More and more, I find myself attracted to character. Character not so much as a focus for empathy or even sympathy but character as an examination of human psychology and of the human condition as it is projected into the world. One way of exploring the evolution of human nature is by taking an extremely long view of the matters and looking at how the quirks of one generation can blossom into the crippling psychological ailments of another. This style of writing and approach to character underpins Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series as well as William Faulkner’s Snopes family series of books and short-stories.
The Long Hot Summer is an attempt to capture some of that psychological depth and complexity and communicate it through the medium of film. Based mostly upon the first of Faulkner’s Snopes novels, The Long Hot Summer features the great Orson Welles as an overbearing paterfamilias whose psychological quirks are strangling both him and his children. In order to escape from this impasse, Welles’ character needs a catalyst but what of the ethics of using someone else to solve your own problems? Paul Newman plays a catalyst by the name of Ben Quick. A catalyst who, it transpires, has issues of his own.
Videovista has my review.
Late last year, Rodrigo Cortes’s film about a man buried alive in Iraq was released to a good deal of serious critical attention. Ostensibly an experimental work primarily concerned with trying to inject textured tension and atmosphere without ever leaving the confines of a small wooden box. Though successful in this regard, the film’s use of the word ‘Iraq’ lead some overly eager critics to jump to the conclusion that the film is some grand allegory for American foreign policy. It isn’t. It’s a very silly film about a man trapped in a box which, despite glimmers of intelligence, is ultimately let-down by a decidedly lackluster script.
Videovista has my review.
In the review, I also mention Stuart Gordon’s film Stuck (2007), which I reviewed on this very site a couple of years ago. That’s a much better film, go and watch that one instead.
Videovista have my review of Enzo G. Castellari’s The New Barbarians, a post-apocalyptic exploitation film made around the same time as his better known and arguably more entertaining Bronx Warriors.
Watching the film I was hit by a wave of raw nostalgia as most of my childhood summers were spent sitting in darkened rooms watching precisely these kinds of films. If it had mutants, a tricked out car and loads of violence in it then chances are that pre-teen Jona would have hunted it down and happily watched it. For all the recent talk of films like Avatar dumbing down cinema, watching The New Barbarians really brought home to me the fact that there was a time when science fiction cinema had teeth. It was weird, surreal, violent and thoroughly disreputable. I can’t help but feel that the mainstreaming of science fiction might well have cost us these kinds of films. Even attempts to recapture the magic such as Neil Marshall’s Doomsday (2008) seem somehow more respectable and tame in comparison.
Also interesting is the film’s blatant homophobia. You simply could not make a film nowadays in which the bad guys are a load of gay men. Indeed, it occurred to me after writing the review that the film suggests that should the extinction of the human race ever become a genuine risk then homosexuality would not simply be a lifestyle, a preference, a predisposition or even a perversion. It would be an act of outright nihilism. But then, is humanity really worth saving? The film’s baddies – the Templars – are effectively an armed wing of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement except rather than seeking to justify themselves using the language of ecology, the Templars speak of vengeance and a need to exact retribution for humanity’s crimes against itself. Which makes little sense but there you go…
Videovista have my review of Richard Laxton and Brian Fillis’ adaptation of the later Quentin Crisp memoirs An Englishman in New York.
It has an interesting subject (a camp gay man who lived out of the closet at a time when Homosexuality was still illegal) and is set during an interesting time (the first twitches of the shambling beast that is AIDS) but a lack of time, a lack of ambition and a regrettable desire to pay attention to the facts of Crisp’s life rather than the themes and patterns means that it only ever hints at the fascinating piece it could have been. Fun enough though.