Euro 2016 Catch Up

A slow month for film viewing, as Euro 2016 distracted me with a feast of free-flowing football! Well, football anyway. Being immobilised in front of the TV for extended periods of time did give me a chance to catch up on some stuff I'd recorded of the tellybox. Stuff like...

The Warriors (Walter Hill, 1979) has a big cult reputation, based in part on the violence which greeted its original release when rival gang members clashed at screenings of the movie, which of course only served to raise its profile and notoriety, even if critics were rather sniffy about it. In its simple story of a gang surviving the mean streets of New York as they make their way back to the safety of their home turf, it appealed to young people because it didn't depict the gang culture as a social problem to be solved, but as a way of life to be survived. Curiously though, despite the gritty realism of the action (shot on the mean streets of 70s NY ghettos, with real gang members as extras), there's a heavy fantasy element in the stylistic flourishes of the rival gangs, which lends it a comic-book dystopian tone. Nowadays, it comes across a little dated, despite its obvious merits. Personally, I could dig the choreography and soundtrack and some of the natty gang outfits, but the stilted dialogue and minimal story was all Greek to me. (Come out to play if you get that joke).

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (Martin Ritt, 1963) is a solid, but somewhat pedestrian adaptation which lacks the subtleties of John le Carre's fiendishly plotted and bleakly brilliant novel. However, it's still a handsomely shot, intriguing espionage thriller and Richard Burton is perfectly cast as the world-weary Alec Leamas, especially when he spits out a vicious speech near the end about the true nature of spies. James Bond, this ain't. So it's worth a watch, but given the recent success of le Carre's The Night Manager on TV, perhaps we're due for a remake to sit alongside Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

Dead of Night (Various, 1945) is a patchy, slightly dated anthology of spooky stories. They're all watchable enough, but the one about the possessed ventriloquist doll (directed by Alberto Calvacanti) is a classic and still unsettling enough to make you drop your 'gottle of geer'.

The Passenger (Michaelangelo Antonioni, 1975), in which a disillusioned journalist (Jack Nicholson) adopts a dead man's identity whilst working in Chad, only to find out the dead man was a gun-runner, is the sort of  film that was clearly made to have academic theses written about it, so let's have a go at an academic summary:

Abstract: Yes, it is a bit.
Introduction: Interesting set-up.
Methods: Slow reveals, low-key acting, some nifty perspective shifts.
Results: Existential drama with political undertones.
Conclusion: It was okay

The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014) is a decidedly odd affair, a leisurely depiction of a sadomasochistic affair between two lesbian entomologists, shot in the manner of a 70s European soft porn movie ( I'm told). And it's certainly a striking looking film to look at, beautifully photographed and framed as it sets about fashioning its decadent melodrama. But the blackly comic screenplay, which veers from discussions about roleplay, sex and the lives of butterflies, is just a bit too strange to be wholly successful. Still, it is more tender and seductive than you might expect from a lesbian S&M flick which features someone forcibly urinating in their partner's mouth. It's another film likely to feature in future academic theses so, to get you started, a list of the films that inspired Strickland can be found here.

Perhaps fitting we should finish with some lepidoptery, given the Biblical plague of moths that blighted the Euro 2016 final. Indeed, one moth lived out the dreams of many women by sitting on Cristiano Ronaldo's face, a scene captured in a camera shot so sensuous and touching, Peter Strickland is considering including it in the Director's Cut of The Duke of Burgundy. Because it's a moth and Ronaldo's strip is burgundy, see?  That's segue gold right there, folks.

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