There’s a real joy to having someone else make the decisions in adult life. We call it the Lazy Susan effect. You’ve bought into the idea of a Chinese meal but are happy for your mates to spin the dishes so you get a little bit of everything.
It’s like that with MARTIN SCORSESE CURATES at the BFI, a companion to their complete SCORSESE season, where someone else gets to be the grownup. BFI excels at this – having access to some of the greatest filmmaking talent and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of film permisssions. Another memorable example was their John Waters season in 2015 (“If you don’t like the movie, I hate you”), giving us TROG (1970) followed by a Q&A with Joe Cornelius (the titular caveman) and Derek Jarman’s radical film BLUE (1993) with Jarman’s partner Keith Collins and producer James Mackay in the audience. Rare and wonderful delights.
Of course, BFI aren’t the only ones to spin these plates: from art galleries to film festivals and your local arthouse, guest curators abound. Be adventurous and give them your next night out.
What has MARTIN SCORSESE CURATES treated us to so far? Thanks to his avowed film enthusiasm – and the essential restoration work of his FILM FOUNDATION‘s WORLD CINEMA PROJECT – the dishes have been rich and varied. RADIANT CIRCUS’ highlights include:
MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF LIGHT (1975) Lino Brocka
Philippine filmmaker Lino Brocka’s masterpiece, there’s a pace to MANILA IN THE CLAWS OF LIGHT that gently lures you in as our country boy’s life and values slowly unravel in the big city. From the shocking reveal of an unexpected apocalypse, to the frequent but futile acts of kindness, the escalating – and all too real – sense of horror finally plays out in a series of shocking scenes: Julio fights back, but at what cost?
In moving pictures? Flickering flashbacks of lost love.
AMERICA, AMERICA (1963) Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan’s AMERICA, AMERICA is one of his most personal films and an important touchstone for Martin Scorsese. Both a simple to absorb tale of a young man’s determination to flee his roots and an angrier study of oppression, the film’s impact is driven through its indelible characters (the grandma! the thief! the would-be father-in-law!) and its masterfully modern camera and editing. At nearly three hours, and much like our (anti?) hero, it never gives up, shouldering its way forcibly from opening to closing voiceovers, avoiding melodrama to amplify almost unbearable levels of pain, hope and determination.
In moving pictures? When a debt for the selfless gift of shoes is finally repaid.
REVENGE aka THE RED FLUTE (1989) Ermek Shinarbaev
If AMERICA, AMERICA is one of those films you need to recover from, forcing you into quiet reflection with its howls of despair, REVENGE is a Möbius strip of a movie, dragging you back in by the end of its running time. As the credits roll, the 1989 Kazakh film forces you to reexamine narratives and realities that have been willfully allowed to unravel. A beautifully lit, slowly evolving tapestry of seven tales, REVENGE weaves towards one of cinema’s most resolutely mundane punchlines yet doesn’t stop there, preferring to tell a powerful tale of life ravaged by an unchallenged yet all-consuming masterplan.
In moving pictures? The ice-cold slow zoom-out where Sungu is cast evermore into the act of revenge by his dying father.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL? BFI’s SCORSESE DOUBLES: 2 films for £17.
Featured Image: AMERICA, AMERICA (1963)