Fragmented Films 9th April 09

5080_22

Just so we’re clear that Import Export (Accent) is an art film, it contextualises its shocking and gratuitous moments, then acts all innocent and pretends not to enjoy them, leaving us to do its dirty work and cast judgement. Yet it still goes much further than it needs to, such as when the young Austrian drop-kick walks in on his sleazy stepfather having what he refers to as an ‘anatomy lesson,’ bending over a Ukrainian prostitute and telling her to stick her fingers in her ass – and that’s only the beginning of a scene that gets much much worse. There’s a matter of factness to the way it’s all filmed, like it’s simply a collection of events that just happened to be captured on film. It’s a grim exploration into poverty and morality from Ulrich Seidl (Dog Days), delving into those uncomfortable prejudices that we’d prefer not to think about. It’s a tale of two journeys, a young Ukrainian woman leaves her child and a career in nursing and internet porn behind for the promise of a better life as a cleaner in Austria and our aforementioned Austrian drop-kick gets a job delivering candy machines with his step father in the Ukraine. The scenes in an elderly hospital in particular are incredible, the patients are impossibly old and it’s difficult to imagine they are even acting. And maybe they’re not, as Seidl in the extra features mentions he uses non professional actors and never writes dialogue, offering what some critics have called a ‘grotesque realism,’ to the film. Despite the grimness of the economic inequality, Seidl mines unexpected moments of humor, warmth and beauty within the despair. His film is messy like life, highly stylized and beautifully crafted, though also an intensely powerful and confronting cinematic experience.

Patrick (Umbrella) is one of the seedier (read better) examples of Ozploitation, where a comatose young murderer develops the horn for his nurse and conspires to wreak havoc on any of her prospective suitors. He does this of course without moving a muscle, without blinking, just spitting occasionally. He’s evil, telekinetic, immobile and horny, a pretty special combination. He’s also not altogether subtle in letting the object of his desires know how he feels. Whilst typing a memo his nurse drifts into a daydream. She then looks back at what she’s written. ‘Patrick wants his hand job now.’ It all comes across as a b-grade Alfred Hitchcock homage (rip off), something director Richard Franklin (Psycho 2) acknowledges proudly in his commentary, and he should be proud. Patrick is a cracker.

Ministry of Fear (Directors Suite) is an incredible film noir from German expatriate Fritz Lang (Metropolis). It’s a 1944 adaptation from a Graham Greene novel that sends you on your ass immediately and has you breathlessly playing catch up from then on in. It’s equally measured and ludicrous with great performances from Ray Milland wondering why everyone is so obsessed with cake, and dapper noir sleaze-bag Dan Duryea. Lang’s Western Union (Directors Suite) however is a little less exhilarating, a by the numbers matinee Western which despite some curious point of view shots from buffalos at the beginning plays it nice and predictable for your sunday afternoon viewing.

If the sight of Ghandi attempting to bone Mary Kate Olsen isn’t disturbing enough then perhaps the fact that Sir Ben Kingsley plays a psychiatrist swapping therapy for pot may give you some insight into the disarray at the core of The Wackness (Madman). It’s self conscious American indie cool cinema with a Cameron Crowe like nostalgia for 1994, for coming of age and for troubled folks finding solace in each other. There are some genuine moments of humour and invention here and Ghandi is like we’ve never seen him before, repeatedly hilarious, totally unhinged, swallowing every drug he can find and dispensing curious advice and counseling to our dope dealing teen hero.

Advertisements

Fragmented Films 17th Jan 09

still_3990

Exploitation cinema by definition tends to be a little rough around the edges, the edges being plot, acting, production values and budget, which are fearlessly brushed aside to get to the good stuff: gratuitious nudity, big explosions, hyper violence and stupid stunts. Mark Hartley’s witty self depreceating and perhaps overly mythologising Not Quite Hollywood (Madman) opens a gateway to this abyss, reminding us of our own sordid b movie past. Brian Trenchard-Smith comes across well, possibly because he had few pretensions. The Man From Hong Kong (Madman) imports kung fu to Sydney and gets the mix of stunts, nudity and action just right, even setting fire to George Lazenby (James Bond) during one memorable fight scene. Wang Yu (The One Armed Boxer) meanwhile tears Sydney apart with the subtlety of Dirty Harry coming off an ice binge, bedding Rebecca Gilling, killing suspects, destroying restaurants and climbing skyscrapers. The second disc of Extras reveal a pompass ass who would catch flies in his mouth before the love scenes because white women were ‘scum.’

Trenchard-Smith’s Stunt Rock (Madman) is even better, and by that I mean it’s absolutely fucking terrible. So carried away was he by the prowess of stunt man Grant Page (The Man From Hong Kong) that he took him and Sorcery, a terrible heavy metal band (who were also magicians) to LA, set up a few stunts and put the band on stage. If you can find a plot here, then power to you. Again the Extras are excellent.

Dead End Drive In (Madman) is set in the future where the streets are lawless and youth crime is rampant. When a young couple visit the drive in, they discover they’ve been unwittingly trapped in a maximum security prison for teens. It’s a typically schitzo Trenchard-Smith mix of action and social commentary, that ensures that the message never gets in the way of the explosions.

Turkey Shoot, included on Ozploitation Vol.1 (Umbrella) a six disc set cashing in on newfound interest in the genre, is Trenchard-Smith’s crowning glory. Two weeks before filming almost a third of his money disappeared, leaving gaping holes in, well, everything. Yet he soldiered on and delivered a nasty, and inexplicably hilarious sadistic concentration camp tale that is equal part Running Man and Hogans Heroes. It’s a totally mindless piece of schlock that delights in its appalling taste. There’s circus freaks munching on human toes, severed hands and feet, rape, murder, torture and all of the nasty stuff you know and love. In the same set, Roadgames (1981) with Stacey Keach as a truckdiver crossing the Nullabor picks up hitchiker Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s been billed as ‘Rear Window on wheels,’ and is equal parts imaginative, seedy and suspenseful. The Naked Bunyip (1970) a sexumentary with Graeme Blundell, meanwhile is just a fragrant excuse for nudity, and as a result should be encouraged.

Ozploitation Vol. 2 (Umbrella), 7 more flicks, offers up some unexpected gems. Long Weekend (1978) in which an obnoxious couple go camping with little regard for their environment is geniunely creepy as nature strikes back with a vengence. Apparently if you engage in a touch of swinging, shoot a sea cow, run over a kangaroo and throw your litter haphazardly around the bush, then watch out. The Chain Reaction (1980) is a slick nuclear nightmare that tells us that ruthless multi national corporations with hired assasains and governments in their pockets are no match for an angry Aussie bogan with a fast car. Razorback (1984) is a music video come to life, unfortunately as one irate patron suggested a $100 million film with a $10 pig. Fantasm and Fatantasm Comes Again are just blatantly plotless soft core films, questionably erotic vignettes that boast an apperance from porn legend John Holmes. Stone (1974) meanwhile is truly a great film, a hard edged biker film which revels in biker culture. The True Story of Eskimo Nell (1975) is Porky’s meets Rio Grande, by way of Moe. It offers what Peckinpah and Ford forgot to put in their Westerns: farting competitions. “There’s a day coming when I’ll stick my dick in the heart of the earth and the bang will be heard in Alaska,” offers Max Gillies at some point. This is what Ozploitation is all about. Inexplicable crassness and sheer stupidity.