#88 – Milo e la Marmotta (Milo and the Marmot)

(1975, It, 83 min) Dir Paolo Andreotti. Cast Toni Forte, Luca Ferrari, Franco Fantasia.

Much like notorious gross-master Lucio Fulci following Don’t Torture a Duckling with a production of White Fang, fellow horror director Andreotti produced this adaptation of the popular Italian children’s book Milo e la Marmotta the same year as his Exorcist rip-off The Night the Devil Came for Sandy. High in the Dolomites is the village of Tyluno where young Milo lives. One day he’s out in the alpine meadows when he happens upon a Marmot who has become caught in a trapper’s snare. Milo frees it and takes it home to nurse back to health. This marmot can talk by the way but nobody seems to react to this revelation with any surprise so one can only presume that talking rodents are just a part of life in the Italian Alps. Once back to full health Milo and the Marmot plot to get revenge on the trapper who had been laying his snares illegally. It doesn’t go typically Andreotti at that point though, there’s no dismemberment or anything, and on the whole Milo e la Marmotta displays a more peace and animal loving side to the man that would be completely unknown to his English-language fans. While I’m a fan of Vendetta di Zombie and Coffin Orbit and all that, it would have been interesting to see more of this Paolo Andreotti. A pleasant film, only let down by an unconvincing mix of real marmot and puppet.

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#87 – Chat Magique, Le (Magic Cat, The)

(1974, Fr, 62 min) Dir Alexander Illienko. Cast Gaspard Tif, Martine Blanc, Oscar Blanc.

The last film, produced for television, from the tragically ‘lost’ Ukrainian director prior to his death in Paris in 1977, based on what has to be the greatest success of his career – the children’s book Le Chat Magique which he himself wrote and illustrated. As per the book the film takes place in L’Hôtel Vert Bouteille (based on Illienko’s residence in his later years, L’Hôtel Vert Billard) where the young Gaspard lives. Hearing noises from the laundry chute one night Gaspard goes to investigate and finds Miu, a purple magic cat that lives in the hotel unbeknownst to it’s owners. They become friends and the mischievous Miu comes to stay with Gaspard in his room but keeping hidden a magic purple cat that spins through the air and has a rainbow that comes out of it’s head when it’s happy is tricky business and soon enough questions are asked. As per his previous films the result here is a perfect melding of live action for the family and animation for Miu the cat and the performance from Gaspard Tif is as much a revelation as those from the child stars of Baba Yaga and Le Petit Ombré. A fitting end for Illienko’s career with the director achieving three masterpieces with all three of his films.

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#86 – Ed, Fred and Life Among the Undead

(2008, US, 98 min) Dir Jay White. Cast Justin Long, Tyler Labine.

A product of the post-Shaun of the Dead zombie comedy boom that brought us the likes of Zombieland and Life After Beth. Ed and Fred are a pair of housemates in Everywhereville, USA. Their lives were going nowhere prior to the zombie apocalypse and now that it’s happened, it looks like their chances of escaping this cycle are gone for good. So far, so Shaun. The difference here is that, like Dawn of the Dead and their zombies flocking to the mall, these zombies also retain some of their prior brain functions. But what does this mean for Ed and Fred? It means that the zombified relatives of both their families, as the film progresses, accumulate around their house since, presumably, they are the last surviving members of both. So Ed and Fred become progressively more and more unhinged, a situation probably not helped by the massive stash of ‘Tibetan Grass’ that they have managed to rescue from the collapse of society. At some point they’re going to have to kick the weed and do something about their situation… It’s a cheap movie but more because of the story it’s telling – which is essentially a one set play – than because they’ve constrained themselves and the invention on display in how it’s shot more than makes up for those constraints. The title also belies the fact that the film is more emotional than you would presume, dealing as it does with growing up, leaving cycles of dependency and saying goodbye to people you love though still, it has to be said, getting in enough adolescent stoner humour and dick jokes to sweeten the pill.

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#85 – Transfer of Sovereignty Over Hong Kong

(1997, Fr, 47 min) Dir Remy Disco.

One of the shorter efforts of Remy Disco and his Institut de Réalisme Fictive (Institute of Fictional Realism), this is a reconstruction of the handover ceremony held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai on the night of 30 June 1997 that takes place in the centre of a roundabout in Calais during heavy traffic. Its shortness is unintentional however – Disco hadn’t obtained the necessary filming permit prior to the event but decided to go ahead with the result that the police appeared about forty minutes in to disperse the performers. It’s testament to Disco’s cadre that they refused to stop with the planned event and remained spouting their vacuous speech-talk as they were led away with filming only ceasing when physically forced to by a particularly dogged officer. Incidental pleasures include the looks of the commuters trying to watch the actors representing Prince Charles, President of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Zemin and Tung Chee-hwa, the first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, while negotiating a roundabout.

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#84 – Gulf War Speeches

(1993, Fr, 197 min) Dir Remy Disco.

Another of Disco’s restagings on the behalf of his Institut de Réalisme Fictive (Institute of Fictional Realism), this one a retelling of the first Gulf War through speeches delivered by all participant countries. The setting for this is a school assembly hall filled with children who grow understandably and aggressively impatient during the three hours plus it takes to get through the selection – they even, when an end to the conflict is announced, let up a half-hearted cheer though unknown to them there’s still another half an hour or speeching to go. On the stage in the hall is a single podium with all the participants lined up behind it, ready to take their turn and this is filmed in classic Disco style with a single fixed camera. Disco doesn’t take the easy way out either by hiring actors who look like George Bush, Saddam Hussein, John Major or whatever – all of them to a man look like suburban headmasters and deliver their speeches with the same lack of magnetic oratory. As with all of Disco’s restagings there are always elements of interest, despite his attempts to dull it all down, like being able to see the narrative of the war laid out condensed and the sparring that occurs (such as it is) between the principals speeches and counterspeeches.

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#83 – Christmas Day, 1989

(1991, Fr, 102 min) Dir Remy Disco.

Produced by the Remy Disco’s Institut de Réalisme Fictive (Institute of Fictional Realism) during its nineties heyday along with their restaged compilation of Gulf War I related speeches, their nine-hour dramatization of Gorbachev’s three day house arrest during the 1991 coup and many other political moments of the era. The whole of the film is essentially a staging via court documents of the trial that ended with Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu’s execution but, in keeping with the Institut’s aims to realise the fictitious (i.e. to render ‘fictitious’ events like the news ‘real’), the whole thing takes place in the offices of an insurance firm with the two leads an anonymous and disgruntled middle-aged couple. It’s all here from the Ceaușescu’s ten minute meeting with their council Nicu Teodorescu to them being led away to be shot, though the film doesn’t actually show this as Disco eschews the use of ‘conventional dramatic props’ like firearms. The effect is totally boring and not in a slow cinema transcendental boredom kind of way but then I think that’s the point of it, to recontextualise world-changing events in language so banal that they can be viewed in their most elemental form. Or something.

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#82 – House of Midnight, The

(1987, It, 100 min) Dir Mario Andreotti. Cast Paula Pitt, Robert Englund, Romeo Romero.

One film in and already Mario Andreotti needed a comeback but thankfully for him The House of Midnight was it. Young Alison (then muse/now wife Pitt) is somehow convinced into moving into what has to be the shadiest piece of real estate in Rome by what must be the palest, creepiest agent in the biz. Maybe it was young blonde neighbour Al (Romero) and his habit of wandering shirtless into the hall that did it? We’ll never know. So she moves in and everything and everyone there is, as expected, super weird. But it’s okay – Al will protect her. But is he what he seems? Spoiler alert: no, he’s not. Mr Black Harkness on the top floor (a slippery, snakey Englund) wants her young body for something something devil satan and if it means murdering everyone she knows to the accompaniment of Iron Maiden then by gum that just what he’s going to do. The man’s got a bee in his bonnet! It’s not hard to see why this worked commercially for Andeotti – he pretty much stole the story from better and already proven films, he got his attractive female lead to take her clothes off as much as she could and he staged a half dozen inventive and gratuitous murder scenes that would have done Argento proud. Not a perfect film but one that’s definitely worth it’s weight in pure disgusting fun.

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