Tag Archives: Politics

#108 – Death in the West

(2005, US/GB/Fr, 95min) Dir Larry Clarke, Matthew Barney, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Julian Schnabel Gaspar Noe. Cast Pascal Biscuit, the Baltimore Opera Group, Eddie Izzard, Monica Bellucci, Johnny Depp,  Alain de Monet.

Portmanteau on the theme ‘the decline of Western civilisation’ and like portmanteau since time immemorial the quality is variable in the extreme. Clarke interviews (surprise surprise) attractive young girls and boys about their lives and the future and gains occasional insight and more regular inadvertent humour. Barney organises a marching band that tips a crowd of horned opera singers into a pit with twelve foot pikes, the enjoyment of which will depend on one’s tolerance for Barney’s aesthetic. Julian Schnabel follows Johnny Depp on a Mexican trash heap and that’s about all that happens there. Some are interesting but all fail in their remit with none have anything particularly insightful to say our world as it is now, where it’s going or why, sacrificing the opportunity to engage in content for cheap shocks. Noe, who swings his camera around a gang of violent skinheads as they look for and find Jewish victims in the Paris night before going home for a gay orgy, scores copious points for his technical skill even if these points are immediately taken back for philosophical simplicity.

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#99 – 99 Red Balloons

(1993, GB, 101 min) Dir Adrian Fisher. Cast Alan Paul, Peter Capaldi, Susan Trevlyn.

The threat of nuclear annihilation had only just dissipated when, ever the contrarian, Adrian Fisher produced this, a strange kind of love story to the spectre of mutually assured destruction. It’s 1984 and Harvey’s parents are building a bomb shelter in the back yard. He’s doesn’t see this as some dire portent of doom however – on the contrary he finds the prospect of nuclear war very exciting, dreaming of a bright and beautiful mushroom cloud filling the skies over his hometown and telling his teacher that his classes don’t matter because he and all the other children will be dead before they’re grown up. When a teacher finds his notebook filled with drawings of atomic explosions, crumbling buildings and irradiated corpses with their skin melting off they naturally call in his parents who it turns out are just as pessimistic as their son. Of course this being a Fisher film the fantastical is never far away with their neighbour across the road being, as Harvey sees it, a Soviet communist spy who, again as Harvey sees it, must be encouraged to endanger everyone’s life and trigger the inevitable apocalypse. This was produced on the back of the surprise success of By the Light of the Blood Moon and the bigger budget is certainly visible. The titular song gets a good workout too, embodying Harvey’s ideal of happiness in destruction.

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#89 – Dans la Vallée Ouverte avec le Soleil (In the Open Valley, with the Sun)

(1968, Fr, 97 min) Dir Jean Anno. Cast Patrice Melaud, Sandy.

A very of its time wigged-out hippy film, shot in France’s arid Biscot valley with a soundtrack of droney jams provided by Parisian proto proggers, Le Mog. Hunky young Patrice Melaud is, like, totally stifled by his bourgeois existence in the suburbs where every apartment block is like a cage, man. Into his life comes the free, keen and mononymous Sandy who, with frequent nudity and skills with the flute, leads him out to the totally amazing commune where she lives. From then on its dreamy montage a go-go as the beautiful young couple frolic in the countryside with their lovely hippy chums. Of course it’s ’68 and beyond the screen are the May riots and Vietnam so the film has to end, like Bonnie and Clyde the year before and Easy Rider the year after, in blood and fire with the Man and his fascist storm trooper policemen raiding the commune and, like, totally killing everyone to bits while Le Mog wail doomily in the background. In case you hadn’t already guessed this is a very sixties film and your ability to enjoy it will depend very much on your tolerance for the wishy-washiest kind of hippy nonsense and while there are salvageable aspects to the likes of Zabriskie Point, Jean Anno is no Antonioni.

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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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