Thursday, 7 February 2008
Nekrofile: Cinema of the eXtreme
This 1997 publication from Midnight Media, written by British genre writer Alan Jones, presents a selection of 20 reviews organised around the notion of cinema of the extreme: disreputable, marginal and envelope-pushing independent productions like Anthropophagous the Beast, Expose, Friday the 13th and Mark of the Devil.
Jones characteristically breathless reviews are entertaining and pleasurable to read, even if inevitably you don't always agree with his evaluations.
The things that are to be savoured most, however, are the obscure little nuggets of information and the personal angle that he brings: the reminiscences of seeing Blood and Black Lace at the age of 13 or a double bill of Zombie Flesh Eaters and The Toolbox Murders on its first release; memories of having dinner with Mariangela Giordano, the dining room decorated with a nude portrait of her; or just the 'I'm not telling' Cinecitta Babylon type scurillous rumours as to various unnamed individuals sexual orientations and off-set activities.
It's also fascinating to see how the scene around these films has changed over time. The digital revolution, in the form of DVD and file sharing, has made it comparatively easy for us to see these films, putting them almost literally at our fingertips.
Ten years ago I had only read about most of the titles in the book, today I have all of them bar a couple, Mother's Day and The Fiend, and could doubtless add these to my collection and watched list with minimal effort.
Yet, our culture around extreme cinema has also changed as a result. Viewing that uncut, beautifully presented DVD of Cannibal Holocaust in the comfort of your own home cinema is a fundamentally different experience from watching a beaten-up print in that sleazy fleapit, grindhouse or drive-in with an audience of like minded types or via that nth generation video obtained from some dubious source. Whether this is all for the better, the worse or a mixture of both is, of course, a matter for debate.
Another factor here is the emergence of the arthouse/grindhouse crossover, already perhaps implicit in a film like Abel Ferrara's MS .45, but apparently growing in importance with the likes of Claire Denis's Trouble Every Day and Gaspar Noe's Irreversible. The challenge here is that of bringing the two non-or anti- Hollywood mainstream cultures, and the larger part of their audiences, together to cross-pollinate/contaminate...