Each month we travel across London to see as many of our featured attractions as we can. Last month’s journeys embraced the Prince Charles, Castle and Deptford cinemas, the Cinema and Geffrye museums, the ICA, Austrian Cultural Forum, ArtHouse Crouch End and a Masonic Temple. Not all journeys ended well…
By RADIANT CIRCUS
LORDS OF CHAOS
Time spent with our featured attraction of the week always gives good satisfaction (as does bucking the trend of Friday nights being rather patchy for special screenings…). This evening’s rowdy companion was LORDS OF CHAOS, a band biopic about the lives and deaths of pioneering Norwegian black metal combo, Mayhem.
Tonight’s screening at The Prince Charles was introduced by bit players Sam Coleman and Lucian Collier. Sam, the more talkative of the two, described the film as “horrid yet adorable”, which kind of works. As does his succinct trigger warning / review: “It’s not DUMBO. It’s better.”
On our way in we’d noted the content warnings above the box office but weren’t quite prepared for the venue’s usually chatty staff to give such stern caution. When asked “why do you want to see it?” – which was followed by a more unbelieving “are you a fan of Mayhem?” – the faltering RADIANT CIRCUS reason – “Well, we’ve always liked Rory Culkin…” – seemed to have missed the point.
Having seen the movie – and survived – it’s a reason we’ll stick to.
The film gives too much away come the ending, but the mysterious setting of the once-deserted Masonic Temple at Andaz Liverpool Street holds onto its secrets. A genuinely spooky place to catch the rest of East End Film Festival’s yearlong engagement with horror, Temple Cinema.
THE WHITE CROW
Our favourite moment from the Q&A was when David Hare tried to dig himself out of a self-excavated hole: are dancers really nicer to work with than actors David?
IN DER DÄMMERSTUNDE BERLIN DE L’AUBE À LA NUIT 16mm
Amos Levin and the crowd at Deptford Cinema played host over two repeat screenings to Annik Leroy and her 16mm projections.
The film is an ambulatory tour of an eerily empty West Berlin in the late 1970s, long before the wall came down. The film was triggered by Leroy’s encounters with Berliners still haunted by memories of WWII, several of whom are interviewed off camera. On screen, Leroy prowls through seemingly deserted streets and visits the haunted spectacle of Berlin’s “ghost stations” that led nowhere following the urban division. At one point her voiceover observes “The whole city is lost in twilight” which pretty much sums up this beautiful film.
Congratulations to Amos for the extra mile programming and managing to juggle manually advanced digital sidetitles along with the perpetually whirring beast of a 16mm projector (with its stubborn sound losses). Thanks also to Leroy for her warmth and generosity in discussion after the film.
IMITATION OF LIFE
BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER
Chatting afterwards, Sarah (one half of the awesome Zodiac Film Club duo with Jordan), described Jamie Babbit’s film as “It’s camp for girls”. Which is perfect.
WITHOUT YOU I’M NOTHING 35mm
This was a chance to catch up with a much loved concert film we’d only seen on now-ruined VHS. Apparently found in the film store at The Cinema Museum, this 35mm copy looked and sounded beautiful (occasional scratches in the celluloid aside).
Much more than re-staged stand up, the setting for Sandra Bernhard’s elaborate cabaret show within a show features a self-satirising Jew failing to appeal to a disinterested Black audience whilst critiquing the process of what we might now call “cultural appropriation”. Amidst a rich playlist that lurches between musical styles, costumes and set-dressings, Bernhard takes us on a whirlwind tour of Americana noting – indulging even – in its rich cultural output whilst skewering its partial perspectives.
Far from pastiche, everything is performed impeccably by the star and her skilled session band. From the opening slave song to the tassel-twirling finale, Bernhard’s star spangled banner exposes the raw hypocrisy of America’s dreams before throwing down a final gauntlet: after all, you can’t beat the funk.
FRAU IM MOND aka Woman in the Moon
Beaten by delays on the Central Line, we were forced to turn back without seeing the venue. Knowing we’d long-missed the start of the film, this was a frustrating failure on our part…
In some ways this didn’t start well. Following frequent drops of “materiality” in opening remarks, Jeff Preiss introduced STOP as a film “about its aboutness”. Now, these are the kind of gnomic utterances about artists’ films that usually get us twitchy. When he left the stage cheerfully admitting it won’t be the easiest of watches but “I think we’ll get by”, we braced for impact.
It got much better… If you get a chance to see STOP, we recommend going in knowing nothing but preparing yourself for a jarring journey. Preiss splices together sequential home movie scenes – shot daily on a handheld camera over 17 years – without much dialogue or narrative continuity. Each cut is marked by static noise and a number card noting the reel change. Audience members we left with lost patience at 200. It gets somewhere near 350. Over the full run time, a story emerges…
And that’s as far as we want to go… STOP is possibly the most challenging, beautiful and rewarding film we’ve seen in ages. Here are some notes written on the journey home. Corrected only for spellings.
A life indexed
In reel time
On 16mm Kodak
A daily Bolex for 17 years
Recurring motifs of
9/11 void space
Billboards & cityscapes
Family vacation rituals
Visual art scenes & spaces
Family spaces (not words or actions)
A child grows
Pups become old dogs
Drama is denied
Dental work & haircuts
Surgery & taxidermy
Stories we know
A million we won’t
A portrait (of sorts)
TROMEO + JULIET
You go for the movies and probably like us you haven’t paid enough attention to Lloyd Kaufman himself. Maybe you think his Troma movies are juvenile, over the top, crass? An endless parade of gore, tits and excreta barely animated by borrowed plots, bad acting and plastic penises? And of course, you’re right… But after spending an evening with the man, the ‘uncle’, the legend… you also come away with other, radically different impressions.
Of his fierce stance against contemporary streaming media and how its global brands are “killing the artist” whilst masquerading as the good guys. Of his career-long commitment to freedoms of speech and, more recently, net neutrality. Of the sense that uncle Lloyd’s embarrassing plastic penises have become the canaries in the coal mine of an urgent battle against oppressive social shifts and unchecked political and corporate interference.
Throughout the evening Kaufman flips between hilarious anecdote, effusive praise for the DIY venue, name-checking emerging artists and venting anger fuelled by his many just causes. Pat Kaufman – former New York Film Commissioner, Lloyd’s longstanding “first wife” (a joke the couple play on a lot…), and now producer of Troma’s latest – has her hands full keeping him on track. They are a delightful double act.
We came expecting just some dumb movie (TROMEO + JULIET is way more enjoyable than that). We left with the impression that Lloyd Kaufman is someone who really needs to be listened to more. He’s the guy who has survived the shitstorm and spotted the next one coming…
ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES
The Austrian Cultural Forum’s HORROR SEASON took a turn to the darkly humorous in time to celebrate Fasching.
Hartl’s sophomore feature is one of those self-aware zombie movies where the cast have to work out which kind of movie they’re in and therefore the type of zombies they have to do battle with. In stark contrast to recent runners, these are the most comatose of the (un)dead; shambling, skidding and easily subdued by all kinds of Apline music, old, ringtone and new.
The plot hinges on a new but malfunctioning snow making invention seeking Russian finance – from a Mr Chekhov no less – to combat the negative commercial impacts of climate change on the slopes. Basing the tech on a toxic hooch from the ski resort’s chalet puts this firmly in STREET TRASH territory, and so it continues. Things go wrong, the deers and the dead start to rise and then fall apart – very messily.
Throw some dude-talking extreme sport snowboarders into the distillery and you have the ingredients for a bore. But it’s stupidly ambitious, goofily over-delivering at every turn from the opening helicopter drops to epic green screen getaways and ample animatronic mayhem. The gore is always plentiful and the film entertains with its shocks as well as laughter.
This was our first Fasching and it turns out ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES is the perfect festive fare. Enjoy it with a Schnapps or several. We did.
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