In this special Halloween-themed podcast, Alex Fitch talks to three directors who have made films about man’s relationship with the land. At this year’s FrightFest, Robin Hardy discusses his classic horror film The Wicker Man and its new, belated thematic sequel The Wicker Tree, which both deal with fertility and terrifying pagan rites, while Larry Fessenden talks about his eco-themed monster movies No Telling, Wendigo and The Last Winter. In addition, in a Q&A recorded at the East End Film Festival, Alex interviews Steven Eastwood, co-director of Buried Land, a ‘mockumentary’/docu-drama about the real-life discovery in a small town in Bosnia of an ancient, buried pyramid, which may re-invent mankind’s knowledge of pre-Christian architecture and empire-building, but in the short term has changed the fortunes of people in the area.
Electric Sheep and Strange Attractor present a screening of Sex Jack (1970, 69 mins), directed by yakuza-turned-filmmaker Kôji Wakamatsu and written by his politically engaged acolyte Masao Adachi. Set against the background of the 60s Japanese student movement, it follows a group of young revolutionaries who take refuge in the flat of a stranger. Screened at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at the 1971 Cannes festival, it remains one of Wakamatsu’s most striking works. Wakamatsu and Adachi chose to work in the pink film (soft porn) industry as a way of ensuring financial independence and artistic freedom, and Sex Jack offers a typically radical mix of sex and politics. Denouncing both government repression and the apathy of the revolutionary movement, the film paints a disillusioned picture of collective action, ultimately suggesting that liberation from all shackles can only come from individual action. With thanks to the French-based international label Dissidenz, which has recently released three Kôji Wakamatsu DVD box-sets.
Sex Jack will be preceded by the black and white animated tale Man-Eater Mountain (dir Naoyuki Niiya, 2008, 28 mins), which uses paper theatre to tell a gruesome folk tale. A couple of police inspectors and their guide take a serial killer to the mountains to find the bodies of his victims, but soon they face the demons that reside there. Both beautifully atmospheric and hellishly nightmarish, it has Bosch-like visions of blood-sucking trees, impaled animals, bodies torn apart or eaten by demons. Man-Eater Mountain is presented by Zipangu Fest, the first UK-wide festival devoted to Japanese film, which runs from 18 to 24 November.
The films will be followed by a talk with Jasper Sharp, author of Behind the Pink Curtain: The Complete History of Japanese Sex Cinema, director of Zipangu Fest and co-editor of the Japanese cinema website Midnight Eye, and Julian Ross, commissioning editor at Vertigo Magazine and programme coordinator for the Theatre Scorpio season at Close-Up Film Centre and the Art Theatre Guild season at the BFI Southbank in July-August 2011. The talk will be hosted by Electric Sheep editor Virginie Sélavy.