“a small kingdom but I’m happy with it”), his debut (commercial) feature Shivers / The Parasite Murders / They Came From Within (1977) is a low budget horror outing in which high rise tenants are invaded/possessed by little slug-like creatures resembling a bloody cross between phallus and faeces.

For renowned British producer Jeremy Thomas (Bad Timing, The Last Emperor, First Love) he has adapted and directed books considered impossible to turn into movies, notably William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (in 1991) and J.G.Ballard’s Crash.

I was first drawn to Cronenberg’s work from the special effects angle, specifically an article on prosthetics expert Rick Baker which contained some amazing production stills (the shape of a hand-held gun pushing through the unbroken membrane of a television screen) from Videodrome (1983). An image suggesting television can kill?… Read the rest