DEF Triple Bill

Continuing the 2015 Alphabet Film Project with another post, this time brought to you by the number 3 and the letters D-E-F.

The original Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966) has a great opening scene in which drifting gunslinger Django (a suitably flinty Franco Nero) determinedly drags a coffin behind him through the desert. Who is he? Where is he going? And who, or what, is in the damn coffin?

And so the scene is set for some bloody violence as he pitches up in a muddy town torn apart by fighting between two rival gangs and proceeds to rack up an pretty genocidal body count, which garnered the film a reputation as one of the most violent ever made. Nowadays, you'd see similar levels of violence down the local playground, but there's still an impressively grimy quality to the violence on show here and a couple of moments to make you wince. It's undoubtedly rough around the edges, but it all leads to a memorable ending as Django faces a shootout with the bad guys, but is unable to use his guns properly because of his broken hands (his mangled hands a reference to jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, who had a paralyzed hand). Fans of A Fistful of Dollars might note the similarities between the two films, which is not surprising, since the story goes that both Corbucci and Sergio Leone had seen Kurosawa's Yojimbo a few days apart and were inspired to make their own versions of the film. Although Leone's film was out first and is better, Django has proven equally influential, spawning over 30 sequels, although most of them are unofficial rip-offs which don't let the complete absence of the character Django in their plots stop them using his name in their titles. More recently, of course, Quentin Tarantino paid homage in his remake Django Unchained, which gives Nero a cameo and uses the same catchy theme tune. Worth a look.

How did the makers of Esio Trot (Dearbhla Walsh, 2014) manage to make a feature length film out of Roald Dahl's slim source novel? The answer, unfortunately, is by fleshing out the basic story with James Corden as a narrator striding the streets of London regaling us, and random passers-by, the story, like some sort of demented chugger. I don't know what Dahl would have made of Corden's cheeky chappy, man-of-the-people persona, but I suspect, nay hope, he would have dreamed up a deliciously macabre fate for the bloke. Anyhow, thankfully the makers also cast Dustin Hoffman and Judi Dench as the two shy elderly neighbours who fall in love, following a lot of tortoise related hijinks, which provides the heart of the film. They are so effortlessly lovely in the roles, it's easy to forget it's a story about two weird OAPs stalking each other. 

Ever have a bad birthday party? It can't have been worse than the one in the blackly comic Festen (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998), which sees a family gather for their father's 60th birthday, only for the eldest son to publicly accuse him of sexually abusing him as a child. Hardly laugh-a-minute stuff, but Vinterberg mines some dark humour from the uncomfortable material as he nods to class satires like Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel and Renoir's La Règle du jeu in the reactions of the various guests to the revelations. It's also notable for being the first film made under Dogme 95 rules, a style of film-making initiated by Vinterberg and fellow Danish director Lars von Trier which aimed to wrest back control of films from studios by eschewing special effects and technological tricks to focus on traditional values of story-telling. As such, the hand-held camera and gloomy, naturally lit interiors enhance the claustrophobic story and make it a film that's hard to warm to. But it's worth catching if you fancy getting out of your comfort zone.

That's all for today, folks, next time it's - can you guess? - G, H, I.

This series has been brought to you by the number 26 and the letters A to Z. The entire list of reviews can be viewed in one handy list here, in reverse order for extra excitement. Or you can click on the links below because it's still Christmas and I'm feeling helpful. Until next year, farewell

Previously on the Alphabet Film Project....


Atlantic City
Blood of Fu Manchu
Curse of Frankenstein


Esio Trot


Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Hiroshima Mon Amour


Julius Caesar
Late Chrysanthemums



Perks of Being a Wallflower
Quatermass and the Pit
Roman Holiday

Sherlock Holmes & the Scarlet Claw
Tender Mercies
Under the Skin

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

You're Next
Zombie Flesh Eaters

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