Fragmented Films 18th Dec 08

Otto Or, Up With Dead People (Kojo) is a gay zombie film from Bruce La Bruce with the best wound sex since Crash. Whilst it feels calculated to offend, there’s an unexpected depth here, with strong socio political undertones and anti consumerist messages. Yet that’s only if you dig beneath the extreme gore of homosexual zombies literally consuming and mutilating each other by tearing out their intestines with their teeth during sex or wandering down the road munching on decaying roadkill. But they’re also being persecuted, getting beaten up and set on fire by horrible gangs of the living. It’s edgy, at times hilarious cinema, and La Bruce uses some intriguing experimental techniques takes some real risks with sound design. It’s a cool art-house gorefest that’ll keep you away from sausages for a while.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films are a revelation. He delights in those messy difficult emotions, of love, obsession, loneliness and desire. He has this rough and ready style that initially seems clunky, yet creeps up on you and then turns on you like a spurned lover. He made films quickly with the most uncommercial pretexts, such as a love affair between a middle aged woman and a young Moroccan immigrant. Yet Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (Madman), is incredibly compelling, a reworking Douglas Sirk’s All that Heaven Allows (Madman), that takes a blowtorch to moralistic society. On Sex (Madman), groups together three of his films united by the tragedy of submitting to love. In The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) and Fox and his Friends (1974), in which Fassbinder himself plays the title role, and even in In a Year with 13 Moons (1978), to be in love is to throw yourself to the mercy of another. That other, is either oblivious to your presence despite the fact that you’ve just had a sex change for him, or fleecing you for everything you’ve got. Neither seem like a good option. Yet despite being hazardous to your health, love in Fassbinder’s hands is all conquering – which would be romantic if the consequences weren’t so dire.

He filmed Lili Marleen (Madman) in 1980 in English with a big budget. It’s an opulent, Sirk influenced melodrama, the tale of the song Lili Marleen that became synonymous with the Nazi war effort, a garish hideously unmusical dirge that Fassbinder repeats endlessly through the film. The kicker is that it evokes something different each time it’s performed, thanks to the trials and tribulations of an impossible love story, the singer who became a propaganda tool for the Nazi’s and her lover who risks his life attempting to get Jews out of Germany. Movies have taught us that love conquers all, and whist Fassbinder agrees unfortunately it doesn’t negate the suffering.

Dan Duryea is Willem Defoe for the 1950’s. He appears in three of the four films in Universal Film Noir: Vol.2 (Aztec), a collection that explores that dark and murky emotional and urban landscape of late 40’s early 50’s America. There’s something incredibly cloying in his manner, yet you can’t take your eyes off him, though that might be because you want to make sure he’s not going to reach through the screen and steal your silverware. In Fritz Lang’s excellent Scarlet Street, he’s a seedy shyster to Edward G Robinson’s straight laced bank clerk, in Criss Cross, he’s the dangerous seedy gangster to Burt Lancaster’s lovelorn straight man and in Black Angel he’s the seedy alcoholic pianist to June Vincent’s virtuous. Sense a pattern? Duryea makes seedy endearing in this compelling collection of 50’s cinema.

Sukiyaki Western Django (Hopscotch) is a truly bizarre mess of spaghetti western cliches shaken up and spat out by lunatic Japanese director Takashi Miike. Miike is responsible for some of the wrongest films of all time, including the hyper violent Ichi the Killer (Siren) and the hyper wrong Visitor Q (Siren). He’s a man who does extremist cartoon violence better than anyone and it’s sprinkled liberally through what is essentially stealing back what Sergio Leone initially stole from Akira Kurosawa, yet with less class and a higher body count. It looks beautiful, has a Quentin Tarantino cameo, borders on nonsensical and is in English, yet still requires subtitles because it’s totally unintelligible. In a good way.


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