Fragmented Films Sept 09

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When Iggy Pop was spitting and screeching about how he wanted to be your dog, all sleazy rock n’ roll cool, it’s very unlikely he was thinking of the morally questionable 1972 French (dubbed into English) yarn Liza: Love to Eternity (Madman). It’s a bizarre and kinky little work that proudly sets feminism back decades. Marcello Mastroianni (La Dolce Vita) lives a reclusive existence on a tropical island with only his dog for company, yet their solitude is shattered by the appearance of Catherine Deneuve, who kicked off her yacht is left to fend for herself. Gradually their dysfunctional relationship develops until Deneuve becomes jealous of the attention he devotes to the dog and conspires to take its place – literally. When he puts the collar on her and makes her fetch a stick the wrongness hits you like a slap to the face. He just slept with her, this is a film about bestiality.

In 1996 Todd Solondz‘s (Happiness) Welcome to the Dollhouse (Beyond) was a revelation. It was mean, nasty, and just a little bit cute in a suburban John Waters gross-out kind’ve way. Following the torments of Dawn ‘Wienerdog’ Wiener, teased by her classmates, ignored by her family and hopeless at everything, we keep waiting for that one redeeming feature, because surely someone this ugly, this pathetic, this unlikable has one true talent. It’s when she’s alone with the studly ultra popular lead singer of her brother’s band and she offers to play the piano for him you realise that this is what the film has been leading up to. Nervously she seats herself, peers at the sheet music, and proceeds to murder the hell out of the tune. She’s got nothing. Wienerdog even dutifully meets the school bully as ordered to be ‘raped,’ of course the bully is just a schoolboy and has no idea what rape is, but even so…Solondz calls it a sad comedy about surviving growing up, yet like The Office it’s difficult to watch because it’s dripping with cringe.

French director Robert Bresson‘s 1956 A Man Escaped (Directors suite) is the kind of artist statement that cinema was invented for. He used non actors and had them repeat their lines over and over until they were delivered devoid of meaning, liberating all the acting. It matches the austere minimalism of each frame, and only seems to elevate the experience. There are no extraneous elements here. Even the sound design is minimal and stylised, with much of the sound occurring off screen. The precision and control here is remarkable. There are links to Ponterverco’s Battle of Algiers, however it possesses what some have referred to as a transcendent quality that elevates this prison escape film to a meditation on fate and destiny. Lancelot Du Lac (Directors Suite) is a little less successful, the sound design a metaphor, almost entirely comprised of the pokey clinking of the armor of the Knights of the Round Table. Rather than focussing on their heroic exploits, Bresson peers beneath the facade, and concentrates instead on the splintering and petty squabbling within the egocentric knights.

George A Romero uses zombies to make political statements. Despite the sledgehammer subtlety of Dawn of The Dead (Umbrella), it’s difficult not to love him, because if you have to sit through socio political statements they may as well be coated in truckloads of blood and gore. As society is decimated by the zombies a few survivors locate a shopping mall and set themselves up, gorging on the food and living out their consumerist fantasies. Of course if you want to see a bunch of zombies lurching through a shopping centre all you need to do is visit Highpoint on a saturday morning, the difference being at least you get to see their heads splatter here. This is a three disc set, with the original film, an extended cut, and a version edited by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento (Suspiria). It’s brimming with extras, like Romero’s q&a session at last years MIFF, multiple commentaries, and two feature doco’s.

If you’ve been wondering whatever happened to Peter Greenaway the answer is simple, he’s continued to make increasingly boring and unwatchably pretentious films. Nightwatching (Beyond), looks gorgeous and has the guy from The Office playing Rembrandt, yet despite an interesting premise is marred by too many theatrical (read incomprehensible) monologues.

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