Thursday 25 June 2020

Article: I wanna be adored. – Looking Back at The Rules of Attraction

 …and it starts and finishes in mid-sentence. Just like the book. Echoing some of that stylistic ego of its author Bret Easton Ellis. I’m sure many can sense that kind of edgy pretension that one can feel from Ellis’ work. But starting in medias res but by mimicking the book in the way he does from the very beginning; director Roger Avery primes the chaotic nature The Rules of Attraction. Giving us a sense that the corrupt nature of these spoilt brats never truly ends. The final lines of Ellis’ most well-known book; American Psycho take on solid form. THIS IS NOT AN EXIT.

“From the corrupt minds that brought you American Psycho and Pulp Fiction”, the marketing screamed. With its teddy fornication poster, to its Clockwork Orange (1971) riffing teaser spot, Roger Avery’s adaptation of The Rules of Attraction knew exactly what it was selling. Although the hubbub wasn’t as loud as what we often see from mainstream movies now, the outcome was so very similar. The film split critics but captured a glut of the audience that went to see it. Consensus scores are not the best way to evaluate a film’s success, but I always remember how distinct the viewpoints were between the film’s lowly Rotten Tomatoes score (now at a Rotten 43%) and the higher-rated Imdb score (at time of release it was in the 7.0 range out of 10, it’s now at the still decent 6.9). The A.V Club listed the film in its New Cult Section. Roger Ebert felt an indifference for the film's characters and hoped they get better. When I first saw it on it’s UK theatrical release in 2003, I fell for it in a way I never really did with American Psycho, although that has changed over the years. My best friend who I watched the film with, walked out at a notable sequence. It’s that kind of film.

At the time of writing this film adaptation of Rules is 17 years old. In America, it is almost reached the lawful age of sexual maturity, yet the ramblings of the current culture wars still reek of this debauched little number. It’s no surprise that Bret Easton Ellis claimed that the film adaptation is the closest anyone had got to capturing his novel universes. Mary Harron smartly undercuts so much of American Psycho (2000). Capturing the shallowness of its era as well as the ugliness of the toxic masculinity of the time. Roger Avery goes all for leather in Rules. He gives us little respite. Attractive youngsters being entirely unattractive in a way only young people can. Controlled, nee overwhelmed by the id, wading rudderless in a sea of hollow depravity. But while many college/coming of age movies, leave its characters – and audience – with life lessons. Rules simply does not give a damn. Avery himself allegedly stated that the film is the assassination of teen comedies. Rules lumps us with people with no need to be depressed glaring glassy-eyed at the world as if it were a hopeless void. No life lessons here. Detention in purgatory. Simply said: Fuck Maturity.

Three kids attending a liberal arts college fall into what can only be considered as a love triangle of misconception. Sean Bateman (brother of American Psycho’s Patrick) keeps receiving glittery post from an unknown recipient in the mail. To Sean, this is a slight distraction from the borrowed drug money he owes from a couple of townie tweakers. Sean believes the notes are from his classmate Lauren, a cynical woman who pines for her beau, Victor, who is currently travelling Europe. Lauren is a virgin and starves off any urges to cavort with any of the campus boys by reading a rather large medical book of venereal diseases. Lauren’s dedication to Victor is strong but there are hints that she may have an interest in Sean. Lauren used to date Paul; a bisexual man whose attraction to Sean is set off by a misheard exchanged between the two. The film is less of a conventional plot as opposed to a series of loose vignettes. Much like American Psycho, the characters are driven by their base urges, so much so they often neglect their misunderstandings. So far so college am I right?

The film's disjointed plotting must have been something of a comfort to director Roger Avery. The other screenwriter of Pulp Fiction (1994) is once again swimming in a world of time-hopping narratives. As stated by the director, the jumps from point to point and hollow relationships between the characters were done so to resemble people's splintered memories of college. But was also a chance for him to direct another film with flashy flourishes and nihilistic themes. Avery’s first feature-length film; Killing Zoe, was labelled by Roger Ebert as Generation X’s first heist caper and is executed as such. A film in which characters are surrounded by the colour red and they delve deeper into the bowels of the bank they’ve decided to Rob. Avery also uses Otto Nemenz Swing & Tilt lenses to create the distorted feeling of being on heroin midway through the film. Rules is a mutation of this. While Killing Zoe has Eric Stolz’s Zed character holding the ability to ensure of earth-shattering orgasms to sex workers that he meets within minutes of sleeping them, Rules plays on the idea that these kids obtain absolutely no joy from their carnal pursuits or anything else for that matter.

Avery captures the novel's stream of consciousness with a variety of self-involved narration from a variety of characters. A handy way of capturing the distorted leaps in transition that occur in Ellis' book. There is also the splintering of the narrative in a way that candidly reminds you that this corrupt mind enjoyed teasing structure with Mr. Tarantino. The film punctuates acts through parties and leaps through seasons with little desire to notify the viewer, distorting the sense of time. Both the leaps and narration not only provide an insular feeling but give a sense that these characters have harboured these lustful misunderstanding for longer than they care to admit.  

The use of split-screen finds itself being used in a small dorm room scene in which we’re provided with what looks to be a fantasy and a reality. Paul invites Sean to his room for some pot. The screen splits in two as we see Paul and Sean kiss and initiate sex (perhaps an eye-opening moment for young Dawson Creek fans). The other half of the screen has Paul masturbating in the same instance. Perhaps to the thought of what’s happening in the former half. It looks to be a rather straightforward dream sequence yet actually becomes more interesting for fans of the book. In the book, Paul holds comprehensively described accounts of himself and Sean being sexual partners. In Sean’s accounts, these encounters are absent. This allows both accounts to be ambiguous and contradictory. Avery’s use of the split-screen allows that ambiguity into the relationship if only for a second. Either Paul is pursuing and fantasising over a straight guy. Something we have already seen him do earlier in the film, or he’s having a difficult intimate relationship with a closeted bi guy who by all accounts, wants to keep it that way. It’s easy to find the moment to be cut and dry, however having read the book, I personally enjoy the idea that Avery appears to be giving the fans a hefty nod to the duo’s vague relationship.

The film’s biggest trick lies in the middle of the film. A five-minute, split-screen meet-cute in which Sean and Lauren encounter each other in a class they share. A flashy sequence, but not one without substance. In The Sundance Anatomy of a Scene series, Avery details that he wanted to visually illustrate connection within a world of disconnection. Admittedly borrowing film language from Douglas Sirk; who used the frame to unify and divide characters within the frame. Avery uses the split to depicts the differing routines of the two students before melding into a singular moment. It’s a sequence so playful and in line with what one would typically expect from a sweeter college comedy, it feels like it’s been lifted from an entirely different film. This moment pertains to be the film's emotional centre. Sean and Lauren seldom share a scene together. The scene plays up the dissimilarity between the two characters. But the removal of Sean sunglasses by Lauren provides a spark of connection. Initiating a small, elusive moment of association in a film that enjoys disrupting connection at every turn. It’s also the rise before the fall.

For a film full of stylistic tricks such as the split screens or whole sequences where time moves backward you still need cast the right good-looking people to make all the ugly antics click. Rules is a film known for its stylistic traits but also features career-high performances from many of the people involved. Let us not mistake dead-eyed and disaffected for flat. Whether it’s James Van Der Beeks glazed Kubrickian stare or the way Shannyn Sossamon holds a cigarette in a manner that screams “sardonic swagger”. Each performance seems to grab hold of the film’s energy. Van Der Beek especially thrives in the film. Rules was released with the young actor having one last year has the so-called eternal optimist that was Dawson Leery. Sean Bateman gives Van der Beek the type of role that could break the shackles of the sweetheart character that made him known. Van der Beek holds a similarity to Ryan Phillipe. Both seemed more well known as late 90’s heartthrobs, here, much like Phillipe in Cruel Intentions (1999), both equally known their way around sleazy and corrupt slimeballs. One of Van der Beek’s best moments lies in the split-screen sequence. The small moment when Sossamon’s Lauren removes his sunglasses and that small flicker of emotion is glimpsed. It’s an earnest moment only bested by Sossamon’s tiny giggle moments later. Sossamon, who looked fast-tracked to be a major star after a formidable run of mainstream hits also hits her stride in this movie as a Daria Art School Dream Girl. It’s easy to see why a college kid (especially Sean) would fall for her. That air of devil may care attitude. The hint of being unattainable to anyone but Victor, yet the films playing with form as already highlighted a pain that is already made its mark. Ian Somerhalder may now enjoy a tv career of cavorting with the undead, but his naïve and catty bi-guy performance mines a lot of the more “approachable” humour. If you can call it that.

Credit should also go the film’s secret gem Theresa Wayman. Shannyn Sossamon’s actual roommate at the time. Her small yet pivotal role is wordless yet harbours all the feelings that the other character pretends to have. Wayman’s major scene still holds an unbelievable amount of potency. Mostly due to the combination of Wayman’s eyes wincing at the pain, and the distortion that takes hold of the musical score. Even now this moment, the hidden heart of the film, brings around destabilising feelings. The BBFC has since cut the “bathtub” sequence for home screenings due to a technique that is used. When I first watched it at the cinema in 2003 with a friend as stated previously, he immediately left his seat after this scene. Returning 10 minutes later. Understandable.

And yet an unforgettable moment is completely lost on many of the vapid characters. This is enforced when the film introduces us yet another tactless character during the film's third act. The introduction of Lauren’s beau Victor (Kip Pardue) is perhaps the most loved sequence of the movie. Possibly because it is the most flashy and inimitable sequence of the film. A rapid 4-minute hedonistic headrush, in which Pardue’s character leaps from city to city in Europe in a cornucopia of base indulgence. The sequence when isolated is an amusing four-minute short. However, when fitted into the film it brings around a larger point of how all this indulgence is without feeling. A young man with the means to travel Europe, notes his meaningless sexual deviances longer than any of the landmarks and experiences he breezes by. All the while his girlfriend pines for him, despite possibly wanting to feed her needs with someone else. It all becomes swings and roundabouts as everyone involved becomes entangled in their unrequited lusts. These people pine for connection and yet yearn for lust.

I find that I tend to lean into certain youthful black comedies and The Rules of Attraction is no different. I wonder if it is because we are moving further into a culture in which people bicker even more about what is politically correct. Ellis' book and in turn Avery’s film capture a dark psychosis which would perhaps be more lost on a more “sensitive” movie. As I loved the film from the time it was released to now, a part of me wonders if there is sometimes a bit of honesty in the vacuous. Avery detailed that there was a generational dissonance between critics and fans of the film and that if you have never met the type of characters in Rules of Attraction then how could you relate? I am inclined to agree with this. The American Pies of the world sell you the lie.

That said. One thing about that meet-cute moment I still really love is that the class they missed was on the Post-modern condition. A quick google shows that there was a good chance they had read up on Jean-François Lyotard, who argued the notion of knowledge in postmodern society as the end of 'grand narratives'. I find that funny to see that in a film in which the plot has no real beginning or a true sense of...

Thursday 21 May 2020

Article: All Hail the Cinema Bastard

It is said that audiences love a good villain and when looking through the annals of cinema it isn't hard to dig up a Darth Vader here or an Ursula there. The appeal lies in their charm. That swagger. Confidence. With good villains, it's hard not to sympathise, but never surprising if we empathise. I for one was not surprised by the Thanos is right truthers. He tells his tale convincingly. Great stories have antagonists as compelling as their heroes.

This piece isn't about that. 

I've decided to write about the toe rag of movies. The obnoxious, self-serving clowns who are not the villains of the story, yet they're certainly not the heroes. The Richard Hammond of the seventh art. The Cinema Bastard.

Usually a melding of a well-horned screenplay and a brilliant character actor, the cinema bastard is the stock character of legend. An underrated individual who can really make a film. The bureaucratic gatekeeper, the smug sleazebag. He will never be the true villain but is happy to cosy up to him as his hype man. If you are thinking of a right-hand man like Oddjob or the muscle-bound, metal-mouthed Jaws then you're mistaken. Those guys can handle themselves against Bond in their own right. They are worthy foes. Boris from GoldenEye, on the other hand, is a cinema bastard. Arrogant, smug, and just a traitorous pain in the ass as opposed to a more accomplished, formidable ass-kicker. The Cinema Bastard will not get his hands dirty and if there is a chance to screw over the protagonist without doing so. He is all in. He is the gambling turncoat. The morally bankrupt also-ran who will sell you out to get a leg-up. The pencil pushing office dweeb who has a sudden taste for needlessly enforcing rules against our hero. Especially if a girl is involved. He is a jerk, but he is never the main boss.

Do I have an example? Why of course. There are so many.

Director James Cameron is one of the first names that springs to mind when we consider the Cinema Bastard. He gave us two of the best. In The Terminator (1984) we are introduced to Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen). A criminal psychologist who is an infuriating mixture of somewhat decent intentions and justifiable ignorance. He is not seen what Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has seen, so it’s understandable that he simply marks her tale of an indestructible mental man as pure delusion. However, it is not so much that he doesn’t believe Sarah, more than the smarmy, offhanded way he denounces her claims. This, of course, comes into the forefront in Terminator 2 Judgement Day (1991) when Silberman arrogantly parades an imprisoned Connor in front of some other colleagues. Channelling his inner Dr. Phil with haughty aplomb. His reaction when the T-1000 turns up is priceless.


Cameron gives us the quintessential Cinema Bastard in Aliens (1986). Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) is the smarmy corporate lap dog. The smirking stooge who hides the insidious wants of the Weyland-Yutani corporation under his cheap suit and tie or trashy plaid shirt, beige ghillie combo. There’s good reason to think of Burke has the villain of Aliens due to his morally bankrupt actions. “Let’s release those face-huggers!” “I’m going to let you all deal with the Aliens. Let me close this door!” Proper villainous. However it’s important to remember that the aliens are the main course, Burke is still really a side dish. A heinous one, but a side dish all the same. What is important about Burke is the reason why he’s pulled such acts. All the chummy interaction he holds with Ripley. All the weaselling around the Army men. Going down to LV-426 as a “representative”. Burke is Ian Holm’s Ash muscled up from the 1979 original, but at least Ash was programmed. Burke is more than happy to skirt past the line of moral decency because…money? A corner office?

Like Ellis in Die Hard (1988), Burke seems to operate on the deluded belief that he’s somewhat impervious to the chaos, for little reason other than dishonest bluster. One of the key aspects of the best cinema bastards stems from the fact that we know they’re a wrong un from the off. Villains can obtain a sense of empathy. Audience members never side with the morality vacuum that is The Cinema Bastard. Even if what they’re saying makes sense, they’re a prick about it. One of the nastiest things about Burke is the best part of Paul Reiser’s performance: The sheer blank-faced denial that he is ever in the wrong. He is a pure oily politician. Born and raised to convince and deceive. Nearly everything he says is an angle. The most disturbing thing about Burke is how easily we could image him in congress or parliament today, spewing fake news without blinking an eye. Burke would happily cause disruption and confusion in the streets of a seismic global event. If there’s a price.

Everyone has their own special Cinema Bastard. Walter Peck (William Atherton) from Ghostbusters is well loathed. My personal favourite? Resident warmonger Albert Nimzicki in a deliciously sleazy turn by James Reborn in everyone’s beloved hawkish blockbuster Independence Day. He can be summed up in two moments. Getting his way and getting President Bill Pullman to launch nukes at the volatile little grey planet destroyers who have invaded Earth being one of the major ones. As the POTUS rightly hesitates upon the action (“God have mercy on our souls”) Albert Nimzicki just leans over his shoulder and apples EVEN MORE PRESSURE on the Prez with his gentle nudge "Mr. President” he mutters as if he hasn't already doomed us all.
The nukes launch, they strike the spaceship, and Nimzicki is already polishing his brass neck way before the hit is even confirmed. That is a pure bastard. A man that's so sure of himself that he doesn't even wait to see if the ship is still there. Of course, it hasn’t made a dent. ID4 is a long-ass summer movie and the nukes occur at the midway point. But nothing is more satisfying than when this bastard gets his pink slip near the end of the films running time. For bastard watchers, that’s when the fat lady sings.
What is it about the cinema bastard? The human face of banal evil. The bouncer who IDs you on a night out when you are clearly old enough. The retail customer who pulls demands to see the manager over a mild inconvenience. When the bastard arrives in the movie, we already know the problem and they love to pretend that they are the solution. Think Harry Ellis in Die Hard. We all love a villain, but we love to hate the cinema bastard. The contrarian asshole who wonders what's in it for me. The red-tape loving nightmare who stirs the administrative pot for the hero.

That is just who they are. Mr. Status Quo. The devil's advocate for Thanos. The open-plan office arsehole whose answer needs to be heard, despite no one asking the question. There's nothing wrong with holding libertarian values if you feel that way. However, the cinematic bastard feels endeavored to tell you it's the only way to go and he’ll do it with a smug grin.

The zombie sub-genre is prime real estate for the cinema bastard to move in with his awful taste in furniture. A Twitter colleague reminded me of the superb turn played by Dylan Moran as David in Shaun of the Dead (2004). The so-called pacifist whose blatant affection for Shaun's girlfriend manifests itself into a particular method of passive aggression towards Shaun before of course, he becomes lunch.

Harry (Karl Hardman) from Night of the Living Dead (1968) may be doing the best for his family in his eyes, but the socio-political tension that inhabits this movie, with its black lead, helps turn the claustrophobic house into a battleground. Harry does what he can to rub our hero the wrong way. Romero often stated that he wasn't trying to be political and yet considering every zombie film he did after Night, as well as that film's brutal ending, it's hard not to think that Harry would probably listen to the lead character if he shared the same skin tone.

Leonard Nimoy, most known for being Star Trek’s stoic logical foil behind Captain Kirk as Spock, plays self-help bastard Dr. David Kibnar in the first remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). His new book’s out. He's the toast of the town. Always informing folk of his opinion but never listening to their words. He says things like giving people a psychological band-aid after giving them some pop psychology. If the film was made now? He would be a self-help scammer on Instagram. He would be Dr. Phil. He is the man telling everyone that nothing is wrong while the world's on fire. The smug cynic. We are never surprised when he succumbs to the alien spores. But he’s never the chief enemy. Merely an irritating distraction.  

Zara from Jurassic World (2015) is a weak example from a franchise that gave us 1 of the 90’s best bastards in its first cinematic entry. The insidious notions of Dennis Nerdy (Wayne Knight) seem so far away in a movie marred by retrograde views on gender. Unfortunately, Jurassic World also decides to give Zara a bastard style comeuppance. The unlucky babysitter is marked as the first female on-screen death of the Jurassic Park franchise, yet her demise is highly obnoxious considering her lack of bastard level. The appeal of the Cinema Bastard lies within a film dishing out a delicious brand of its own rich creamy Moral Justice. That director Colin Trevorrow wanted to switch the script and surprise the audience is understandable. We've kind of seen it all at this point. But the jarring aspect of Zara’s death without even a level of bastardry can give off disabling effect in terms of tone. The level of assholery is so close to what we know so a cinema bastard comeuppance is a small hooray. Not here. Her death feels frivolous and senseless. An outcome with little of the weight of a true cinema bastard. It's a reminder that we go to movies for the same way Mia Farrow’s character does in Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). We love to indulge in the black and white escapism that the movies so often give us. The cinema bastard is all about getting his way and getting hoisted by his own petard.

It’s the likes of Zara from Jurassic World that make us realise that we’re seeing less of this kind of this jerk of a character. This piece has referred to films of the ’60s and ’70s (The Mayor from Jaws anyone?), but it’s no surprise that the Cinema Bastards entered a rich vein of form in the ’80s and ’90s. Particularly in larger mainstream movies where you need an authoritative or administrative figure who may stand in the way of our brave protagonists, but only for so long. The cinema bastard was a great role for a solid character actor who may not have been the main draw of a movie but held a “that guy” presence that keen-eyed film fans would always appreciate. The list of actors is a long one: JT Walsh, Paul Gleason, Anthony Heald, John C. McGinley, Ronny Cox, Miguel Ferrer, James Tolkan, Colm Meany…need I go on?


As film tastes have changed hugely since the arrival of mega franchises and cinematic universes it does feel like there is less space to take up the cinema bastard mantle. When I tweeted about how much I missed the cinema bastard, I quickly had a thread filled with amazing jerks from so many films of my adolescent years. The Cinema Bastard has taken a step back in recent times, despite having the likes of Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One) and Ann Dowd (Hereditary, Compliance) keeping the throne warm. The Cinema Bastard seemingly has a healthier living in the world of TV, possibly due to the time allowance a show has for it to grow. As major films place their focus squarely on spectacle, there’s little shock that we see the likes of Ann Dowd rising to the occasion in The Handmaids Tale in spite of her superlative displays in the aforementioned movie examples. For me it one of the reasons why Zara’s character and death feel so out of step in Jurassic World. The pieces all seem to be there, but they just don’t fit. It is a bit of a shame. Sometimes we need jerks.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Article: Looking back at City of God

Despite my recent viewing being an umpteenth watch of City of God, my reaction is still the same. From the opening credits to the final moments, I was pulled back to when I used to work at my local cinema and I dragged my friends and co-workers to see a Brazilian Gangster coming of age film that they have never heard of. I saw a five-star review of the film in the now-defunct Hotdog magazine. To this day the best film magazine, I had the pleasure of reading. The magazine hyped the film as a Brazilian Goodfellas (1990), which was enough for me to lure my pals into the feature. As the “film guy” of the group, they never truly trusted my opinion on movies. They still don’t.

The film guy came good in this case. We all left the film rocked by what we just saw. Not just due to being the perfect age (18) to be blown away by a gritty, gun-toting journey into the favelas of Brazil. Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund’s piece is an astonishing piece of filmmaking. The Goodfellas comparisons from critics were clear and understandable, but the film’s signifiers came from a different place. They bought a new and eclectic vibrancy to proceedings. The way the film exploded on to the screen was simply something else. Watching the film now, it still hums with energy. 

A Docufiction adapted from Paulo Lins’ 1997 novel of the same film, the film throws its viewers into an intertangled mesh of organised crime beginning in the late sixties and continuing throughout the seventies. We’re guided through the film’s narrative by Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), as he navigates his way around the drug wars which inhabit the Cidade De Deus suburb where he lives. The film wouldn’t feel too out of place with the criminal coming of age films of Made in Britain (1982), Scum (1979), or Neds (2010). However, while the mentioned films have moments equally as shocking in their way, none have the same vibrancy that takes place here. It’s a film that truly illuminates, not only shedding light on the unlawful activity of Brazil’s notorious favela but doing so with a spark of electricity. High contrast, richly saturated cinematography, quick sharp cross-cut editing, and converging stories. Even now rewatching the film again, I found myself astounded by the breathless way directors Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund inform the story. It’s a shorter film than Goodfellas or The Godfather (1972), but it holds a similar richness. From its expressionistic close-ups to its Funkadelic soundtrack. It is an ugly story beautifully told. 

If there is one thing I forgot about the film, it’s how horny it is. From the first meeting between the young hoodlum Shaggy (Jonathan Haagensen) and Bernice (Bernice) to the death of one character (and the war which comes later from it) hinging partly on the sexual frustration and machismo of a character. Isn’t it funny that a film writer who co-hosts an erotic thriller podcast would note this aspect of the film? That said, this is a film that has no qualms over showing beautifully tanned bodies, often encased in sweat. One reason why this film writer felt so aware of the film’s libido, is because it feels like 18 years on, films have only now seemingly reached a point where they are more undaunted with ebony bodies and sensuality. Yay progression.

Films are no less violent than they were back in 2003 and yet the volatile acts that occur within City of God still feel like a sobering slap to the chops. City of God crafts an environment where poverty and struggle breed corruption. Existence is cheap. The emotional tug which comes from the film’s bleak set pieces often stems from just how young the victims and killers are. The grim fatalism which hangs over the death of groovy playboy Benny. The still horrific hand or foot sequence which befouls some kids who may not have even reached double figures in age. The despair that loiters in the dark alleyways is set against the modest desires of the film’s more amiable characters. To remind us of the previous paragraph, so many of these guys should be out trying to get phone numbers.

The films of Fernando Meirelles often portray an element of innocence lost. Something that the kids in City of God were rapidly losing while teenagers like myself and our first world problems held on to. Granted I am sure many more films have done similar. Let us not be so naïve that I knew nothing about the world at large. But there was something about this film’s urgency despite being a period piece struck me. Something that Meirelles did further on in his career with the likes of The Two Popes (2019), a fictionalised account of a meeting between the incumbent, conservative Pope Benedict XVI, and the liberal future Pope Francis. City of God was a film that blunted the fairy-tale coming of age that I started to notice in American films at the time. Films that were quick to mark growing pains as a passing awkward phase. It expressed a greater world in which young people at my age were inhabited by people who would not be so lucky. 

This is probably why the film is such a formative one for me. That first watch of City of God came at a time when I so close to the age of the characters. With much of my time watching coming of age films and television where the pubescent struggles were somewhat “safer”. It’s understandable to see how the film's violence could provide a stigma to those who live the favelas of Brazil, it’s also films like City of God which broadened the horizons of a viewer like myself. It’s a film that never felt exploitive but impassioned. It tells its story without the kind of romanticism that the likes of Coppola or Scorsese invoke. A period piece with a powerful immediacy.  

City of God wasn’t just a film that became a small bridge to me and my friends in terms of film watching (I also got turned one of my same friends on to Duncan Jones’ brilliant Moon). For me, it’s still a marvel of bold cinematic filmmaking. You don’t need to hold a degree in the socio-politics of Brazil to get what’s at stake, but it does prime a viewer for what is witnessed in films such as Elite Squad (2007). It’s also no surprise there was a boom of production filming shortly around the time the film was released with 45 productions being completed around the same time. People were seeing the potential of creating new challenging works with different areas of the world. The film introduced me to a director whose future work on similar themes of corruption and exploitation have been executed with a comparable amount of skill. 

City of God was one of the films that started the odyssey. The gateway to different and challenging experiences with film. A strange liberation in watching teenagers who we’re trapped in hell. A film that would make how you look at other movies differently. I still marvel at the film's rich use of technique and inventiveness in its intricate storytelling, but as a piece of cinema, I was able to sit with my friends in a dark cinema and hold a shared cinematic experience. It’s also why I find the warm reception at the cinema of the likes of the Oscar-winning Parasite (2019) to also be a large positive. When World Cinema is given the distribution and push, it finds the audience. It makes the connection. Then film guys get to sleep soundly at night. 

Article: Up All Night

"Kids, your grandma always used to say to me, "Nothing good happens after 2:00 a.m.," and she was right. When 2:00 a.m. rolls around, just go home and go to sleep" – Ted Mosby, How I Met Your Mother 

After spending a lot of my younger life in office jobs and still being in one now, the idea of living for the weekend is a common and desirable aim. Whatever you do in your glass and concrete cage it matters little when the clock hits quitting time. It’s your time to spend. It’s precious. This is clearly obvious for Paul (Griffin Dunne), a word processor and protagonist of Martin Scorsese’s spiraling midnight farce After Hours. The opening moments are so wryly put together. Paul’s wandering eye gaze over the seemingly never-ending piles of paper being carried around to nowhere. His colleague: Lloyd is a new blood trainee who bores him with his mundane chatter about not wanting to be stuck in this humdrum world forever. We all know the type. Especially when you work in an office in your mid-twenties.  It’s clear Paul wants to break free from the shackles of the working day. Very soon the gates that keep him trapped will open and he’ll get his chance of freedom. The trouble is after tonight will he really want it? 

After Hours is usually the first film of the various movies I think of when I hear the overly recycled argument that “Marty only makes gangster films”. Such is the quarrel that I’ve heard for nearly 20 years. After Hours is as old as me, so god knows how long others have had to listen to such lazy claims. Paul this lonely, bored office drone, meets a slightly kooky, bohemian girl, Marcy (Roseanna Arquette) in a diner after work. They bond over the book he’s reading. She’s a little off, but not as much as the weird cashier who they both laugh at. Paul is clearly looking to spice up his life with a lady. Forget about his job for a bit. Looking for an escape from the monotony, it seems there might be something between the two of them. She invites him back to her place in Soho. She lives with a punk artist who makes paperweights. He could have one. Although he’s sure that’s not what she’s inviting him for. That said. What’s the worst that could happen?

In revisiting After Hours, I couldn’t help but snicker at the glee the film has in hiding everything it can from Paul who hasn’t got the facilities for the Soho life. He is not supposed to be there. He does not fit in and it shows in the conversations, the glances. The film isn’t a large-scale clash over social culture, but After Hours makes it clear that Paul is the kind of button-pusher that shouldn’t be hanging around Soho at night, least he found him plummeting into bohemian purgatory. It's not really paranoia if they're really out to get you and the clues circle all around him while he stumbles throughout his urban nightmare. 

Often considered a “lesser” Scorsese, it was a project that the director took up after admitting that he was out of touch with a new blockbuster led world. Both Raging Bull (1980) and The King of Comedy (1982) had failed financially and Scorsese’s pet project The Last Temptation of Christ was abandoned by Paramount at that point. With this as the background, Scorsese moved towards smaller more independent fare. 

Smaller? Yes. Independent? Indeed. Lesser? Not by a long shot. Rewatching After Hours only highlighted how much of an anaconda of a movie it is. Full of the high running anxiety which bleeds through so many of his movies. Watching Paul squirm and struggle after each minor inconvenience wraps around him and becomes a larger problem is something of a macabre joy. Looking back at the one-two punch of this and the King of Comedy, I am fascinated by the amount of dark humour Scorsese gets out of the pervading menace of the urban night dwellers of the New York streets. Like Greek Theatre, Scorsese sees both the tragedy and the comedy in machismo. He still toys with masculinity in later movies (GoodFellas, The Wolf of Wall Street) however it is within earlier works such as this that feel somewhat more defined. Possibly because Paul is only one step up from a two-bit putz. Henry Hill and Jordan Belfort both have the charm to spare. It’s easy to see why people consider their actions in their respective movies to be glamorised. In After Hours, Paul is not so lucky. Late on in the movie, Paul witnesses a murder in a nearby apartment window. “I bet they’ll blame it on me.” He remarks. The crazy thing is, he is so deep into the inner-city sludge, a lot of it his own doing, we would more than likely agree. 

After Hours falls into the strange small sub-category of films in which our protagonists often stuck in a rut in their regular lives, endure madcap hijinks over the course of one night. Other features include the likes of John Landis’ cameo loaded Into the Night (1985), Doug Liman’s kinetic three-storied Go (1999), and perhaps my favourite movie House Party (1990). It’s a sub-genre I find myself enjoying due to the unpredictability that comes with the territory. Paraphrasing from the opening quote nothing good happens after 2 am. The lure, however, is seeing what happens to *these guys* at that time. Watching the cranks start to turn and the oddballs slide out of the shadows, with everything falling under a tightly wrapped cage of controlled chaos. It is the type of film that allows filmmakers to flex their muscles with economy and pace. If Scorsese was feeling frustrated at the idea of blockbuster movie making at the time, he conquers it here with a film that still harbours all his visual tics and themes. Hell, it even allows him to throw in shots reminiscent of the short silent Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory (1895). 

New Jersey writer Joseph Minion seemed to have a passion for the oddballs that wander New York City at night. Along with After Hours, his other feature screenplay of note is the Nicolas Cage vampire vehicle Vampire’s Kiss. Watching Cage as a literary agent slowly descend into hallucinatory madness is eventful, yet despite Vampire Kiss’s holding comparable surreal darkness to After Hours, along with similar anxieties towards women and yuppiedom, Minion’s work holds far more presence and control under the gaze of Scorsese and his crew. Vampire’s Kiss lacks the punch in the storytelling that the likes of Scorsese provides, allowing an overacting and irritating Cage lord all over the material. Amusingly it is no surprise that one of Cage’s best (and more subdued) performances comes in Scorsese’s 1999 film Bringing Out the Dead. Another film which deals with New York in the dead of night. It’s also a film that flopped commercially yet was well received by most who did see it. Additionally, there are no gangsters in sight. 

It’s interesting reading reviews of After Hours (Paul Attanasio and Vincent Carnby are examples) which state that the film “fails to satisfy”, that in itself brings around a small measure of humour. The film itself is almost entirely wrapped with male anxiety and the wish to please and satisfy women. The amusement comes from watching this office type flounder in front of all these women who are clearly more creative and process more control in their destinies. To quote The Rolling Stones “You can’t always get what you want” and that within this turn of events is not only funny but satisfying in its own way  

It would be wise to take note that the demise of one character does come off as unjust from a feminist reading standpoint, helping confirm what many already feel about Scorsese as a male director. Particularly after recent discourse over Anna Paquin’s character’s silence within The Irishman. However, I cannot say that this one aspect confirms the entire whole of the twisted universe of After Hours, in which the other female characters hold their own spikiness. Scorsese has never been the type of director I would look towards for certain female representation and I’ll try not to go back into the likes of his filmography to try and retcon the matter. However, I do find the women that appear in After Hours to be entertaining and sharp in the film's own special way, even if they are not the focus. Linda Fiorentino’s Kiki, for instance, may not feature in many scenes, but her “fuck you” attitude coming 9 years before The Last Seduction (1994) is certainly holds its charms.

The spotlight is however on Paul who holds a type of guilt which is common with Scorsese films of its ilk. Paul’s “blame” comment is funny because while his punishment doesn’t fit the crime, the film suggests this simps arrogance within the earlier segment of the film; courting Marcy (Roseanna Arquette) while hitting on rock chick Kiki, when Marcy steps out briefly, is more than enough to set the wheels of fate turning. It is the type of butterfly effect turn that has the film in common with Scorsese’s Cape Fear (1991). Someone is going to pay for that somehow. It is little surprise that The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and Goodfellas (1990) are quick to get picked on when looking at Scorsese's work. Their asshole protagonists have little care in guilt or shame, which can make them dangerously glamourous to some. If only Paul was as brazen, he was in the earlier scenes. Then again, it’s clear he doesn’t know that nothing good happens after hours. He should have just gone home and slept. 

Friday 17 April 2020

Article: The Dirty South

A favourite podcast of mine that I often have filling my earholes when I am preparing the Sunday roast is the highly informative, often funny podcast Behind the Bastards. Hosted by former Cracked Writer Robert Evans; each episode documents an infamous grifter, villain or dictator from the world’s rogues gallery. A recent episode dealt with the recent phenomenon of Tiger King. If you’ve not got Netflix and have been living under a rock, The Netflix show depicts the beyond the bizarre tale of a polyamorous, gay wild cat owner, whose increasingly insane antics ended up with the aforementioned Joe, banged up in Federal Jail for violating the endangered species act and the attempted murder of another Big Cat owner Carole Baskin. The limited series delves into the outrageous lives of a variety of eccentric characters. Joe’s nonconformist lifestyle is as much of the documentaries focus as his grifting and obsession with Baskin. Everything seems to hold itself in a twisted sense of balance. 

Much has been said about the show and the background of the people for whom it is about. But the thing that really picked my brain about the show came from comedian Billy Wayne Davis who guested on the Behind the Bastards Podcast. With his origins based in a more rural, part of southern American, Davis’ reaction was one of near passivity. To him, he had met so many people like the cast of colourful characters on the show, that while he found the show funny, he was non-plussed by their behaviour. Remarking in a near throwaway comment that folks like Joe Exotic only shock city folk due to the little knowledge they hold of locations that the likes of Joe inhabit. Such criminality is common. Crooked lawmen. Hired hitmen. Dubious means of obtaining sums of cash. And always wrapped up within a lifestyle which goes beyond the fringes. Davis also stated on the podcast; The Daily Zeitgeist, that the likes of Jodie Hill and Danny McBride nailed the rural, southern way of life way before the hit Netflix show in their films The Foot Fist Way (2006) and the sitcom Eastbound and Down (2009). Personally, a part of me thinks that we should have been primed for the likes of Joe Exotic in films such as the 1998 Florida noir, Wild Things.

There is plenty of southern fried features with questionable escapades that could easily make an enjoyable overnight binge along with Tiger King. But for me, it’s Wild Things that sticks out as the crown jewel. True Crime has made a splash in the podcast and streaming world with its lurid elements and forensic details. However, a film like Wild Things was indulging itself in the same type of sociopathic chicanery way before Joe Exotic hit the zeitgeist. There is a clear love of the sensationalised indulgences that true crime shows, and podcasts enjoy playing into. But while a show such as Making a Murderer (2015) still can claim an element of moral justice. Tiger King leans into the outlandish mechanisms that also lie within John McNaughton’s humid cult hit. A backcountry playground removed from a so-called civilised world far to up its backside. Non-conformist sexual behaviour, crooked cohorts and the feeling that everyone not only for personal gain but are also a law into themselves. Likable characters are not what you watch either Tiger King or Wild Things for, but the needling desire to see thorn filled rabbit hole leads for these creatures is a strong pull.

In an article for The Ringer released around Wild Things’ 20th anniversary, bestselling author Shea Serrano recounts the amounts of double-crosses that occur in Wild Things’ 108-minute running. Shea notes the number of deceptive shenanigans with glee, yet it’s not noted at how well the film manages to do this. Wild Things comes out in an era where plot-twists and post-modern monkeyshines are well noted. Let’s not take into account Neve Campbell popping up in Scream (1996) or the question of Who is Keyser Soze. Wild Things still comes out a year before The 6th Sense (1999) a film in which that film's major plot twist leaves the audience shook for years to come. Wild Things has TWELVE double crosses within its running time, with Shea averaging that at a double-cross every 9 minutes. Doing for plot twists what Airplane! (1980) did for sight gags. This is, however, a showcase to how drum-tight the movie’s narrative is and how well-oiled the mechanics play out. John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) is not a directorial name that features often in circles of social media, those who know the name, know that he is no slouch. Watching Wild Things again, it is fascinating to watch how characters are blocked in scenes to foreshadow hidden agendas and to keep the audience guessing. The positioning of characters, as well as cutting and story shaping from editor Elena Maganini, are a great example of “the seen unseen”. A character placed behind a gated fence, but only after certain aspects play out first. A coupling of characters suggesting an unfortunate outcome for one, but almost signaling out another character who is running out of view. It’s also worth noting aspects such as casting Theresa Russell as the rich bitch Sandra Van Ryan. Russell who had a notable role in crime drama Black Widow (1987) in which she plays a murderous sociopath who murders for money. The film’s sheer audacity to cast Robert Wagner in a film that obtains mysterious boating incidents as set pieces is a clear note of the film’s gallows humour.

Poor Taste? Of course. But Wild Things is a film that knows what it is playing at. Salacious is the order of the day. Both Tiger King and Wild Things embrace taboo and scandal with loving arms. They ride on the idea of the guilty pleasure. Itching at spots that many would like to claim they do not have. The infamous threesome is a moment with a decent amount of sleazy steaminess yet is sneaky enough with the ages of the female students that no one appears to care that they are sleeping with their former teacher that should know better. However, as the camera gleefully glides slowly over the wet body of Denise Richards midway through the film, you see that the film is playing you like a flute. Roger Ebert in his review of the film asks people to refrain from telling him the film is in bad taste. It is quite clear. It makes no excuses. Ebert also remarks that the film is designed for “connoisseurs of melodramatic comic vulgarity”. How do you feel when you see Richards’ washing a dirty jeep in short shorts? Do you note that she is a school student in the film? Your answers will guide you on whether you would want to watch the film. It may also dictate your feelings towards something like Tiger King. The only difference (thankfully) Wild Things is fiction. 

Listen to the Fatal Attractions Podcast episode of Wild Things here

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Review: Below Her Mouth

Year: 2016
Director: April Mullen
Screenplay: Stephanie Fabrizi
Starring: Erika Linder, Natalie Krill

Time for an odd story. One of my hobbies is photography. Most of my work is mainly women. I often ask my subjects “how do you want to be shot?” I like the subject to have an aim of the shoot and their answer will usually provide a steppingstone to the type of tone the finished image will be. One model who I enjoy shooting with was quick to voice her concerns with previous photographers over sexualizing her recent shoots. A more than reasonable argument, so I looked to avoid heading down the same path. However, the model bought props which unfortunately would negate her comments if used. When she asked to place these items within the shot. I refused. The simple reason. If you don’t want to be observed under a certain gaze, it may be wise not to utilise things that may suggest otherwise. Below Her Mouth holds a similar problem. Although the film has an issue of addition as opposed to subtraction. It is a film full of sex. However, it has the same conundrum I felt I had with my model friend: What story are you trying to tell?

Films that single-handedly deal in the female gaze on screen still seem to be somewhat of a taboo even in 2020. Which is why it’s easy to a film like Below the Mouth wanting to be a lesbian romance straightly told. However, April Mullen’s sexually charged tale of an illicit affair between a female roofer (Erika Linder) and a fashion editor (Natalie Krill) in a heterosexual engagement is not too dissimilar to the testosterone-based cliché we often hear. It’s only interested in one thing.

Let’s not lie. Below Her Mouth is sexy. It’s really sexy.  The negative reviews I read about the film after watching the film, gave off the sort of puritanical leaning which seems to claim that they were somewhat above the film depicting sex which may cause an actual element of desire.  It wasn’t hard to find a review that labelled the film as pornography. The physicality within the sexual scenes is substantial. It’s a film that never shies away from sex. The scenes are as plentiful as they are explicit. The film is very happy to depict two very desirable women in a variety of sexually tense situations, often bathing them in natural light or framing their writhing bodies in aesthetically pleasing compositions. Both Mullen and Maya Bankovic have done their homework here. Being a non-Hollywood movie, it also means they can push the bar on what they can show.  And with no snickering in the back, the film knows how to make the sex look good.

The film’s struggle for substance in the narrative, however, provides the perfect element of truth to any cynic. Every sexual composition is lush and will no doubt corner the male gaze as well as the female one. However, the film’s turgid dialogue, sloppy metaphors and lack of characterization help push the idea that Below the Mouth is titillation and titillation only. The film’s use of one character nailing the roof outside while intercutting with the other woman masturbating in the bath while fantasizing over her is not only comically on the nose, but some of the scenes particular logistics feel unnecessary. The story keeps roofer Dallas’s backstory needlessly hidden while highlighting that she enjoys sex. The building of her character gives us little reason to care for her motives. In addition to this, as Dallas’ coded as the more masculine character, with her assertiveness being nearly her only trait, some of Dallas’s behavior is considered non-problematic simply because it’s a woman performing the actions. They could easily be perceived as toxic. The film gives little attention to Dallas's development. Keeping her an enigma, her pull towards Jasmine as well as her methods are left elliptical and unpolished.

Fashion editor Jasmine fairs only slightly better as an engaged woman who was seemingly scared straight due to one singular event in her childhood, however, the films lackluster character development again does little to convince as to why she’d be willing to drop her otherwise happy existence.

The film hints at a gender and sexuality struggle which may have been compelling. A secondary character exclamation of having to wear “conventional” women’s clothes to dictate that she fits in with certain societal expectations is sadly never built on. While Dallas’s statement of a coming out story being never-ending may not fully justify her lack of background story but is a small amount of profundity in a film that is far more interested in strap-on dildos.

All the elements add up to a film which is full of scenes that could make one hot under the collar but with sexual politics which were held together better in films which were more invested in who the film was about. The likes of My Summer of Love (2004), Moonlight (2018) or Princess Cyd (2017) name a few films which may not observe same-sex relationships with the same sexual explicitness yet hold an emotional attentiveness which Below Her Mouth seems disengaged with. If, however, one can ignore the battered clichés and slight dramatic displays at play, Below Her Mouth may hold some appeal simply by having scenes that could stream up a few windows. Don’t look for a powerfully told story through. It dissipates as quickly as condensation.

Below Her Mouth was viewed via Netflix UK

Thursday 9 April 2020

Review: Empathy Inc

If you have a bad day at work what do you do to turn it around? Vent to the wife? A swift half with the lads? Switch on the PlayStation and shout horrible slurs at 14-year olds? I’m sure we all have our ways of dealing with having an absolute mare. In case of venture capitalist Joel, whose multimillion deal has just gone the way of Orlando Bloom’s character’s in Elizabethtown (2005), things go beyond your usual hectic day at the office.

Forcibly moved in with his nightmare in-laws and with hardly a penny to his name, Joel (Zack Robidas) is in dire straits. That is until he meets an old friend with a fancy new scheme in the line of VR. What if you spend some time in someone else’s shoes? Someone who’s life is less than fortunate? Would that place your issues into perspective? Thus, the conceit is born. A VR system that places you in the shoes of someone who is desolate. By doing so, your hang-ups will become more manageable. And all those proverbs and maxims people like to band about would be justified.

It all seems too good to be true in Empathy Inc, the lo-fi, sci-fi head spinner from Yedidya Gorsetman. Of course, it certainly is, as the little bit greedy and all to nosy Joel soon finds out. With a conceit that feels a little bit Primer (2004) and noir style black and white that couldn’t help but remind me of Darren Aronofsky’s debut Pi (1998), Empathy Inc is the kind of askew, oddity that you’d use to find late nights on the weekend when terrestrial tele was our media gods and you were never quite sure if you saw what you watched or dreamed it. Safe to say, trying to tell your wife or the lads over a swift half about this flick may get you some strange looks.

It’s also safe to say that this is a very confident piece of filmmaking from a film that is seeing how resourceful it can be while on a very limited budget. It’s lack of expansive or varied locations not only keeps the focus on the characters but gives the entire film an inescapable, hemmed in vibe. It’s also notable that while the film is limited in funds the film's compositions and transitions highlight an eye for the cinematic.

Drenched in punchy black and white, giving the whole exercise a touch of the noir to its sci-fi leanings, Empathy Inc’s strengths lie in its simplicity. The film gives us just enough of its lofty idea to make the story compelling. The characters may be broad, but they’re never flat. Although the actors struggle with the tasks given as the film ramps up the tempo and twists later in the film. While Empathy Inc toys with deeper themes of haves and have nots, corrupt corporate investors and the identity of the self, it’s far more at home as being a moderately thrilling sci-fi that would fit comfortably on the same shelf as the films of Shaun Carruth. Although it may not get as far under the skin.

Empathy Inc is available now on VOD via Amazon Prime, Google Play and YouTube

Saturday 28 March 2020

Article: Digging for Answers

I remember first discovering Dellamorte Dellamore through an old horror film website around the time the internet was young and dial-up ruled supreme. Through a stroke of luck, I managed to record it off channel 4 a year or two later. Channel 4 being the prime location for film oddities at the time. Nowadays, the likes of Dellamorte Dellamore can be found through scrolling through Amazon on whatever home entertainment system you favour. At the time of writing, you can stream it free on-demand with Amazon Prime.

For a film nearing 30 years old, Dellamorte Dellamore has lost little of its macabre strangeness. Like so many cult features, it’s defined by not being forced into an anorexic space of specification. Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is a cemetery custodian who is sick of having to kill the city’s dead a second time around, as they keep raising from their grave for an unknown reason.
While Francesco has grown weary of being the town’s sole caretaker of the living dead (his intellectually impaired assistant Gnaghi is of little support), the Gilliam-esque bureaucracy of the local administration seems uninterested in looking into his claims. Although as opposed to filing the correct paperwork, Francesco prefers dispatching the living dead with his revolver as not only he finds it easier, he also wishes to keep his job.

Francesco soon becomes fixated on an unnamed young widow (Anna Falchi) whom he encounters at her husband’s funeral. After a frosty reception, she responds in kind. Things become complicated however when the woman dies while consummating their relationship on the deceased man’s grave. Because this is an Italian zombie horror film that looks at the word taboo with a hilarious amount of disdain.
That speck of plot doesn’t even cover half of what Dellamorte Dellamore is about or is really interested in. In the same way, George A Romero’s zombie saga made satirical commentary on American society dependant of the era, Michele Soavi’s feature leans in towards surrealism and philosophical observations. The film’s English title; “Cemetery Man” sounds so infantile when you consider that the original title Dellamorte Dellamore is Italian wordplay which can be interpreted as either the rather literal “About Death, About Love” or the slightly more poetic “About the death of love”. No doubt the change to Cemetery Man for English Speakers was brought about due to some claptrap about being “more commercial”.

Dellamorte Dellamore is not as interested in being commercially viable as it is in surrealist and abstract alliterations and pontification between love and death. Both Francesco and Gnaghi are transfixed throughout the film with ideas of re-claiming the unclaimable. From fixing shattered skulls to falling in love with re-animated, decapitated heads of teenagers. The duo is somewhat obliged to both embrace and repeal the final float down the river Styx in a way that’s compelling as well as deeply humorous. An early scene has Gnaghi fighting against the wind as it blows away dead leaves. He ends up literally lying on top of them in a futile attempt to fight the inevitable.

The film appears to owe a lot to the surrealist movement with visuals that directly lift from Rene Magritte’s painting “The Lovers”. Meanwhile, Francesco keeps seeing his unnamed infatuation in different encounters as different women, although always played by Falchi. Each confrontation has Francesco delivers a new challenge to navigate, all the while each persona acknowledges Francesco as if they’ve met and loved each other before. The surrealist notions play out in a manner that feels like an offshoot of the cinematic works of Luis Brunel. More acutely Brunel’s final feature That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). Whereas Brunel interchangeably uses two different actresses to play the temperamental Conchita from scene to scene, both films use surrealist juxtapositions to heighten each film's quixotic sentiments of love.

While the film is as gruesome as one would expect from a particular type of Italian horror movie Dellamorte Dellamore has a dirty love for lobbing metaphysical pipebombs towards its viewer. “Hell, at a certain point in life, you realize you know more dead people than living.” Francesco rambles in a plaintive voice over. Morose, twilight life thinking from the proclaimed “engineer” of a cemetery with the Latin inscription “RESURRECTURIS” on the gate. Of course, this plays into the film’s dirt dry humour. One of the film’s earliest shots earmarks a snowglobe. We witness the visual that inhabits the globe later in the movie in a way that will either take viewers out of the film or have them embrace its eccentrics. As a good cult film does. Either way, the element encapsulates the circular patterns that inhabit the film but also slaps the viewer in the face with the film’s poignant final moments. When the film asks us to reconcile with a man whose obsession with the grave takes him to the brink. What is there beyond love, beyond death, and past our imagination? When we leave the comfort of our former ourselves past the point of no return, what else exists? Anything? In the morbidly wicked view of Dellamorte Dellamore perhaps not.