Monday 25 February 2013

Rant II

[Rather than reply to the comments replying to the previous rant, thought it better to do a new post.]

The fan/academic relationship is one that I find particularly interesting and problematic. It often seems to me that for the fan empirical data counts more, for the academic theory. I feel that both have their place and can be equally valuable, but it's the accompanying territorial pissings and frequent lack of connection.

In retrospect, the Inglorious Basterds essays were probably especially likely to get me going, simply because a book on that film is such an obvious and lazy thing to do. Or it's an exploitative book, on a mock exploitation movie that I was suckered into getting and which then made me feel exploited?

A study of Eurowar films with chapters on, say, Castellari and Lenzi's contributions just wouldn't have the brand recognition.

It's like those collections on [insert name of contemporary TV series/film] and Philosophy where you sense what basically amounts to a circle jerk between the parties involved. There's no organic relationship, just a text that's ready made for commentary.

An obvious example would be Dr Who: Who gave a fuck about that programme during its 1980s death-throes? But now that it's been rebooted and given the official seal of approval by the cultural taste-makers? Or, there's a big difference between bringing out queer subtexts planted by Russell T. Davies compared to looking at John Nathan Turner era Who and trying to discern if his homosexuality might likewise be found in the programme.

Sunday 24 February 2013

A Rant

I recently got a book about Inglorious Basterds. It has an essay by Chris Fujiwara, about excess in the film. He says that the opening title, Once Upon a Time, in Nazi Occupied Europe (or whatever it exactly is) is excessive.

Yet, in all his discussions of excess here and elsewhere in the film, he never refers to Classical Hollywood Cinema as an excessively obvious cinema, as with its norm of doing something three times or conveying the same narrative point through multiple devices.

Nor does Fujiwara refer to Roland Barthes' notion of excess, in terms of a third meaning.

Nor does he mention how this specific once upon a time (myth) / in Nazi occupied Europe (concrete) relates to the models supplied by Sergio Leone with Once Upon a Time / in the West and Once Upon a Time / in America.

Nor does Fujiwara refer to how this intertitle might have translated in Italian, as Once Upon A Time: Nazi Europe.

Yes, Tarantino's direction is certainly excessive by the standards of classical Hollywood, but classical Hollywood is also excessive by the standards of the transcendental style of Ozu or Bresson, just as it is restrained by the standards of Bollywood.

All in all, I feel Fujiwara fundamentally fails to define his terms adequately and to situate them historically, given that contemporary Hollywood is largely excessive in relation to classical Hollywood.

A question, then: are the multiple angles on the explosion in Zabriskie Point excessive/redundant, in that they give us no new information, as only different but commensurable perspectives, and that there is no camera positioned, say, inside the building, or below it, or above it, or at a microscopic or macroscopic level.

This is not the first time I have read something by Fujiwara and felt his discussion was inadequate. There is another essay by him on boredom and the Umberto Lenzi film Spasmo in a collection on cult cinema, where he invokes some continental philosophy, but I suspect he has seen very little of Lenzi's work as a whole, so I feel his discussion is basically pointless intellectual wankery that is about imposing theory upon a convenient text. I may only have only seen 50% or so of Lenzi's films -- i.e. ~30 out of ~60 -- but the one thing I would say them, on balance, is that they are rarely boring. Rather they are very much driven by action. I would respect Fujiwara's discussion much more if he had, say, previously written an essay on images of masculinity presented by Tomas Milian and Maurizio Merli in Lenzi's crime films.

How does one get into a position of being able to get away with this sort of thing? Or at least being able to make money/a career from it? Are there only certain areas of cinema that are worth bothering about? Is it best to read up on theory (not necessarily film theory) and take some choice quotes from Bataille/Levinas/Heidegger or who/what-ever and then go to the films?

Or, a quote: "I ain't no white trash piece of shit. [...] I can out-learn you. I can out-read you. I can out-think you. And I can out-philosophize you. And I'm gonna outlast you. You think a couple whacks to my guts is gonna get me down? It's gonna take a hell of a lot more than that [...] to prove you're better than me!” 

Monday 18 February 2013

Erotic Inferno

When their father dies in a yachting accident Paul and Martin Barnard are summoned to the family’s mansion for a reading of the will. Also summoned is Adam, their father’s loyal chauffeur and procurer of women. Adam does not know that he is the dead man’s illegitimate son and, being two years older than Martin, the one whom primogeniture should favour. Martin and Paul thus determine to inveigle their way into their father’s mansion, locked up until the reading of the will is to take place, and destroy all evidence of their half-brother’s claims. In the meantime, Adam, Martin and Paul are each ensconced in the servant’s building, along with various women...

Whilst entitled Erotic Inferno this 1976 British sexploitation entry remains firmly (ooh, er!) on the legal side of softcore. This said, the plentiful sex scenes are effective in their suggestive way, in that you don’t see what’s going on, that being left to the imagination, but not much imagination is required.

Moreover, even if the version under review, sourced from a pre-cert VHS, purports to be uncut, the casting of Heather Deeley and Mary Maxted (i.e. Millington) suggests that the filmmakers could have prepared a harder version for foreign and/or clandestine domestic distribution.

Produced by Indian-British sexploitation mainstay Bachoo Sen, the film has various other intertextual connections: Writer Jonathan Gershfield, credited as Jon York, had earlier appeared on the James Kenelm Clarke directed Man Alive documentary Xploitation, about the British sex film. Xploitation had also featured Sen and Erotic Inferno’s director Trevor Wrenn, who had earlier collaborated with Jose Larraz.

Together, Clarke, with Expose, and Larraz, with Vampyres and Black Candles, emerge as the filmmakers closest to Wrenn, for the isolated setting; the propensity to use sex scenes as a means of advancing the narrative; and the prominence given sapphic activity.

There are some ambitious and indeed effective shots, as when Wrenn racks focus to capture Adam in the wing mirror of a Rolls Royce.

While all three of the male protagonists are equally unpleasant both in general and in their Neanderthal attitudes towards women a broad ranking of most to least obnoxious does emerge; if none undergoes a Damascean conversion there are thus perhaps enough hints to make their respective positions comprehensible.

KPM supply the music, very much your typical selection of library themes.

Overall, worth a look for the completist.

Friday 15 February 2013

Latest acquisition

Delirium locandina:

Should hopefully be back to posting more regularly soon; too often crushed by depression.