Short Cuts: LSFF 2010 – Rich Pickings Presents: Lolita Complex

Little Red Hoodie

7th London Short Film Festival

8-17 January 2010

Rich Pickings Presents: Lolita Complex

Date: 10 January 2010

Venue: Shortwave Cinema, London

LSFF website

‘A mini, weird conference of ideas’, as festival programmer Carla MacKinnon describes it, each Rich Pickings event takes a single theme and explores the issues involved through a combination of short film screenings, discussion, live music and art performances. The aim is to get people engaged with a particular topic and draw in crowds who might not usually attend film festivals. As MacKinnon explains: ‘A lot of the festivals that I work with are designed to showcase good new short film work and provide a path for filmmakers to get into the industry… which is good and really necessary, but I suppose there was this whimsical side of me that wanted to do something slightly more exploratory.’

The first-ever event, focused on translation and adaptation, took place earlier this year at the Shortwave Cinema in Bermondsey, London. With literary readings and even a game of Chinese Whispers to illustrate how narratives break down, the central focus was a back-to-back double-bill screening of GW Pabst’s 1931 French- and German-language versions of The Threepenny Opera, which aimed to highlight the differences in these translations.

Another literary classic, Nabokov’s Lolita, is the starting point for the second Rich Pickings event, due to take place at the London Short Film Festival on January 10, 2010. Tackling a tricky subject area, the programme will take a look at teenage and adolescent sexuality in all its forms – ‘imposed, real and perceived’. MacKinnon admits that it’s not an easy theme to curate: ‘What really appealed to me about it is that it scared me because it’s not something I’m comfortable with, and it’s not something where I know what I think about it.’ MacKinnon has decided to kick off proceedings with the rarely seen adolescent films of video artist Sadie Benning: ‘I wanted to start out with the voice of a teenager, but a teenager who kind of knew what she was doing.’ As the daughter of filmmaker James Benning, Sadie was a culturally astute adolescent, and her low-fi, Pixelvision films create a certain voyeuristic discomfort, as she explores her sexuality in intimate detail.

Many of the other films being screened present teenage sexuality from an adult perspective: Girl like Me (Rowland Jobson, 2009) follows a middle-aged man as he mistakenly ends up on a date with a young teenage girl; and Little Red Hoodie (Joern Utkilen, 2008), a disturbing take on the familiar fairy tale sees an adolescent girl crossing the Scottish highlands in a provocative red T-shirt as she delivers a television to her grandmother’s house. In addition, a child psychologist will talk about Nabokov’s Lolita, bringing a voice from outside the film industry and an important ‘dose of reality’ – a refreshing characteristic of Rich Pickings.

During our conversation, MacKinnon tosses around all sorts of intriguing options for the programme, from Japanese animé to Kenneth Anger’s fetishisation of youth and a late-night screening of Eric Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee (1970): ‘It’s like anything with programming, you go down a lot of different, interesting routes and beautiful by-roads before you hit the highway.’ She reveals she has hundreds of themes she wants to work on in the future, ranging from the serious (visions of the end of the world) to the fun and silly (‘monkeys versus robots’). With MacKinnon’s energetic programming, there should be many rich pickings for audiences at LSFF.

Eleanor McKeown

Fucked Up’s Jukebox

Fucked Up

Photo by David Waldman

If you’re going to name your band Fucked Up, you can’t mess around. You’ve got to really bring it or else what’s the point? Luckily, Canadian punks Fucked Up do really live up to their name. Their live shows are a sight to behold, with theatrical stage antics spilling out to the audience, often accompanied by blood and nudity. Despite this, the band won the prestigious Canadian Polaris Prize, showing that you can have a naughty word in your band name and still be taken seriously. A collection of their many hard-to-find 7” and 12” tracks are being brought together on a double CD and LP to be released on 25 January on Matador Records. More information on the Matador website and Fucked Up’s blog. Frontman Damian Abraham, aka ‘Pink Eyes’, gives us his 10 favourite films. LUCY HURST

1- The Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Hands down my favourite film of all time. Directed brilliantly by Brian De Palma who is someone I have always felt is underrated as a director. It is a tale that is one part Faust and one part Phantom of the Opera but set against a glam rock backdrop. The music was written by one of the film’s stars, Paul Williams, and it is one of the great, unheralded soundtracks of all time. I first saw this film as a child late one night on TV and for years thought I must have imagined it. It wasn’t until about 12 years ago that I found out it was indeed a real film.

2- Style Wars (1983)
I love documentaries but for the most part I find they don’t stand up to repeated viewing. That said, I have watched this one at least 30 times. It is basically an overview of graffiti in New York in the early 80s but it is so much more than that. A perfect time capsule of a youth culture in its infancy that in no way belittles its subjects but at the same time really never canonises them either. What is left is an honest portrait of the people that made this culture, which ended up sweeping the world. A graffiti writer named Cap (who is featured rather prominently) is the greatest cinematic villain of all time. For the longest time this film was nearly impossible to find. I can remember having to go to the Toronto Reference library to watch a 16mm print version because it was the only way to see it. Nowadays you can order it on the internet and just watch it in the comfort of your own home… oh the modern world.

3- 24 Hour Party People (2002)
There is a great quote about the difficultly of making a film about an artist and I guess that the same must apply to musicians as well. The ‘rock and roll film’ is a very finicky beast. Normally they wind up terrible (Almost Famous), occasionally they wind up all right (Sid And Nancy) but on rare occasions they wind up amazing. This is one such occasion. In this post-modern take on the origins of post-punk, Michael Winterbottom employs direct address, archival footage and ‘found footage’ to make a film worthy of the story it is telling.

4- Casino (1995)
For most people, the obvious Scorsese gangster film is Goodfellas. While I love Goodfellas, I think his masterpiece is Casino. More measured and at the same time far more fully realised than any of his other films.

5- Garbage Pail Kids (1987)
When this movie came out, my brother and I made my parents drive way to the outskirts of Toronto to the only place that was playing it. At that young age I couldn’t understand why a movie that I was dying to see was only playing in such a remote place. All these years later, armed with the wisdom of the mitigating 25 years or so, I can understand a little bit more why this might not be for everyone. It is a spin of the popular trading card series (yes, you read that right). It centres around a boy of about 15 who is inexplicably bullied by a guy well into his 30s. The teen stumbles across magic garbage that contains a bunch of gross kids (the Garbage Pail Kids) who come to his aid. The bully’s girlfriend, who is in her late 20s, falls in love with the teen (yes, you read that right), and it just keeps getting weirder. It has everything you could want from a film: musical numbers, puppets, genocide, general insanity, etc.

6- Across 110th Street (1972)
This is constantly lumped as a blaxplotation film, which I think does it a disservice. Sure, it has many of the hallmarks of the genre: made in the 70s, an incredible soul soundtrack, a focus on inner city urban life and of course black central characters, but to pigeonhole it like that ignores the fact that this is a film that offers a far greater social commentary than something like Shaft. It serves as a critique of the racism of the police, the treatment of veterans, the death of the inner city and the general failure of the American Dream. It was directed by the amazing Berry Shear, who was predominantly a television director, and almost all of his films could be on this list.

7- Rambo IV (2008)
This is perhaps the purest action film ever made. The plot is secondary to the action. The only character development given to the bad guys is making the leader a paedophile. Trying to analyse this film any further would be a disservice to the beauty of its simplicity. I had no interest in seeing this when it came out and I am kicking myself that I missed my chance to see it in the cinema.

8- Deathwish II (1982)
It is such a rare occurrence that a sequel is better than the original. Aliens? Godfather II? Those are debatable, but the superiority of Deathwish II is not. Deathwish II is pure pathos. In the first film, Charles Bronson’s character becomes a vigilante, but in this one he becomes a god of vengeance. The later sequels have ventured further and further into the realm of impossibility, but this one manages to walk the thin line between plausible and implausible.

9- Shogun Assassin (1980)
Most people’s exposure to this film comes from the use of samples from its dialogue on the Gza’s classic ‘Liquid Sword’ album but the film is a masterpiece in its own right. It was made by re-editing two of the Japanese Lone Wolf and Cub films into a single movie with English dubbed over the top. This is the only film that I think is improved by dubbing, thanks in large part to the amazing voice talents of the actor who plays the main character’s son. He serves as the film’s narrator and captures the bleakness of the story perfectly. I love revenge films and this is one of the best.

10- Various
The final spot I will use to give some honourable mentions as I can’t decide which film to put in the spot: Wild in the Streets (1968), Star Wars (1977), The Warriors (1979), Seven Samurai (1954), Touch of Evil (1958), Django (1966), Oldboy (2003), Blue Spring (2001), Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971), Comic Book Confidential (1988), Crumb (1994), Vinyl (1965), The Decline of Western Civilization (1981), Gummo (1997).

Review of the Year 2009

Let the Right One In

The Electric Sheep team look back at the heroes and villains of 2009.


Love Exposure
A four-hour long hymn to the redemptive power of love, Love Exposure creates a magnificently alien universe that careers from cartoony farce to serious drama. For all its oddness, the film has an epic, biblical quality, and there is a truth in the characters and their relationships that keeps us gripped despite the marathon length. ELEANOR MCKEOWN

Let the Right One In
This sweet and bloody subtle horror tale charts the relationship between lonely 12-year-old Oskar and vampire girl Eli. There is an ever-present sense of danger whenever Eli and Oskar are together and it is this threat underlying their love that makes the film so touching and melancholy, so real and unsentimental. Let the Right One In perfectly captures the nature of love as a delicate and dangerous balancing act, lovers poised for a fleeting, magical moment between need and defiance, trust and menace, sweetness and violence. TINA PARK

The White Ribbon
Violence is yet again the main subject of Haneke’s excellent The White Ribbon, which deservedly won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. The White Ribbon is very much a German film, and it is impossible to ignore that the overly quiet and polite children depicted here are the ‘Nazi generation’. But, more than that, it is, in Haneke’s words, ‘a film about the roots of evil’. It is a didactic play of sorts, but one in which the names of the culprits are as irrelevant as any direct answers or lessons. The finely crafted screenplay, the stunning black and white photography, the aural landscape, the use of omission and silence make this nightmarish fable one of Haneke’s most accomplished films to date. PAMELA JAHN

White Lightnin’
Merging real-life events and unbridled fiction, writers (and co-producers) Shane Smith and Eddy Moretti have crafted a bold, nightmarish tale of Southern darkness and director Dominic Murphy takes the subject matter to cinematic extremes, using a hand-held camera, bizarre angles and repeated blackouts to convey Appalachian mountain dancer Jesco White’s disturbed state of mind. Intensely imagined and vividly directed, White Lightnin’ is a raw, rabid, howling hillbilly hell trip that doesn’t let up. PAMELA JAHN

If, as is usually the case, high school/college movies are intended as portraits of America in microcosm, then this is the most bilious, vicious picture of that nation I’ve encountered in years. The dark nature of the story is emphasised by visually inventive, oddly framed photography throughout, imitating both the lopsided compositions of amateur cameramen and the disaffected gaze of a sociopath, building a woozy, unhealthy atmosphere, a world viewed through the wrong head. Creepy and smart. MARK STAFFORD

Johnny Mad Dog
Set in an unnamed African country, Johnny Mad Dog opens with a shockingly brutal, surreally violent scene in which a pack of frenzied, coked up, brainwashed children attack a village. The film plunges us into their perception of the senseless chaos and madness of war, avoiding any simplifying, worthy platitudes about the situation. They are both terrible victims of the war and terrifying murderers, childish and vulnerable on the one hand and capable of the most chilling acts of violence on the other. A cross between Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now, this is an extraordinarily powerful film. VIRGINIE SÉLAVY

Duncan Jones’s independent debut feature is a fascinating and visually stunning sci-fi film that explores the alienation and bitter loneliness of space, as well as the very essence of the human condition. Filmed in little more than a month, and refreshingly making use of models rather than relying solely on CGI, the picture beautifully captures Jones’s unique vision, both aesthetically and philosophically. Moon is an instant classic of the genre, as well as one of the most impressive and original films to emerge from the UK in years. SARAH CRONIN

Big River Man
This unconventional documentary charts eccentric Slovenian swimmer Martin Strel’s extraordinary attempt to swim the Amazon. An unlikely champion, the rotund, hard-drinking, 53-year-old Martin combines a day job as a flamenco guitar teacher with a line in swimming the world’s most polluted rivers. The megalomaniac nature of the project, the strangeness of his relationship to his entourage and the spectacular Amazonian scenery make for one of the most enjoyable films of the year, a soulful journey into dark places, lunacy and the extremes of human behaviour that is at turns desperately farcical and profoundly affecting. VIRGINIE SÉLAVY


Watching Antichrist, one gets no sense of the artist grappling with his materials, trying to strike a balance between order and chaos. Instead, von Trier seems a confused and desperate director, whose latest film has completely evaded his control. Having made good work in the past, he may well make good work again in the future, and should he do so, Antichrist may come to be seen as an intriguing low in the director’s oeuvre. Considered on its own, however, Antichrist is utter nonsense, an irredeemable mess, and one of the worst films I have ever had the displeasure to see. DAVID WARWICK


Synecdoche New York
We are asked to sympathise with an outrageously self-absorbed, self-pitying blob of a man who cannot get over the momentous tragedy of his own mortality. Caden’s fixation with death stops him from living life, making him the most bloodless, gutless, humourless, lifeless cinematic character I’ve come across in a long time, and there is no sense of distance or self-deprecation to help us through this bloated, indigestible whine-fest. Structural convolutions fail to fill the film’s empty heart or disguise its stunningly narrow perspective on the world – Kaufman is absolutely incapable to see beyond the confines of a peculiarly North American, white, male, middle-class, middle-aged perspective. Depressing beyond words. VIRGINIE SÉLAVY