Film4 FrightFest

21-25 August 2008

Odeon West End, London


2008 is promising to be a vintage year for Film4 FrightFest, with what is possibly their strongest line-up to date. The festival has always endeavoured to represent the full spectrum of the horror genre, from trashy gore to arty, poetic fantasy and this year the mix is exquisitely calibrated, from the cerebral time travel thriller Time Crimes (set to be remade by David Cronenberg) and smart Korean serial killer tale The Chaser, to teenage zombie comedy Dance of the Dead and splatter fest Tokyo Gore Police. Some of the films showing are particular favourites of ours, including Fear(s) of the Dark, a collection of short animated films by leading graphic artists which explore our deepest phobias (look out for our interview with Charles Burns in the autumn print issue!) and Let The Right One In, a subtle, moving evocation of the world of childhood through a pre-teen vampire tale.

The festival opens on Thursday 21 August with the British film Eden Lake. ‘They don’t want me to use the word controversial but I think I’m going to have to because it does tap into the zeitgeist’, says Alan Jones, FrightFest co-director and programmer. ‘Every day you read about hoodie horror knife crime in the newspapers and it is a reflection of that. It’s James Watkins’s first time as a director and I think he really shows great promise. It’s a very tough film to watch, it’s very bleak, but the acting is superb. I’m very pleased with the British strand of the festival. If FrightFest has any sort of mandate at all it is to showcase upcoming British talent; we’re in London, it’s an important part of what the festival does, and we’ve got seven movies this year that are all pretty good.’

At the other end, FrightFest will close with the Roger Corman-produced Death Race, which is loosely based on the 1975 also Corman-produced Death Race 2000 (which we’ll be covering in our autumn print issue). ‘You have to be careful with your closing film, it can’t be something too downbeat, you want to send the audience off on a high’, explains Jones. ‘We were originally thinking of closing with Martyrs, but we thought, god no, they’re gonna come out of that like zombies wanting to slit their wrists; whereas Death Race is action-packed, it’s fun, it’s silly. It’s very well done, it’s got a massive budget and it’s got Jason Statham in it.’

With Death Race being such a big-budget film, can it really retain the element of political satire of the 1975 film? ‘Very much so’, was Jones’s response. ‘I think that’s one of the reasons why the genre is surviving. I still think horror and fantasy is the best way to put across contemporary concerns. Most of our films do that this year. They’re all pretty strong on the allegory side and Death Race keys into that as much as the other films.’

The highlight of this year’s line-up for Jones is Martyrs, a seriously disturbing-sounding French torture film. ‘When we saw Martyrs in Cannes I just knew it was the fantasy film of the year. It is very daring, it’s so uncompromising that we bent backwards to make sure we got it. I know the audience is going to react to that. They might not like it but they’ll definitely say they’ve never seen anything like it before. For me it’s the best film of the year in how it approaches a very very provocative subject matter.’

But when I say I’m really looking forward to seeing the film, Jones warns me, albeit jokingly: ‘Be careful! I’m a bit worried about that film. There was a time when we used to give people warnings. We had a situation last year when one of our films, The Girl Next Door, caused two people to get very upset, because of the child abuse subject matter. But I’m wary of doing that because the moment you say this is the most shocking film you’ve ever seen, the audience is going to come back to you and say, “it wasn’t as shocking as you said it was going to be”. And if I go on stage and say, “I didn’t like this but you might do”, they all come out and say, “it was really good, why didn’t you like it?” So if you set the audience up to react one way or the other, you’re on a hiding to nothing… It’s best to shut up and let them watch the film! (laughs)

So do FrightFest organisers actually worry about how people might react to some of the most shocking fare on offer? ‘Not really, they’re horror fans. I mean, if a horror film is too horrifying, what are they expecting? (laughs) The audience knows what to expect going in, they want to be horrified, I do! I go to virtually every single horror film because I want to be frightened, I want to be scared, I want to jump, and if I don’t get that I’m disappointed. But I can guarantee there’s gonna be a lot of that going on at FrightFest!’

Virginie Sélavy



Asia House Festival of Asian Film

22-28 August 2008

Renoir Cinema, London


And your starter for ten? Define ‘Asian cinema’ using just five films. Struggling? Not an easy one, is it? Well, it’s no problem for Heng Khoo from Asia House. As the programmer for a new festival taking place at Curzon Cinemas this month, Heng has made a fascinatingly diverse selection: an Iranian anti-war film, a South Korean thriller, a Chinese action epic, an Indonesian art-house film and a musical from Singapore. So what’s the thinking behind this refreshingly eclectic programming? When I meet Heng in the beautiful surroundings of Asia House, he tells me that his initial aim was to provide a platform for films that probably won’t get recognition here in Britain. Indeed, all five films will be receiving their UK premieres during the festival. Despite domestic success and festival favour (the Iranian film, Night Bus, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Asia Pacific Film Awards 2007), theatrical release looks doubtful for most of them.

Asia’s dominance in the film world is clear to see in the recent glut of Hollywood remakes, and yet, there are still works which are very difficult to see here in the UK. 881, the Singaporean musical, for example, was a huge hit at home and in South East Asia but is perhaps not considered profitable enough over here by UK distributors. Likewise, The Photograph, may be seen as too culturally specific for a commercial marketing campaign. And yet, the film, which follows the relationship between Sita, a karaoke bar hostess, and her photographer landlord, Johan, is a fine example of emerging filmmaking talent from Indonesia. Night Bus is another interesting choice for the festival and reflects Asia House’s wide geographical scope, from the Gulf in the West to the Far East. The film takes place on a single night during the Iran-Iraq conflict of the 1980s and its critical view of war should strike a chord with British audiences.

Alongside these lesser-known works, there are two slightly more populist choices, both recently acquired by Icon Film Distribution UK. The Korean thriller Seven Days is billed as a cross between 24 and Se7en and stars Yunjim Kim from Lost while the Chinese epic Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon brings together the balletic martial arts of Hero and the melodrama of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. As Heng tells me, ‘even in this international world of DVDs and downloads, the best place to see films is always in the cinema’; these action-packed features will most certainly prove his point. And which film is Heng most looking forward to? It’s a toss-up between the hyperkinetic Seven Days and the idiosyncratic 881, which manages to incorporate very loud techno music and a quacking duck in one of its opening dance routines. Definitions of Asian Cinema might not be easy but who could resist a techno-loving duck!

As Heng plans to expand the festival in coming years, with more titles and an even wider choice of genres and national cinemas, this annual festival looks set to become the highlight of Asia House’s already successful film programme.

Eleanor McKeown

Jesus Christ Saviour: Interview with Peter Geyer

Klaus Kinski
Jesus Christ Saviour

Format: Cinema

Seen at Edinburgh Film Festival 2008

Director: Peter Geyer

Cast: Klaus Kinski

Original title: Jesus Christus Erlöser

Germany 2008

84 mins

At the height of his career, Klaus Kinski was Germany’s favourite fiend. On November 20, 1971, the iconic actor took to the stage of Berlin’s Deutschlandhalle to perform a very personal reinterpretation of the New Testament, a theatrical monologue about ‘a man who would rather be massacred than continue to live and fester’. Only moments after Kinski entered the spotlight to begin his recitation hecklers in the sold-out auditorium started hurling insults, deliberately provoking Kinski into a rage until he stormed off. However, he returned to the stage time and again and eventually what was meant as the prelude to a planned world tour turned into spectacular tumult and chaos.

Scenes from this evening were very briefly featured in Werner Herzog’s Kinski film My Best Fiend. But now his biographer and estate administrator Peter Geyer has made a full-length documentary out of the previously unseen 16mm footage. Jesus Christ Saviour offers a scrupulously precise reconstruction of Kinski’s legendary defiant stage performance, and the hostile audience’s reaction.

Pamela Jahn talked to director Peter Geyer at the 2008 Edinburgh International Film Festival where the film had its UK premiere.

Pamela Jahn: Your film documents Kinski’s attempt to engage an audience of thousands with a recitation of over 30 typewritten pages reclaiming the story of Jesus. What made Kinski do that?

Peter Geyer: Back in 1961, Kinski announced in an interview in Der Spiegel (the largest German weekly magazine at that time), that he would put the New Testament on stage. Most people probably don’t know that Kinski started as an actor by doing recitations on stage in the late 1950s with verses and ballads by Villon, Rimbaud etc – So, basically, Kinski spoke himself to fame. During 1959-62 he performed and released 32 audio-books. The event was long planned, but soon after he had achieved the cover story in Der Spiegel he moved on to film where financial prospects were better.

But he obviously cherished the idea. Was he to a certain degree obsessed with Jesus?

I am not sure if the obsession increased with the years, but whatever he did, he was always totally passionate and fanatical about it. For example, if you watch Aguirre you get the feeling that he was exceptionally obsessed with that role, but the truth is that he actually didn’t want to shoot Aguirre in the first place. Initially, he came back to Germany to go on tour with Jesus Christ. But after what happened in Berlin, the tour got cancelled, and Kinski needed a new job. He was more obsessed with money than with anything else.

So, it was all about money…

Of course. Kinski sold his soul for money, which explains why his film career is so lousy. By the end of the 1960s, the Italian film industry was in deep financial crisis, and Kinski – who starred in a vast number of those low-budget Spaghetti Westerns – got in trouble because of that, too. His very clever strategy to receive incredibly high fees for only very few days of actual shooting wouldn’t work any longer. Plus, the producers had had enough of Kinski’s extravagances. Right then he got this very attractive offer from a famous German concert impresario: For the enormous fee of one million Deutschmarks, Kinski would perform in 100 venues all over the world, reciting his version of the New Testament live on stage. The initial plan was to start the tour in Germany and then take it to Europe and America. So, Berlin was meant to be only the beginning of a word tour that never happened.

Kinski didn’t even get a chance to start his monologue properly, almost immediately people start interrupting him, and it seems that the audience was out for blood from the beginning… Why would they pay for someone they didn’t want to see?

It’s true that the atmosphere was very tense from the beginning. Many people came to provoke Kinski, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that all of them were just thirsting for confrontation. I think it was only a small number of real hecklers, which makes it even worse, because the rest of the audience didn’t manage to kick out the few assholes and get to see the show. None of them dared raise their voice against the few Kinski opponents in the auditorium and after a while the aggressive tone took over the entire hall. Of course, Kinski misbehaved too, and so it all ended in great chaos.

Didn’t he enjoy provoking people?

If you look closely at his performance in the film, you see that Kinski never deliberately provoked an argument. He didn’t seek confrontation, but he also couldn’t take any form of criticism. He was too insecure for that. So in order to be able to cope with it and avoid getting hurt, he trained himself to be quick at repartee. But all the shouting and screaming on top of that just scared people, they didn’t know how to deal with him.

What sort of reputation preceded Kinski in Germany at that time?

It was something of an open secret that Kinski lived in luxury in his villa in Italy. He was a rich international film star. But I don’t think that his flamboyant life style or his eccentric, egomaniac persona was the problem. In many ways, Kinski often was ahead of his time, in his work but also because he was the first person who used tabloids for his own purposes. In 1971, however, he simply looked like a self-proclaimed believer, an epigone.

Your film is simply a raw and meticulous reconstruction of the infamous event. Why did you decide to offer no further comments or explanation?

My intention was to make his work accessible, and to be truthful about Kinski. The most interesting thing is to just see him performing life on stage, there’s no need for further explanation or attempted whitewashing. I am used to facing the aggression of Kinski fans because they hate me for clarifying lies that he made up in his book (All I Need Is Love). But it’s not my intention to turn Kinski into a super-human or create a new legend.

Did you ever search for any of the people who attended that evening?

No, never. Having said that, I actually never had to look for them, they came to me. I’ve met a lot of people who said that they were in the audience that night. But whenever it comes to Kinski, it seems that people’s memories become very vague. I call this the Werner Herzog syndrome, which is that, whenever it is about Kinski, you have to come up with a great story simply to make Kinski larger than life. People who say they encountered Kinksi but who were actually not really close to him, always try to turn his pretty boring private life into something bigger, more exciting. I’ve got the recorded material anyway, material that is not manipulated, so why should I ask someone else?

How do you think people look at the material today?

It depends on the generation. When I took over Kinski’s estate, Kinski was ‘dead’; the time for people like him is over. Today, the younger generation understands that he was actually the last non-conformist figure in the German entertainment industry. Someone who really said, ‘No – I am against your system’, but who didn’t hurt anyone. Which makes him an ideal badge to wear for people trying to be different – it’s the same with Kinski as it is with Che Guevara.

Did Kinski ever think about making a film out of the footage himself?

No. His third wife, Monhoi, told me that she had asked him once about the footage and why he didn’t want to edit it and show it again. Kinski answered, ‘They would only nail me to the cross again. You can do that when I am dead, but as long as I am alive, they would think that I am a bad loser.’

Interview by Pamela Jahn



The cinema has always been both valorised and demonised as a major player in the movement towards sexual liberation in the twentieth century. The intersection of socio-cultural realities and the cinematic imaginary are fairly well charted waters, as are the names of the major figures involved. But among the unsung movers and shakers of cinematic history towards this sexual reordering, I propose a lesser known name be added to the roll call: that of Richard Hollingshead Jr, who 75 years ago this year opened the first ever drive-in movie theatre.

It was on June 6, 1933, that his legendary US Patent No. 1,909,537 for ‘The Park-In Theatre’ was actualised in Camden, New Jersey, where the preferable final appellation ‘Drive-In Theatre’ was adopted. The first ever drive-in movie to be screened was, appropriately enough, Wives Beware (Fred Diblo, 1932), a British film aka Two White Arms which is reputably about trying to, in Tom Waits’s words, ‘getcha little somethin’ that you can’t get at home’ – one of a number of staple slogans which would come to sustain drive-in business for the next 50 years.

A second drive-in appeared in California in 1934 and soon Hollingshead was franchising his invention across America, suing anyone else who dared to build an independent one. But in 1945, a time when there were only 100 drive-ins in the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that Hollingshead’s drive-in patent was null and void and consequently that anyone had the right to open one. As it was, this legal decision happened to coincide with the end of World War Two, the end of rationing and the end of the American economic depression. It also came at the start of the post-war baby boom, the start of the migration of young families from town centres to the newly emerging suburbs and with the rise of a new prosperity that now meant almost everyone could own an automobile. In brief, the conditions were ripe for an explosion in drive-in construction. Anyone with a little land – land outside towns was, like gasoline, cheap then – could build their own drive-in. The audience could watch a movie with the whole family – saving on babysitters, parking and the more expensive indoor town cinema ticket prices, all the while enjoying the comfortable environment of their steel household pet – the family car.

The latter part of the 1940s saw the evolution of sound systems, which went from loudspeakers booming out the soundtrack (and outraging homeowners nearby) to the small in-car speaker on a pole, ‘Don’t forget not to drive away with it!’ Minute revisions were made to the angle of the vertical pile of earth which optimised parked viewing when 500-2000 cars were positioned in semi-circular rows. No car? No problem! There was even a ‘fly-in drive-in’ built, which accommodated a couple of dozen small aircrafts. Then came the introduction of family-friendly niceties like barbeque pits, picnic tables, swings and playgrounds, clowns and circus acts, uniformed attendants, huge neon signs and the single most profitable innovation of all: the legendary concession stand and the ubiquitous intermission film trailers inducing the audience to scarf down loads of buttered popcorn, ice-cream, hot dogs, candy bars and soft drinks – sometimes beer. By 1949 there were 155 drive-ins, but the golden age was just around the corner; by 1951 there were 820 drive-ins and in 1958 close to 5000, though this development came at a cost: in that same year a similar number of indoor cinemas closed their doors.

The growing number of young children and families in 1950s America who were living in suburbia and filling these drive-ins were catered to in every way possible. Drive-ins were known as nice family places – for a mainly white, aspirant middle class, it has to be said. There was some concern about stories and rumours of various amorous activities taking place in the back seats of cars – made evident by the steaming up of windows – but it was not until these baby-boomers emerged from their cocoons and became that culturally and economically distinct market group, the teenager, that things really hotted up – both on and off-screen. It was also at this time that a number of new factors entered into the cinematic equation. The major studios had always resisted distributing first run films to drive-ins and reserved them for the ‘classier’ cinemas in town centres. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s seismic cultural shifts were occurring which changed the face of the industry, among which may be noted the challenges hurled at Hollywood from television, the more liberal sexual content of European (often dubious) ‘art-house’ films, publications like Playboy magazine, challenges to censorship laws, more relaxed attitudes to sexuality, and of especial significance for drive-in owners: the raging hormones of 16-18-year-olds. Affluent enough to drive their own jalopies around and to control their own social lives, they had one big problem – where to go out on a date that was (superficially) acceptable to parents yet provided good cover for the more frisky pursuits of adolescent affection (lust). Thus did the ‘sin pit’ designation of back-row indoor cinemas morph into the ‘passion pit’ designation for drive-ins. And most crucially and importantly to all of these factors was the development of a market niche which the big studios were slow to react to: the low-budget teen’sploitation film, into whose eventual canon masters such as Roger Corman, Samuel Arkoff, and Herschell Gordon Lewis were operating. As the 60s moved on, drive-in film cycles and sub-genres popped up in these shady venues like transgressive mushrooms: biker flicks, rebel flicks, bad girl flicks, JD flicks, beach party flicks, nudie flicks, rock ‘n’ roll flicks, women in prison/caged women flicks, and later the counter-culture flicks featuring anti-heroes and student activists (always an obligatory reefer rolling scene), psychedelic flicks, and gore fest flicks – all this and they were often screened in dawn till dusk marathons; which is how, dear reader, the present writer of this piece came to know all about the de Sades, the Phibes, the Captain Americas, the Ilsas, the Emmanuelles, the Gidgets and the Shafts of this world, alongside gaining – after many futile and frankly fumbled attempts – some modest mastery of the complex ergonomics of the bra strap clasp, a skill which seemed then to rank alongside any kinaesthetic feat of Houdini’s.

This period (60s to mid-70s) was in fact the high cultural and historic cinematic watershed of the drive-in theatre, in spite of the fact that profits weren’t quite as good as in the 1950s, in spite of the fact that the incorporation of daylight saving time was forcing back starting times, in spite of the fact that the rival indoor cinemas (soon to be multiplexes) were improving their facilities and offerings. And it was likewise the golden age of the drive-in film. Roger Corman himself was involved with the production of some 200 movies, and a quick glance at books like Cult Flicks & Trash Pics or Slimetime: a Gudie to Sleazy Mindless Movies will provide plenty of other choice examples.

But then came the crash: with ever-diminishing returns, desperate drive-in managers moved from exploitation films to screening XXX and porno films thus alienating many audiences and outraging neighbourhoods – it was said that car accidents were caused by drivers gawping at the giant roadside screens and that people were subject to 40-foot-high fornication scenes from their home windows. Added to this, fuel crises, the baby-boomers distaste for suburban life and the consequent return to inner city dwelling, and the dampened enthusiasm for the novelty of alfresco movies all contributed to the fall of the drive-in. The hearty drive-in owner soldiered on, but from a peak of 5000 screens in 1958, there were only 1500 in 1988 and less than 500 in 2000 (Sources of all figures from The Drive-In Theatre History Page). But the final nails in the coffin came with VCRs, cable channels and the massive sell-offs of drive-in properties, whose value had sky-rocketed as suburban malls, retail superstores and drive-in eateries swallowed up the out-of-town areas.

A few drive-in theatres still operate but the rest are cultural dinosaurs; rotting brick-and-wood behemoths hidden behind overgrown greenery and trees, unlisted architectural monuments to a period in American cultural and social history where cars, movies and making out were a kind of youthful holy trinity. But as Joe Bob Briggs writes, ‘They can burn us up. They can knock us down. But they can’t close the drive-in in our heart.’

So let’s all raise a CHILLING! BLOODY! BEASTLY! TERRIFYING!, NAKED! 75th ANNIVERSARY drink to that great genius of cinematic innovation, Richard Hollingshead, Jr.

James B Evans


Peter Whitehead

The retrospective at the Paris Cinemathí¨que in January 2007 followed by this summer’s Italian festivals of Bologna and Bellaria have witnessed the re(in)surrection of Peter Whitehead’s subversive counter-cinema. There is also a book being published, the first on the British director, Peter Whitehead: Cinema, musica, rivoluzione (Cinema, music, revolution), unfortunately only in Italian. After having spent a long time in Saudi Arabia breeding falcons (see The Falconer by Chris Petit, a good documentary on the director) Whitehead has recently come back to cinema and started working on an adaptation of one of his novels (he’s also a famous cyber-novelist), Terrorism as one of the Fine Arts… a long overdue film on Western fundamentalism and its ‘democratic’ CCTV-controlled identity.

Best known for his records of 60s music and youth culture, Peter Whitehead placed his own desiring subjectivity at the heart of his films and sculpted with light (he was a cinematographer as well as an editor) an alternate vision of the swinging sixties (a term which, according to the director, was coined by the CIA in order to downplay the revolutionary nature of that period). Superimposing warped and unfocused images on the dominant standard of clean and fake commercial aesthetics, his style sought to fight the capitalistic forces specialised in the commodification of the youth’s rebellious urges.

When Whitehead’s camera scratches away the glossy pretence of what he described as ‘that old monotheistic, patriarchal, elitist, conservative crap that through institutionalised imperialism is devastating the Third World and those who oppose this manslaughter’, I cannot help but thinking about his first, seemingly irrelevant, film, The Perception of Life. I watched the film in a quasi-deserted cinema during the Biografilm festival in Bologna where, exception made for this one feature, Whitehead’s retrospective was hugely successful. The film was commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation (Unit for the History of Ideas) and is about the evolution of biologic sciences in relation to the development of microscopic techniques. It was shot through lenses used by scientists from the 17th to the 20th century and it somehow embodies Whitehead’s cinematic action to come: going beyond the appearance of things, trying to analyse them from within after having perforated their surface, just like the eye-slitting in Un Chien Andalou. This curious film is closed by a voice-over asking the audience: ‘Have we arrived to the point where our eyes are meeting our imagination?’… An involuntary poetic declaration?

The Celluloid Liberation Front met Peter Whitehead in Bologna, where 31 years ago the tanks sent by the government entered the city to repress the creative autonomy movement, killing an innocent man and thousands of dreams.

CLF: What can you tell us about the film you’re now working on, Terrorism Considered as one of the Fine Arts?

PW: My new film can be considered The Fall‘s sequel since it enacts the end of representation. The protagonist is Michael Schlieman, a MI6 spy working in the terrorism section of the British intelligence. He disappeared and will publish his ‘confessions’ on the internet, revealing the truth about secret operations carried out by various governments. There is a parallel between the sinking of the French Greenpeace boat, the Rainbow Warrior, and the terrorist state murder of a Greenpeace photographer. Schlieman is now part of an eco-terrorist group… the central element of the film is the killing of an ideal victim. I want to investigate the CIA’s influence on English culture, which is based on misinformation. This new film is influenced by Thomas De Quincey’s novels, Confessions of an Opium Eater and Murder Considered as a Fine Art, and I’d say that it is about fear and control, or better still, about the fear that the state spreads in order to control. After having destroyed the Third World now we are also destroying this planet; Gaia is now, rightly so, revolting.

CLF: Can cinema participate in social struggles, or does it merely register/document?

PW: Yes, partly it can but it’s just a little part. I think that avant-garde art always has to be directly and belligerently dangerous, destructive, but not towards itself, rather, towards the collective inertia. The true aim of art should be to cultivate acts of war… it’s not enough to paint words on walls, these walls need to be torn down.

CLF: Can you tell us more about the magazine you co-founded, Afterimage?

PW: I founded that magazine with Field and Sainsbury in 1970, we were mainly influenced by Cahiers and its political commitment and wanted to bring across the channel some avant-garde cinema such as Godard’s British Sounds (Peter Whitehead was the first one to translate Godard’s films into English) which remains little seen to these days. We were the first to publish the Manifesto of Third Cinema by Solanas and Getino in Europe besides reviewing Guney, Fassbinder and Herzog among others.

CLF: While watching the early Rolling Stones performances in Charlie is My Darling I felt that back then they were using a language that many found dangerous and hyper-kinetic. What attracted you most to that band?

PW: You got the point, the media back then was focusing on the style of the band while for me it was a matter of form or language, as you said. They were adopting the musical culture of the Afro-Americans, an oppressed minority, therefore that music was carrying a strong political message in itself. Jagger himself said, ‘music is one of the things that can change society, don’t let white kids listen to black music if you want them to remain how they are’.

CLF: I’ve just watched your first film The Perception of Life, and in spite of being poles apart from the rest of your production I thought that it somehow represented your cinema quite well. What do you think of that film?

PW: I have to admit that back then I didn’t like the film but, later on I got interested by the fact that it was all shot through a microscope, in other words I was not using the camera, I was using a microscope, and many sequences are shot through the oldest machines used by scientists. We were looking for what these scientists were seeing through those lenses. Perception shows how theories are determined by what is visible. You’re right, in a sense all my films are linked to the idea of using the camera as a microscope. I think that in all my films I enter a situation and I try to analyse it from the inside.

Interview by Celluloid Liberation Front


Monsters of Miami

Still from Monsters of Miami

Uncut is a film forum that runs monthly at the ICA (London).

For more details visit the ICA website.

The ICA’s monthly Uncut Film Forum is an all too rare opportunity for members of the public to see short films by up-and-coming directors and film school graduates, with the chance to get the inside scoop from the filmmakers themselves. Programmed and presented by Joel Karamath, the Forum was founded fifteen years ago in response to the demise of repertory cinema: ‘A lot of the art-house cinemas were closing down when I was at college, so there were fewer places to see films by new directors. I wanted somewhere to show films and have them discussed, so when the ICA offered me the opportunity to set up a film forum, I ran round the student shows to pick the best films and the monthly event grew from that’.

June’s Uncut featured eleven incredibly eclectic short films covering a broad range of subject matter and styles, from challenging documentaries, to touching dramas, fantasy with live action mixed with animation to more abstract takes on filmmaking. ‘There’s no point programming two hours of avant-garde cinema’, says Karamath, ‘you want the audience to be drawn in. So by showing a variety of films, including a couple of more abstract pieces, you really hold their attention’.

Many of the filmmakers tackled tough subject matter, providing balanced arguments. Hamish Mek Chohan’s Boots and Braces – The Night Southall Burned is the story of the clash between skinheads and Indians in Southall in 1981, with interviews from both sides providing a compelling investigation into a forgotten issue. In Monsters of Miami, Nick Ahlmark talks to paedophiles forced to live under a bridge with no running water or electricity, due to a law that means they can’t be less than 2,500 ft from anywhere children gather. Their story is sympathetically told, and the viewer feels sorry for these men while simultaneously horrified by what they’ve done.

Death was a dominant theme in June’s event, as demonstrated in the poignantly funny drama Roaring Heaven, which is set in an old people’s home and tackles the way British people are able to handle and talk about death. In stark contrast to the film’s sad subject matter, the colours are Technicolor bright, representing the heightening of the senses due to grief.

Death receives a more abstract treatment in Niall Thompson’s Six Million Ways To Die where an actor is filmed straight to camera, reciting stream-of-consciousness monologue in one take, listing every conceivable way to die. The monologue features everything from ‘heart attack’ and ‘stabbing’ to ‘ill-prepared fugu‘ and ‘eaten alive by a whale’.

To put together the programme of the Film Forum, Karamath (a college lecturer) searches for the most outstanding work from an international assortment of student filmmakers. Yet, he also looks beyond the confines of film school: ‘I’m most interested in the first film out of college, where the filmmaker is no longer restricted by college but they haven’t yet been disillusioned by the industry’. If the standard of shorts demonstrated is as high every month then the future is certainly bright for the British Film Industry. Uncut resumes in the autumn after a short summer break.

Lucy Hurst


Crazy Girl

Is there anything Crazy Girl can’t do? She is a musician, she has her own radio show, she animates her own videos and stories plus she designs teen-freaking computer games. All the latest info about the ultimate 21st-century Renaissance woman is on her website, including the details of the new, luxurious 12′ box set due out on the Tummy Touch label in August. This is her film jukebox.

1- Tommy (1975)
We got cable TV when I was a kid. There was only 1 channel, HBO, and it showed the same 3 movies over and over. Tommy was on constant rotation in 1978 and I watched it every day after school. At first it scared me, but then I became obsessed with it and to this day, I can recite the dialogue from beginning to end. The Who’s music plus Ken Russell’s keen direction equals a beautifully styled, psychedelic wonderland. It’s beautiful, twisted, has killer music and outfits, lots of star cameos and the hero is a pinball champion. What more could you want? When I was little it really captured me, I knew one day when I grew up I wanted to be a gypsy acid queen, just like Tina Turner. Recently I was home visiting my mom, and Tommy was on, she had never watched it, after a while, she started crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said, ‘I was a bad mother to let you watch this film when you were so young, I can’t believe this is what you were watching!’ I had to reassure her; ‘Don’t be upset Mamma, this film really influenced me on so many levels, if I hadn’t of seen it so young, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today!’

2- Always for Pleasure (1978)
Growing up in the deep south of Columbus, Georgia, USA, there was one thing I looked forward to with a vengeance; spending my vacations in New Orleans with my grandpa Stuart and my uncle Diggie. Leaving the drab beige Bible belt town for this rainbow city of exploding fabulousness! My family had an intense pride for their city. Grandpa was a jazz trumpeter. He’d played with the old jazz legends but when I was a kid he was the bandleader for the circus, which was pretty cool! My uncle was a musical playwright who wrote shows based on New Orleans culture and he was also an amazing costume designer. Going to visit them was like being on another planet where you dressed in sequins and feathers, ate yummy creole cuisine, and danced to the blaring sounds of trumpets and banging drums. This beautiful film by Les Blanks is the only film I have ever seen that truly captures the magic essence of New Orleans and what it once was. It’s set in 1978 at Mardi Gras. Witness the Mardi Gras Indians – Wild Tchoupitoulas chiefs doing their patois battle (kind of a folk rap), learn how to boil crawfish, Irma Thomas talks about how to make perfect red beans, see a rare performance by Professor Longhair, and much more. This is the New Orleans I remember – the beauty, the carefree way of life, the fun, the golden days.

3- Waiting For Guffman (1997)
In 1976 I played a young Scarlett O’Hara in my hometown’s sesquicentennial (150 year) celebration. That was my introduction to my local community theatre company. That’s why I love this film so much, it mirrors my small town upbringing. From the guys that brought out classics like Spinal Tap and Best in Show, this particular film is my favourite of theirs. Set in the fictitious town of Blaine, Missouri, the local theatre company writes a musical to celebrate Blaine’s 150th birthday. As the story goes, in the early 1900s, a presidential candidate was campaigning on a train that stopped in Blaine, a local boy gave him one of his father’s hand-crafted foot stools, that created the stool boom, and Blaine became known as the stool capital of the world. The theatre group does a song and dance number all about stools, it is the funniest thing I have ever seen.

4- Fantastic Planet (La Planí¨te Sauvage, 1973)
Back in my early 20s, myself and 3 friends took acid and tripped at this folk artist compound in South Georgia called Pasaquan. It was built from the 1950s to the 80s by this wacky man who went by the moniker St EOM. He believed he was a Pasaquoan and he was to teach the world of Pasaquanism. Pasa from Spanish meaning the past and Quan from Chinese meaning the future – bringing the past to the future was his philosophy. All throughout the grounds were these giant space creatures with pressure point suits with their hair standing up in the air – that was another part of his mantra, that the hair must stand up to receive cosmic messages from the galaxies. Supposedly they could levitate as well. It was an intense, magical 3 days. We dressed in his outfits and tried to contact his spirit. Afterwards, one of my friends handed me a videocassette and said, ‘All will become clear’. Boy, was he right, it was like all the mysteries of the world were revealed, right there and then. Fantastic Planet was almost a reflection of St EOM’s vision. I believe the 1970s were the last renaissance on earth, just look at the outfits and music that was made then. Particularly 1973. The film was made by French artists in Czechoslovakia. It’s a story about the Oms and the Draags. The Oms are humanoid creatures broken into 2 groups, savage Oms that live in the forest and domesticated Oms who are pets of the Draags – the overseers of the planet. The Draags are giant space creatures in pressure point suits that levitate – see the similarities? The story is about the Oms trying to break free from the Draags’ tight reign. On top of a brilliant story, and wonderfully weird animation, the soundtrack is utterly superb!!! Composed by Alain Gorguer, the top track for me is ‘Ten Et Medor’, it’s also my favourite scene from the film.

5- Bottles (1936)
When I was little I really wanted to go to Disney World, just like all the other kids, but my parents were totally against the blatant consumerism, so instead we did Swiss Family Robinson type adventures, mining for amethyst, sapphire, ruby, rose quartz and even panning for gold in the Appalachian Mountains. I thought it was totally unfair and if I could have charged my parents with abuse I would have. Oddly enough, I was never ever a Disney cartoon fan, not even Fantasia (gasp!), I just wanted to fit in, I guess, and be normal. Every day there would be old cartoon shorts on the TV. This one in particular really grabbed me, made by one of Disney’s rivals – Harman & Ising. It’s set in a chemist’s shop, the chemist is making a drug and the fumes make him pass out. When he awakes everything is upside down and topsy-turvy. The entire chemist shop comes to life, the Alka Seltzer sings to the lipstick, the hair brushes dance with the perfume bottles, it’s all so mad. I think this made me want to try psychedelic drugs. I mean if it makes you see dancing lipsticks, it can’t be that bad, can it?

6- The Cockettes (2002)
I was born in the wrong time. If only I had been born in the late 40s, I would be in my late teens or early 20s living in a San Francisco commune. I am a total idealist and wish for a perfect utopia, it seems for a brief time in history, there was one in San Francisco. There was a printing commune, a food commune, art commune, music commune, and they all came together to work as one; but the best most fun commune that I would have joined had to be the drag commune. They had a drag box you could pick outfits from, they danced and took acid and covered their faces in glitter. They soon called themselves the Cockettes and formed a musical performing troupe, who counted Divine and Sylvester as members. It wasn’t long before famous people like Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger were lining up to catch their performances; but sadly it all crashed when they tried to recreate the San Francisco magic in New York City. This documentary has amazing vintage footage of their shows, with cameos by John Waters and Allen Ginsberg. A brilliant look into the wacky world of the acid-taking, beard-wearing, glitter-covered queens. Let’s hope that style makes a comeback soon.

7- Auntie Mame (1958)
Like I mentioned previously, going to New Orleans when I was a child was my favourite thing to do. One reason was because of my uncle, he could make a funeral fun, and he did when my grandpa died on my 13th birthday! I was devastated. But, Instead of staying home crying, he dressed me in sequins and feathers and took me to a play he was in at the time, that happened to star Dr Tony Jones from General Hospital (a popular soap opera from the 1980s). I forgot all about gramps and stayed up all night with Dr Tony Jones drinking virgin strawberry daiquiris. My uncle was a true bohemian, who travelled the world in the 60s with this theatre company called La Mamma. Their claim to fame was this series of ancient Greek tragedies performed in ancient Greek, at old theatres in the rounds in the Middle East. It was pretty ground-breaking stuff at the time, and original members included Sam Shepard, Susan Sarandon and Merryl Streep. Going to visit him was a real learning experience. He was a true artist and non-conformist, who on top of showering me with love, affection and lots of gifts, always taught me to be myself, not to judge others and to see life in a different light. Auntie Mame always reminded me of him. The story is about an orphaned boy forced through boarding school, who spends his vacations with his wild, wacky, bohemian aunt who shows him life through a different perspective. The outfits and sets are truly glorious, and again there is a moral message – be yourself and do not judge others. This classic film is a true old Hollywood gem.

8- Dancing Outlaw (1991)
When I first saw this film I thought it must be a hoax. Is it possible that a paranoid, schizophrenic, glue-sniffing, clog-dancing Elvis impersonator could exist? But the answer is ‘YES!’ Oh, I love this film. It is the story of Jessie White. Jessie has 3 personalities – Jessie – the sweet clog-dancing man, Jesco – the angry, glue-sniffing, devil-worshipping criminal, and Elvis – duh – the king of Rock and Roll. This fly-on-the-wall doc follows him around his home town of Boone County, West Virginia. A poor, coal-mining community nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. The film starts off with Jesco, in an Iron Maiden T-shirt with a boom box blaring ZZ Top, clog-dancing across a wood-slatted bridge over a ravine. Jessie’s deceased father had been a clog-dancing champion of Boone County and he desperately wants to follow in his father’s clogsteps. It’s quite evident when his personalities change. Jessie is sweet, Jesco is mean, and Elvis can be mean too. At one point his wife asks, ‘ Jessie, when will you make love to me?’ He replies, ‘Bitch, you call me by my right name or I’ll cut your fuckin’ head off’. So she asks, ‘ Elvis, when will you make love to Priscilla?’ A funny, poignant peek into a true character’s life. Apparently, there is a Jessie White music festival, one day Lord, please let me play there.

9- Mule Skinner Blues (2001)
My other grandparents lived in Florida and every year we would make the journey down to visit them. Along the way my dad would drive us through a trailer park and say, ‘This is where the carnies live’ and we would all peer out the windows hoping to catch a glimpse of the lobster man, bearded lady or obligatory midget. Sadly, all we saw were trailers, but I’m fascinated by trailer parks. This sweet little documentary is set in a trailer park in Florida inhabited by a group of misfits. Beanie – an alcoholic, drifter, and also king of the misfits, has one dream – to make a horror film. And together with his merry neighbours, and the documentary film crew, his dream comes to fruition. One lady sews the outfits, others provide the soundtrack, and with the magic of a gorilla costume – a monster is born. It’s a great feel-good film and nice to see a quirky community pulling together for art’s sake.

10- Belleville Rendez-vous (2003)
This animation is about a grandmother’s undying love for her grandson and the lengths she will go to protect him. Set in France in the ‘olden days’, the thing I love about this film is there is no dialogue, except when Les Triplettes de Belleville, a band of jazz-singing old ladies, do their occasional performance. That’s what is so great though, this film transcends words, it’s just a beautiful, moving story about love, protection and lots of bikes. My favourite is the dog, he’s so life-like. He has these funny doggy dreams which remind me of my dog Boo Boo Bee Bee, he has doggie dreams all the time.

Interview by Nick Dutfield