Sunday, 1 July 2018

twenty-seven words following the river of death downstream - and some other films i've watched recently

Cosh Boy; also known as The Slasher in USA (1953, dir.  Lewis Gilbert, starring James Kenney, Joan Collins; feat. Hermione Gingold as Queenie). Bomb damage; table tennis; youth crime; postwar masculinity crisis. You wonder at first whether charismatic anti-hero will win but actually – spoilers – the implied denouement is brutally old-school.

Village of the Damned (1960, dir. Wolf Rilla; starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith). Stoicism, pluck, mental reserve; when headteacher Mr K. summarised this for us in 1982, what was he thinking? Glad I finally caught up with his mid-life crisis.

Night Caller from Outer Space, also known as Blood Beast from Outer Space (1965, dir. John Gilling; starring John Saxon, Maurice Denham, Patricia Haines; feat. Warren Mitchell, Audley Morris). Not Britain’s best ‘interplanetary sex tourism’ movie – that’s Devil Girl From Mars - still, Audley ‘Wicker Man landlord’ Morris as creepy Soho shopkeeper’s superb; deserves own film.
The Chairman (1969, dir. J. Lee 'Guns of Navarone' Thompson, starring Gregory Peck, Anne Heywood; feat. Conrad Yama as Chairman Mao, Burt Kwouk as Chang Shou). British, American and Soviet deep states jointly consider but decide against assassinating Mao Tse-Tung using an explosive device implanted in Gregory Peck’s head... oh, surely you remember?

The Final Programme (1973, dir. Robert Fuest, adapted from Michael Moorcock's 'Jerry Cornelius' novel; starring Jon Finch, Jenny Runacre; hair by Leonard's of London). Studied amoralism does date, rather. Intermittently watchable (sadly Hawkwind-less) curiosity, referencing 2001, Alice in Wonderland, lifestyle supplements. If only they'd filmed (the equally unfilmable) 'An Alien Heat'.

*Watership Down (1978, dir. Martin Rosen; starring John Hurt, Richard Briers, Ralph Richardson, Denham Elliott, Zero Mostel). Comparative theology: trickster species-hero tussles with interventionist God (freedom and authenticity), or a captive, fatalistic theology/ poetics (sometimes ‘high culture’= not knowing where your food comes from)?

The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy (TV series, 2002- ; dir. William Cran, Greg Barker, from the 1998 book by Daniel Yergin, Joseph Stanislaw). Thatcher, Solidarnosc, Bolivian hyperinflation, USSR’s fall; details (Keynes, von Hayek share WWII air raid duty). Corporate sponsored; unashamedly neoliberal, this DVD box-set’s a historical artefact in itself.

Moana (2016, dir. Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams; starring Auli'l Cravalho, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, Rachel House). Plucky heroine (born to rule) pursues pantheistic quest narrative with hero’s journey detailing, only for Flight-of-Concords Jemaine to steal show with best Bowie pastiche since Velvet Goldmine. 

A Wrinkle in Time (2018, dir. Ava DuVernay, starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon). Daughter and I’ve both loved Madeleine L’Engle’s classic. This looks beautiful, great casting, a film we need maybe - but I was willing it to be better.

Ready Player One (2018, dir. Steven Spielberg, starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke,  Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance). A sugar-rush of a film with a 1970s/ 1980s mix-tape soundtrack, blink-and-you’d-miss-it in-jokes and plenty to say about our virtual-reality-addicted near future. 

*Pub quiz fact: Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes, the song from Watership Down, was the UK no. 1 as Margaret Thatcher first took office as Prime Minister (4th May 1979); once you learn that, it becomes hard not to hear it as a kind of elegy for the postwar consensus. “A fog along the horizon, a strange glow in the sky-y…”


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