The Loves’ Film Jukebox

The Loves

The Loves are unashamed fans of 60s pop and rock, who throw in their unique, fuzzy, low-fi, comedic touches into the mix. The band, who formed in Cardiff in 2000, have decided to call it a day with the release of their fourth album, …Love You, released on Fortuna POP! in January, and will be breaking hearts with their last show on Valentine’s Day 2011. Their new single, ‘December Boy’, is out on December 6 on 7” and download. For more information go to the Fortuna POP! website. Frontman Simon Love tells Electric Sheep about some of his favourite films. SARAH CRONIN

1. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Or What I Thought Being in a Band Would Be Like. Liars. One day I’ll make the indie A Hard Day’s Night and it’ll involve: not getting soundchecks, being bumped down the bill because another band brought the drums, not getting paid, sleeping on floors, late night toilet stops at service stations, playing to three people in Stoke and the never-ending challenge of getting your mix CD played next.

2. Head (1968)
The Monkees attempt to get rid of their teenybopper image but just end up getting rid of their teenybopper fans. I saw this for the first time late one Friday night, coming through the static on S4C, on a portable black and white TV. They’ve never looked cooler than they do when they’re all in white performing ‘Circle Sky’. Except for Davy. He never looked cool. Bless him.

3. Harold and Maude (1971)
Everyone I’ve shown this film to has at first balked at the premise (19-year-old Bud Cort falls in love with 79-year-old Ruth Gordon), but by the end they are either in tears or singing, ‘If you want to sing out, sing out and if you want to be free, be free’. Everyone though still curls their toes when it shows them in bed together. For more examples of Bud Cort’s ossum-ness see Brewster McCloud or choice number eight in my list.

4. The Wicker Man (1973)
The film I’ve seen the most times in a cinema, and I still get freaked out by the Hand of Glory every time. I love this film because there’s no happy ending, no police helicopters come over the cliff to save Sergeant Howie, he dies. Sorry for spoiling it if you’ve not seen it before. Other spoilers: he’s two people, he might be a robot, he was a patient at the mental asylum all along, but Ben Kingsley thought it’d be good for him to pretend to be a policeman and all M. Night Shyamalan films are shit.

5. Star Wars (1977-1983)
Before triple-chinned, badger-haired, one-idea-for–40-years-not-counting-Howard-the-Duck director George Lucas raped my childhood with episodes one to three of the ‘saga’, the three original films brought nothing but pleasant memories to me. Like the time my father got me out of school early to go and see Return of the Jedi, telling my teacher that I had a dentist appointment just so we wouldn’t have to queue, and the time we ‘rented’ The Empire Strikes Back from his friend who had it ‘on pirate’ in a double bill with ET. In the playground I was Han Solo and Gavin Naish was Luke because he had blond hair. Glory days.

6. Back to the Future (1985-1990)
As well as wanting to be Han Solo, I also wanted to be Marty McFly when I was a youngling. I had a sleeveless body-warmer like him (but mine was maroon and white, not orange) and I begged my parents for a skateboard for Christmas in 1985. Instead I got a hi-fi. When I did finally get a skateboard it was wonky. If you leaned left you went right and vice versa, and somehow I managed to rip the nail off my little finger while sat on the board going downhill at high speed. Like all right-thinking people my favourite film is Part II, and come 2015 I will wear my clothes inside out.

7. Clerks (1994)
The filmic equivalent of a garage band – all heart and very little style. I saw Mallrats first and then spent a small fortune (for me) on getting this on video. I’m glad I did. Why is Jeff Anderson not a massive star now? This clip is a million times funnier than anything Adam Sandler’s ever done. But then again, an orphan being injected with cat AIDS and then being set on fire is a million times funnier than anything Adam Sandler’s ever done. The man’s a dick. Anyway, I love all of Kevin Smith’s films. Even Jersey Girl. Seek out his ‘Smodcast’ podcasts on iTunes. Or better yet, seek out the ‘Tell ‘m Steve-Dave’ podcasts.

8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)
This pick could be any of Wes Anderson’s films, but I chose The Life Aquatic because it was the first of his I saw in the cinema. All of his work has the things I look for in films : 1) symmetry in the shots; 2) captions or titles in the film (always in Futura in Wes’s case); and 3) brilliant soundtracks (his soundtracks piss on the ones put together by Justin Quarantino). Also The Life Aquatic stars Owen Wilson, who I am gay for. See this for further proof of Wes Anderson’s aceness.

9. The Sasquatch Gang (2006)
I’d read about this film a while ago because it was made by the producer of Napoleon Dynamite, but then heard nothing of it for a few years until I found it in CEX for £1.50. It’s the same story told from four different perspectives, and the timelines are all chopped up so everything only makes sense at the end of the film. The Loves watched it once when we had a night off from our gruelling tour schedule in Leeds and for the rest of the weekend we were shouting ‘Crap off!’ and ‘This bark smells’ to the bemusement of everyone who wasn’t us. It stars Justin Long (another person I am gay for) and has a cameo by the most excellent Stephen Tobolowlosky.

10. Superbad (2007)
I bought this because I had £15 burning a hole in my pocket, needed something to watch and loved Michael Cera in Arrested Development. I think it’s the film I’ve watched the most over the last five years, although I’m not allowed to watch it in company as I either laugh too hard or speak along with the characters, which annoys people. The comparisons of this and American Pie are ridiculous. You believe Cera, Jonah Hill & Christopher Mintz-Plasse would do the things they do for sex. The cast of American Pie looked like they came from an advert for Calvin Klein. Except for the pie fucker.

Honourable mentions go to Hudson Hawk, Chinatown, Hot Rod, Napoleon Dynamite, Starship Troopers, True Romance, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Double D POV.

Sarah Moss is Filippa in Babette’s Feast

Babette's Feast

Author Sarah Moss’s atmospheric, ghostly debut novel Cold Earth (Granta) is set in Arctic Greenland. As the temperature drops, six ill-prepared archaeologists, who are attempting to unearth traces of a lost Viking settlement, begin to suspect that there’s something decidedly eerie watching their faltering progress. Fittingly, Sarah Moss’s choice of filmic alter ego also inhabits a haunted, wintery world… EITHNE FARRY

‘If I could be a character in a film…’

Before my children were born, I used to write early in the morning, sometimes finishing a day’s work before most people had got to the office. On those days, I rewarded myself with solitary afternoon cinema trips, settling back with blissful anonymity and fine chocolate in Oxford’s art house cinema, to watch anything at all as long as it didn’t involve people getting killed on screen. Cinema-going is among the worst casualties of parenthood, and I’ve hardly been at all in the last eight years, but I think if I could choose now I’d want to be Filippa in Babette’s Feast, and not only for the food at the end. Filippa and her sister Martina live almost in silence for most of their lives, honouring the commands of their dead father, a dissenting minister who forbade them from realising any kind of dream. Theirs are impoverished lives in almost every sense, but the cinematography makes their windswept headland and the dark clothes and simple movements of their daily lives hauntingly beautiful. From my house, full of toys and pictures and little pots of smoked paprika and recherché teas, the scrubbed floorboards, white walls and bare windows of the sisters’ cold home seem enormously appealing. I’m sure I’d hate it in reality – after all, I like new shoes and silly hats and over-priced cupcakes and would be much happier in the 1870s Paris Babette is fleeing than on the dour Danish peninsula where she finds refuge – but the low northern light, the wind through the grass and the greyness of the sea stay with me for days after I’ve watched the film.

Cold Earth by Sarah Moss is published by Granta.

The Spanish Weirdness of Segundo de Chomon

Ki Ri Ki Acrobats

48th New York Festival

24 September-10 October 2010

NYFF website

Segundo de Chomón’s Metempsychosis screens at Tate Modern in London on Friday 3 December as part of the 3rd Fashion in Film Festival

Fashion in Film on Tate Modern website

Segundo de Chomón belonged to a generation of nameless film directors; his films were cast with nameless stars. With film only just stumbling into the 20th century, cinema was still a credit-less art form. No title sequence, just an abrupt ‘Fin’. It was the studios that supplied a name and an identity. The iconic Pathé cockerel repeatedly pops up mid-action while de Chomón’s name is nowhere to be found. Yet de Chomón is not forgotten; by sifting and piecing together film history, his name has become attached to an impressive filmography of tableaux and film fragments, celebrated at this year’s New York Film Festival.

The programme of films – some broken and some complete – was held together by early cinema specialist and playful commentator Tom Gunning. Introducing the films in an entertaining and pleasingly unobtrusive manner, Gunning rejoiced in de Chomón’s ‘Spanish sense of total weirdness’, speculating that perhaps a young Buñuel or Dalí might have settled down to his Andalucian Superstition (1912) years before they started work on their Chien andalou (1929). There are many similarities between the works, although there is a difference in authorial temperament; Gunning painted de Chomón as less of the artistic, controversial auteur and more of a technician. He was working at the very beginning of film when technology was being mastered and explored. The key was not making a statement, but rather entertaining the audience and experimenting with ‘what the camera could do’.

His early films show a fairly straightforward approach. A historical reproduction of Spanish resistance to Napoleon was a static affair with muddled crowd scenes and, as Gunning amusingly pointed out, ‘dead bodies finding comfortable ways to die’. Next came a slapstick chase film, which saw a newly rich man advertising for a wife and then beating a hasty retreat from swarms of pushy females. Again the camera was positioned stock-still while the action rushed in and out of frame but the charming conceit obviously took off and many variations were made, most famously Buster Keaton’s Seven Chances (1925). Gunning was quick to point out that in early cinema ‘ripping each other off was business’. Indeed, I also spotted similarities between de Chomón’s Electric Hotel (1908) and Keaton’s Electric House (1922), which both show electrical gadgets wreaking havoc on unsuspecting residents. Using a beautiful range of effects, de Chomón creates gizmos – from a mechanised letter-writer to an automatic undresser – to rival those of Keaton’s glorious silent comedy.

It was with such later films and in particular, Ah la barbe (1905), that the NYFF screening took a decided turn for the surreal. As Gunning said of the film, ‘there is no plot, just plain weirdness’. Seated in front of a full-length mirror, a man lathers up and begins to shave, but is repeatedly thwarted in his attempts as his reflection morphs into strange, animal-like visages. Increasingly bemused and frustrated, the actor turns to camera to pull puzzled, exasperated faces.

These expressive facial asides highlight the enchanting theatricality running through de Chomón’s work. Vaudeville theatre is key and a major contributor to the bizarreness of his visions. One of his films even takes place inside a miniature children’s theatre with wrestling and fencing puppets playing out the action. Magic tricks are ever-present. A magician oversees the action in Les cents trucs (1906), turning ballerinas into clowns and back again; in The King of the Dollars (1905), a hand deftly plays with gold coins, creating optical illusions before our eyes; and in The Unseizable Pickpocket (1908), a crafty thief turns into a slither of fabric in his attempt to evade the law. De Chomón was himself a magician with his camera work, using editing and stop-motion techniques that we would associate with 21st-century expertise. For his 1907 film, Ki Ri Ki Acrobats, de Chomón shot actors lying in various formations on a black sheet using an overhead camera. Through this trick in perspective, the acrobats appear to be performing gravity-defying gymnastics. The funniest routine involves a tiny acrobat straining and holding up his huge colleagues on a narrow plank of wood. The exotic troupe of ‘Japanese’ performers, the physical comedy and the optical illusions are pure vaudeville.

According to Gunning, in addition to this theatricality, the other key contributor to the weirdness of de Chomón was his Spanishness. The Andalucian Superstition takes its plot from a traditional Spanish folk tale; a woman seethes with jealousy on seeing her lover talking to a Romani woman and dreams that her lover is captured by gypsies. The dream sequence is worthy of Hitchcock’s 1945 Spellbound (giving further weight to the idea that Dalí, who worked on the film, did see de Chomón!), beginning with the camera pulling up to a close-up shot of the jealous woman’s face, all haunted eyes and furrowed brow. The following interlude with its gypsy cave of strange bottled creatures is a strange, fantastical marvel. Again de Chomón seems light years ahead of what one might expect; the use of psychology and odd surreal visions seems like it could belong to a much later period of film history. This enchanting use of folkloric material also shines through in The Red Spectre (1907). A nonsensical work that roughly plots the rivalry between a male and female magician (played by de Chomón’s wife), the repeated images of skeletons and fire seem like symbols from a traditional folk tale. Reading between the lines, the film reveals a pre-occupation with the manipulation of the female image. Tiny women appear trapped in glass bottles and an image of a woman appears on a box composed of moveable segments. They are images that linger in your mind, playing out in strange colourised tones.

Interestingly, de Chomón started out working as a colouriser and would end his career in a similar technical role, working as a cameraman for the Italian director Pastrone, and as one of the many technicians on Napoleon (1927). He may not be remembered like a Keaton, a Dalí or a Hitchcock, or even like his contemporary Méliès, but his work as a director is imaginative and extraordinary and deserves a credit at last.

Segundo de Chomón’s Metempsychosis screens at Tate Modern in London on Friday 3 December as part of the 3rd Fashion in Film Festival.

Eleanor McKeown