Unforgiven (2014)


In the good ol’ vagabond days of yesteryear, the Power House was the best place in Hollywood to throw darts and get drunk on the cheap while enjoying the company of a cross section of LA society. Here I could drink until 2 AM before crawling into the back of my van/home where I’d then either pass out or write until daybreak, whichever urge struck me first.

Most nights during this 2-year period have blurred into a single memory, indistinguishable from one another, but one stands out. It was a cold November evening, midweek, not long before midnight, when an attractive young couple emerged from the crowd. Japanese, recently married and just arrived in Los Angeles for their honeymoon, the groom wore a black cowboy hat, black leather waistcoat, black Levi jeans, black cowboy boots, black leather belt with a giant silver eagle buckle. On either side of his skinny hips was a gun holster, black, of course, and fastened shut. He couldn’t have been a day older than 22. Standing in near silhouette, cloaked in the low-hanging fog of cigarette smoke, he wordlessly snapped open the holsters to reveal three shiny, stainless steel darts. Amid laughter and friendly goading, we bought a congratulatory round of PBR for the couple, dropped a few quarters into the machine and, with Bob Dylan blaring from the jukebox, we went toe-to-toe in a game of Cricket… where he promptly bombed me like I was Pearl Harbor. It was a monumental beatdown, polished off with a polite tip of his cap before this silent stranger in black and his missus disappeared into the crowd and into legend. It was some of the craziest shit I’d ever seen, but it got me thinking – what’s the deal with Japanese cowboys?


It’s early 2014 and I’m loitering in a small, warm room in London’s ICA for the premiere of the Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s classic western Unforgiven. This is the Pan-Asia Film Festival 2014 launch, and the turnout is good and the room is packed with journalists and businesspeople. There is a palpable enthusiasm that I had not yet experienced at a screening in London, and the drinks and hors d’oeuvres were free and bountiful so the night was off to a good start. I’d been informed that Unforgiven’s director, Sang-il Lee, would be available to field a few questions beforehand which got me thinking about that night in the Power House, about the curious connection between the Hollywood westerns and Japanese culture, about Seven Samuari and The Magnificient Seven, about Cowboy Bebop, about Sukiyaki Western Django, about Kill Bill. But mostly I was curious about what, exactly, might influence that nice, quiet young couple to dress up in their finest cowboy attire and fly to LA just to thoroughly embarrass me in front of my countrymen. I’m not above admitting that I still want revenge. But I hadn’t had a chance to organise this mess of thoughts when we were informed that director Lee would no longer be taking individual questions. That’s probably for the best, really.

So now the film. We’re in Japan, on the northern island of Hokkaido, the year is 1880 or thereabouts, just a few short years since Japan had seen the Meiji Revolution change the empire from a feudal state to an imperialist power. The last remaining samurai warriors have gone into hiding. The new government, run by the privileged Wa tribe, wants to open up the land for development but the indigenous Ainu people aren’t so keen on that idea. The times, they are a-changin’.

Played by Koichi Sato, who does an admirable job stepping into the muddy boots originally worn by the masterful Gene Hackman, Ichizo Oishi is the new sheriff of a small border town. He’s charismatic and well liked but vicious and cunning. When a couple of settlers go ape-shit with a knife on the face of beautiful young prostitute Natsume (Shiori Kutsuna), he gives the men a slap on the wrist and sends them on their merry way.

Naturally, the whores don’t take kindly to this lack of justice and they put a bounty on the settlers. This forces the sheriff and his men into high-alert mode and soon enough ex-samurai warriors emerge from the woodwork to collect some heads and a quick bit of cash. Little do they know that this is a really stupid idea, as sheriff Ichizo is one psychopathic fucker who doesn’t take much of a shinin’ to their kind. One of these bounty hunters, Masaharu (Jun Kunimura) saunters into the whorehouse with his biographer Yasaburo (Kenichi Takito) in tow. The sheriff takes note and levels an asswhoopin’ on the older man and, with his foe dying in the street, Ichizo convinces the writer to stick around town for a bit.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, there is a dilapidated shack on a hill near the coast. In it lives Clint East—uh, Ken Watanabe – and his two young daughters. Ken plays ex-samurai Jubee Kamata, who was once a fierce warrior with a reputation for being a wee bit crazy. But that was a lifetime ago. Now he is just a humble farmer, father, and widower. His hut isn’t much to sneeze at – if you did, you’d probably knock it down – but it’s his nonetheless, and it’s peaceful and it’s where he wants to raise his daughters.

All that is fine and dandy but you know it’s not going to last, and soon enough in rides ol’ samurai pal Kingo Baba (Akira Emoto) with rumour that a gaggle of whores is offering a hefty fee for the two knife-happy idiots. Not particularly keen on the idea of returning to a life of violence, Jubee informs Kingo that he’d vowed to his dead wife that he’d never kill again. So on Kingo moves without him, but realizing that half the bounty would go a long way towards a better future for his daughters, Jubee strikes out to find his friend. Jubee’s kids are, like, 5 and 7, so leaving them alone for an extended period of time was a bit of a risky move, but I suppose those were simpler times.


Jubee and Kingo ride together and on their way they’re met by a young Ainu freedom fighter named Goro (Yuya Yagira) who provides both the wholly unnecessary wacky comic relief and the over the top melodramatic tears. Goro is out for some kind of revenge and claims to have killed several men. He’s a liar and a coward, but still the three team up and agree to share the bounty.

For the next half hour or so there’s a bit of a lull in the action as we delve into some character development stuff, which is all fine and good but doesn’t make for an entertaining review. It is probably also worth noting that, due to my day job as a rockstar, I was a bit exhausted and closed my eyes for a minute or two. Anyway, somewhere along the line there was a strange sequence where Jubee is suddenly taken violently ill when confronting the sheriff for the first time. Ichizo tosses Jubee out on his ass and demands he stay away. Yasaburo, the biographer, is intrigued as the sheriff reveals that Jubee was once the most vicious motherfucker in the land, who’d even slaughtered a group of women and children without batting an eye, but who is now, sadly, just an empty shell of his former bad-ass self.


Jubee survives his bout of sickness and our heroes catch up to, and ambush, the settlers in a vicious little scene involving dead horses and broken, protruding femurs. Jubee acknowledges that he’s done bad things but claims the rumour of the women- and children-slaughtering isn’t true. Our trio breaks apart as Kingo, ashamed by his own diminished killing skills, wanders off into the sunset. As Jubee and Goro return to town to collect their bounty they discover Kingo’s body hanging from a post – a fair enough warning for all bounty hunters to stay the hell away. But instead, this angers Jubee, which is not a good idea if you like staying alive.


Ashamed that he broke his vow, Jubee sends scarred whore Natsume and manic-depressive Goro away with the cash and leave him to his fate. The new couple head for Jubee’s hut where they presumably will adopt his daughters and live rich and happily ever after away from all this violence and bloodshed and dishonour.

Alone now, as was always his destiny, samurai killer turned humble farmer turned bounty hunter Jubee squares off against sheriff Ichizo and, oh, a dozen or 15 gun- and katana-wielding lawmen. With the biographer and prostitutes watching from the rafters, this battle results in a lot of bloodshed and the whorehouse burning to the ground. As the last man standing, Jubee strikes off into the night. The end.


This version of Unforgiven was at its best when playing it straight. The hijinks (particularly those provided by Goro) and a dozen or so overly self-aware moments spoiled the serious tone. For example, the camera movement and the score during the fight in the street between sheriff Ichizo and ex-samurai warrior Masaharu was done in a way that one couldn’t help but think about The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. A great reference, sure, but if not for these moments constantly taking me out of the movie, I’d’ve really enjoyed it.

Ken Watanabe doesn’t have the gravitas of Clint Eastwood, but you can’t fault him for trying. His scowl and sneer are good enough to get by, and as with the rest of the movie he’s at his best when he’s not trying to emulate the source material. That said, the acting across the board was solid – even Goro, as annoying as his character could be, had many good moments. The production design was immaculate – the grit under the nails and the attention to detail in the costumes was fantastic. Sato as the sadistic sheriff was a treat, and oh my god the cinematography was beautiful – where’d they find all this space to film these beautiful vista shots?! The final shot of the whorehouse on fire was incredible. So there’s a lot to like about this movie, but the constant tonal shifting was a bad choice. Also, I found it interesting and slightly disappointing that a movie based on the premise that violence begets violence would reserve the harshest gore for the baddies when the whores and the heroes receive mostly superficial wounds, or their injuries were hidden from plain sight. (The slicing of Natsume’s face, for example, as horrible as it was, paled in comparison to the broken leg of the fleeing settler, despite being much more significant to the movie.)


I didn’t rewatch the original as I wanted to go into this version with a clean slate but there were several sequences that stood out to me as memorable so I’m guessing they kept it pretty close. However I think this film might have benefitted from a more ambiguous ending – say, once Jubee has killed the sheriff, he turns to take on the lawmen but instead of killing them one by one in a cool-but-wholly-unrealistic way, we instead simply fade to black. Violence begets violence, it really doesn’t matter who wins.

There was one directorial choice that I loved. That was that throughout the first half of the movie Jubee is slightly hidden from view, whether in shadows or in profile, until at one point he is questioned by his companions about killing the women and children. They need to know if he’s a sadistic killer or if this is just a rumour to scare his enemies. Seeing him clearly for the first time – and remaining clearly visible for the remainder of the movie – says to me that Jubee has stepped out of the lie he’d constructed around him, the lie of family, of being a farmer, of dying peacefully. This could never be who he is, no matter how much he’d like it to be true. By revealing himself, Jubee embraces the fact that he is a born killer and he’ll remain that regardless of any vow. Jubee tells his friends that the rumours are lies, and the audience is meant to believe he is telling us the truth, but in the final scene when he spares the life of the biographer, Jubee orders him to write what he saw happen but to leave out any mention of the whore and the Ainu warrior – and in his eyes I saw a man who could, once upon a time, kill innocent women and children if ordered to do so. A man who has tried to deny his true self, and who has come to forgive himself by shouldering the blame of this deadly fiasco. He can’t undo his terrible past but he can allow his friends and his children to live a better future with him.

Alex Cassun


EEFF: Generation Um…

Alex Cassun has bravely embarked upon an indie film featuring everyone’s favourite Dude, not that one, the other one

Undeniably, not the sort of thing most folks would volunteer for. 


Mark Mann‘s Generation Um is a challenging, deliberately-paced film about introverted and mostly unlikeable characters doing questionable things. It isn’t a mumblecore movie (as some are calling it), but it is a movie about misunderstanding, so it seems fitting that critics have miss-categorized it. (I’m looking at you, Variety and LA Times.) If you don’t like slow moving character studies then you probably won’t find much to love about Generation Um, but I do, and did.

John (Keanu Reeves) just celebrated his 40th birthday. He lives in a slummy New York apartment with his obese cat and his 20 (or so) year old cousin Rick (Jonny Orsini). He spends his time with Mia (Adelaide Clemens) and Violet (Bojana Novakovic), a couple of hard-partying ladies in their early 20s, and he avoids pretty much everyone else, including his fretting mother who only wants to wish him a happy birthday. John wanders the city drinking coffee in the day and booze in the night. He has a million mile stare and doesn’t talk much, and when he does it tends to be nonsensical pseudo-philosophical mumbo jumbo**. New York is expensive and John relies on a variety of means to pay the bills, some of which are probably illegal. He mopes because he doesn’t know how to break the mindnumbingly repetitive cycle. Hell, not even the occasional blowjob in the local pub’s bog can put a smile on his face, for fuck’s sake! John drags his sad-sack face around the city, eating cupcakes and milling about his bedroom until we get to the first turning point, about 30 minutes in, when he follows a crowd of balloon-toting weirdos to a park where they perform a Country Western cowboy hoola-hoop dance… thing. Some idiot sets his camera on the ground and walks away. John, being an opportunist, gets himself a new video camera and narrowly escapes the Cowboy mob in the movie’s one and only action sequence.


John proceeds to record squirrels in the park before turning the camera first on himself and then on Mia and Violet, roommates and BFFs who prance around in their underwear and stare deeply into mirrors as though trying to conjure the deeper meanings of the universe. They’re also really into sex, drugs and rock and roll. John follows them around their house as they take turns telling stories that may or may not be true. They’re the stars of their own reality TV show, and they reveal details of their lives with an un-bashfulness that can only have come from growing up with the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo instead of mindful parents. The characters seem to exist by floating from one moment to another, stuck in a big swirl of bland repetition, and the audience is tugged along for the ride. John doesn’t seem too interested in breaking free. If this was rehab, he’d be somewhere between recognizing he has a problem and dwelling on potential ways to escape the cycle, but still miles away from any meaningful action. John, Mia or Violet are lost souls who love and need each other despite getting to this point from vastly different avenues. None of them are keen to rock the boat, but I don’t get the sense that any of them are particularly afraid of drowning, either. It’s a fragile balance, and one which requires a lot of trust.


A few small surprises arise as the histories and relationships are revealed, and there is even a twist ending of sorts. It’s quite a bit lower on the whoa! scale than, say, if John revealed he could see dead people, but it’s impact on the story is no less important. What the final 5 minutes does is give new context to everything we’ve seen. What had felt like a loose, rambling story suddenly tightens and you realize, looking back, that everything is in the movie for a reason and it builds to the only logical conclusion. The best endings are those which are both surprising and completely obvious, and the finale here was an expertly executed maneuver which I fear the subtlety and beauty of was lost on the critics who dismissed the movie as aimless.


Mann‘s experiments with blocking put the focus less on the characters and more on the details of their surroundings — in most cases, those spaces tell us more than any movement or dialogue could. The editing is nicely done with humorous moments coming on the back-end of shots that are deliberately held for a half-beat too long. The movie isn’t quite linear but it’s not quite non-linear, either. Mann deliberately dislodges the audience from time and space, and if you feel a bit lost well then welcome, brother. It isn’t a stretch to think the audience should have been given Hello My Name Is… stickers upon arrival.

Reeves has played similar characters in the past but not to this degree and his performance holds the film together. Bojana and Adelaide are promising young actors who buy into their roles and give wonderful and completely unglamorous performances. As with the characters they embody, there is a lot of trust going on here, and it pays off.


Generation Um might be in my favorites list at the end of the year, or it might not. Who knows. At times we are treated to well-lit sets and nicely composed shots, and other times the camera shakes like we’re filming a Bourne movie and some of the dialogue comes across like first year university students who’ve just discovered Nietzsche. But what I do know is I want to watch the movie again, and I’m going to tell my film-loving friends to do the same.

*: Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
**: One of my favorite scenes is when John is in a cafe with military buddy Charles (Daniel Sunjata). John’s musings about his apartment building’s left and right turns reminded me of the scene in The Dreamers where Michael Pitt is fascinated how his lighter fits perfectly on the table cloth.



EEFF: Burn It Up Djassa

Alex Cassun is a US film maker living in London. He’s poured over the East End Film Festival‘s programme in hopes of finding some gems. You can follow him on the twitter machine here


Directed by the wonderfully named Lonesome Solo*, “Burn It Up Djassa” is a Scarfacian tragedy of a poor and disgruntled youth who rapidly gains power, even more rapidly blows it all, and then rapidly dies violently. Recounting the story is the poetry slamming Narrator (Mohamed Bamba) who witnessed the relatively epic rise and fall of the titular character (although we never do see him in the action). Played effectively by Abdoul Karim Konate (and referred to at various points as “Dabagou”, “Tony”, “the Cigarette Hawker”, and “The King”), Djassa lives in a small house in the ghettos of Abidjan ** with his sister Ange. They are looked after by older brother Mike, a Lieutenant for the local police crime squad. Adults now, Mike still checks in on his siblings who he has helped raise since childhood.

The ghetto is a rough place — as it is — but life seems generally ok if you can put up with the heat, the horseflies, and the constant background noise. Mike makes a decent living, Tony scrapes by selling cigarettes, and Ange works at a hairdresser. The community seem happy enough — friends get together to play cards and to drink and to sleep with prostitutes. There are a few song and dance interludes, which despite not really being importance to the story were the highlights of the first hour. Enter 25-year-old Tony, bored and angsty. He has a chip on his shoulder and wants people to remember his name. One night while fag-mongering in the back alleys he barges onto a card game and a run of luck nets him some quick cash and new friends. According to The Narrator, this begins Tony’s run up the criminal ladder.

Trouble kicks in when Tony’s luck runs out and he resorts to gambling away his wares. His new friends don’t seem so friendly now. Worse still, Ange trades in her boring hairdresser gig for a lucrative spot in the local prostitution circuit. After a particularly good night she pops into the corner shop where she is recognised by a john who accuses her of stealing his watch earlier that week. As the tension calms a bit, hotheaded Tony arrives, the situation boils over, and he shanks the john and races off into the night with sister in tow. The following morning, upon hearing that the stabbee has died, Tony freaks out and is seemingly devastated. But inexplicably the next thing he does is go for a joyride in a cab with a couple of friends and the trio proceed to hold him up at gun point. One thing leads to another and older brother Mike leads an investigation that ends in a shootout with Tony dead, fulfilling the Narrator’s earlier warning about people coming and going but the ghetto remaining the same.

Where the story fails is… well, the story. There isn’t enough to propel it forward, and the long stretches of what should be quiet, reflective moments don’t fill the space as intended. If ‘Djassa‘ was a 20-minute short I’d heap praise on it for the layered Shakespearean elements, the fun musical interludes, and the heart and ambition despite crippling lack of budget and resources. At 70 minutes, the ambition part is still there, obviously, but until the final act arrived there was a constant queasy feeling that it was going to collapse in on itself at any moment. The Narrator infuses it with a much needed vibrancy but he’s essentially redundant — whatever info he throws our way, we’ve either already just seen or we’re just about to. Visually there are enough pretty images but whether it was a stylistic choice or a logistical necessity, the entire movie is composed of invasive close up shots of one of our three principles, rarely straying off to see anything beyond, giving us little context to their surroundings, to the people who inhabit their world, or the reasons behind any of their actions. The subtitling added confusion as long passages went without translation. The cast seemed to be mostly amateurs or non-actors who did a fair job and who had fun with the experience. Konate played the Angry Young Man very well, and showed a lot of range. Adelaide Ouattara as Ange was hit and miss — in the quieter moments where she wasn’t reaching for high drama she was the best thing on screen. The real standout here, though, was Mamadou Diomande as elder brother Lt. Mike, who carried the emotional brunt of the story and who made the best of a few unfortunately, unintentionally goofy scenes. When it’s revealed that his brother is the killer he’s been searching for, the anguish on his face is heart-wrenching. It was a powerful performance, and I’m hoping Mamadou finds his way onto the big screen again before too long.

Despite all this, the filmmakers should be proud of what they put together and I’d be interested to see what Mr. Solo comes up with next.

* (I’m hoping that is his real name, not a pseudonym.)
** (The largest city in the Ivory Coast — thanks wikipedia!)

Eastbound and proud – East End Film Festival Cult round up.

In addition to our own little contribution to The East End Film Festival’s Cine-East fringe, the EEFF has gone and programmed a slew of other interesting genre films including the must see TETSUO Double Bill. 
Without doubt, London’s cinematic landscape is becoming more and more exciting, relevant and challenging with every day that passes. Get on board, go outside the confines of whatever you think film is, and support those that work to bring you cinemagic. 

EEFF 2012 is delighted to present restorations of Shin’ya Tsuakamoto’s twisted cyberpunk classics
Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Tetsuo II:Body Hammer, as well his latest film: the stunning, disturbing
Kotoko. The work of a singular filmmaker often compared to David Cronenberg, not to be missed on
the big screen.


TETSUO: IRON MAN (Shin’ya Tsukamoto, 1989, London Premiere)
A strange man known only as the ‘metal fetishist’ is hit and seemingly killed by a Japanese ‘salaryman’, who then begins to be slowly overtaken by a strange disease that transforms his body into scrap metal, a process guided by his own rage and frustration. Shin’ya Tsuakamoto’s cyberpunk classic is presented here in a brand new restoration.
Screening from 6pm, Saturday 4th July, Hackney Picturehouse.
Details Here

TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER (Shin’ya Tsukamoto, 1992, London Premiere)
Tsukamoto’s sequel to Tetsuo sees his Iron Man transforming into a cyberkinetic gun after a gang of vicious skinheads kidnap his son. Eventually captured himself, they begin experimenting on him only to speed up the mutative process. As powerful, twisted and singular as the first instalment, ‘Tetsuo: The Body Hammer’ is again introduced in a brand new restoration, with Tsukamoto in attendance, in an unmissable double bill.
Screening from 6pm, Saturday 4th July, Hackney Picturehouse.
Details Here

KOTOKO (Shin’ya Tsukamoto, 2011, London Premiere)
A single mother, played by Japanese singer Cocco, suffers from double vision that speaks of wider instability, and as she slowly loses grip on reality, struggles to protect both her child and herself. Or perhaps they really are out to get her. Legendary provocateur Shin’ya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man, see page 20) returns to his best with another tale of dizzying psychological descent.
Screening 8.30pm, Sunday 5th July, Rich Mix.
Details Here

THE LEGEND OF KASPAR HAUSER(Davide Manuli, 2012, UK Premiere)
Kaspar Hauser is reimagined as an androgynous woman washing up on a Mediterranean island,
kicking off a war between the Sheriff and the Pusher, both played by Vincent Gallo. Davide Manuli’s
barmy Techno Western is a tale of faith, suspicion and flying saucers set to the thudding beats of
techno behemoth Vitalic; the sort of astonishing experience modern cinema rarely manages anymore.
Screening 9pm, Friday 6th July, Hackney Picturehouse. 
Details Here

CARRE BLANC (Jean-Baptiste Leonetti, 2011, UK Premiere)
Jean-Baptiste Leonetti’s debut is a gravely stylish vision of a dystopian future France; a society
run by a mysterious caste system that turns those who fail in an arbitrary, Kafkaesque “game” into
hamburgers. Phillipe, a man on his way up, is ultimately forced to choose between his meteoric rise
and his marriage in this cult classic in the making.
Screening 11.30pm, Friday 6th July, Rio Cinema. 

Welcome the the EEFF’s very own X-Files – an unsettling selection of 8 shorts about all things supernatural and uncanny. We’ll be opening our secret vault to unleash invisible demons, abductive aliens, cursed children, zombie mums, possessed walls, haunted submarines, Canadian goat people and a lady who swears she sees dead people. Join us – the truth is out there.
Screening 11.30pm, Saturday 7th July, Rio Cinema. 
Details Here

See you folks East. 

Scala Forever Calendar

We are closing in, about a week away from one of the most talked about film events in London – Scala Forever.
Everyone is sitting down and pouring over their posters and marking off what they want to see… but for some of us, it’s nice to just have a list we can scroll through.

The below is accurate as of today. Events may still be added, so don’t blame me if you miss something.

Since this is the Cigarette Burns blog, I see no reason why I shouldn’t highlight my own events, but encourage you to go to as many as you can, there are some serious gems in here and several films that you really won’t see anywhere else.

Saturday 13 August 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen
Opening Night KING KONG

Sunday 14 August 2PM Riverside Studios

Sunday 14 August 4PM The Ritzy
A-Z of Cinema: G is for Grindhouse FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!/DEATH PROOF

Sunday 14 August 7.30PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Sunday 14 August 7.30PM Dulwich Park
The Nomad presents THE GOONIES

Sunday 14 August 8.30PM Prince Charles Cinema

Monday 15 August 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Tuesday 16 August 7.30PM Shortwave Cinema
Peccadillo Pictures’ German Boys Double TAXI ZUM KLO/WESTLER

Friday 19 August 7PM Opera Holland Park
The Nomad presents SOME LIKE IT HOT

Friday 19 August 8PM Three Mills
The Floating Cinema presents FANTASTIC MR. FOX

Saturday 20 August 8.30PM The Portobello Pop Up Cinema

Saturday 20 August 11PM – 6AM Roxy Bar and Screen

Sunday 21 August 2PM Riverside Studios

Sunday 21 August 6PM Riverside Studios

Sunday 21 August 7PM Roxy Bar & Screen
Danny Leigh introduces AFTER HOURS/SECONDS

Monday 22 August 6.25PM Riverside Studios

Monday 22 August 7.30PM Roxy Bar and Screen
Passengerfilms presents Backwoods Horror EDEN LAKE/THIS IS MY LAND

Tuesday 23 August 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Wednesday 24 August 6.20PM BFI Southbank
The Flipside presents FRENCH DRESSING

Wednesday 24 August 7PM Kings Cross Social Club
Duke Mitchell Film Club’s 4TH BIRTHDAY PARTY

Wednesday 24 August 8PM Prince Charles Cinema
Cigarette Burns Cinema’s The Dead Will Rise Double

Thursday 25 August 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Thursday 25 August 8.30PM Prince Charles Cinema
THE GENERAL with live accompaniment from Costas Fotopoulos

25-29 August Empire Leicester Square: Film4 Frightfest
Friday 26 August 10.35AM, Sunday 28 August 9.15PM Empire Leicester Square

Sunday 28 August 1.30PM Rio Cinema

Sunday 28 August 4PM The Ritzy
A-Z of Cinema: H is for Hitchcock ROPE/FRENZY

Sunday 28 August 6.30PM Riverside Studios

Sunday 28 August 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Monday 29 August 6.25PM Prince Charles Cinema

Friday 26 August – Sunday 4 September Barbican: London International Animation Festival
Monday 29 August 8.45PM Barbican
GEORGE THE HEDGEHOG plus Q&A co-director Wojtek Wawczyzk

Tuesday 30 August 6PM Ryan’s Bar, Stoke Newington
Atomic Bark! presents TOBY DAMMIT/BABA YAGA

Wednesday 31 August 7PM Roxy
Filmbar70’s Brit Psych-Fi Double THE FINAL PROGRAMME/ZARDOZ

Thursday 1 September 7.30PM Curzon Soho bar
Curzon and Faber and Faber’s Film Quiz TEN ROUNDS WITH DE NIRO: SCALA CINEMA SPECIAL

Friday 2 September 6.30PM Richmond Park
The Nomad presents THE AFRICAN QUEEN

Saturday 3 September 3PM Roxy Bar and Screen
Scala Forever presents I WANT TO START A FILM CLUB!

Sunday 4 September 3PM Roxy Bar and Screen
The Classic Horror Campaign Double BLACK SUNDAY/HORROR HOSPITAL

Sunday 4 September 7PM Rich Mix
Land In Focus presents PACKAGE DEALS: FINLAND

Sunday 4 September 7.30PM Roxy Bar and Screen
Filmbar70’s Wild World Double TETSUO: THE IRON MAN/SANTA SANGRE

7 – 18 September ICA: A Feast for Open Eyes: Jack Smith
Wednesday 7 September 8PM ICA Theatre
FLAMING CREATURES with intro by Chris Dercon and Q&A Jonas Mekas and Dominic Johnson

Thursday 8 September 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen
Duke Mitchell Film Club presents THE FLESH EATERS

Thursday 8 September 8.30PM BFI Southbank
The Flipside presents NEIL INNES NIGHT plus Q&A Neil Innes

Friday 9 September 6.30PM Fulham Palace

Saturday 10 September 11PM – 6AM Roxy Bar and Screen

Sunday 11 September 2PM Phoenix Cinema
Phoenix Cinema and Contemporary Films present Music Doc Double TONITE LET’S ALL MAKE LOVE IN LONDON/JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY

Sunday 11 September 3PM – 11PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Sunday 11 September 4PM The Ritzy
A-Z of Cinema: I is for Isolation REPULSION/THE SHINING

Tuesday 13 September 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Wednesday 14 September 7.30PM Shortwave Cinema
Peccadillo Pictures’ Naughty Girls Double HEAVENLY CREATURES/EL NINO PEZ (THE FISH CHILD)

Thursday 15 September 7.30PM – 1AM The Book Club
Amy Grimehouse presents RUSS MEYER NIGHT

Friday 16 September 7.30PM Fulham Palace
The Nomad presents THE OMEN

Saturday 17 September 2PM – 8PM, The Cinema Museum
SCALA DAY: Screenings, discussions and reminicences

Sunday 18 September 3PM Tricycle Cinema

Sunday 18 September 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen
Little Joe Magazine presents Sexy Sci Fi Double LIQUID SKY/CAFE FLESH

Tuesday 20 September 6.30PM. Film at 8.30PM. The Horse Hospital
Electric Sheep and Strange Attractor present THUNDERCRACK!

Tuesday 20 September 8PM Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
Close-Up presents DEKALOG I & II

Wednesday 21 September 7PM Roxy and Screen

Saturday 24 September 11.30PM Rio Cinema
Cigarette Burns Cinema presents The Female Convict Pinky Violence All-Night Triple: SCORPION/JAILHOUSE 41/BEAST STABLE

Sunday 25 September 3PM Roxy Bar and Screen
Arrow Video and Filmbar70’s Argento Triple DEEP RED/TENEBRAE/OPERA

Tuesday 27 September 8PM Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club
Close-Up presents DEKALOG III & IV

Wednesday 28 September 7PM Roxy Bar and Screen
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP introduced by Tilda Swinton (tbc)

Wednesday 28 September 7PM Kings Cross Social Club
Duke Mitchell Film Club presents TURKISH GRINDHOUSE: DEATH WARRIOR

Wednesday 28 September 8.30PM, ICA
Thursday 29 September 8.45PM, ICA

Saturday 1 October 7.30PM Whirled Cinema

Saturday 1 October 11PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Sunday 2 October 8PM Roxy Bar and Screen

Get booking kids!!!

Guillermo del Toro and Julia’s Eyes

With Spanish horror, Julia’s Eyes in cinemas now, Colm McAuliffe wonders if Guillermo del Toro should be viewed as the man with the golden touch, or just a patron saint.

As well as being a director of some renown, Guillermo del Toro has more recently fashioned a niche for himself as a the saviour of the Spanish indie horror genre, swooping in to attach his name as producer to films which otherwise would have difficulty in securing distribution. With del Toro on board, films such as 2008’s The Orphanage and now, Julia’s Eyes, attain an immediate gravitas, the name alone providing the necessary cachet to penetrate the markets.
Remarking that ‘studio infiltration into specialty films was the worst thing that could have happened…. [but] this is a ripe time now for retaking the fort’, del Toro could well be referring to his inaugural major studio experience, 1997’s Mimic which was plagued by interference from that notorious despot Bob Weinstein, resulting in a potentially thrilling horror being reduced to rather anemic anonymity. Del Toro’s career since can be viewed through the prism of this initial experience and he appears to be flourishing in his role as a self-styled cinematic polymath. His intuition for the macabre has rapidly filtered into the zeitgeist, propelling him into the public sphere and he currently appears to have a whopping eleven projects on the go, ranging from The Hobbit to Pinocchio and even stretching to the video game Insane.

Aside from adhering to del Toro’s own unique brand of grotesque beauty, del Toro’s actual role in his film productions is questionable. He differentiates from the evil movie moguls in viewing his role as being the arch-protector of the indie underdog from financial partners needless meddling, a move which certainly worked in terms of The Orphanage (del Toro also claimed minor credit for some of the film’s more frightening moments).The massive success of this, both in Spain and internationally, ensured praise was showered upon him for his apparent hands off approach. Similarly, del Toro’s name was all over the film’s marketing push. He was not simply the producer but he also chose to ‘present’ the film – so far so very Hitchcockian.

The breadth and uniqueness of del Toro’s filmmaking is so well-defined, it has made his name into a genre of its very own which, of course, in with his decision to ‘present’ these films. His stylistic touchstones of magic realism, fairytale fantasy and the grotesque recur throughout his own films from The Devil’s Backbone through Hellboy and his mainstream breakthrough Pan’s Labyrinth, ensuring that the Del Toro brand is a surefire signpost to a carnivalesque miasma of supernatural mythos and high-octane horror.
Julia’s Eyes, the latest ‘Guillermo del Toro presents…’, is again directed and co-written by a newcomer, Guillem Morales, and re-unites much of the team behind The Orphanage. While the latter film essentially centred around a re-telling of a ghost story, using classic horror talismans such as mysterious caves, lighthouses and cellars for suspense, Julia’s Eyes is also fundamentally conventional in its approach, devoting itself to the ‘extremely hot blind woman in peril’ genre.
Belen Rueda plays the dual role of two sisters, one of whom hangs herself in her basement in the opening scene while the other spends the remainder of the film heaving her wondrous bosom while being hounded by an enigmatic individual. Both sisters have been afflicted by a degenerative disease which ultimately leads them to blindness and the symmetry of the movie is provided by the antagonistic characters – a woman losing her sight versus a man who never wishes to be seen.

Amidst the sporadic bursts of tension and crime solving, Guillem Morales has crafted a reasonable homage to the classic Italian Giallo films of the 1970s without ever fully resorting to psychological profiles of his characters. Our enigmatic stalker is masked in mystery and while we occasionally see through his eyes, these fleeting insights are never enough to sustain our interest (the film clocks in at an over-long two hours). During the last half hour, Morales decides to change tack entirely and Julia’s Eyes reveals itself as a straightforward horror, replete with pinched eyeballs, mindless killing and the unmasking of our stalker. This slide into sub-Almodovarian camp provides a rather unsatisfactory ending as the loose threads are tied up in a roundabout fashion with some predictable ‘revelations’ coming to light.
This is to all intents and purposes a Spanish production but Julia’s Eyes ultimately has more in common with overblown, bombastic American remakes of the genre. The cinematography is impressive but workmanlike, under-utilising the theme of blindness and only sparingly uses moments of reduced vision to capture Julia’s descent into darkness.

While del Toro’s heart still beats for Spanish indie horror, Julia’s Eyes is perhaps one beat his heart could have skipped. Take our indie hero out of the equation and you have left a passable horror flick. Morales does manage to punctuate his film with moments of genuine tension – particularly the potentially gruesome scene whereby Julia eavesdrops upon a conversation between some vindictive former friends of her sister at a centre for the blind – but the film is more of sign of Morales potential as a director rather than indicative of any current prowess.
As for del Toro claiming to ‘retake the fort’ for indie cinema, ironically, a more hands-on approach as producer may have catapulted this from so-so horror to impressive psycho-drama. However, by virtue of having del Toro as a mentor, Morales has furthered his position as a filmmaker with potential while del Toro himself can carry on regardless, safe in his role as the saving grace of indie cinema. Let’s just hope the lines are not being blurred between his hands-off approach and a genuine need for some creative direction. Sometimes a little bit of compromise is not necessarily a bad thing.