Fragmented Films July 2010

Cinema has a perverse hard on for portraying grueling descents into madness, but they’ve never been as maliciously evil as White Lightin (Madman), a white trash horror show masquerading as a biopic, offering the words ‘based on a true story,’ which in cinematic speak means ‘we made this shit up.’ Jesco White is a tap dancing hillbilly psychopath with a penchant for huffing (chroming) lighter fluid. He dances to keep the devil at bay, but Jesco has psychosis running through his veins, and even a puffy white trash Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) as his older love interest can’t save this tortured butterfly. Filmed with an abundance of style and blessed with an amazing gothic backwoods soundtrack, it’s equally revolting and hysterical, dark, bleak and wrong.

Our next ‘true’ story is German lunatic Werner Herzog’s 1981 Invincible (Aztec), an English language film set in 1930’s Berlin during the ascension of the Nazi party. Herzog populates his film with non actors like a concert pianist, a Finish bodybuilder who was once the world’s strongest man, yet also Tim Roth as a malevolent and spooky stage clairvoyant and Fragmented Films favourite Udo Kier who fails to suppress his own innate malevolence and spookiness. It’s the folkloric tale of a Polish Jew who become a sensation in a blond wig as a symbol of Aryan strength. In Herzog’s hands strongman Jouka Ahola’s Schwartzeneggeresque performance reads as a kind of earthy holiness, whilst Roth is at his smarmy best. Although this typically bizarre Herzogian tale of confidence tricksters and doomed prophets twists and turns in some truly unexpected ways, it is a little, dare I say it, self indulgent – even for Herzog, a man who eats self indulgence for breakfast.

Next up cross your fingers, close your eyes and hope to hell it’s not true. In The Loop (Madman) is an hysterically funny potty mouth trawl through the back-rooms of UK and US political power brokers on the eve of war in the middle east and reveals, well, a bunch of naive incompetent self important fools. Forget weapons of mass destruction, it’s all about ego, as seemingly innocuous comments from a bumbling British MP create a domino effect that leads the world to the brink. It’s achingly painful, the Office with the savage bite of Dr Strangelove.

Blatant lies and laughingly inaccurate facts populate these desperately earnest tales of teenagers in the evil clutches of drug addiction in Hooked (Rocket). Perhaps the genius of this collection and also the second volume, which contains the infamous Reefer Madness, is that these educational films haven’t been re-mastered, there are blotches, the film and soundtrack skips, often to laughingly ridiculous results. They should be illegal themselves. Instead they just make you want to take drugs.

Finally we catch Bjork’s squeeze in Matthew Barney: No Restraint (Arthouse Films) where we see this polarising artist creating giant moulds of petroleum jelly on the deck of a Japanese whaling boat. Of course no one understands what the hell he’s doing but that’s nothing new, his art is dense and precocious. A highlight is Bjork discussing the sub bass symphony she composed for the work.

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