DOCUMENTARY LONDON IN THE RAW/PRIMITIVE LONDON
(BFl DVD/Blu-Ray retail) 0...
The British Film Institute launches its DVD strand Flipside with a pair of salacious dirty delights that certainly fulfil the mandate of the highbrow organisation to rediscover and reappraise overlooked and marginalised material. Inspired by the success of the Italian Mondo movies. these two exploitation-style documentaries about the seedy side of swinging 60s London were knocked off — OK. written and directed — by ‘legendary' low- budget British film mogul Arnold L Miller (producer of the terrible.
teasing Take Your Clothes Off and Live. but also of the horror classic Witc/ifinder General).
IT’S FOR CHARITY
Or How I Learned to Stop Being Pretentious about Buying Films and Saved the World in the Process by Eddie Harrison
These once very risque but now wonderfully kitsch oddities boast some genuinely fascinating footage — some of it real. some of it staged — of sleazy bars and strip joints. sweaty sauna and naughty wife- swapping parties and the delinquent youth cults of mods. rockers and beatniks. The two features are backed up with excellent extras: more explicit alternative versions. short documentary sketches: Che/sea Bridge Boys and Carousel/a. interviews with the staff of Soho strip clubs and lavishly produced booklets to pore over that contain useful contextualising essays from London chroniclers Stewart Home and Iain Sinclair. One for the peeping toms. (Miles Fielder)
W‘ldi‘ i; ﬁg
Never mind uploads. downloads, video on demand or any of today‘s new tangled methods of seeing films; the cheapest way to see film must be the good. old-fashioned charity shop. With many shops offering five tapes for $1. the credit crunch is an ideal time to dust off the VHS and be adventurous. Sure VHS copies are rarely given the full widescreen treatment. but most films before 1960 weren‘t shot in Cinemascope or Panavision. so most old films look just fine. And there are always rare films around on VHS that simply haven't been pressed on DVD yet. So why not turn yOur passion for the arcane and inspiring into an act of philanthropy?
Fancy seeing David Bowie flirting with Marlene Dietrich in David Hemmings' 1978 evocation of pre-Nazi Germany. Just a Gigolo? Sorry. but it’s never been pressed on DVD in this country. Or how about Edward Fox busting Rudolf Hess out of Spandau prison in Wild Geese ll? VHS is the only way to go. I'm afraid. How about Michelle Manning's underrated version of Ross MacDonald's novel Blue City. with a great Ry Cooder soundtrack? Or Bruce Dern covering Maud Adams’ body with artwork in Bob Clark‘s Tattoo? It's tape or nothing in my book. What about Roy Schneider and Meryl Streep in Robert Benton‘s taut thriller Still of the Night? Findable only through sky-high eBay auctions. so just keep digging among the EraSure albums and roller boots in y0ur local
I could go on. In fact I will. What about Michael Apted directing Freddie Starr in sleazy thriller The Squeeze. Charles Bronson (pictured) quoting Robert Frost in Don Siegel‘s Telefon. or Burt Lancaster’s apocalyptic mission in Robert Aldrich’s Nilight’s Last Gleaming? Major films. directors and stars. but available to you only if you're prepared to expose your builder's bum. squatting to peer into suitcases of VHS fodder. And don't forget, tape heads: give back the ones you don't want and you're saving the environment too.
54 THE LIST 1 1-213 Jun 2009
COMEDY GARDENS IN AUTUMN
(Artificial Eye DVD retail) oooo
Gardens l 2n Autui'ﬁn
Anyone who's seen Monday Morning by the Georgian Otar losseliani will know he is a filmmaker with a great sense of drift. He's not interested in plot. but great on spatial texture. ably explored by the great cameraman William Lubtchansky. In Monday Morning he gave us a fresh perspective on Venice: here he scrutinises the incidentals of Paris. After being fired from his political post. with all its attendant luxuries including a spoiled mistress and a fancy house, Our hapless hero Vincent (Severin Blanchet) returns to normal life and gets back in touch with family and friends from the past. Though losseliani obviously has a great feel for the places he films. this hardly makes him a realist. There is a Bunuelian mocking of the political class and an absurdist delight in creating comic set pieces. odd sexual politics and upside- down class and race relations. It even has Michel Piccoli playing Vincent's mum. Extras include an interview with the director. (Tony McKibbin)
MUSICAL/"DRAMA MEET DANNY WILSON
(PG) 88min (Eureka/Masters of Cinema DVD retail) 0..
This lesser known 1951 Frank Sinatra film was made at the time his career had stalled. two years after his only role of note at that point. in the Gene Kelly musical On the Town, and two years before he won an Oscar for From Here to Eternity. the film that re- launched Ol' Blue Eyes'
movie and music careers. It being the story of a struggling singer who gets his break in the Big Apple through the charity of a nightclub singer (Shelley Winters) and the clout of her gangster boss (Raymond Burr) and then gets into trouble with both. it's both an
obvious vehicle for its star. who would go on to perform properly dramatic roles. and is almost autobiographical in terms of Sinatra‘s own mobster connections. Competently directed by Joseph Pevney and nicely acted all round. it features fine performances of a number of Sinatra classics and a sweet cameo from Tony Curtis. No extras. (Miles Fielder)
DRAMA ALEXANDRA (PG) 90min
(Artificial Eye DVD retail) 0...
Few filmmakers do melancholic intimacy better than Alexander Sokurov. Maybe it has to do with his fascination with capturing vulnerability and the presence of death, exemplified by Taurus (about the dying Lenin) and Mother and Son (where a mother passes away in her son‘s arms).
Here the two come together again as an old woman visits a Russian regiment in Chechnya looking for the grandson she hasn't seen for years. As she wanders through districts ripped apart by war. with
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buildings buckled by bombings. her shuffling demeanour echoes the decay all around her. But one is due to age. the other to war — one inevitable and the other less so. Sokurov's wise film is shot in subdued tones and with mournful grace. and contains a tough. unsentimental performance from famous Russian opera star Galina Vishnevskaya as the grandmother. Extras includes an interview with Sokurov.
AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS
(15) 91 min (Showboat DVD retail) 0..
A sentimental story abouthonourand decency. duty and obligation, Tony Ching Siu Tung's film is perfectly well made on its own terms. and even manages moments of surprising emotion amid the la7ily maudlin.
When the emperor dies. his upper-crust army vets won't accept his choice of successor because he is too lowly bom. instead. his daughter is forced to take over. The empress w0uld rather while her time in the woods. falling in love with a doctor who finds her injured. But duty beckons when it's time to deal with feuding factions and traitors in her own ranks.
Although it has the feel of an epic in its themes and sweeping camerawork, An Empress and the Warriors comes in at a snug hour-and-a-half. If the faintest of praise is that it doesn't outstay its welcome. it is hardly an insult at a time when so many films run half an hour longer than necessary. Extras include ‘making of' dOCumentary.