Thursday, 20 March 2014

Feminine Carnivores (1970) Zybnek Brynych

Treasure hunting among cinema's lonelier ruins can be some of the most fun in the world, but sometimes alas there's little there but hallucinatory light from the crypt, the bones are all dust and the relics just second rate craft cheaply daubed. So it is with Feminine Carnivores, which looks like it should be great but really isn't. The set up is inviting, a lady named Eve travels to an exclusive women's resort to resolve nebulous psychosexual disorders, but finds that things there are somewhat stranger than expected. And for a while its a pleasing watch, plenty of attractive women, chic location, stylish interiors with modernist paintings and objets d'art (I especially liked the mantis doorknob) yet realistically comfortable, plenty of camera whirls and zooms and a bit of surreal choppy editing, loose plotting that yet steadily advances the atmosphere and idea. But around halfway in things pall as it becomes clear that the film actually doesn't have anything smart to offer and is really just coasting. It seems like a feminist picture celebrating women in control, but by the by turns out to be no more than an idiots take on radical feminism. The men are variously arrogant, crude, shallow or just cracked pawns like a retarded gardener or a policeman who just wants to build card castles. But the women are really no better, just vicious, crooked and deadly. And while said gardener is called Adam, the film goes nowhere with the expected symbolism. No real suspense because things are obvious from the title on and both the characters and their interactions are all more or less one dimensional, but worse the film lacks either genuine radical feminist ire or (for the most part) the comically hypocritical sleaze and violence to be an entertaining conservative denouncement. 

On the plus side a group bra burning is somewhat amusing, of course only attractive young ladies bare their breasts, and the camera smartly conveys from very early on the cyclical nature of both the narrative and the characters. It also works as a kind of time capsule, amber freeze of the angst, pretension and style of certain kinds of European artiste of its unfortunately not entirely lost era. An unintentionally positive thing, its dated nature showing up how ludicrous is the persistence of some of its attitude into the modern age. 

Others are more generous to this than I, but after mulling it over I'm sticking with really not being a fan. For those that have to see it (you know who you are) it's still better than a poke in the eye with a wet stick, but otherwise avoid.

Nigel the Psychopath (1994) Jim Larsen

I don't know anyone called Nigel in my real life so before last night my concept of "Nigel" was a blank canvas, rude clay hungry for a sculptors tender caress. But no more, now I have a Nigel forever! 

Nigel wears jeans, white trainers, camouflage jacket, gas mask and cap, except for when his jacket is blue and he has a hat. He carries a rake, except for when he carries a stick, then he carries a rake again except for when he carries guns or other things. He kills everyone he meets but they don't seem to be too concerned. Probably not paid enough. Actually I don't suppose anyone was paid at all. The cast doesn't seem to reach beyond teens and some not even that. 

There doesn't seem to be an iota of rational thought here, just a few afternoons of fun between friends recorded. So the interest is mostly incidental. Nigel has a brother who set off his spree when their mother died, by telling him that she went to Heaven and is happier there. His brother is called Chubby and wears a T shirt with a picture of Leatherface on it. There are bits of hilariously lackadaisical fighting, as if everyone involved was either incredibly stoned or just didn't give too much of a sh!t and wasn't into it. I hope for the former myself because youth delinquency is fresh and progressive and awesome since at least the late 50's. 

At one point a couple of characters are driving and there are red fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror. Mmmm, fuzzy. Some quality dialogue, like "you be illin' when you should be chillin'". Sage advice that, I was once ill when I should have been chill and I wound up in the hospital. And the odd fun image like Nigel's maniacally rake hacking shadow on a brick wall, or a severed leg going down a playground slide. How do you sever a limb with a rake? He found a way! There's a guy in drag trying to pull a Friday the 13th Part 2 ending. And a drunk singing "Time of my Life". 

Also the soundtrack is often perfectly serviceable 80's style girl rock except for when it's something else like just a harmonica. All in all this isn't in any way, shape or form a "good" film but I wasn't bored. Except for when I was bored. The end credits roll around 55 minutes but the film would definitely have benefited from being like, 10 minutes shorter. A final thought, 1994 saw tremendous works like Dellamorte Dellamore, In The Nightside Eclipse and Transilvanian Hunger, but it also saw Nigel the Psychopath. Really makes you think, except for when it doesn't. Watch it!!!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Lesbian Rape: Sweet Honey Juice (1991) Hiseyasu Sato

In previous films Hiseyasu Sato has dealt in cameras, microphones, vibrators and more, now is the turn of the test tube. Lesbian Rape: Sweet Honey Juice opens with light, clink, pipette mixing unknown fluids, then a whole veritable forest of unruly test tubes through which is glimpsed a lady, fractured, cold and indistinct. By the by we see her talk to a  Dictaphone and her friendship with a lizard which she strokes with erotic tenderness, single rich red nail caressing tiny back. Subtle it ain't but a fine bit of economical character sketching and thematic foreshadowing, for a newcomer or a long time fan. Test tubes are a neat subject, while the previous mentioned devices mediate directly between mind and body, test tubes essentially come between people and the reactions of creation, are clear and isolating ways of seeing and can even perform pleasure too. Alas the film has little to do with the purpose of test tubes for science, being more interested in their role in intimacy as tender or vicious, the latter perversely less cold. And as two unknowns together form something new the characters here progressively fuel and warp each other, making things new. The same old Sato preoccupations in just slightly different situations really. But while his work is all too often flawed by producer impositions, needlessly drawn out sex and frustrating abortive run times, this one has a well structured plot and vivid characters which are actually advanced and developed by sleaze, and a smart climax that brings everything together. The focus is on lonely lesbian scientist Kyoko with an urge to control manifest in her study and her night time rape fantasies. Her interior life is filmed in rich sad blue, her fantasies the amber of flesh and desire preserved, and as she begins to pine after her assistant Chitsuko and ensnare technician and fellow rape fantasist Yumisaka blue and amber literally come together as fantasy turns to reality. Afterwards the lighting tends towards the less artificial and the rape scenes from a kind of spacially screwy voyeurism to somewhat more of a conventional intensity. Chitsuko is notionally the normal one of the three, lonely and yearning waiting for a catalyst, while Yumisaka is curious as pinku rapists go, a pathetic, malleable type searching for some sense of control. Ably performed they twist and turn, action in apartments, a rooftop, a stairwell (these might be plural but it makes little difference), public paths and bridges and benches, part of but isolated from the world around. It's altogether most satisfying, bringing the sleaze and weirdness in good measure, a spot of dark humour, even odd passages of poignancy and tender, arousing eroticism. Essential Sato then, and even nay sayers or newcomers may find good times. Check it out folks...