Black Time are a shadowy trio from London inspired by Link Wray, Huggy Bear and Suicide. They’ve released two albums of feedback-saturated raw and primal garage dance tunes on the excellent In The Red label, as well as numerous vinyl-only singles on obscure imprints around the world. Film references feature heavily in their lyrics, and they’ve even done a one-sided 12″ concept EP entitled ‘New Vague Themes’ with five songs inspired by French New Wave films! They only occasionally venture out of their dilapidated North London HQ to play live, but you can catch them in Holland on 3-5 October. Find out more here or here. Below guitar-slinger Lemmy Caution discusses his 10 favourite movies.
1- Bob le flambeur (1956)
I could have picked about 6 or 7 films by the director of this movie, Jean-Pierre Melville – I recommend seeing anything with his name on it. He was initially embraced by the nouvelle vague directors because of his stunning tracking shots and Hitchcockian pacing, but then subsequently rejected by them for his old-school cinema sensibilities. His work spans several genres but policiers were his forte – tough crime thrillers, usually featuring a heist and a blurring of the good/evil line between the cops and the criminals. Bob Le Flambeur brings to life the shady bars and underworld hangouts of Paris’ Pigalle district in luminous monochrome, and features the best last line of any film ever (I won’t spoil what it is – you have to watch and find out!).
2- Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montÃÂ³n (1980)
This is the ultimate punk rock movie. Pedro AlmodÃÂ³var went onto acclaim and fortune directing emotionally nuanced family dramas, but his debut feature is a super-trashy paean to being young, dumb and in love with rock’n’roll. Like a cross between a Spanish telenovela, early John Waters and Rock’n’Roll High School. Gross-out humour, fabulous camp fashion, real teenage punks from the burgeoning Spanish scene partying to Public Image Limited records, a fictional but fucking great X-Ray Spex-style band, sassy girl gangs, a spoof intermission that sends up the advertising industry with hilarious perverse humour, and a cock-measuring contest – what more could you want from a film??!!!
3- Alphaville (1965)
I had to pick this one as obviously I nicked my name from the lead character. Supposedly a big influence on Blade Runner, Jean-Luc Godard’s urban sci-fi epic is the epitome of cool. Transforming night-time modernist Paris into a dystopian future city ruled by a megalomaniacal giant computer, Alphaville works on multiple levels – a style bible for brutalism, a funny parody of the hard-boiled detective genre and an existential romance.
4- Death Line (1972)
This is one of those weird budget Hammer-style horror films that Britain did so well during this period, and turns up regularly as a late-night TV staple. The plot is pretty silly – an underground race of cannibals living in the abandoned tunnels of Russell Square station, but it transcends the confines of the genre through a chillingly bleak depiction of early-70s London filmed in wintry bleached-out colour, the Sweeney-style hard-living policeman played by the great Donald Pleasence, and a cracking proto-electro moog score by Wil Malone.
5- I Hired a Contract Killer (1990)
Aki Kaurismäki is another one of my favourite directors – this particular film is an unusual one for him in that it’s set in London rather than his native Finland (most of his movies are set in the same working-class district of Helsinki and feature a core acting ensemble he’s been using for years). I really like his outsider’s view of a foreigner in London (the great French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, also well worth checking out in classics like Les Quatre cents coups and La Maman et la putain) – he really captures the loneliness of a big city when you’re a newcomer. As an added bonus there’s a cameo from Joe Strummer, and Nicky Tesco from the Members plays the Contract Killer.
6- Bedazzled (1967)
Peter Cook’s film career is generally viewed to be an unmitigated disaster, with a string of turkeys to his name, and the public bitterness he expressed over the success his comedy partner Dudley Moore enjoyed in Hollywood. This retelling of the Faust fable with Peter Cook as a suave, mod-suited Satan and Dudley Moore as short-order fry cook Stanley Moon who sells his soul for seven wishes is a lost classic though – my favourite comedy film ever. It looks great, the satirical attacks on religion, advertising and contemporary society are spot-on, and the scene in which the Devil and Stanley go head to head on Top Of The Pops sums up the fickle nature of pop music with great songs (backing singer to the Devil – ‘You drive me wild!!’ The Devil – ‘YOU FILL ME WITH INERTIA’). Avoid the inferior remake from 2000 – Liz Hurley’s girl Lucifer is more page-3 centrefold than diabolical Mephistophelian charmer.
7- Qui ÃÂªtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (1966)
This film is an anomaly on many levels. Written and directed by an expat American documentary photographer who had never made a feature film before (William Klein) in France with a French cast (with the exception of one American actor putting on a terrible accent!), it mixes up drama, satire, reportage, animation and Brechtian asides to the camera, attacking the fashion industry whilst carefully styling the film so every frame looks gorgeous (I wager that on any given week, a 60s club night somewhere round the world is using a still from this film on their flyers). The lead character is a self-absorbed free spirit simultaneously attracted and repulsed by the consumer society she’s trapped in. The question of who Polly Maggoo really is never gets answered, but the quest to find out is a fantastical and enormously entertaining one.
8- Every Day Except Christmas (1957)
On paper this sounds like a pretty boring premise – a documentary about a day in the life of Covent Garden fruit & veg market, but it completely sucks you into the world it captures. It’s a gripping social narrative about a place and people that have more or less disappeared entirely. The combination of the editing seamlessly matched to the rhythm of the working day, the amazing black & white cinematography and the mellifluous Welsh voiceover give it an almost trance-like, hypnotic quality. This was one of the key works of the ‘free cinema’ movement and director Lindsay Anderson went onto greater notoriety and acclaim with his feature films If, This Sporting Life and O Lucky Man.
9- Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
It’s hard to pick one Rainer Werner Fassbinder film – another auteur who left behind an amazing cinematic legacy. This one is possibly the pinnacle of his achievements – his generally cynical view of human motivations is tempered with a gently heartbreaking inter-racial love story. A homage to Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows re-told through the experiences of first generation immigrants in 70s Germany. The central protagonists are the instantly likeable but complex Ali and Emmi, and you’re practically willing for things to work out for them against terrible odds.
10- Deep End (1971)
I realised whilst compiling this list that a lot of my favourite films feature London seen from an unusual perspective, and this is another one – refracted through the strange and wonderful lens of Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski. It ostensibly concerns the experiences of a teenage boy working at a Public Baths in North London. At some points it verges on turning into a Carry On-style sex farce with his seduction by Diana Dors and pining after Jane Asher (her second great role after her turn as a naive schoolgirl in Alfie), but then veers off into weirder territory, taking in grimy scenes of pre-gentrification Soho menace, teacher’s dancing in a nightclub to a pulsating ‘Mother Sky’ by Can (!), and even a cameo by Burt Kwouk (Cato from the Pink Panther films) as a hot-dog salesman. The whole thing could easily be an overly quirky unwatchable mess, but somehow Skolimowski brings together the disparate threads to construct a rounded and satisfying work that is more than the sum of its parts. There’s a heavy dose of JD Salinger to the central plot, if Holden Caulfield had been growing up in 70s Kentish Town listening to krautrock.