Fragmented Films October 09

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Larry Clark can be hit and miss, for every Kids or Ken Park you can get Another Day in Paradise. Yet over the years one thing has become increasingly clear. Despite his penchant for pervy shots of pre pubescent boys with their shirts off, he offers a gritty shocking kind of reality that is totally alien to Hollywood. Wassup Rockers (Accent) is a departure for Clark. There’s no drugs or explicit voyeuristic teen sex here, yet there is the kind of desperate street realism for which he has made his name. It follows a group of hispanic skaters from south central, longhaired punkers in tight jeans who fly in the face of the baggy gangster rap norm. In the directors commentary Clark speaks of finding the crew at an LA skate park then taking them to various other skate parks every saturday for the next year. Whilst there’s something concerning about a 66 year old hanging with 14 year old boys every weekend, the first half of the film, coming from their own tales possesses a realism that could never be achieved without some degree of mutual trust. These kids are playing themselves. Unfortunately the second half, where Clark takes some artistic license and re-imagines them as The Warriors meeting Paris Hilton all becomes a little too slapstick, too kitsch, feeling forced, overly cinematic and very very dubious. Yet we’re under no illusions with Clark. Even his flawed films are morally questionable enough to make them essential.

Blacklisted by Hollywood and outed as a member of the communist party, Jules Dassin subsequently relocated to Europe where he would go on to create Rififi, one of the greatest heist films ever. Yet in 1947 he was still in the US working with Burt Lancaster on the prison drama Brute Force (Directors Suite) which offers old chestnuts like stool pigeons, unbreakable but moral prisoners (Lancaster) and a sadistic warden who drives the good and noble prisoners to a suicidal escape attempt. Unfortunately though due to Oz what may have been shocking at the time now feels a little dated. Naked City (Directors Suite) is a thorough yet gripping 1948 police procedural drama. Step by step it demonstrates how to solve a crime, in the way Law and Order and CSI have since replicated. It was also one of the early films actually filmed in the streets of New York, mingling actors and real people, often filmed in a van behind a two way mirror. Night and City (Directors Suite) is one of Dassin’s great films, not in the least due to the casting of dapper sleaze-bag Richard Widmark. Filmed on the streets of 1950 London it’s a hard boiled tale of a fast talking shyster who’s shot at the big time could also be his undoing. This is what noir is all about, the spiral out of control. “Harry is an artist without art,” offers a corrupt club owner about Widmark’s slimy character and the images of Widmark frantically fleeing a London dawn will stay with you forever.

You can file Breakin (Shock) under ‘lame fad dance films,’ alongside your Dirty Dancing’s, your Lambada’s (it was forbidden for a reason), and your Fame’s. Its appeal now is that it’s dripping with kitsch youth culture cliches and features an early appearance from a groovy Jean Claude Van Damme and Ice-T. Then there’s the immortal Turbo dancing to Kraftwerk’s Tour de France which rates alongside the opening to a Touch of Evil as one of the greatest scenes cinema has to offer. Some films are meant to be forgotten, this is too much fun to allow that to happen.

Afro Samurai (Madman) was cool in a dumb hyper violent rivers of blood, spaghetti western meets insane Japanese manga kind’ve way. The melding of Eastern folklore and hip urban Afro American culture was as equally opportunistic as it was inspired. Its sequel Afro Samurai Resurrection (Madman) reeks of cash in, with Samuel L Jackson returning as the voice of Samurai, Lucy Lui and Mark Hamil as the bad guys and of course RZA (Wu Tang Clan) providing the ultra cool score. It’s easy to be seduced by style, bask in the geysers of blood and hip hop beats, yet, well there is no yet, the blood and violence is super cool, sexy as hell and a lot of fun to bask in.

Fragmented Films DVD Column 25th Oct 08

In the audio commentary to his 1968 sci fi sexploitation shocker Space Thing (Siren), schlock producer and shyster extraordinare David F Friedman laments that “We could show beaver but not pickles.” Some forty years on things have changed. There’s enough pickles in 2008’s Destricted (Accent) to make your local greengrocer jealous. And who knew that pickles were actually part of a beaver’s diet? 

Destricted is so rude and nasty that it comes in a black box without pictures. Yet it’s done with such high art sensibilities that you’d hesitate to tar it with a sexploitation brush. That’s despite the presence of Larry Clark (Kids/Ken Park), who’s penchant for pre pubescent boys with their shirts off never ceases to disturb. It’s six short films from some of the more boundary pushing artists around, exploring issues of sex, art and pornography. It begins with Bjork’s squeeze, Mathew Barney (Cremaster Cycle) a video artist who’s works vary from tedious to wrong, often at the same time. His piece Hoist is hilarious, a man with a pineapple shoved up his ass pleasures himself by rubbing his erect pickle against the lubed up drive-shaft of a giant caterpillar truck which has been hoisted by a crane for this very purpose. It’s so pretentiously filmed that it can’t help but confuse. Extreme French director Gaspar Noe (Irreversible) shoots his load to immediately, masturbation with the most annoying moving camera and strobe effects and Marina Abramovic, Sam Taylor Wood and Richard Prince also fiddle with their pickles and beavers to varying success. Not surprisingly the most provocative and wrongest moments come from Mr Clark. He places an add in the paper requesting volunteers to have sex with a porn star. He interviews each applicant on camera about their sexual history and relationship with porn.  Then he makes them strip so he can see their pickle. It’s terrifying. These young men’s views on sexuality have totally been hijacked by cumshots and boob jobs. Clark suspiciously picks the most pre pubescent looking volunteer, who then takes on the role of interviewer, asking a gaggle of porn starlets similar questions. He then choses the one he wishes to mount. Trust me when I say from here on in, if it wasn’t already, it’s very creepy and wrong. It doesn’t say ‘Actual Sexual Activity’ on this black box for nothing.  

Suddenly exploitation is cool again, particularly Ozploitation, thanks to the upcoming doco Not Quite Hollywood (Madman), which drags our seedy sorry cinematic past back into the spotlight like a guilty teenager caught playing with his pickle. It has the ultimate seal of approval,Tarantino theft, sorry,  homage. The person crawling around the bonnet of the speeding car in Death Proof came straight from the 1986 Australian film Fair Game (Beyond). Fair game is your classic rape revenge film, except thankfully the rape is left out. Set in an outback wildlife sanctuary Cassandra Delaney (who would go on to marry John Denver) is terrorised by three bogan Kangaroo poachers with big guns and a souped up 4×4, with evil red eyes that sounds like a lion roaring when idling.  In Not Quite Hollywood Tarantino speaks of the film’s did I just see that? moment. After destroying her house the baddies strip her nude, tie her to the front of the car like a ‘human hood ornament’ and hoon around whooping self consciously like 13 year olds who’ve just watched Destricted. This wrongness only adds to the joy. This, like Vegemite is something we can be proud of.

David Lynch’s Inland Empire (Directors Suite) is a Hollywood art film, where time, space, texture and light are all tools to be manipulated. He has moved so far beyond conventional narrative that he’s operating on levels far beyond his contemporaries. We’re talking Jodorowsky meets Fellini, epic, nonsensical exhilarating genius. His best film since Eraserhead. It’s just as painful and twice as long. Extras include some great interviews.

Fox news is worse than dumb news for dumb people. It’s biased news for people too preoccupied to have minds. You wont believe how blatant they are. Outfoxed (Dv1) is a doco that will have your blood boiling and it’s been reduxed for 2008 with extra features, offering a unique perspective about the organised right wing propaganda machine that Obahma’s up against.