Categories
Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

SCALA!!!
Or, the incredibly strange rise and fall of the world’s wildest cinema and how it influenced a mixed-up generation of weirdos and misfits

Directors – Ali Catterall, Jane Giles – 2023 – UK – Cert. 18 – 96m

*****

From 1978 to 1993, London’s Scala Cinema programmed everything from art house to sexploitation, ushering in the upcoming generation of anti-establishment musicians, filmmakers, and others – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 5th

Whatever the strengths of this film – and they are legion – it may be impossible for me to write an objective review of it. From my first visit to Tottenham Street to watch an afternoon programme of back-to-back Tex Avery animation shorts on Saturday, 25th October 1980, I could often be found at London’s Scala cinema in the 1980s, broadening my mind as I lapped up welcome servings of movies long or short, old or new, highbrow or trashy. So there are a few additional titbits in what follows which come from my own personal, mental Scala archive of memory rather than from the documentary itself.

As for the date, my memory’s not actually that good. Such information can, however, be discerned from the wondrous if unfeasibly large-sized book SCALA CINEMA 1978-1993, which amongst other things contains all the monthly Scala programmes. It was written by co-director and former Scala employee / programmer Jane Giles’ and edited by fellow co-director Ali Catterall.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Red Shoes

Producers-Writers-Directors – The Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) – 1948 – UK – Cert. PG – 135m

*****

A young dancer gives her all to the art of ballet, symbolised by the story’s centrepiece of the Ballet of the Red Shoes, in which the heroine is danced to death by the eponymous footwear – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 8th; major season Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds Of Powell + Pressburger continues at BFI Southbank and on BFI Player until the end of December with a free exhibition The Red Shoes: Beyond The Mirror (booking essential) running until Sunday, January 7th 2024

The second movie by the Archers not to deal with wartime issues in any way, shape or form (the first being Black Narcissus, 1947) deals with art in the story of a young dancer torn between love and her chosen art form. Student Julian Craster (Marius Goring) is outraged to discover, during its debut performance, that his music tutor Professor Palmer (Austin Trevor) has lifted several passages of Craster’s college work to pass them off as part of his latest dance score Heart of Fire. His subsequent interview with ballet company head and creative genius Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook, who appeared in four Productions of the Archers and later in The Queen Of Spades, Thorold Dickinson, 1949) secures him a lowly job as music arranger for the prestigious Ballet Lermontov.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

There’s Something
in the Barn

Director – Magnus Martens – 2023 – Norway – Cert. 15 – 100m

*

An American family immigrates to Norway where a relative has died and left them a farmhouse with a barn… and there’s something in the barn – badly misjudged horror comedy is out in UK cinemas and on digital download from Friday, December 1st

I have watched this film so that you don’t have to.

Incidentally, it has some of the best film stills I’ve ever seen. They are truly great. Don’t let that fool you: it’s a rotten movie.

One year after the unpleasant death of their Norwegian relative, the Californian nuclear family of dad, step-mum, son and daughter arrive at his farmhouse and barn in Norway which they’ve inherited. The unpleasant death is intriguing and workable if unoriginal horror fare; there is indeed something in the barn, and it’s not happy. So not happy, that it kills the relative.

But once the Californian family appear, the film undergoes a huge shift of tone from straight horror to pretty embarrassing comedy. Or, more accurately, alleged comedy because the laughs (or laugh – I think I may have laughed once) are (is) few and far between. Dad Bill (Martin Starr) is a happy-go-lucky, irritating, nerdy caricature; his new wife – and therefore step-mum to his kids – Carol (Amrita Acharia) is an equally annoying, former self-help guru.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Observing
(Opazovanje)

Director – Janez Burger – 2023 – Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, North Macedonia – Cert. none – 83m

*****

A paramedic must deal with the aftermath of a man being kicked unconscious after people watch the incident on social media livestreaming – plays in the spirit of the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

The sounds of a man (Vito Weiss) being beaten up by others. No images. Mercifully.

If you lived in Slovenia, you’d be familiar with a news story about a man who was beaten up by others who livestreamed the event over social media, picking up an audience of 20 000, out of whom only a negligible number, maybe a handful, thought to call the police. That incident was the starting point for this film, which is an attempt to come to term with such events.

It’s a drama based around the three-person ambulance detail who find themselves picking up the victim of the livestreamed attack. He’s in a bad way and winds up in intensive care. Most of the ambulance pickups either die on the way to or in hospital, or they make a full recovery; this man, however, remains stable but unconscious in the ICU with no sign of either recovery or lapse.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Latent Image

Director – Alexander McGregor Birrell – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 82m

***1/2

A mystery thriller writer working alone in a secluded cabin in the woods is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger – out in UK cinemas and on digital platforms from Sunday, October 8th

Developed from his 20 minute, 2019 short of the same name and starring the same two leads, Birrell’s debut feature is a curious mixture of innovation and genre cliché. Yet, enough of what’s going on here works sufficiently to hold the viewer’s attention.

Ben (Joshua Tonks, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Birrell), who isn’t named until quite some way into the film, has rented a cabin in the woods in order to write his latest novel, “if you can call it that” – he’s working in horror, thriller fiction. Tonight, he becomes engrossed in writing about his antagonist – a mysterious stranger – he suddenly becomes convinced that there is someone lurking outside the cabin. When he looks, he can see no-one. Nevertheless, his gut instinct is correct: someone is watching the cabin from the darkness.

What follows skilfully walks a knife edge between someone writing or imagining a story about being terrorised by a stranger whilst staying at a cabin in the woods and someone actually being terrorised by a stranger whilst staying at a cabin in the woods.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tetsuo:
The Iron Man
(Tetsuo,
鉄男)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1989 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 67m

*****

On Arrow Channel from Friday, September 22nd.

Previously on BFI Player as part of Japan 2020.

This review originally appeared in Manga Mania.

A metals fetishist (played by director Shinya Tsukamoto) inserts a metal tube into his leg and the resultant infection causes him to run through the streets where he’s run over by a car. A jazz sax score and the words “new world” accompany his passage into to what appears to be another dimension, from which he proceeds to terrorise an unfortunate woman on a subway platform, possessing her hand by metallicising it with spare parts.

The car’s driver, sitting next to her on the platform – who has already discovered a miniscule electronic component on his face while shaving – is pursued by the possessed woman. Later, the driver is sodomised by his girlfriend’s mechanical penis before his own penis develops into a lethal drill.

Flashbacks reveals the pair copulating in the park just after the hit and run accident. As he becomes more and more metallicised, he finds himself locked in combat with his crash victim, and the two eventually become fused into one, accompanying their birth into the New World.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

Tetsuo II:
Body Hammer
(鉄男II
Body Hammer)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 1992 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 83m

*****

The Iron Man Tetsuo is back… and this time, he’s got a wife and child – sequel to the cyberpunk classic was first released November 10th 1992, when this review appeared in Manga Mania.

On Arrow Channel from Friday, September 22nd.

Where Tetsuo: The Iron Man is shot in raw black and white, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer‘s bigger budget enables a thematic reworking with not only colour film stock but also vast improvements in special effects technique (although these retain the no-budget, hands-on quality that renders them so compelling). The sleazy sexual imagery is jettisoned, the terrorized salaryman (Tomoroh Taguchi again) paired with more respectable wife Kana (played by Nobu Kanaoka, Iron Man’s subway attacker) replacing the terminally randy girlfriend. The couple now have a young child.

Tetsuo II thus launches its attack on nuclear family rather than single salaryman, with the infant kidnapped (and subsequently rent asunder) before his eyes early on in the proceedings by muscle-bound heavies hailing from the local smelting factory (occasioning much imagery of both high fetishist body building and equally high temperature molten metal varieties). Once again, Tsukamoto himself plays one of the salaryman’s opponents, on both occasions wearing a vest marked with an “X”.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Talk To Me

Director – Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou – 2022 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 94m

**

Under peer pressure, a teenager takes her turn contacting undead spirits at a party, with devastating consequences – out in UK cinemas on Friday, July 28th

For me, this was probably always going to be an uphill struggle: people wilfully contacting undead spirits really isn’t my idea of fun (and I knew that going in). It starts off really well, with a Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) vibe as a lengthy widescreen shot effortlessly glides around a teenage party culminating in an horrific knife murder and suicide.

After this, it switches to other characters. Mia (Sophie Wilde) hasn’t got over the death of her mother two years ago, and goes to a party with her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen) where the host produces the embalmed hand of a psychic.

Apparently, if you grasp the hand and say first “talk to me” then “I let you in”, the first spirit in the vicinity will possess you. “It’s always different,” says the girl who produced the hand, who also informs them that it mustn’t last more than 90 seconds, because after that the possessing host can’t be sent back to the place from whence it came.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Medusa
(Medusa)

Director – Anita Rocha de Silveira – 2021 – Brazil – Cert. 15 – 127m

***

Pro-purity, fundamentalist, Christian church girl band singer indoors by day; slut-shaming, Evangelical, vigilante group member outdoors by night… a woman is haunted by a facially disfigured figure from the past – out in UK cinemas also available on PVOD and ESVOD on Friday, July 14th, and to rent on BFI Player from Friday, July 21st

Night. An exotic dancer, bent over backwards so both hands and feet touch the floor. Writhing.

A young woman, watching this on her smartphone on the bus at night. She reaches her stop, gets off and starts walking. A gang of white masked, female vigilantes on the prowl, suddenly, behind her. She walks faster, they catch her, surround her, slut-shame her, call her a homewrecker, threaten her into “serving the Lord”. Afterwards, the female vigilantes walk off in a line across the road. On the wall, posters depicting a fist and a snake.

To better herself, another young woman Clarissa (Bruna G.) is taken our of an ordinary school and sent by her aunt to an up-market, fundamentalist, evangelical Christian church school where she’s quite nervous about fitting in: but Clarissa needn’t worry – she’s soon befriended by Mariana aka Mari (Mariana Oliveira) who takes the newcomer under her wing.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Movies Shorts

Flesh Of God
(Carne De Dios)

Director – Patricion Plaza – 2022 – Argentina, Mexico, Columbia – France 16+ – 21m

*****

When a travelling monk falls prey to a fever, the folk remedy administered by an old woman causes him to experience bizarre hallucinations – from the 2023 Annecy International Animation Festival in the Official Competition section

(Warning: not suitable for work or for those of a sensitive disposition. Potentially offensive to religious i.e. Christian viewers. Also, spoilers.)

In a prologue, a young girl races through a field of crops but runs into a monk, who squishes the mushrooms she’s carrying in her bag with his foot, feels her face and checks out her teeth before she flees.

Some time later (or perhaps some time earlier), the profusely sweating monk falls off on his donkey beside his walking guide and wakes in a nearby hovel, or it might be a church, tended by an old woman muttering unintelligible rituals as she attempts to heal him. The perpendicular bars of the roof’s sole window form a makeshift cross on which hangs a Christ figure, but when mushrooms resembling the ones trampled at the start are placed in the initially reluctant monk’s mouth, glowing sprites exit his body and enter the Christ figure, which assumes a monstrous aspect and attacks him.… Read the rest