Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Two From The Vault - Merry Christmas


Two Christmas e-efforts from back when Agent Rob bothered.... Anyway, thanks to those of you for sticking with the blog this year. Hopefully it's amused (and likely bemused) these past 12 months....

Saturday, 22 December 2018

GFT NOV 93, Cinema 3


Oh dear! There's nothing like the concluding film in a trilogy for rehashing past glories, going through those movie motions and failing to deliver, arriving once interest and inspiration has well and truly run dry, landing horribly over budget and terribly under delivering(!?). Be rest assured this blog is all of these things.... and more! This time Agent Rob thought he'd kick off with some of the most flatulent film flops he's slogged his way through (whilst trying to ignore his rather glaring omission from the last-but-not-last post, in the fine form of 1994's Pulp Fiction)....


Film Flops (?)

While there's nothing to beat sitting in a packed cinema watching the likes of Withnail & I, This Is Spinal Tap or Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, lapping up the same old jolly jokes, belly aching with all the other converted cults - or indeed, witnessing a sell-out crowd of schoolkids go completely ape for Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone - there's no denying a large part of GFT cinema going can be a somewhat lonely and less than rewarding experience, Rob almost convinced he's attending a private screening with only the unseen usherette's sniffing and snuffling for company. It's these moments where perhaps a film truly has to stand up and be counted - think of the comedian struggling to establish laughs to a paltry audience of 6 - and so here are just a few that fail(ed) to raise a smile....

UZAK (2002)

An absolute curio this film, painfully slow - which is really the harshest criticism Rob could level at many of these flops - and yet, somehow, it had several quite striking (in their canny representation of the drearily mundane) moments. UZAK's definitely a film Rob's glad he sat through - again, he'll always stay for the duration, hoping upon hope that there's such a(n emotional) peak to make the dull trudge along the trough worthwhile - those preciously observed moments lingering in the mind. But, like all the other films consigned to this list, he'd hesitate to recommend seeing it to anyone....

Underground (1995)

At a time when Rob still believed the (GFT brochure) hype he eagerly ventured into this acclaimed 170(!) minute epic only to discover it lasts twice as long when you're sitting down. Funnily enough IMDB has a Director's Cut that clocks in at 320 minutes. Perhaps that's just as long as it actually feels. Interminable....

In The Mood For Love (2000)

Much like Takeshi Kitano's Hana-Bi, In The Mood For Love was Wong Kar Wai's critical breakthrough, heralding his arrival on the BIG screen's BIG stage. Only, unlike Hana-Bi (which did improve with repeat viewings) this exercise in super stylish chic only ever leaves Rob cold. In fact (being typically perverse?) Rob has a lot more time for the belated sequel 2046, and rates it as one of those "I was In the Mood For Film, wandered up to Rose Street, swithered, took a punt and it duly delivered!" moments (see also The New World and Spellbound)....


Interestingly the list of memorable (though much rather better forgotten) duds really takes off into the 2000's so perhaps simply an element of (too much) "film fatigue" was beginning to creep in, the inevitable moment when nothing new quite matches up to what has been seen before and once fresh directors slip into a sluggish or indulgent middle age. So suddenly we have films like (Kitano's, no less!) Dolls (2002), Last Life in the Universe (2003), I Heart Huckabees (2004), Tony Takitani (2004), C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005), I'm A Cyborg But That's Okay (2006), Mood Indigo (2013) and High-Rise (2015), films that just completely missed Rob's mark (often setting his Spider-Sense a-tingling after 5-10 minutes, knowing that a long, incompatible and generally tedious ride was ahead)....

The Assassin (2015)

This theory is exemplified by Rob's attending a screening of The Assassin (Sight and Sound/BFI's "Best Film of 2015") a stylish, yet ultimately slow, superficial and uninvolving film. There's only so many times the camera can be pointed skyward, trees rustling in the morning breeze before it becomes as much of a tiresome cliche as the swooping CGI establishing shot favoured by a plethora of generic Hollywood blockbusters....

(At this point To The Wonder (2012) merits a special mention for being little more than an embarrassing 2 hour long perfume advert masquerading as "arthouse", a brutally boring film that sadly swore me off the work of favoured cinematic "auteur" Terrence Malick for good.)


Of course, should a film fail to entertain then just maybe you can rely on the audience to provide the laughs. I'll confess that Multiplex audiences might often be made up of young cretins who don't know how to switch off their phones but that "arthouse" crowds, who confuse the supposed sophistication of being able to sip a pint and watch a film with the reality of constantly nipping out for piss breaks, can be just as frustrating. Certainly the (slight) drunk who exclaimed "JEEEEZUS!" when a cache of guns was revealed during Breakfast On Pluto warrants a mention, as do the two old ladies who giggled their way through Morvern Callar's dub-tastic sex scene. Then again, the joy of Toni Erdmann was almost derailed by a whistling radiator. (No mention of the moron a few rows back who ruined The Grand Budapest Hotel by jangling his keys all the way through tho'!)


Film Docs

But time to knock it off with those negative waves as it seems there's no shortage of BIG screen documentaries to enjoy these days instead. Indeed, it's almost a given that a (vintage) band (famous or not so famous) receive some sort of archival blessing in this format. Not that Rob's complaining as documentary films such as The Doors: When You're StrangeMonks - The Transatlantic FeedbackNew York DollEnd of the Century, Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words, Upside Down: The Creation Records Story and Love Story more than scratch a music lover's itch (much more than, say, the absolute horror of actual studio music bios, those Hollywood "Stars In Their Eyes" travesties that never fail to reduce an artist's creative endeavours to the worst bullet point cliches). Only Gimme Danger proved to be something of a letdown given the lack of footage of The Stooges performing live in their prime.... 

Hearts and Minds (1974)

An excellent Vietnam documentary, Hearts & Minds, (which now serves as an essential primer for The Vietnam War television series) is a harrowing watch....

Man On Wire (2008)

Man on Wire is a fascinating documentary film about a singularly driven (and naturally somewhat unhinged) individual who struggled to undertake and experience something (that now no one else ever will) and how it affected him and those around him....

You're Gonna Miss Me (2005)

Looking into the long and messy battle to try to stabilise and rehabilitate 60's acid/establishment casualty Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators, You're Gonna Miss Me is as amazing as it is distressing (and as close to mimicking the fragile world(s) of Agent Johnny as it gets)....

Film Fails


Aside from arriving at the (astounding) films of Pedro Almodovar about 15 years too late there are a few BIG screen treats that (annoyingly) slipped under the radar back in the day....

Pusher (1996)

Rob's sad to say that Pusher (and by association its two sequels) completely passed him by at the GFT. He has no recollection of seeing the trailer but there's no denying that the poster was, for him, a marketing fail. Somehow this look just did not appeal. Of course, the 3 films - best viewed knowing nothing about them at all - are gritty and excellent (but just not in the way this bloodily stylistic image suggests). Director/writer Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson and Drive - in which particular case Rob was mighty wary of the hype machine revving away - also missed torpedoing Rob's floating boat as he drifted further away from trusting the silver screen....

Nosferatu (1979)

Beyond the fact he's missed just about all of Nicolas Winding Refn's "oeuvre" on the BIG screen it's really a combination of an abundance of laziness and a lack of time on Rob's part that means much touted restorations of films like Werner Herzog's wonderfully creepy and atmospheric Nosferatu The Vampyre or the beautifully deranged Aguirre, The Wrath of God have yet to take their place amongst his GFT greats. Andrei Tarkovsky's similarly brilliant Stalker and Solaris are certainly close runners-up in this regretful department.... Still, like Rob, they'll be back!

Stalker (1979)

Film Phantoms

To finish here's two films that have (much to Rob's surprise and knowledge) never passed through the GFT's hallowed stalls (but really ought to. Hint! Hint!)....

"The Fearless Vampire Killers"

Pardon me, but your teeth are in my neck! If ever there was a film that deserves to be blown up from DVD then it's Roman Polanski's superior, stylishly atmospheric mood piece and gently comedic horror (spoof) The Fearless Vampire Killers. Indeed, to bring this whole blogging debacle fool circle Rob was delighted to see it given a glowing endorsement in Mark Cousin's The Story of Film, the pair exchanging a few words to that effect when they met after the screening....



Bedazzled (1967)

Another (mostly) forgotten (British) gem that surely deserves a 'wider screening' (ho ho!) than the humble television can offer is Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's wonderful Bedazzled (which seems to belong to a rather long list of overlooked 60's comedies written and performed by some of the finest talents of their day)....


Honourable Mentions....


Woah?! And we're still not done! Yep, much like that moment during The Last Jedi when, aching for it to just finish, Rob suddenly realised we had yet to endure the salt/Hoth planet battle from the trailer, here's five more film favourites rescued from the cutting room floor to dredge things out beyond the limit of human tolerance....

Kikujiro (1999)


Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans (2009)

The 100 Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared (2013)


Inherent Vice (2014)

Men and Chicken (2015)

Okay, it's all but over! The credits have rolled (the lights going up approximately halfway through) and Rob's stayed in his seat until the very end (not that you get anything approaching "Easter Eggs" at the GFT, but still), finally making his way to the exit as the usherette does the rounds, patiently undertaking the Sisyphean task of scooping up the screening's detritus....