Russ Meyer, Italian Fascist Cinema and Difficult TV Men


Mussolini’s Dream Factory: Film Stardom in Fascist Italy
By Stephen Gundle
Berghahn Books
320pp £62

Difficult Men

Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution
Edited by Brett Martin
Faber & Faber
303pp £14.99

Faster Pussycat Kill Kill

Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
By Dean J. DeFino
Wallflower Press
106pp £10.50

‘History is but the nail upon which the picture hangs,’ wrote Dumas Jr, and in an excellent exemplar of this adage, Stephen Gundle has painted a fantastically detailed picture of the intricacies and politics of Italian cinema during the Fascist era. In a bravura performance of research, fact-finding and analysis, the author presents a well laid out and reader-friendly narrative that Italian film scholar, Peter Bondanella, has called ‘an outstanding book in every respect’ in which ‘a complete revision of our thinking on Italian cinema takes place’. And so it does. From deep in the archives of several collections, Gundle unearths and interprets a mass of facts and minutiae, giving fresh insight into this relatively ignored 20-year time frame, which had its own infrastructure of stars, distribution, exhibition and, above all, production. The latter took place at Cinecitt&#224, the legendary film studio where, as the author notes, on the morning of 29 January 1936, Mussolini arrived by car to lay the foundation stone of ‘what would become the largest studio complex in Europe, eclipsing even the German UFA studios in Berlin’. The importance of this development to the regime, and the complex story of Italian cinematic history, is fascinatingly told through the meticulous investigation of national Fascist cinema, the Italian star system, gentrification, commercial culture and revealing case studies of stars (many conveniently forgotten after the war), such as Isa Miranda, Vittorio De Sica, Assia Noris, Amedeo Nazzari and Alida Valli. The facts and the scandals, the films and the performances – on and off screen – are engagingly told. The final part of the book focuses on the aftermath of Fascist cinema and its star system, with the self-evident chapters ‘Civil War, Liberation and Reconstruction’ and ‘Survival, Memory and Forgetting’. As Gundle finally concludes about the stars of the period: ‘No one blamed them for Fascism or for contributing with their glamour to the pattern of consent on which the regime rested. Rather they were seen as men and women who, through their screen personas, had shared with their fellow countrymen and women the most tragic and divisive period in twentieth-century Italian history and, in their best moments, granted some relief from the deadly beat of the Fascist war drums.’ A persuasive conclusion to what is already a key text of cultural Italian historiography.

Difficult Men by Brett Martin, on the other hand, takes a more journalistic and less scholarly – though no less informed – approach to his topic: ‘The wave of new shows on the cable channels which dramatically stretched television’s narrative inventiveness, emotional resonance, and artistic ambition – shows such as The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Six Feet Under, Dexter, Deadwood and Boardwalk Empire, which tackled issues of life and death, love and sexuality, addiction, race, violence and existential boredom.’ Especially male existential boredom and post-feminist angst. Martin notes, as many have since, that this new ‘third golden age’ of television is squaring up to movies and providing nothing less than addictive 12 or 13-hour narrative extravaganzas with characters ‘whom, conventional wisdom had once insisted Americans would never allow into their living rooms: unhappy, morally compromised, complicated, deeply human’ who play a seductive game with the viewer, daring them to invest emotionally in, even root for, even love, a gamut of criminals whose offenses comprise adultery, polygamy, vampirism and serial murder. These shows feature storylines and characters who are ‘more ambiguous and complicated than anything that television, always concerned with pleasing the widest possible audience and group of advertisers, had ever seen.’ The storylines and plotting allow plenty of room for narrative ruthlessness and ‘give little quarter for what might be the audience’s favourite characters, offering little in the way of catharsis or the easy resolution in which television had traditionally traded’ and of course, which had, until then, set the movies apart from the limited narrative palettes and strictures of television. This was nothing short of a television revolution made possible in part, by new forms of media platforms and cultures of prosumers. A recommended and enjoyable read which is at turns pithy, sharp, gossipy, smart, insightful and extremely timely – though as the parade of ‘new television’ productions continues to proliferate, ‘timely’ is most assuredly a relative term.

Finally, short space is left for a short book: Dean J. DeFino’s hagiographic homage to the great Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! . By turns poetic, analytical, confessional, hyperbolic and factual, this compact compendium is a loving contribution to the growing literature on filmmaker Russ Meyer. This is a well-informed addition to the ‘Cultographies’ series that Wallflower publish, and an extremely personal take from an obviously smitten author, which is insightful and generous in observation – even as some of the rhetoric occasionally careens into ‘pseuds corner’ territory.

James B. Evans

Emma Jane Unsworth is Tina in Sightseers


Emma Jane Unsworth was born in Prestwich and lives in Manchester. She has a tattoo of one of the big metal lions that resides outside Heaton Park on her arm and a Betty Trask award for her debut novel Hungry, the Stars and Everything. Her second novel, the visceral and vulnerable Animals (the title comes from a Frank O’Hara poem) has been described as ‘Withnail with girls’. It heads out on the town with hedonistic Laura and Tyler as they riotously down shots, take drugs, ponder poetry and physics, art and religion and do their level best to defy the strictures of polite society. It is therefore maybe not entirely surprising that Emma should choose the murderous Tina from Sightseers as her filmic alter ego. Eithne Farry

Gawky, ginger, immature, sadistic… Really there was no competition when it came to selecting my cinematic alter ago. It had to be Tina from Sightseers. Released in 2012, Ben Wheatley’s dark British comedy sees Steve Oram playing Chris, a caravan fan, who takes his new girlfriend, Tina (Alice Lowe), on a road trip round Northern England to showcase his favourite tourist spots. It’s no walk in the park. The holiday quickly escalates into a bloody rampage, provoked initially by Chris’s fury at a man dropping a Cornetto wrapper on the floor in a tram museum. Oh come on, we all know what it’s like – sometimes the smallest things can tip you over the edge. Besides, it’s important to respect your heritage and the environment. People have to learn…

Pot pourri fetishist Tina is, it would seem, overwhelmed by the world even before she hits the road with Chris. Aged 34, she lives at home with her mother, a megalomaniacal whinger grieving the loss of the family pet terrier, Poppy. For Tina, the caravan holiday with Chris signifies both an escape from depressing daughterly responsibility, and tardily won sexual liberty. The landscape they traverse – the rolling hills, the winding roads, the wide open sky – is the proverbial wilderness, fraught with possibility and peril. Especially when Tina gets out her crotchless knitted underwear. Very Viz. But before long the playful observational comedy becomes an ominous counterpoint to brutality. We enter a nightmarish moral hinterland as the couple indulge (Tina albeit reluctantly) in a full-blown killing spree and find themselves on the run. Like a less sexy Bonnie and Clyde. In a caravan.

There’s a timelessness as well as a lawlessness to Sightseers. It could easily be set in the 60s, 70s or 80s without changing a frame. Tina is no everywoman, though. She is a constant, excruciating surprise. I love this film because it’s absurd, and dark, and funny. Also because I’m interested in social disobedience; in people operating on the outskirts of what’s considered acceptable, and the animalistic urges within human nature that can leave you out on a limb. Also because I’m obsessed with campervans and have set my third novel in one. Caravans and campervans offer a strange mix of adventure and domesticity. I mean, really, what kind of maniac wants to live in what is essentially a Wendy House on wheels? Well, this kind of maniac. And Tina. It beats being at home with her mother.

Animals is out now with Canongate (£12.99). More information on Emma Jane Unsworth can be found on

Emma Jane Unsworth

Ban This Sick Filth: Interview with Jake West and Marc Morris

Cover art for Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part Two

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part Two

Format: DVD

Release date: 14 July 2014

Distributor: Nucleus Films

Directors: various

UK 2014

840 mins

Nucleus Films have just released a three-disc follow-up to Video Nasties: the Definitive Guide, comprising two discs of introductions and trailers to all of the seized and destroyed films under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act, and a substantial new documentary directed by Jake West and produced by Marc Morris. Video Nasties: Draconian Days 1984-1999 details the years after the immediate implementation of the Video Recordings Act, through to the end of James Ferman’s tenure as head of the BBFC, when his unilateral introduction of the R18 classification and the effective legalisation of hardcore porn embarrassed and irritated the government into demanding his resignation. The irony inherent in Ferman’s fate, brought low by such a liberal gesture after a reign characterised by secrecy, snobbishness and censorship is not lost on many of the talking heads West and Morris have assembled. He was a hate figure for many horror fans irritated beyond measure by the death by a thousand cuts inflicted upon film after film, often because filmmakers had included one or more of the elements that Ferman seemed oddly obsessed with: power tools and throwing stars, drugs and nun-chakus. He refused certificates to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist, left Straw Dogs in limbo and actually reordered a scene in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer to his liking.

For all that, he wasn’t the simplistic censorian that some of his critics clearly want him to be. He was a clear head during the media flaps over Michael Ryan’s Hungerford massacre and the Jamie Bulger killing and their supposed connections to video violence, and saw off the idiotic crusade by MP David Alton, which would have removed from cinema any characters who weren’t good role models for children. The documentary takes you back to strange times when a piece of middling franchise landfill like Child’s Play 3 was treated like the very work of Satan himself, and know–nothing MPs and news reporters spouted fluent horseshit about the easy availability of actual snuff films to your children. It also documents a hitherto forgotten social scene of horror obsessives trying to track down and distribute all the stuff the BBFC and DPP had tried to remove from the public’s eager gaze, risking imprisonment to smuggle those precious video reels of Cannibal Ferox back from Amsterdam… The gleeful impression given by Draconian Days is that the video nasties that were supposed to turn the nation’s youth into sociopaths actually did something far worse: they turned them into filmmakers and writers. And the state’s reaction to the panic gave a couple of generations their first lesson in civil disobedience: the authorities are idiots.

Mark Stafford met up with Jake West and Marc Morris of Nucleus Films to talk about throwing-stars-obsessed censors, home-made nunchakus and hiding Blood Sucking Freaks under the bath.

Mark Stafford: I was one of those kids who didn’t have access to a VCR during the first years of the video nasty phenomenon, so I spent a lot of my youth with my sweaty little nose pressed up against the video library window imagining what these films were. Draconian Days has actually cleared up a few weird half memories for me – that cover to Pigs was fuzzily lodged in there somewhere.

Marc Morris: ‘Pigs eat anything, including evidence’.

I fnally know what that thing was. The film deals with a fascinating period and a character, James Ferman, who gives the film its backbone. Jake, you’re off camera, what’s your take on him?

JW: He’s fascinating because he’s contradictory. He was a filmmaker himself, and a highly intelligent, articulate intellectual.

MM: He had to balance the scales between the press, the government, the law.

JW: To begin with, he was quite idealistic. When he started at the BBFC, he got in censors who were highly educated and quite sceptical about censorship. But as far as videos were concerned they had to make up the rules as they went along.

MM: The idea being that because the VCR was in the home, different rules applied.

JW: And what emerged were Ferman’s own views and peccadillos, which then started to guide policy. The outcome of that, as Carol Topolski (former BBFC Examiner) reveals, is that he started to lose the plot, he got drunk on his own power.

MM: Like everyone says, it was his own fiefdom.

JW: It became clear that at the end of the day he was setting the agenda and policy. The fact was that he was altering the BBFC minutes, and other controlling behaviour. But he stood up against David Alton, and was instrumental in making sure that law didn’t happen.

MM: He had to stand up for the BBFC’s decisions, say that they’d already certified Child’s Play 3 and the like, and government couldn’t just come in and undermine him, say that they now weren’t suitable for viewing in the home.

JW: I think it was very important, as a filmmaker, to not just do a hatchet job on James Ferman. It would be very easy to just condemn him, but he’s a more nuanced character than that. Thankfully we got a brilliant archive interview with him. I really wanted to give him a big presence in the documentary. He was a man who shaped that era, and part of what was funny and what was tragic about it came out of that as well. His continual over-insistence in cutting horror films is what led to the emergence of the underground horror scene, and us all being here to talk about it now. He created the environment that made horror fans want to become criminals because we couldn’t stand what the BBFC sold us.

MM: You’d read about a film in Fangoria or wherever and hire it out and ‘fuck!’ all the good scenes were cut. What were you going to do? Try to find an uncut version.

JW: And they ended up criminalising everyone because they wanted to get hold of these versions. It was all a lot of fun until people genuinely started getting arrested and prosecuted.

There’s an interesting parallel with the 50s anti-comics crusade and the later underground cartoonists. Artists like S. Clay Wilson said that it wasn’t just the EC comics being an influence in themselves, but the fact that they were taken away by the powers that be that led them to fill their own work with as much depravity as they could muster. You’ve got Alex Chandon (director of Inbred) in your film saying more or less the same thing – filmmaking as a kind of hardcore punk gesture.

JW: That’s what happened with all of us. We were influenced by the very things we were told we weren’t allowed to watch. It created a whole generation, two whole generations of people who were deliberately bucking that.

Watch the trailer for Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part Two:

I’ve always thought that the censors’ obsession with the idea that kids would watch the nasty scenes over and over again and turn into serial killers…

JW: ‘They’ll freak out in their bed sitting rooms.’ That terrible classist view that Ferman had. He thought that there were some very disturbed people out there, he had this real fear of some sort of social disorder being created by films. And there was no real proof that that ever happened. But when the media purported that it did happen, in the Bulger and Michael Ryan cases, he firmly spoke out against that idea because he knew that those acts weren’t created by film. They criminalised the wrong people. Horror fans were the people who got affected by all this panic, like with Marc.

MM: Hiding my videos under the bath. You had to undo these chrome domes, then undo the screws, pull the side of the bath off and shove all the tapes under there, put the panel back… And then every time somebody said ‘can you do me a copy of Blood Sucking Freaks?’ you had to undo it all again. It was a pain in the arse. But if you left it undone you’d be scared that they’d come round and find all these depraved movies.

JW: There was a point in the 90s where raids on collectors were happening on a daily basis.

MM: You’d get a phone call saying that there were probably going to be some raids next week. It was either hide it under the bath or take it round a friends or a girlfriend’s house.

JW: Then you split up with your girlfriend and she ended up destroying your tapes.

MM: Smashing them up with a hammer.

JW: Now there’s a form of censorship!

I was on the side of all that. I moved to London in 1990 and began going to the Scala obsessively. I still didn’t have a VCR…

JW: The Scala was like the ultimate video collection anyway. And in better quality. They were heady times. You had all these energies, with the film festivals and the fanzines, in the pre-internet world of communication. People had a great sense of social grouping because of that. And that’s the side of the story that was positive, it did bring a lot of people together in interesting ways. So many people have friendships now because of that.

MM: People used to watch films in groups, have nights just watching movies.

I miss that. Now, if you mention a film you think’s interesting everybody’s watching it 10 minutes later. There’s no need to go round somebody else’s house.

JW: There’s no sense of discovery, of somebody finally getting hold of something.

MM: I remember somebody finally getting a copy of Men behind the Sun on VHS from Hong Kong. We all watched it, like… ‘Fucking hell!’ It was an original tape but the quality wasn’t very good, it was odd, VHS gave everything an even grimmer look.

The BBFC’s obsession with throwing stars and power tools seemed kind of odd. They were obsessed with ‘imitable behaviour’, but how many people in the annals of actual crime have ever been killed with a chainsaw?

JW: It was always absurd, this idea. Of course a power tool is a dangerous object but you can’t uninvent the object by not showing it.

MM: Any weapon is an imitable weapon. Any sword, any bottle, any fist. Do you reach a point where you say ‘we can’t show this because people might use fists to hit people’? It’s a cycle of stupidity to believe that there’s going to be a spate of throwing star murders because of a film.

Everybody in my metalwork class was making them. That was why we were doing metalwork.

MM: I made nunchakus out of broom handles. Of course anybody who made their own nunchakus quickly realised that they were going to do more damage to themselves than anybody else.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre IFS
Poster artwork for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Over and over again in the intros to the Section 3 films the commentators are trying to understand why this or that particular film got seized.

JW: That’s because the Section 3 films weren’t prosecuted, they were just seized by the police and destroyed. You’re just left wondering as to what it was about these movies that led to them getting seized in the first place.

It’s funny watching Kim Newman talking about Final Exam, this tedious late entry stalk and slash effort, being utterly bewildered that anybody would find anything in it to be offended by and remember enough about it to complain. Did you try to interview any plod that were involved at the time, anyone who did the actual seizing?

JW: In the first documentary we interviewed Peter Kruger, who was head of the Obscene Publications Squad, but in the second film we didn’t interview any police. I don’t think they would have spoken, and I don’t think they would have known much. The reason these films got seized by the police is that they didn’t understand what horror films were. So any film that just sounded like a film that got seized in the past, a Driller Killer or a Zombie Holocaust, they would think, ‘well that’s the same thing’. There was no internet back then, no way of checking what these films were. So the police would just go by the back of the box: ‘oh, he’s got his eye gouged out, that’s offensive, we’ll seize it.’ It was as random as that really. (1)

In Draconian Days James Ferman comes across as complicated but David Alton seems just like an absolute screaming idiot.

JW: I think David Alton is a lot like Graham Bright from the first film. Graham Bright has not changed his views one iota since the 80s when he put the Video Recordings Act through. Alton was a right-wing Christian and a political agenda. Spreading the idea that Child’s Play 3 was destroying society was just politically expedient to get a large following of voters and newspapers on his side to further his own agenda, which seems quite transparent when you look at it now. You can always learn how stupid moral panics are by looking at one that happened previously. The format that they play out is always the same thing. Somebody in power gets offended and decides that nobody should gets to see something because they don’t like it.

There was a little ripple a few years back. I remember walking into a newsagents and seeing a tabloid headline trying to whip up fury about the fact that a lot of the DPP’s list were now emerging again on DVD, but the hysteria just didn’t take. Nobody cared.

JW: It’s a lot harder for them to do that. Back in those days, if you were a fan you had no outlet. Unless you were published or could get on television and your views were broadcastable, you weren’t represented by anyone. Now with the internet you have a platform. So the situation has changed, you can’t scapegoat something on that level because people will come forwards to defend it.

Also, back then a tabloid could grossly distort the nature of a film and people would believe it. Nowadays people can check stuff out for themselves and see that the tabloid version is bullshit. ‘Hey!’ this film isn’t evil, it’s just stupid!’ Where are the censorship flashpoints of the future for you?

JW: The internet. The internet is being more and more controlled in a very subtle way. It’s not the hammer blow of ‘Video is Evil!’ There are things like Cameron’s porn block and parental filtering going on that you don’t necessarily know about.

MM: People watching what you’re looking up, everything logged somewhere by search engines.

There was that TED talk where the head of Netflix, who had lots of left-wing friends and lots of right-wing friends, got them to type the word ‘Egypt’ into Google during the Arab Spring and take screen shots of the results. The left-wingers all had headlines about the uprising on the first page, the right-wingers all had adverts for holidays, with the news stories only turning up on page two… And this isn’t some definitive conspiracy by some Bond Villain, it’s just algorithms, cookies, bits of code shaping how you see the world.

JW: The internet is a Pandora’s box of problems. You want to keep it free for people to use, but all this information being gathered by people who could use it against you is a worry.

So what’s next? Is this your last documentary on all of this?

JW: We don’t have a plan to continue the video nasties story. We only made the second one because we realised there was more to tell. But beyond the Ferman years things got a lot more relaxed. There were still problems but there weren’t big scares, that era is over, which is good. Draconian Days was a surprise to us, that people wanted more, and it took us two years because it was a labour of love.

MM: And Nucleus will be putting out more stuff, more trailer compilations, like Grindhouse Trailer Classics 4. (2)

Watch the trailer for Grindhouse Trailers 4:

By coincidence I’ve recently come across the first one, so together with Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part Two I have subjected myself to a hell of a lot of concentrated filth over one weekend.

MM: We have depraved and corrupted you.

It was only my lack of power tools that stopped me going on a kill crazy rampage.

MM: We’re lucky you don’t own any, with your background in film viewing you could only be a danger to society.

Interview by Mark Stafford

1 In the first documentary, which I bought and devoured after this interview, seizures of Dolly Parton’s The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One by clueless coppers are reported. Sam Fuller’s film presumably because its title suggested something to some copper’s filthy dirty mind.

2 Of which what can one say that it features the expected lively mix of blaxploitation, sexploitation, Euro sleaze, horror and kung fu promos all screaming for your attention. Fans of nipples won’t be disappointed. Additional enjoyment can be gleaned charting the career trajectories of the stars popping up in the likes of Strange Shadows in an Empty Room or The Late Great Planet Earth (Martin Landau! Orson Welles!). Or wondering whether Stuart Whitman fired his agent after Las Vegas Lady. Maybe you’d expect Karen Black, Warren Oates, Eli Wallach and Ray Milland to pop up in this sort of stuff, but Christopher Plummer in The Pyx? Sir John Mills in A Black Veil for Lisa?! What happened there? Possibly the same 1970s drugs that led to Monkee Mickey Dolenz tearing up the screen in Dirty Dan’s Women. Prize for best tagline: ‘If it’s hot she’s got a hand in it, or on it’ from Too Hot to Handle, though Sacred Knives of Vengeance’s ‘a masterpiece of martial arts kung fu karate’ does have the virtue of covering the bases.

The Animal Project

Animal Project
The Animal Project

Format: VOD

Access via: Vimeo

Release date: 6 June 2014

Director: Ingrid Veninger

Writer: Ingrid Veninger

Cast: Aaron Poole, Jacob Switzer, Hannah Cheesman, Jessica Greco

Canada 2013

90 mins

Colonial Report from the Dominion of Canada (above the 49th Parallel)

What a thrill it is to experience a first-rate cast serving up one of Canada’s finest ensemble pieces in years. It should probably come as no surprise. With her latest film The Animal Project, Ingrid Veninger (Modra, I am a good person, I am a bad person), the whirling-est-dervish director of independent cinema in our fair Dominion, successfully explodes all (well, most) pre-conceptions anyone (well, mostly me, probably) might ever harbour with respect to movies all about the love, pain and touchy-feely twee gymnastics actors go through on and off stage. In fact, being a fan of all of Veninger’s ebullient coffee-cream-Cassavetes-like pictures to date, I’ll admit to feeling terrified that I’d even have to see it.

How will I ever forget that telltale aroma of putrescence as it wafted past my keenly attuned olfactory system? A mere trace of the lingering flatus, like some gently offensive perpetual mist in the dank hallways of a hooker hotel, did cruelly signal to me that The Animal Project was about – ugh! – actors. ‘Twas enough to render me apoplectic.

I immediately imagined a grotesque gag-me-with-a-large-wooden-spoon Toronto hipster vision of some insubstantial pageant, one of which dreams – nay, nightmares – are made of, one in which I’d have to nail my feet to the floor to keep watching, one wherein the potentially preferable choice would be to round my little life with one good mega-snooze.

I’m glad I did not succumb to this preconception. In fact, within seconds of the picture’s unspooling, I was hooked (line and sinker), realizing I was in for something far more substantial and downright entertaining. Actors at its centre or not, Veninger has crafted a movie that’s rooted firmly in the ‘all the world’s a stage’ territory and in the idea that actors, as indelibly written by Canada’s poetess laureate of guerrilla-warfare-as-cinema, are living, breathing human beings with all the challenges anyone faces – no matter who they are or what they do. It is, happily, no stretch to declare that all the glorious men and women of The Animal Project are players on the stage of life, though like all of humanity, they are no ‘mere’ players.

Leo (Aaron Poole) is a Toronto acting teacher in the midst of several life challenges. On the professional front, he feels like he’s not adequately breaking through the barriers his adult students have set up for themselves. As actors they must discover those inner sparks within their own emotions to freely render performances that will evoke the sort of truth that must not only be their stock in trade but also eventually become almost second nature. Leo appears exasperated by his students’ progress or lack thereof, though he doesn’t overtly blame any of them for their less-than-heartfelt efforts. The endless exercises he puts them through are not only boring him, but his acting students too and they are predictably resorting to self-indulgence and/or mind-numbing inconsequence.

Whatever the problem, he feels he’s to blame.

On the home front, Leo’s a single dad trying to raise Sam (Jacob Switzer), his 17-year-old son who seems to get more distant by the second. The kid means the world to him, but here, on the stage of hearth and home, Leo continues to express self-doubt – if not in words, then by his actions. As a dad, he’s clutching onto a slender thread and feels it could snap at any moment. For his part, Sam’s skipping classes, having ever-later starts to his days and sucking back doobies as if he’s sensing an impending worldwide shortage of bud. He works prodigiously on his music, though his practising feels more like an assault upon his dad’s need for quiet and solitude. Neither seems to understand the other, but as such, they might understand each other all too well.

Ain’t it always the way with parents and their kids? The trick is to make sure the twain shall meet. That, however, is always easier said than done.

On a strictly personal front, Leo’s looking for something but damned if he knows what it is. He carries the weight of his search into everything and it especially rears its head in the acting class in the form of a clearly adversarial relationship twixt himself and the cynical, laconic Saul (Joey Klein), evidently the most promising of the bunch. It’s in this relationship that the viewer is gob-smacked with the realization that Klein and Poole are delivering exactly the kind of performances that keep one riveted to the screen.

Quite often, these two actors hit you right in the solar plexus, knocking the wind out of your proverbial sails and connecting with every nerve ending within your body and soul. As actors, they surely kissed the ground their writer walked upon for generating these characters. The intense loggerheads Sam and Saul find themselves at have clearly been building for some time. There’s something unanswered, unacknowledged between them, and we sense it has to eventually explode beyond the verbal and psychological. Like with all human animals it might need to get physical. They are, after all, both tough-minded sons of bitches. Fists might be the way to settle things, but then again, maybe not.

Maybe someone needs a hug.

I kid you not. As ludicrous (and twee-ishly sickening) as this may seem on the page, it makes perfect sense within the world of the film. Leo, for instance, once made a film with his son when Sam was just a child. In it, the kid was dressed in a bunny suit and wandering through the more groove-ola streets of Toronto, offering, uninhibitedly, hugs to total strangers. Hey, don’t knock inspiration. It’s usually just around the corner, but we’ve got to grab it for dear life.

And WHAT inspiration! This might just be the acting exercise the doctor ordered. Inspired by a dream, his old film, and by extension, his relationship with Sam, Leo wants his class to don animal masks and full body costumes, then go out into the world and offer, you guessed it, hugs. The potential for all inhibitions to break down on a professional, personal and just plain human level seems – possibly – within reach.

Wouldn’t it be grand if life were so simple?

We see here the sheer, astonishing brilliance of Veninger’s writing. It’s this very basic premise, which yields several layers of complexity and narrative flesh, that eventually gives way to a multitudinous amount of tissue and viscera. This goes well beyond mere skin-deep, but takes all the characters, and the film’s audience, deep into the bone marrow.

Though Leo, Sam and Saul are the film’s prime connective tissue, it’s all linked to a varied number of interesting, cool and recognizable characters. We’re treated to the journeys of the young man caring for his dying father (Emmanuel Kabongo), the wisecracking lesbian shielding the hurt of being dumped (Jessica Greco), the great-waste-of-life desk-job gent (Johnathan Sousa), who needs not only to act but find love, the lass from Kelowna (Sarena Parmar) who declares she wants to be an actress, but does so with a question mark at the end of her not-so convincing attestation. She probably needs to embrace the girl out of Kelowna by acknowledging she can’t take the Kelowna out of the girl. Last, but certainly not least, we also become intimate with the tall drink of water thespian (Hannah Cheesman) who, armed with an array of technically sound accents and a voluminous collection of auditions for awful TV shows, displays technical proficiency but hides the true talent lurking within and, perhaps most of all, the real person.

Veninger’s script juggles this multi-character drama with considerable skill, and as a director her fly-on-the-wall perspective is astonishingly natural. In addition to a superb production design that’s as much about character and emotion as it is about looking impeccably rendered, the film’s visual gifts are plentiful. The picture is gorgeously shot and Veninger maintains a relatively strict adherence as to where the camera always needs to be in terms of telling the tale visually (though with no labour seams visible). Given the unique nature of low-budget filmmaking, the movie’s gifts are bountiful, from the breathtaking cutting and first-rate sound works to the evocative score. No stone was left unturned in this ravishing production.

The Animal Project is ultimately powerful stuff and its story, characters and thematic underbelly offer a universal resonance. It feels like the work of someone who’s done some living and has the potential to touch a wide range of people. We discover, quite naturally and with no didacticism, that the masks we wear are indeed what we use to crash through our inhibitions to hit the raw nerves of truth and self-discovery in order to move forward in the world, with our spirit, soul, intellect and emotions. It’s how we must live. Most importantly, though, the masks we wear are not enough. We must learn to wear them well.

From the wilds of the northern-most tip of the Bruce Peninsula in the Dominion of Canada, I bid you a hearty ‘Bon cinema!’

Greg Klymkiw

The Animal Project is available worldwide via Vimeo On Demand. In Canada it unspooled theatrically via Mongrel Media, one of the country’s safe harbours for fresh, new, exciting and fiercely independent cinema) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto (the year-round home for all of TIFF’s activities , including the Toronto International Film Festival).

Oh! Gunquit’s Film Jukebox

Oh! Gunquit

Oh! Gunquit are a rumblebop, trashgarage, freakabilly band from North London who have a love of wild garage, exotica, 60s R&B, surf and punk. They have released two 7” singles (the second being Single of the Week in Artrocker), a track on a Japanese compilation of UK garage rock, and are just putting the finishing touches to their self-produced debut album due out early September, recorded at the legendary Gizzard studio in Hackney Wick. OGQ have taken their unique show of horns, hula hoops, rumbling toms and buzzsaw guitars to festivals and bespoke events all over the UK, Portugal, Belgium, Holland and Germany. They play the 7th Annual What’s Cookin Picnic on Sunday 20 July at Henry Reynolds Gardens in London and the Shuffle Festival, curated by Danny Boyle, on Wednesday 30 July. For more information on the band please visit Oh! Gunquit on Facebook. Below, Tina and Simon from the band (lead vox and trumpet / guitar and vox) pick their favourite films.

1. Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)
I could have chosen pretty much any of Kubrick’s movies, as he’s my favourite filmmaker, but I chose Spartacus because it’s the first one I ever saw by him. I was around seven years old on a rainy Sunday afternoon in terraced suburbia, dunking biscuits, engrossed in this classic tale of rebellion, ancient civil disobedience and the battle with mankind’s oppression of others. Although it’s a pretty mainstream and simplistic film for Kubrick (which he distanced himself from later), and one where I believe he didn’t have his usual level of complete control, I still love the sheer epic scale and Kirk Douglas’s clench-teethed intensity, his steely eyed ‘fuck you’ to the ruling classes. There’s also the incredible sweeping score by Alex North, who made a point of using antique instruments where possible to fit the period, many of which had never been used in film before. I have been known to wheel out my drunken impression of ‘The King of the Slaves’, which generally involves being bare-chested on a skateboard in the rain exclaiming of course that ‘I’m Spartacus!’ Simon

2. Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)
Probably one of favourite movie soundtracks ever, the music and the film actually seem to have been conceived simultaneously. The classic tale of the small-town working-class boy trying to make it in the Big City, living on his wits (which the lead character Joe Buck, played phenomenally by Jon Voight, is severely lacking) and his delusion that he’ll Make It Big on his youthful good looks and vigour alone by being a gigolo is tragi-comic. The meeting with the archetypal Neu Yoik street-wise hustler (Rizzo) is just perfect and every scene is a winner, from the Warholesque Factory trippy party scene with ‘Old Man Willow’ by Elephant’s Memory to the penniless street-walking scenes of ‘Everybody’s Talkin’, in which Joe is systematically ignored by everyone. There’s nothing quite like being a stranger in a strange town, and the beauty of the theme tune ‘Midnight Cowboy’ is one of many compositions by the incredible John Barry that I love to sink into. Even the fruity beach-skipping day-dream scene’s ‘Florida Fantasy’ would get an airing at post lock-in parties when I lived above a pub in Chalk Farm Road, the tune coming complete with a specific stoopid dance routine. Above all, a sweetly glorious story of an unlikely friendship and the fight for survival in the gritty, seedy underbelly of late 60s Manhattan, which seems a million miles away from today’s safe yuppie hell. Simon

3. Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant, 1989)
Ok, I know, so another ‘cowboy’ film with no real cowboys in it. Get over it. Gus Van Sant’s breakthrough movie follows the exploits of an overly glamorous crew, granted, of junkies trying to score, and quit, set in the early 70s in America’s Pacific Northwest. It’s dark and funny with a great snappy script, and I really like the protagonist Bob’s narration of this film. I dig the desperate black humour and the focus on society’s fringes, the outsiders, the freaks, losers and weirdos. Kelly Lynch plays the no-nonsense ice-cool bad-ass Diane brilliantly, and William Burroughs is great as the fallen priest, long-term addict, and sage-like friend of Matt Dillon’s Bob. I still think of this film every time I put a ‘goddam hat’ on a bed; and who can not like a movie with The Count Five’s ‘Psychotic Reaction’ on the soundtrack? I once met a guy on the tube who was the spitting image (complete with the fidgety hat moves) of Bob’s foil, ‘David the TV Baby’, so much so that I had to ask him if he’d seen the film. As he was only about 19 he hadn’t a clue what I was talking about; this was the perfect answer. Simon

4. City of God (Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund, 2002)
A bit like Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, I remember watching this for the first time at the cinema and being completely blown away by the sheer pace of this film. It pulls you in instantly and wriggles your senses about. Generally, I’m not a fan of gang movies or anything that involves macho gun bravado bullshit, but this story about the struggle of the photography-loving favela boy Rocket, trying to stay away from the cold, ruthless gang world of Rio de Janeiro and escape the lure of crime in the ghetto, is told with warmth and depth. The cinematography is astounding and the performances from the cast (nearly all real favela kids, not previously trained actors) are bloody electric. I guess that’s why it jumps out of the screen at you, as you can’t imagine any nice middle-class kids from the posh suburbs getting anywhere near knowing what it would be like growing up in those terrifyingly hardcore shanty towns. And who doesn’t like a coming-of-age movie? Interesting point also, when it mentions that you have two choices if you grow up in the favela: 1. Be a criminal or 2. Join the police. The only thing to distinguish between the two is a uniform, as both appear to be as corrupt and trigger-happy as each other. Musically it thumps along with loads of sleazy 70s Brazilian funk and soul and the heat, fun and sex of the block parties seeps out at you. I imagine Brazil is trying very hard at the moment to present a completely different view of their divided cities. Simon

5. The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955)
I thought I needed to include at least one British movie, although I was torn between Sexy Beast, Mike Leigh’s Naked, Shane Meadow’s Dead Man’s Shoes, Robert Day’s The Rebel and the obvious Withnail & I, but in the end I went with this, cos it’s a bleedin’ classic, ain’t it, right!? Also because it was filmed at the famous Ealing Studios and on many locations around the corner from where I live in Somers Town, St Pancras, Kings Cross. And you have to have something with Peter Sellers in it, don’ cha? (His role in Kubrick’s Lolita is pretty special too, I think). Alec Guinness as the sinister crime boss is great also. It’s just an all-round ace British film that gets more absurd as it romps along, and the juxtaposition of the hardened Laahndan criminals and the doily-loving dithering of Mrs Wilberforce, the elderly landlady, is sheer quality. I even quite like the Coen brothers remake, but you can’t top the original, the best London crime caper ever. Simon

6. Crooklyn (Spike Lee, 1994)
I wanted to get in Life is Sweet by Mike Leigh, which I saw for the first time the other week, and boy, did it resonate with my inner teenage-girl angst – totally wish I saw it when I was growing up! Alas, it doesn’t have music in it, so I thought I would hark on about another classic, more productive female coming–of-age in the form of Crooklyn, which is Spike Lee’s homage to a young girl named Troy, growing up in a brownstone in Brooklyn in the 70s with her chaotic family and neighbours. The characters and the story are great, as is the sense you get about the community values of the time, plus the music and cultural references are a joy! Really gets you reminiscing: growing up in a house full of people – ‘Yes, you are selfish! I can’t even take a piss without six people hanging off my tits!’, wishing you could dance on ‘Soul Train’, eating Trix cereal, playing street games, and wearing knee-high socks, all the while you have tunes from Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 – all aboard! Tina

7. Meet the Feebles (Peter Jackson, 1989)
Long before Peter Jackson embarked upon the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I fell in love with this director for his deranged, honest, funny horror movies like Dead Alive and Bad Taste – so much so that I wrote him fan letters and sent him a picture of myself with my Morris Minor, which so prominently features in the film Meet the Feebles. The best of every type of crazed plotline that can go wrong does in this movie. I love the sheer scale of the puppetry, with surreal scenes of puppets playing Russian roulette in Vietnam, suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome and getting hooked on smack, to a soulful singing hippo with an eating disorder, and a hedgehog named ‘Wobert’ trying to make his way onto the stage – did I mention it is the world’s first R-rated musical puppet movie? As ridiculous as it is to watch, it really goes to show how ridiculous people are when it comes to drugs, sex, lust, disease and violence, all without CGI – woohoo! And the musical numbers are classic, including the likes of ‘One Leg Missing’, ‘Garden of Love’, ‘Robert’s Serenade, and let’s not forget ‘Sodomy’: ‘Why you might think it very odd of me … bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum’. Tina

8. Cry Baby (John Waters, 1990)
Not so long ago, we played Amy Grindhouse’s Filth Festival, centred around all things John Waters, and this little cracker, with a streak of raucous rock and roll, houses all the lovely 50s kitsch you can dream of, and is family friendly without stepping down to munching on stools. With roles filled by Ricky Lake, who hosted the kindest, loveliest daytime tele back in the day, Johnny Depp and Iggy Pop, there isn’t anything not to like. And who’s not a square or a nerd secretly wanting to be a drape? This movie just makes me giddy all over to watch, like eating cotton candy without having to worry about cavities or diabetes – yum! Tina

9. The Jerk (Carl Reiner, 1979)
Back in the days of Betamax video, I used to watch The Jerk with my brother and sister when growing up in the swamp in New Jersey. There is so much to love about Steve Martin, why, he is even an excellent banjo player himself! In this film Steve stars as Navin, the adopted white son of black sharecroppers, who is a bit of a simpleton and has an utter lack of rhythm, whenever his adopted family play spirited blues music. He decides to hitchhike to St Louis after hearing a song on the radio called ‘Crazy Rhythms’, which he can’t stop dancing to. I too grew up out in the corn fields in southern Illinois and have found myself moving around and seeing where opportunity takes me – and that is what Navin does, when going to work in a gas station, and then in a travelling carnival, where he eventually learns about his ‘special purpose’. The movie has the sweetest beach bonfire duet song, ‘Tonight You Belong to Me’, including a nicely mimed trumpet solo! After Navin’s ups and downs, the story ends with his returning home with his family, who sing Lead Belly’s ‘Pick a Bale of Cotton’, with Navin dancing along in perfect rhythm; now that’s what I call slap happy! Tina

10. Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
Growing up a military brat out in Las Vegas, I once saw what I believed was an atom bomb cloud, and thought for sure the world was ending and the Russians were coming. Turns out it was just a chemical plant explosion that also made the marshmallow plant next to it explode, as well as emitting a sonic boom which caused the wheels to blow off of my brother’s stroller and our house to collapse. This movie by Stanley Kubrick embodies all the nonsense of Cold War ‘Peace on Earth’ and military ‘strategy’ gone haywire, with epic performances by Peter Sellers and Slim Pickens. Everything wrong with America’s foreign policy tied up in a black comedy about the doomsday orders, it’s a classic that is just as relevant now as it was when it first came out. Gotta love the closing number with Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll meet again… don’t know where. . . don’t know when…’. Tina

Walerian Borowczyk, the Avant-garde Animator


Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection

Format: Dual Format (DVD + Blu-ray)

Release date: 8 September 2014

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Director: Walerian Borowczyk


242 mins

Alongside other notorious enfants terribles such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Russ Meyer and John Waters, Walerian Borowczyk became an iconoclastic mainstain of the legendary Scala repertory cinema club, most notably with the infamous The Beast (La bête, 1975) and the twisted The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (1981), which screened in a pleasing uncut print to salivating artsploitation freaks munching on hash cakes and muffins. In his heyday, The Establishment very much saw Borowczyk as a censor-baiting braggart. However, time has brought respect, and looking back at his oeuvre, one can detect a sense of playfulness in his self-centred obsession. Borowczyk merely presented his fantasies as personal cinematic gestures – can he be to blame for the media frenzy and the shock tactics of his distributors?

Before elevating himself to spunking monsters and GLC certificates, Borowczyk paved a delicate, refined path in sideways installations, which the newly restored shorts from Arrow represent, for those wishing to look back at this quirky auteur’s roots. Borowczyk’s background in painting comes to the fore in these esoteric chocolate box confections: Rosalie (1966) features snappily shot agit-edits alongside Švankmajer-esque stop motion while in the eye-popping Gavotte (1967), fighting dwarves wrestle for their ceremonial seat (showcasing the director’s bizarre sense of mischief, which would come to typify his later works).

Darker expressions emanate from the dadaist Les jeux des anges (Angels’s Games, 1964): Borowczyk incorporates potent Dalí-esque visualisations into a 12-minute pre-psychedelic mindfuck (it would make for amazing wallpaper), while a dingy, low, humming musique concrète aria permeates on the OST (riffing on the music heard in Polish concentration camps). Théâtre de Monsieur & Madame Kabal (The Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal, 1962) connects grotesque Ubu-esque stick pencil scrawls with sepia-toned live action. At a feature-length running time of 72 minutes, this satirical beast is best experienced on a BIG monitor in the company of cracked stimulants and a 7.1 system. The bizarre Renaissance (1963) throws a wink to Man Ray with its creepy dolls and grapes that appear to the growling, popping sounds of a clanging typewriter (it genuinely put me off my cereal).

A respectful tip to Arrow for their care and attention in restoring these left-of-centre shorts, an eclectic selection from an experimenting genius whose reputation has been overshadowed by controversy for far too long. Now where’s that Emmanuelle 5 tape…

Lovely Jon

La Freak Smut Cinema: Interview with Missy and Messy La Freak

La Freak Smut Cinema
Kiss (La Freak Smut Cinema)

La Freak Smut Cinema

14 May 2014

Looking Glass Cocktail Bar, London

La Freak on Facebook

When you enter the shabbily glamorous Looking Glass cocktail bar on Hackney Road, there is no way of knowing that behind the huge gold-framed mirror next to the bar hides a door to a secret room. As twenty-odd people wait to be let in, sipping on inventive, albeit pricey cocktails, there is a simmering sense of anticipation. When we are finally invited to step behind the looking glass, each guest is given a cheerful welcome spank on the bum by the vivacious Messy La Freak.

This introduction into the dark screening room with its mismatched sofas and tattered vintage chairs is apt: the atmosphere at La Freak Smut Cinema, a midweek female-friendly porn film night run by two young mothers and self-described ‘sex geeks’, is joyfully naughty, risqué but relaxed. The good-natured audience is composed mostly of couples, a few single men, and pairs or groups of female friends.

Set to music throughout, the programme starts with cute animated shorts by Naked Love, and two classy films by Erika Lust about masturbatory bondage and a sexual encounter dreamed up by an obsessive lover, mingled with La Freak’s own compilation videos. As the evening progresses the material becomes heavier, with, among others, a Japanese gay animé that is typically both sentimental and rude, as well as the BDSM-orientated Discipline. The latter is an accomplished example of La Freak’s style: a striking juxtaposition of artistic, beautiful, enigmatic images and saucy, explicit, provocative material that feels fresh, surprising and arousing.

During the show, Missy La Freak and Messy La Freak keep bouncing around, a glass of wine in their hands, charmingly enthusiastic, open, approachable and willing to engage with their audience. The evening is a success: after the films, the room buzzes with collective exhilaration, and people linger on at the bar to chat animatedly. Missy and Messy beam: their job is done.

A week later, I met the cerebral, artistic-minded Missy and the boisterous, spirited Messy La Freak to talk about porn, art and feminism.

Virginie Sélavy: How did La Freak start?

Messy La Freak: I broke up with my long-time partner and I was experiencing a very high level of sex drive. I always had a fantasy of going into a sex cinema. I had that idea of putting on a fur coat, having a little cigarette outside, having a glass of red wine, watching some porn, not doing very much, and then going home and having a massive session. But that is not what happened at all. I turned up at this place on City Road that I’d looked up on the internet. There was a sign that said ‘Women go for free’… I went downstairs and it was the most revolting film ever, with a quite large lady covering herself in cream. I put myself in the back row and before I’d even counted to five every single man – I was obviously the only woman – in the entire room lunged at me like zombies! I ran out, it was ruined. A few weeks later I met Missy. And two years later we were sitting in her house drinking red wine and we were talking about porn.

Missy La Freak: We discussed the story and we talked about how London doesn’t have a sex cinema that women feel comfortable going to. That was the seed. The seed was that women should be able to go out, enjoy something sexual…

Messy: …in a non-threatening environment.

How did you find your current venue?

Missy: They found us. They contacted us on Twitter.

Messy: Our venue hunting has been a big nightmare.

Missy: You’d think London is very liberated. London is not liberated.

Messy: There’s such a taboo about porn. We’ve had lots of problems. Normal places won’t take us. They have to be slightly edgy or slightly underground.

Missy: Advertising was a problem too. For a year it was a truly underground event because we weren’t really listed. We tried flyering for the first night, but it’s difficult to flyer for a porn night. There have been points where we have considered quitting. We were thinking, is London ready for this?

Who comes to your nights?

Missy: In the beginning it was for women, but it’s open to all now. It’s for all sexualities, genders, backgrounds, ages. It’s for people who want a good time and a friendly atmosphere. The first night we chatted to people to get some feedback, and the group of people who were the most interested in La Freak were women in their 40s and 50s. They were so in touch with their sexuality, so ready for a night like La Freak. That was wonderful.

Messy: Normally about half of the room is heterosexual couples, and the other half is pairs and groups of ladies, a few straggler guys, and sometimes we’ve had straggler girls.

It felt geared towards women more than anything else, for instance Wank was all about female masturbation. And He-Man was great because it wasn’t just about sex, it was also about the beauty of the male body.

Missy: We are trying to have a more artistic view of sex. In the beginning, although we were trying to take it away from the mainstream view of sex, there was a lot of cock count, whereas now there’s more artistic erotica. We feel that it makes the real sex more powerful to have it cut up with more artistic films that tease you, that don’t show you everything. Wank was one of our first films, and it was when we were very much thinking about women. Our thought was, when you hear the word ‘wank’, everyone thinks of men, and men talk very openly about it. We wanted to discuss female wanking and celebrate it.

Messy: The reason why we’ve moved away from classifying ourselves as something not necessarily feminist, but female, geared towards women, is that it’s boxing yourself in. You alienate half of the demographic. We are feminists but, unfortunately for our species, there are a lot of women who are fearful of the word.

Missy: We found that the association with the term has put some people off. It’s unfortunate but we want the night to be open to everyone.

Muff felt like a celebration of pubic hair.

Missy: That was a direct ‘fuck you’ to mainstream porn where the muffs are removed so you can see more vagina.

Messy: A lot of men prefer pubic hair, so I think it is just for that reason – so you can see more.

Missy: It’s such a slippery slope, now you have porn stars having their bits lasered off, because once you can see more, then you need to create the perfect vagina. It’s pretty grim.

One of the films was a Japanese gay animé.

Missy: I love it, that’s the one that turns me on the most. The idea of showing animated stuff was really interesting to me. But I looked at hetero Japanese animé and it’s horrific!

Messy: It’s all rape.

Missy: It’s paedophilic. The men are very old and ugly, the girls are really young and pretty and they’re crying. I tried very hard to find something that wasn’t like that and I stumbled across this film. It’s actually made by women.

Missy: We’ve had some funny reactions to it, some men saying, ‘I will never watch anything like that again’. They’d rather have live action, watching an animated version in some way really flips them out. For the most part people like it.

Messy: The reason why La Freak is quite girl-heavy is because 90% of pornography focuses on the female body. And while as females we can appreciate the beauty of the female body, and it’d be completely absurd to not include it and celebrate it, the show has changed. That animé was the first thing that shifted it and became a celebration of the masculine form. From then we got a better balance.

You clearly spend a lot of time sifting through online porn to find the good stuff.

Missy: This was another reason for La Freak. We would go on the computer, try and watch porn, and what we were finding was quite unpleasant. You have to really look hard for something you’ll enjoy. So the other idea of La Freak was to find the gems, cut out the delving through, and say, we guarantee that it’ll all be good. It may not all be to your exact sexual taste, but it will be at the very least interesting. It won’t be what you see on Redtube.

Why do you think it’s important to watch those films collectively?

Messy: I think porn is one of the last taboos. I like doing slightly risqué things and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it, because it’s naughty. And it seems even naughtier because it’s put on by women.

Missy: And that’s why there’s music and it’s fast-paced. We want to be laughing, greet everyone, dance, so everybody knows you can relax. You don’t have to feel weird or uncomfortable about being here.

Messy: That’s why we move around the room, it’s not to distract people, it’s to chill them out…

Why is the music so important to you?

Messy: There was a show where we changed the format for one night. We got rid of the music so it was just films and blackness. Just as an experiment to see whether people were coming for the vibe or for the films. And what we found was that without the songs the response was really rigid and British.

Missy: Awkward, serious, no one spoke.

Messy: If you watch soft-core 70s porn there is music.

Missy: I find it much more fun to watch. From the 80s onwards it’s silent, and it’s the same sex noises. He’s grunting like a silver-backed gorilla, she’s moaning, and every film is the same. I think there’s a lot of focus on how women are treated in that kind of porn, but I also think the men are given a very robotic role – it’s like a bizarre machine that keeps doing this motion. I think both parties get a raw deal.

What’s the future of La Freak?

Messy: We’ve had this guy audition for us, I got him round the other night. He’d waxed his moustache and put eyeliner on and he was wearing a corset, a top hat, a silver jockstrap, stockings, suspenders and kitten heels, and he looked really masculine, but really feminine too. It was amazing. So I sat down with a glass of wine, and he started monologuing. It was a very touching piece about sexuality and your inner freak, a poem about his sexual discovery, but it definitely had an edge of murderous hysteria. It wasn’t a joyful piece. It culminated with him pretending to shove a massive cucumber up his bum and then poo it out. His act wasn’t the right tone because La Freak is a celebration of sexuality, a liberation and a happiness, his is much more about how our inner freaks are slaves to homogenised sexuality. It’s interesting but it’s too dark. But we’re now going to join in and curate a show where he’ll be the MC for the evening. I think that will add a level of spectacle and professionalism.

Missy: We feel that having someone who is so confident and looks great would be a wonderful addition. We also want to have erotic artists come and showcase their paintings.

Messy: For the next show we’ve got an artist who does erotic drawings. We have big things planned.

Interview by Virginie Sélavy

La Freak’s next show is at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club on Thursday 7 August 2014, 8.30 – 11.30pm, £10 early bird £12 standard. For more information and events please visit La Freak on Facebook.