Thursday, 22 September 2016
Monday, 19 September 2016
CRUISING, d. William Friedkin (1980)
Cruising presents a very selective view of the New York gay community, specifically the highly promiscuous underground scene, where sweaty men in cut off police uniforms sniff amyl nitrate soaked rags and fist each other. It’s a world of sex and submission and a serial killer* on the loose, a man with mirror shades, a biker cap and a steak knife. It’s a controversial and extreme portrait, and there was a serious attempt to derail the film during production, with people protesting on location and using mirrors to disrupt filming. The ending, in which it is inferred that immersion in the gay scene leads to psychosis, is fudged just enough not to be out and out defamatory, but remains offensive.
Investigating the case is a permed and pumped up Al Pacino, deep undercover and gradually losing his mind and conventional sexuality. Pacino is normally a fine actor, but he seems ill at ease and distracted, seemingly more concerned with leaning against railings and climbing onto benches to conceal his lack of height than conveying the slow unravelling of his character.
Rumours abound that the films meaning was compromised by extensive cuts (including the removal of hardcore pornography) but this misses the point. Cruising is an out and out exploitation film, and its big budget and the reputation of its director and star can’t make it honest or respectable. It’s a dirty film, not because of what it depicts, but because of the intentions behind it.
* Or two, or three...
* Or two, or three...
Friday, 16 September 2016
Benjamin Marra is a hell of a talent, even though most of what he does is pure evil. Night Business is a relentlessly violent and extravagantly sexual cocktail of pulp fiction and porn, a comic strip rendition of the sort of films that Abel Ferrara and Brian De Palma spent much of the 70s and 80s making, although even those distinguished gentlemen would have baulked at having a topless female vigilante motorcyclist as a heroine. All that’s missing is the sound of synths.
Monday, 12 September 2016
FEAR CITY, d. Abel Ferrara (1984)
What a sleazy, deadly place New York used to be, a neon coated sinkhole of sex and poppers and hot, hot pants. In Fear City, a naked Melanie Griffith gyrates wildly for a baying crowd of desperate men waving dirty money, and a deluded, pumped up karate killer stalks the filthy streets, roundhousing erotic dancers at his leisure. When they meet, it’s murder.
Friday, 9 September 2016
Donald Pleasence makes for a helpless and fearful President of the United States in John Carpenter's Escape From New York, but then has had to survive a plane crash, a series of beatings and being used as a human target by Isaac Hayes. His character isn't even given a proper name. The point is, I suppose, that sometimes the position is great, not the man.
Tuesday, 6 September 2016
It apparently took Francis Thompson twenty years to perfect the lenses needed to realise his kaleidoscopic vision of Manhattan, but the result, N.Y, N.Y (1956), shows it was time well spent. I was in New York in April, I can't wait to get back there.
Saturday, 3 September 2016
HIGH RISE, d. Ben Wheatley (2015)
I'm a huge J.G Ballard fan, so I was delighted by High Rise, which brings so much from the page to the screen, including all those contradictions and frustrations that make Ballard's work so fascinating. For those that say the people in the story become savage too quickly, or that the ending is muddled and confusing I have this to say: you're right, now go back and read / re-read the book and see how accurate this adaptation is and how little those apparent issues matter.