Fragmented Films Feb 2010

In the opening sequence to legendary schlock shyster Herschel Gordon Lewis’ 1970 bloodfest The Wizard of Gore (Siren), Montag the magician places his head in a guillotine and severs it on stage. Unfortunately the head is very clearly made of rubber and when, in a shocking reach around, he grabs the severed cranium you can see the outline of his greying quiff from behind the apparatus. Oops! Cut to a close up of said head and inexplicably the camera starts spinning repeatedly in a dizzying Go Go circle. It’s just like the start of Happy Days, yet the curious combination of technical ineptness and a rabid lust for gore make it so much more fun. It does however make you wonder why in 2007 some folks slicked up its stilted kitsch wrongness, slapped it on its ass and turned it into a strange hallucinatory gore noir. The Wizard of Gore (Reel) circa 2007 keeps some good stuff like Montag the magician butchering people live on stage and in a stroke of genius ropes in perennial weirdo Crispin Glover (Rivers Edge) for the role. Like a duck to water, his neurotic pre butchery monologues are philosophical gems that out of any other actors mouth would be complete nonsense. But that’s just Glover. He eats nonsense for breakfast. Indie legend Brad Douriff (Deadwood/ Blue Velvet) is also welcome in a ponytail he grew for Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant, and you can’t argue about a bunch of half naked Suicide Girls lining up for dismemberment. Unfortunately however the filmmakers desperation to be hyper cool gets in the way, deluding themselves that they’re edgy when like the original they’re just peddling trash.

When films that are dumber than you attempt to outsmart you it’s easy to get your back up. But while the Italian Godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci thinks he’s paying homage to Hitchcock in his ridiculously absurd 1969 Giallo Perversion Story (Umbrella), he’s actually closer to a seedy Eurotrash Brian De Palma. There’s a certain pompous stupidity in the plot twists and it provides for a great ride. Shot in America and dripping with gratuitous and startlingly unerotic nudity, it’s nothing short of a classic. Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (Umbrella) is Fulci pedal to the metal, a stilted almost nonsensical psychedelic thriller with Ed Wood special effects, ridiculous amounts of nudity and an Ennio Morricone score. Carol Hammond, daughter of a prominent politician, is dreaming these wild LSD laced orgies filled with naked cavorting souls. Bad for Carol, but good for us in the raincoat brigade. When her neighbour turns up dead in the exact way Carol dreamed, Fulci decides to film more naked people. Apparently there is a plot here. See if you care.

Whilst Samson and Delilah (Madman) found the accolades, Van Diemen’s Land (Madman) is the best of the recent run of grim Aussie films, uncovering the ravenous hunger of Alexander Pierce, a convict who along with seven others escaped the brutal penal colony in Tasmania circa 1822. Perhaps it’s too grim for mainstream audiences, as it’s uncompromisingly shocking, yet also strangely beautiful, mining the depths of mans drive for survival and turning into unsettling gothic poetry.

To many Lars Von Trier is the Antichrist (Paramount), yet the provocative Dane’s latest ode to suffering is an intensely raw study of grief and psycho sexual disintegration that will resonate with you in ways that you never thought cinema could. It’s a grueling, bleak and traumatic work. Watching it is like being swallowed up in a cave that you know will never escape from. Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsourg are uncomfortably raw, open and visceral as the grieving couple and Von Trier himself has returned to the technical mastery of his earlier work, highly stylised, gorgeously shot. Yet each scene is filled with imposing dread. Idiot critics suggest that Von Trier is a mischievous misogynist puppet-master yet the oppressive darkness here reeks of first hand experience of the black blankness of depression. And it’s hard to know what’s worse, Defoe’s condescending and arrogant attempts to treat his wife’s grief or her infamous spot of genital mutilation.

O’Horten (Aztec), a slight, absurd and whimsical Scandanavian tale effortlessly washes away the sins and extremity of the previous films with its detached deadpan humour and dignified take on humanity. People drive blindfolded, businessmen slide down the road on their buttocks and our hero, a retired train driver’s name is Odd.

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