Category Archives: Art Film

#235 – Butter Bandit, The

(1976, US, 39 min) Dir Leck Mitchum-Arsch. Cast Bob Flash, Joey Fantastic, Gorey George, ‘Fantasy’ Simon Fenchurch.

An early short from the notorious gay punk filmmaker Leck Mitchum-Arsch here riffing on Last Tango in Paris with Brando stand-in Bob Flash as the dairy lubricator on the rampage, greasing his victims good before having his way with them. This is just the first five minutes – soon Flash has wandered into a petting zoo and makes his way around the enclosures (don’t worry the alpaca, for example, is played by Gorey George) before repairing to church. Of course the tables are eventually turned and the Butter Bandit is taken into the care of the law where he is deprived of all lubricant when disciplined by a station house full of truncheons. Ouch. A scrappy, ramshackle production that has more charm and humour than one would expect from a film about a rampaging anal rapist. This was not the opinion of the real life police at the time of the films festival appearances though and Mitchum-Arsch was before long enjoying his first (but not last) appointment before a judge.

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#234 – Flesh of the Air, The

(1923, GB, 32 min, b/w) Dir B. Richard Crisp. Cast Ivy Bean MacTashman, B. Richard Crisp.

Another of B Richard Crisp’s lost ‘Meat Films’. It’s a short one too, with a simple story – a wandering lady (Ivy Bean MacTashman) grown hungry on the moors pulls from her skirts a shotgun and with it plucks a passing duck from the air. Plucked and gutted it is soon cooked on a rough fire and eaten with gusto. Then, from the gloom about from the setting sun, steps the self proclaimed Keeper of the Flesh of the Air (Crisp himself, in another of his homemade and apparently foul smelling suits fashioned from real meat). After that your guess is as good as mine – as mentioned the film itself is lost and indeed there appears to be no record of it ever having been screened either, the scant particulars of the film having been provided by the director during what appears to have been his sole interview recorded mere days before his death. An intriguing mystery of a film as much of his oeuvre is with even his devotion to the subject of meat being a grey area – some reckon it to have been a fetish for him but others see each his films to be anti-meat propaganda. The only thing we can be certain of is that we’ll never really know for sure.

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#232 – Sometime Stewart, Maybe

(1992, US, 98 min) Dir Jackson Harvey. Cast Phillip Milk, Angela Patrick, Leslie Sophie.

The US indie world pre-Tarantino was the land where deadpan reigned – think Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, Whit Stillman. But none panned deader than Jackson Harvey – his characters were rendered so inert by their ennui that they could have woken in bed next to an expired alpaca without troubling their eyebrows for a raise. The titular Stewart in this his feature debut (following his acclaimed short Whoopee) has just graduated from University and has moved back home to live with his parents toting nothing but a black bin bag full of soiled clothes and an already framed degree in ‘Applied Philosophy’. When he’s not sleepless in bed, staring disconsolately at his bedroom ceiling (an activity he pursues a lot), he’s down at the local drugstore mooning over Olivia (a statuesque, striking and scary Patrick) and hoping that his persistence will transmute into her affections. Despite possessing what he believes to be a soaring intelligence he’s not above having his adoration abused as he becomes, over time, Olivia’s unquestioning slave. Of course there is a second woman, the timid and mousey Frances (Sophie), who watches all this sadly, her declarations varying from subtle to hilariously obvious throughout the film but consistently met with obliviousness by Stewart. Rough around the edges and generic enough in it’s day, …Maybe still marked Harvey out as a director to watch.

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#227 – Conway Sharon

(2014, US, 94 min) Dir Jackson Harvey. Cast Adam Sandler, Steve Buscemi, Seth Rogan, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Turkington.

Though it mightn’t sound like much of an endorsement the pitch black comedy Conway Sharon contains undoubtedly the best performance of Adam Sandler’s career and I know, the competition’s just fierce. The rich, lazy and boorish comic plays the titular Conway Sharon, a rich, lazy and boorish trust fund child, as he mooches around his father’s huge estate while said father succumbs to the cancer that is killing him. He whiles away his time getting high, getting drunk, Googling ‘Vomit Porn’ and being rude to his father’s nurse (Buscemi), his younger brother and his wife (Rogan and Banks) and the family lawyer (Turkington). While I’ve never found Sandler’s onscreen personality very likable (even when it was apparently intended to be) it’s interesting seeing him push the more abrasive parts of his personality to this extreme, projecting an almost totally affectless blank while he violently insults all those around them. His relationship with his father isn’t elaborated upon but there are some very strange scenes between them, the most fraught with tension being at the very end when Conway, wearing nothing but shorts and a baseball cap and sweating from shooting hoops on the basketball court, a can of Pabst Blue Label in one hand, stands over his dying father, watching him. Panting, he slowly brings his face closer and closer to his unconscious fathers until his breath is so close its stirring his hair, all without the mask slipping. A very unsettling ending to a very strange film. Of course it made less than no money and of course he was straight back to the warm embrace of Blended etcetera straight after but it’s of some satisfaction to see the indie king of deadpan Jackson Harvey nudging at the mainstream just a little.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#225 – Meat Palace

(1921, GB, 41 min, b/w) Dir B. Richard Crisp. Cast Conrad Hoot, Phillidia Fitzhibbert, Ivy Bean MacTashman, B. Richard Crisp.

A delicious Scots oddity, the fever dream of the unnamed, destitute and moor-stranded lead (a bearded, shambling Hoot) who is led by moonlight to the titular edifice (constructed, as suggested, of food flesh) by a beautiful pair of diaphanously gowned and supernaturally glowing women (Fitzhibbert and Bean MacTashman). Therein our anonymous bum hero finds himself at the service of The High Lord Meat and Creamy (the director Crisp himself, encased in what was apparently a self-made and fantastically pungent ‘Beef Suit’) whose whims begin at the curious and before long descend into the downright wrong. All this is gleaned from the script – of which a half-dozen scribbled pages remain – a roll of mostly fogged-out photographs from the set and the recollections of esteemed film critic Maxim Puccini who was, at the time, a fourteen year gaffer’s hand. The recollection of the set’s “thick creamy stench” apparently put him off dairy for the rest of his life. The result is a grab-bag of suggestion and little in the way of fact – the ‘downright wrong’ of Lord Meat’s whimsy, for example, is frustratingly unknown. It seems to have found little favour with audiences of the time and it’s last recorded exhibition seems to have been in 1926, when it was screened to a visibly discomfited Lord Evelyn French-Parstley, the keeper of the King’s Exceptionals, at the Royal Estate of Bip, West Scotland. Now presumed lost and much sought after by aficionados of Crisp and his ‘Meat Films’.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#214 – Nagarhole Elephant Dreaming

(1976, Ire/Fr/Ind, 64 min) Dir Daniel Dermot McBurton.

As he tells it in 1927 the struggling and wholly unsuccessful painter Daniel Dermot McBurton, then the same age as the century, had a dream in his decrepid Dublin basement flat. In his dream he was sitting outside a coffee shop in Paris having just sold his first painting. Upon waking and with nothing to lose McBurton promptly sold everything he owned bar the clothes he stood in and his paintings (which no one wanted anyway) and bought himself passage to France where his dreams promptly came true despite not speaking or understanding the language. Thus a lucrative career was born, first in painting and then in film. In 1972, when he was still the same age as the century and at a time of creative plateau, he had a dream of an elephant in India. When this elephant was hurt McBurton himself was hurt. Upon waking he decided that he no longer had anything to lose, left his third wife and sold all his possessions and moved to Western India close to what was then the Nagarhole wildlife sanctuary and is now Nagarhole National Park. Despite once again being in a country whose language he neither spoke or understood he assembled a film crew and recorded, without plan or narrative, the world he now found himself in. In the process of making the film he found Emai the elephant, who he claimed to identify from his dream and whose life he believed was inextricably bound to his own. Unfortunately the resulting film, Nagarhole Elephant Dreaming, wasn’t the success that resulted from his earlier dream – it showed in Cannes to overwhelming disinterest though years later it’s plotless exploration of the land proved an influence on ethnographical documentarians such as Pascal and Filipe of Access Road anti-fame. Either way McBurton didn’t care – he died happily ten years later, in 1986, still as old as the century. Coincidence or not and unbeknownst to McBurton, he also expired within an hour of Emai’s death in Nagarhole National Park.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#210 – King Eye

(1968, US, 122 min) Dir John Alpha. Cast Johnny Spigott, Dean Martin, Mia Farrow, Mae West, Olivia Bream.

Legend has it that psychedelic freak-out King Eye was conceived at a LSD party when legendary studio producer Pat Wagner, then 86, met young freak John Alpha (real name Casanova Berlardinelli), expert party-surfer and professional bullshitter. After a long night crawling on the floor of the universe the two of them bonded hard with Wagner going so far as to employ Alpha as a producer with King Eye, which they had plotted during the consciousness raising blow out, as their first feature. Alpha himself directed and with Wagner’s help cast a slew of big names all desperate to connect with the younger generation by starring in a hip epic. The story was that there was no story, instead two hours of vignettes were produced, some linked and some not, intercut with manic collages of Vietnam War footage, American football games and advertising. Halfway through the film its ostensible lead gets turned into a talking dog and befriends a reanimated JFK whose burst and bloody head sickens everyone they meet. Of course it was a disaster – even in an initial screening filled with friends of the makers it flopped. Wagner’s straight compatriots were incensed at the film’s plotless madness and Alpha’s freaky pals had their vibes totally harshed by its gross violence, aggressive editing and mad lurches in tone. Cut in half it was released a decade later on late night TV where a cult audience with a stronger constitution lapped it up. For Wagner and Alpha however their film careers were over.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#209 – Manson!

(1973, US, 156 min) Dir Heinz Bohnen.

Tasteless and epic Brechtian musical about the eponymous Charlie and his Family produced by the North Californian experimental theatre company Evlove as headed by the by then octogenarian Austrian-born artist and agitator Heinz Bohnen. It is essentially a filmed performance in the blank space of Smallwater High School’s football ground at night, the arc lights strong enough to bleach out the faces of the participants and, depending on their positioning, cast long black shadows across the pitch like dark fingers threading the grass. The acoustics are also terrible in such a big venue, especially with their basic sound system, but this too turns out to be a distinct advantage with the music leaking out into the night around them, making the proceedings sound as though the troupe were performing in a void or while pitching off into deep space. Despite all of this eeriness of presentation and the uncomfortable subject matter, Bohnen positioned Manson! as an old-fashioned comedy extravaganza complete with trousers falling down to the accompaniment of a slide whistle sound effect, slapstick accidents and the grisly murders for which the Family are famed recast as prolonged Keystone Kops style farce. Bohnen is ploughing the same furrow he’d been working his whole career here and his followers knew what he was getting at but, perhaps to his surprise, the outcry that greeted the film’s release reached places the plays themselves couldn’t reach and some say it helped ease him into his grave a year later when he died following a dinner of ninety-seven oysters and a whole cooked hen.

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#196 – Dreams of Anatomy

(1988, GB, 130 min) Dir Anthony Greenwood. Cast Patrick Stewart, Tim Roth, James Fox.

Another exquisitely dressed piece from professional intellectual window dresser Anthony Greenwood. Stewart is Phillipe O, a synesthesic composer in a massive white box of an apartment who is in the midst of his magnum opus – a suite of music about the human body with a piece for each part. Of course he’s blocked though with the last piece produced that of the Anus to be performed all in brass section. Instead of working he now divides his time between haunting his home in silk dressing gown and having body part nightmares. Tim Roth features as Jawney Scaggs, his working class former protégé turned bitter rival who turns up on television to promote his massive performances with excruciating bad-boy interviews, all sunglasses indoors and chewing gum. James Fox is, in a nod to his role in Cammell and Roeg’s Performance, the uncouth gangster funding O’s new work “’cause me muvver loves the music” and who shows himself unreceptive to not getting what he wants. Before long O has lost it and has traversed the abandoned and wind-ravaged streets of London to kidnap and dismember Scaggs for inspiration. All done in the best possible taste, of course.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#194 – Blue Octagon, The (Octogone Bleu, L’)

(2010, Can, 110 min) Dir Yorgos Solberg. Cast Felicity Bananier, Alain Nori, Reynoldson Caves.

French Canadian wig-out cult flick with rising star Felicity Bananier as Eva, a student who uncovers what she believes to be a vast conspiracy to keep humanity subjugated. This is part one of the three parts of this very rigidly compartmentalised film – an effective, paranoid thriller where her every footfall is shadowed by another and the whose location of Montreal University is fantastically used for maximum eeriness, despite the film being shot during the summer months. The second part details her post-abduction interrogation at the hands of the secretive Blue Octagon in a fantastic set of neon and perspex where she is set at by her interrogator (the supernaturally still, seven-foot tall Caves). This is where the films descent into real strangeness begins with long wordless stretches of her psychological breakdown realised as a constant bombardment of flying coloured shapes that will no doubt have a similarly hypnotic effect on the viewer as it does on Eva. The less revealed here of the actually insane wordless psychedelic final act the better. To be seen on the big screen or, failing that, at a distance of about three inches from a huge television.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms