Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre:
- Fri 17 at10.00: Monkey Shines (1988) / The Dark Half (1993)
More October horror at the Silent Movie Theatre, and more George Romero. This time it’s some more obscure, non-zombie stuff: all you need know about the excellent Monkey Shines is that it features a murderous helper monkey. I can scarcely think of a greater concept. This is followed by The Dark Half, which I’ve not seen, but it’s a Stephen King adaptation in which Timothy Hutton plays an author with a malicious second personality inhabiting his pseudonym – it’s one of George’s favourites, which is recommendation enough for me.
- Wed 22 at 8.00: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
Bid farewell to October’s Lon Chaney season with one of his most famous roles. Needless to say he is brilliant, his physical contortion fantastic, and his acting deeply touching without being mawkish. Patsy Ruth Miller is a foxy Esmerelda and the recreations of gypsy life and of 15th-century Paris are wonderful. Great story, great star, great movie.
- Fri 17 at 7.30: Saló, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)
Compared to his Italian contemporaries Fellini, Antonioni and that upstart Bertolucci, Pasolini is deadly serious (almost literally so), exposing the others for the air-headed navel-gazers they are. He was also a gay Marxist Catholic, a poet, essayist and novelist, and his films were charged with indecency and blasphemy on too many occasions to count.
He was murdered in extremely shady circumstances (with the finger put on a rent boy) before this, his final film, was released. Intensely preoccupied with the body, with gazing and with levels of control, Pasolini abandoned his serious, philosophical bent in the late sixties for the fantastically Rabelasian celebration of his trilogy of life (The Arabian Nights, The Decamaron, The Canterbury Tales), a successful attempt to reach the non-educated, working class demographic with whom he so sympathised. But it was back to business with a vengeance for this de Sade adaptation, set in the capital of the fascist capital (Brescia) of Italy at the tail-end of WWII. A group of the decadent, wealthy, ruling class round up a collection of young boys and girls and imprison them naked in a sumptuous castle, where they ritually humiliate them whilst maintaining a veneer of the highest good manners, accompanied by a supremely tasteful Morricone score.
Pasolini titles the three main sections of the film the Circles of Obsessions (sex), Shit and Blood, and the humiliations adhere closely, although the horror comes so much more from the coolness of presentation than extreme visuals (don’t worry, there’s still plenty of things you’d rather not see): amongst the extraordinary aspects of the film is how it manages to be completely anti-exploitative, and how unravelling the connections between the story, its horrors, its allusions and its presentation is an endless task (it is as much a film as a text); not to mention making sense of the concept and implications of viewing it, alongside the actual experience of doing so. It’s really hard to watch, yet totally fascinating, and many viewers feel physical repulsion. So, not for everyone, and I’m torn myself as to whether or not I actually want to see it twice*, but if you’re after an extreme cinematic headfuck, you’ll be satisfied.
- Wed 22, Thu 23 at 9.20: Strait-Jacket (1964)
A late, great Joan Crawford movie, where she’d pretty much lost all shame, yet still trotted out her star qualities of doe-eyed sympathy-grabbing, borderline lunacy and an unassailable belief that she was the most wonderful person in the room, or even the world. Actually not so borderline here, as the title might imply. There’s some business with repressed memories and axe murdering and, if I recall, some really hideous floral prints on dresses and wallpaper. Directed by William Castle, whose method was always that of the carnival ghost train ride, it’s really good fun and yes, Joan wields an axe magnificently.
Wed 22 at 6.00: I’m A Stranger Here Myself (1974)
Super-rare documentary about the great Nicholas Ray. Following the break-up of the studio system, he found himself adrift (as many others did) and ended up teaching in upstate New York. Together with his students, he made a bizarre, highly subjective almost collagist film, We Can’t Go Home Again, and future Welles-associate Myron Meisel was on hand to document the process. Ray’s film-making became increasingly introspective in his later life; the title of We Can’t Go Home Again is directly inspired by The Lusty Men and so it is fitting that Meisel takes another Ray mantra (from Johnny Guitar) as the title for this excellent and poetical reflection on his life and career. It is almost as sad a sight as Ray’s final appearance, visibly dying, in Wenders’ Lightening Over Water, but infinitely more fascinating. Screening at 8.00 at the Sponto Gallery, 7 Dudley Avenue, almost at the beach, it is preceded by what’s described as “Johnny Smoke’s Circus of Fun: Multi-media experimentation & potluck” at 6.00, and some random short described as “existential” at 7.
*The first time, I must relate, was particularly strange and bleak: I took a wonderful film-watching holiday in Paris with my college girlfriend in the better days of the rep theatre there, and of the sixteen or something movies we watched in a week it was the only one I went to on my own, at midnight, in the great no.14 cinema, Studio Galande (where Buñuel threw rocks from behind the screen at the première of L’Age d’Or!) The print was pink and horrible and the salle looks like a porno theatre, and the movie was overwhelmingly more horrifying than I had imagined. And then I took an extremely weird hour-and-half’s walk home through the night-time streets to the insalubrious neighborhood at the foot of Montmartre. Freaked me out, man.