Bearsuit are a ‘stop-start boy-girl cutie-killer six-piece with everything from cinematic waltzes to catchy electro disco and hard punk screaming riot grrl noise. A mix of Belle and Sebastian, Huggy Bear, and Sonic Youth with electronic twists and turns, and screamy art punk.’ You can see them magicking up their brilliantly chaotic tunes at the Luminaire, London, on June 23, at the Buffalo Bar, London, on July 27, at Indie Tracks, Ripley, Midlands, on July 28, and at the Norwich Arts Centre on August 25. Records available on Fantastic Plastic, Fortuna POP! and Microindie.
1- Chungking Express (1994)
This is pure romance. Wong Kar-Wai gets a lot more kudos for 2046 (which, even though it had monorails and robot girls and stuff in, I found a bit too much like hard work) and In the Mood For Love, but this is by far my favourite of his films. It’s a melancholy love story (mostly unrequited) and ruminates on loneliness and nostalgia, but at the same time it’s shot through with such punk vigour and lo-fi artsiness that it never feels slow or pretentious. The camera speeds breathlessly through the crowded apartments and neon-drenched noodle bars of Chung-King mansions, and every frame is gorgeous and hazy and chintzy and day-glo; it’s exactly like having a smoke on your own, gazing out over the city from your window, and wistfully remembering your romantic mistakes and briefly joyful encounters. sigh….
2- The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
I’m serious. This is like Star Wars made by Woody Allen. It’s beautifully shot and framed; it’s obsessed with incredible architecture and imposing sets, lit in amazing noirish blacks and greys and whites for the Empire’s scenes, boiling red and oranges when Han Solo is killed (killed? oh no, just frozen ’til the sequel) and when Luke descends into hell and has to fight his OWN FATHER in the bowels of a deserted city. It moves along as fast as the first film during the amazing action sequences (dude! AT-AT walkers!), but slows up enough for hilarious wise-cracking and one-liners from the relaxed and top-of-their-game lead cast, suddenly beats the shit out of our heroes, then lets the baddies win! Imagine how much of an effect that can have on a little boy going to the cinema with his dad for the first time: just devastating (Woking, 1981, me). It’s existential techno-nightmare. It’s Hamlet, or Crimes and Misdemeanors, or The Seventh Seal, but for kids!
3- Duel (1971)
Jesus this is bleak. There’s no reason for any of it to happen. An everyman office worker is driving cross country to get home from a conference or something (we never really know), when a truck driver (whose face we never see) decides this little guy needs to have his life ruined (we’ll never know why). The truck itself is a terrifying monster, all belching smokestacks, rust-brown body and moaning, bellowing engine, which, just like the shark of Jaws is a relentless, unstoppable, alien killing machine. It’s about 80 minutes of the purest cinema I can think of – Spielberg sets up the wafer-thin premise and racks up the tension like a baseball-capped Hitchcock. The editing coils around the sweat-drenched protagonist like a boa: truck, car, truck, car, nearer! Nearer! The underdog has to fight his foe – he has no help, a crappy slow saloon car and no idea why he’s been singled out. He does have a pretty good moustache however. This film makes me hate the outdoors even more.
4- Mulholland Drive (2001)
Did you know David Lynch has got his own brand of coffee? I think the strap line is him saying something like, ‘My coffee is made with only the finest beans, and I’m just full of beans.’ Coffee usually features in his work. There’s a particularly funny coffee scene in this film, but it’s one of very few where you can take a breather from the nightmarish story. It’s not a particularly easy film to follow – it twists and turns like a twisty-turny thing. I think it’s because of all of the really resonant images and threads of intriguing mystery that I love this so much. You think you’ve found the answer, but then realise that it can’t be because something else doesn’t stack up. It’s shot in a beautiful noir style, the performances are amazing, as is the music (thankfully dispensing with the industrial/nu metal that soundtracked Lost Highway). I don’t know what it is about David Lynch – all it takes is a dimly-lit room, ambient music, a frightened face and a telephone and I start getting the fear.
5- Time Bandits (1981)
I don’t think Terry Gilliam has made a better film (although Brazil is very close). I really wanted a bedroom like Kevin’s, with knights coming out the wardrobe and stuff. I love the fact that all these heroes from history are flawed and have personality disorders, like Napoleon’s height complex & Robin Hood’s upper class arrogance. Also, the ending is just totally shocking, with his parents being blown up! You kind of felt he was better off because they were so obsessed with material wealth and didn’t pay him any regard. There’s also a kid actor who doesn’t make you want to puke, lots of black humour, some amazingly imaginative scenes (put together on a shoe-string budget) and a snappy tune from George Harrison – awesome.
6- Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
I’m a sucker for films featuring animals, from the canine-crazy Best In Show to Eddie Murphy’s Doctor Dolittle (yes, even Stuart Little!), but Babe: Pig in the City has to be my favourite of them all. Don’t be fooled by Babe’s syrupy 1995 debut – this dark 1998 sequel saw kids being carried out of cinemas in floods tears by horrified parents. The blackly comic story follows the little pig as he ventures into the vivid and seedy animal underworld of city life in a bid to raise enough money to save the farm back home. It starts with a horrific well accident that near kills Farmer Hoggett and goes on to feature hooker poodles, the death of a disabled jack russel on wheels, and best of all, PG Tips style talking chimps. A bizarre and grotesque fantasy, reminiscent more of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Delicatessen and City of Lost Children, than a family blockbuster. AND with
talking animals – what more could you want?
7- Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary’s Baby is one of the most the most bone-chillingly scary horror movies I’ve seen, without relying on blood-splatter, special effects, or shock tactics. The story follows newlyweds Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) after they move in next door to the over-friendly and eccentric Minnie and Roman Castevet (who are really ring-leaders of a satanic coven). Guy’s acting career quickly takes off and Rosemary falls pregnant. But within this picture of mundane everyday life, the increasingly paranoid, hysterical and powerless Rosemary descends into a living hell that sees her craving raw meat, hallucinating, loosing weight, and becoming obsessed with the idea that the Castevets want her baby for a Satanic ritual. I love it because it’s so ambiguous, you never really know where the borderline is between reality and Rosemary’s imagination. Amazingly filmed, this is definitely one to watch again and again to glean extra snippets of information, oh and to indulge in its 1960s kitsch chic fashion!
8- When Harry Met Sally (1989)
It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry! Yes When Harry Met Sally ticks all the right boxes for a perfecto chick flick romantic comedy. Brilliantly schmaltzy and sentimental, it poses the question, ‘Can men and women ever just be friends?’ Being best buddies with Iain Ross from Bearsuit, I like to think that yes, they can. But by the end of the movie, I’m proved wrong. Ahoi, a marriage in our 80s, followed by a honeymoon cruise beckons…
9- The Shrinking of Treehorn / The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge,1956)
I’ve cheated here by putting two films in one, but when I was younger we used to have a video tape which had on The Shrinking of Treehorn followed by Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon. I can never seem to separate the two in my mind. They were so ingrained in my family’s viewing habits that my sister and I knew all the dialogue from Treehorn and would paraphrase it over and over again much to my parents’ annoyance. It was a simple animation of a boy who started to shrink, which went unnoticed by his family, but the dry humour was wonderful throughout. I still want to get a dog whistle (even if I can’t hear it; even if no dogs can hear it, it would be nice to have a whistle?) even now. Luckily The Red Balloon had (more or less) no dialogue so my parents were spared another film ruined for them. A young boy comes across a very large red balloon with a mind of its own, which follows him to school, causing him trouble and jealousy from the other children. Eventually their jealousy turns to anger and the fate of the balloon is sealed. But there is a happy ending… My dad recently sent me a DVD of both these two films so my childhood viewing is now restored.
10- Bugsy Malone (1976)
What can I say about Bugsy Malone? It’s an absolute classic – custard pies, splurge guns, pedal cars, speakeasies, Jodie Foster, Baby Face, kids in spats and great tunes to boot. I’m still waiting for the Bugsy Malone Bearsuit stage outfits to happen, or at least a Bugsy Malone fancy dress party… But what to dress as… Tallulah or Fat Sam? And where’s my pedal car?