Monday, November 8, 2010

Movies recently seen

Crumb (1994)

I first saw this documentary about underground comics legend Robert Crumb in 1996, with my then-girlfriend. It is not a date movie. Crumb's comics are notorious for their misogyny and racist imagery, while at the same time he is regularly acclaimed as a genius. Although his surname is a common word, a Google image search on the word "crumb" brings up nothing but images relating to his comics. This is despite the fact that he has never been published by any of the "major" comic book companies, and has actually self-published much of his own work. He is a strange-looking guy (skinny and gawky with coke-bottle glasses and deliberately old-fashioned clothes) who is apparently very shy, but on film he has a real charisma. He's a mess of contradictions, and this movie is a fascinating portrait of his work, his family, and himself.

The movie takes you through quite a but of his comics work, some of which is very disturbing, and gives equal time to his defenders and his critics. It's interesting that Crumb does not actually defend himself; he says that he made a decision many years ago to never censor himself and to let all the most disturbing images in his head come out onto paper, and that his creative process is largely unconscious and he doesn't know where his stories are going until he draws them. He says that sometimes he thinks perhaps he should not be allowed to draw this stuff and that maybe he should be locked up and have his pencils taken away from him, but at the same time it seems clear that drawing his comics is what keeps him on an even keel.

We don't learn too much about how Robert Crumb ended up the way he is, apart from some references to his father being a domineering and violent tyrant, but the interviews with his brothers and his mother make it pretty clear that Robert is the most well-adjusted member of his family, at least among those who appear in the movie (his two sisters declined to be interviewed).

This is a top-notch documentary that is best watched when you are not already feeling depressed.

Robert Crumb with two friends

Peeping Tom (1960)

Set in the sordid milieu of under-the-counter pornography, this movie is about Mark, a young photographer who is making his own snuff movies. It has some interesting parallels with the same year's Psycho, directed by the expatriate British director Alfred Hitchcock in America. The main difference is that while Psycho solidified Hitchcock's position as the master of thrillers, Peeping Tom caused director Michael Powell's reputation to plummet; he had been at the very top of his profession to this point, but was subsequently unable to make any more movies in Britain and ended up settling in Australia.

Melodramatic in the extreme and rather dated, Peeping Tom still has a curious power. Mark is very open to the idea of being caught, and manages to get caught between falling for a young woman in his apartment building and feeling driven to complete his "work". I found the comic relief scenes tiresome, but they actually drew big laughs from the audience I saw it with so that must be a matter of personal taste.

Moira Shearer gets it in the neck

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Vincent Price stars as a crazed organist who is bringing the Ten Plagues of Egypt down on the surgeons he holds responsible for the death of his wife. He also talks through a gramophone horn connected by a tube to a hole in his neck. He has somehow convinced a beautiful silent woman to assist him in his murderous task.

As you can tell from the above plot description, this is the greatest movie ever made.

He calls her Vulnavia

Sunday, November 7, 2010

His Face All Red

I really want to push this wonderfully creepy short horror comic on to people. It's called His Face All Red and it's written & drawn by Emily Carroll.

Click on the picture below to read it.

Click here to read the story

I had not heard of Emily Carroll before, but after this I am very keen to read more by her.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hallowe'en movies

I watched three movies on Hallowe'en.

Fellini Satyricon (1969)

Oh dear. This movie was very lavish. I'm sure it was also very artful. It certainly was bugfuck insane. It consistently kept me off-balance, did things I didn't expect, and everything about it was very inventive and bold.

So why was it so terribly dull?

It certainly looks striking

The story involves two students in ancient Rome who have picaresque adventures while fighting over the favours of a svelte young slave boy. These largely involve people going on & on & on at great length against extremely elaborate backgrounds and on extremely elaborate sets. It felt like an extremely wordy stage play that was barelay adapted to an extremely expensive movie, and then filmed by people who were very stoned.

As Michael pointed out, it felt a lot like an Alejandro Jodorowsky movie in terms of how completely weird it is. But for me, it had little of the intelelctual and spiritual charge of Jodorowsky's movies, and almost none of the interest.

I hope that Fellini's earlier movies turn out to be more interesting. This one was just self-indulgent wank. His fellow countryman Mario Bava, who worked in much more low-brow fields, was able to accomplish a lot more with a lot less many times. (And he seemed to know it; Fellini was a huge champion of Bava and was known to give his movies standing ovations - as well as the ultimate compliment of ripping him off; Fellini's Toby Dammit draws extensively from Bava's Kill Baby Kill.)

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

My favourite Hammer horror movie pits an imperious authoritarian figure (Christopher Lee) against a free-thinking mystic (Charles Gray). It feels like the establishment railing against some goddamned hippies, but I liked it anyway. Gray is superb as Mocata, the black magician inspired by Aleister Crowley (Dennis Wheately, who wrote the source novel, met Crowley once and seemed to take a lot of influence from him).

That guy really gets my goat

The best scene involves Mocata having a conversation with Marie Eaton (well played by Sarah Lawson) in which he methodically lulls her into submission and takes over her mind. If you watch the movie, pay attention to the editing of this scene; it's brilliantly put together.

Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Probably the best horror anthology movie I've ever seen, edging out the George Romero/Stephen King collaboration Creepshow (which it resembles in some ways), Trick 'r' Treat was a complete delight. It tells four stories that take place on the same Hallowe'en and in the same neighbourhood, which is being watched over by a creepy little urchin who seems to embody the spirit of Hallowe'en. The only cast members I recognised were Brian Cox (made up to resemble John Carpenter) and Anna Paquin (pre-True Blood). (I guess first-time director Michael Dougherty must have brought them over from X-Men 2, which he co-wrote.)

I am Sam. Sam I am.

All of the stories in Trick 'r' Treat were smarter than I expected, and the EC comics-style twists were perfectly realised. The Hallowe'en atmosphere was perfect, and the stories overlap in a fun way that reminded me of Pulp Fiction. More horror movies should be this well made and this much fun.

Maybe you'll see things my way before we get to Grandma's place...