30th Century Man (2006)

I remember an internet friend – those kind you know only online, but have never met face to face – writing extensively about Walker. It was intriguing, but far too in depth. I needed a primer. What I needed was a good entry point and guide to Scott Walker.We all have cultural blind spots. Even when I feel confident that I know a little about a lot of things, I come across some topic or subject that I know squat about. Scott Walker is one such thing. I’m partially embarrassed to admit that until recently I knew absolutely nothing of the singer Scott Walker, Okay, I knew this song, but I never knew who sang it.

If the point of a documentary is to share something of the real world then 30th Century Man is a good documentary.  It is, however, not a film you have to watch. There are long segments of this film where the visuals serve little purpose or add next to nothing to my understand of the film’s subject. Watching others listen to Walker’s work is an interesting element, but it doesn’t pay off. No matter how famous the listeners are, their reactions to the music are too internal to register on camera. Yet, when Brian Eno quips that today’s musicians are adding nothing to development of modern music he’s right. Especially, when we get to hear Walker’s more recent music. Walker is century’s ahead of the pop musician of today.

Let’s hope that at least one of today’s pop artists progress in the wonderful and weird ways that Scott Walker progressed.

Rollerball (1975)

Rollerball predicts a corporatized future where the most popular sport is a no holds barred, semi-motorized version of roller derby. It’s vision of the future is part Ikea, part Eames, and part Playboy advertisement. It’s masculinity meets mod.  What’s so strikingly wrong about its vision of the future is just how it is so low-key and unadorned with advertising. Rollerball is a far cry from NASCAR. Though, I’d much preferred to have seen a future as stylish as the one in Rollerball and not as slobbish as the future we are living in – minus the bloodlust, an corporate monopoly, of course.

Prince of Darkness (1987)

Prince of Darkness is a John Carpenter film that asks us to consider the possibility of a physical embodiment of evil. Located in the basement of a boarded up church lies a vessel containing the anti-christ.  As the evil escapes its holding tank an army of undead surround the church. Religion and science work together understand and contain the force of evil that has laid dormant for eons.

If there is a great fault with this film it casts a gang of less than stellar stars, including Jameson Parker and Lisa Blount as unlikely and not too memorable research students working to save humanity from ultimate evil. A budding romance between Parker and Blount’s characters is meant to draw us in emotionally. While most of the other students simply serve as hapless victims. In the end, I cared little for any of characters and too much for the unexplored history of evil incarnate.

Prince of Darkness does offer up one of the more chilling visuals in horror cinema. It’s a broadcast from the future year of 1999. The image of a dark figure exiting an abandoned church is wavy, broken up by static, and accompanied by garbled audio. What we can make out from the message informs us that in the future they have developed a transmitter strong enough to broadcast into dreams.  The film has a hard time explaining the physics behind how messages from the future can be transmitted into dreams. It is just one of a few interesting ideas that is never explored enough for my liking.

 

 

 

Possession (1981)

Andrzej Zulawski’s Possession is a film for anyone who felt Kubrick’s The Shining provided too sane a depiction of madness. Zulawski’s has none of the visual rigor of Kubric. Zulawski is far more daring with his visuals, but not always successful. Sam Neill rocks with intensity, the kind that is so unhinged it becomes nearly comical to those watching in the audience. To his screen wife, played by Isabelle Adjani, Neill’s madness can only be matched by her own masochistic insanity. When she’s not slicing herself with kitchen appliances she’s making love to a gooey creature straight out of a David Cronenberg flick, even if this pre-dates some of Cronenberg’s slimiest pics. There may even be a hint of Roman Polanski‘s paranoia sprinkled throughout this film

A combination of Kubrick and Cronenberg  and Polanski sounds appealing, I’m hard pressed to consider this film anything more than daring or bold. Those are not bad attributes for a film, especially if you are looking for a cinematic experience to shake up your night, but I would caution anyone to confuse those two terms with a guarantee for greatness.

The Hypnotic Eye (1960)

Women around town start mutilating themselves. They act as if in a trance. The results are grizzly, even deadly. Is a traveling hypnotist to blame? One detective must find the answer before his girl friend becomes the next victim.

The Hypnotic Eye swings like a pocket watch back and forth, back and forth, between dark and campy. The methods used by the women to disfigure themselves are shocking and cringe worthy, but then their are moments of unintentional hilarity. Take for example this scene inside a beatnik coffee house, perhaps my new favorite portrail of beat poetry in a Hollywood film.

Besides the  reflexive silliness of a pome like “Confessions of a Movie Addict” there is a lot to like about “The Hypnotic Eye”.

Check it today:

http://www.wbshop.com/product/hypnotic+eye+the+1960+1000180252.do#.UFy-vBgpQco

An American Hippie in Israel (1972)

It is not often that I go this blind into a film, but I had heard that An American Hippie in Israel was something unbelievable. I guess, I just wanted to believe it was as crazy as I’d heard. I wanted to be surprised. I’m not sure if surprised is the right word, but unbelievable certainly is the wrong word to describe this film. Unbearable is a far better word. Perhaps, unbelievably-unbearable is the right combination of words or perhaps there are just no words in the English language to properly explain the anguish I endured while watching An American Hippie in Israel. 

It’ll have you screaming for freedom.

Maybe there is an Israeli word that adequately describes the mind-numbing experience of this film. Now, I’ve seen bad movies. I’ve seen boring movies. I’ve seen movies by Matthew Samuel Smith. Nothing prepared me for An American Hippie in Israel. Well, except maybe Hoodlums.

There are vast stretches of this film where nothing happens and its not that good kinda nothing. It’s not Antonioni or Akerman nothing. Sure, this film would like to imagine itself as some sort of existential exploration, but it’s more exploitation than existential. Yet, it’s not even interesting exploitation. It’s just maddening. It’s the kinda film you just want to scream at and with this huge pregnant pauses and scenes that extend well past the point of necessary, screaming at the screen is what I did.

Well, it turns out I’m not alone. After watching – or I should say enduring- this movie I listened to Mike White’s Projection Booth podcast about An American Hippie in Israel. I needed answers. I needed to understand. I needed to know why anyone would recommend that someone suffer through this film. What I learned was that over in Israel, this movie is like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For two years, dedicated fans and curious masochists have gotten together to watch and heckle this picture. Hearing how these screenings are interactive, even performative and listening to all the choice lines from the movie condensed down, with that insanely lengthy gaps of dead space removed from the soundtrack, I was convinced that this film is amazing. There truly is some choice dialog in this film. It’s just surrounded by acres of nothing.

Yes, rarely do I have such marked transformations, so quickly, about a film. I suppose that goes to show what a little education will do for you. I am not really sorry that I went into my viewing so ignorant. I feel bad for the other fellow who was subjected to watching this with me. Still, we wear our experience like a scar. It was a feat of strength to get through this film. I imagine it is not so bad in a theater, under the influence, surrounded by like minded individuals who all know what to expect from this film, and feel free to share their frustration and humor with one another. That is certainly the only way I’d watch this again. I will however be quoting it for the rest of my free life.

http://vimeo.com/26789655

Sugar Hill (1974) – 5 Random Thoughts

1) Sugar Hill reminds us that zombies were not always uncontrollable, brain-hungry, monsters. The zombies in Sugar Hill are the more classical, voodoo zombies, summoned to do the bidding of their master. In this way, Sugar Hill is a throw-back to a more classic horror film.

2) Paul Maslansky only directed one film. Sugar Hill was it. Still, we can’t call him a one-hit wonder. He has a long track record of producing films like The Gun and the PulpitRace with the DevilHard TimesDamnation AlleyKingCircle of IronWhen You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?Hot StuffScavenger Hunt. They are not common titles, but they are entertaining, if not interesting. For something more recognizable, one only need look at Maslansky’s most famous film Police Academy or its sequels. He produced Police Academy 23456, and the un-numbered Mission to Moscow. Love him or hate him for producing that series, it is far better than Cop and ½. He’s working on a re-boot of Police Academy which make financial sense, but it also pulls him farther away from the more edgier work he produced in the 70’s. 

3) Sugar (Marki Bey) has a hair-do just for killing.

If her hair is up, so is your time.

If her hair is relaxed, you too can relax

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) The one black fellow working for the gang of awful white guys comes on like such a tough guy when he’s first introduced in the film, only to be seen in the next scene shining the shoes of his white boss.

5) Dancing chicken foot. That is all. If you have seen the film, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, hopefully this leaves you curious enough to check it out.