The outlandish Parisian genre and fantasy festival returns from September 3 to 13 with another line-up bulging with wild, unhinged and lost treasures. The festival opens with Simon Pummel’s schizophrenic sci-fi thriller Brand New-U and closes with Bollywood epic Baahubali: The Beginning, with a full range of sleazy subversiveness and avant-garde strangeness in between, from Marcel L’Herbier’s restored 1924 art deco femme fatale tale L’inhumaine to Rolph de Heer’s grotesque family tale Bad Boy Bubby, not to forget a zombie all-nighter.
Highlights include the latest from three Japanese heavyweights: Takashi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse, Hideo Nakata’s Ghost Theater and Sion Sono with two films, Tag and Love and Peace. Also screening are The Blaine Brothers’ original and moving Nina Forever, Steve Oram’s category-defying Aaaaaaaah! and Ulrich Seidl’s exploration of Austrian cellars In the Basement.
We’ll be checking out Alex Van Varmerdam’s absurdist thriller La peau de Bax, Raúl Garcia’s Edgar Allan Poe animation film Extraordinary Tales, Michael Madsen’s speculative alien invasion documentary The Visit, experimental Afghanistan-set sci-fi Ni le ciel ni la terre directed by artist Clément Cogitore, and Jason Bognacki’s slick giallo-influenced tale of possession Another.
This year, the guest curators are Guy Maddin (also included in the main programme with his own The Forbidden Room), whose selection includes Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Teuvo Tulio’s Sensuela and George Kuchar’s The Devil’s Cleavage; Benoit Delepine, co-director of Aaltra and Mammuth, will present Tim Burton’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and hopeless Russian road movie The Joy; and Ben Wheatley has chosen Frantisek Vlacil’s sumptuous medieval fable Marketa Lazarova and Michael Mann’s legendary murky Nazi nightmare The Keep.
Documentaries include Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World, B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin (1979-1989), which features Blixa Bargeld and Nekromantik 2’s male lead Mark Reeder, as well as an exploration of the Turkish golden age of low-budget Hollywood remakes, Remake, Remix, Rip-Off, part of a focus on alternative Turkish cinema.
This year’s musical performance is truly exceptional: legendary masked industrial collective The Residents will play a new version of Shadowland as well as presenting a programme of films and documentary Theory of Obscurity: A Movie about The Residents.
As always, the line-up includes a vast and dynamic selection of shorts, ranging from Can Evrenol’s hard-hitting, gut-punching Baskin and Javier Chillon’s inventive, intelligent Die Schneider Krankheit to classics by Jaume Balaguero, Jonathan Caouette and Bill Morrison.
We are very proud to be presenting Ana Lily Amirpour’s wonderful A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night at the Flatpack Film Festival in Birmingham on March 27. A stylish, melancholy tale about a chador-wearing skateboarding vampire girl unfolding in an Iranian dreamland, set to an Italian Western-inspired score and shot in magnificent widescreen black and white, it is an absolute treat that must be seen on a big screen.
Running from 19 to 29 March, the always excellent Flatpack once more offers a unique, inventive mix of features, shorts, exhibitions, installations, workshops, walks and performances in a variety of venues across Birmingham, ranging from cafes to a cathedral.
Among the highlights, Flatpack pays homage to the Japanese tradition of Benshi, the art of live film narration with Japanese silent film screenings, Ghostbusters and workshops. There is also cut-out animation with Paper Cinema’s take on The Odyssey, a cine-journey through a city with Vicki Bennett’s Citation City, an Edwardian Horror Show, interactive animation exhibition Amusement Park from Finland, a participatory dinner installation from Denmark using Oculus Rift technology, and a Roy Andersson retrospective.
Feature films include Electric Sheep favourites Sion Sono’s delirious yakuza musical Tokyo Tribe, Miroslav Slaboshpitsky’s powerful sign-language drama The Tribe. In the documentary programme, we highly recommend Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s exploration of the strange world of slime mould The Creeping Garden, and look forward to Tim K. Smith’s documentary Sex and Broadcasting, about the listener-funded independent US radio station WFMU and Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova’s Uncle Tony, The Three Fools and the Secret Service, which questions the official history of 70s Bulgarian animation.
The first edition of Film4 FrightFest in its new venue on Leicester Square, the Vue, was a resounding success, with an impressive line-up of films, terrific guests such as John McNaugton, Alan Moore and Jörg Buttgereit, and a lively sense of community. Stylistically and thematically, the programme was diverse, ranging from witty horror comedies to emotionally weighty thrillers and mind-boggling science fiction. After years of zombie domination, the monster of predilection this year was the werewolf, while children in peril and dangerous lovers also featured heavily and there was an underlying current of concern with the medium of film itself.
The festival opened with Adam Wingard’s wildly entertaining homage to 80s slasher/action flicks The Guest, about a mysterious soldier who ingratiates himself into the lives of a family after bringing them a message from their dead son with whom he served in Afghanistan. After a tense, enigmatic first part, the story shifted into black comedy, turning into a fun popcorn horror movie – which was very enjoyable, but it would be nice to see Wingard return to the more serious territory of A Horrible Way to Die at some point. Following the opposite trajectory, Faults started as a comedy about a washed-out cult expert who attempts to de-programme a young woman controlled by a mysterious cult, but turned into an increasingly strange and riveting face-off between the characters, in which roles become reversed. Also of note among the more comedic offerings, the hilarious and bloody Housebound from New Zealand was a blast, with clever twists and hugely satisfying characters, led by delinquent ball of rage Kylie and her well-meaning but clueless chatterbox mother.
The greatest find of the festival was undoubtedly Jennifer Kent’s wonderfully creepy and poignant monster story The Babadook. There were more children in peril in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer director John McNaughton’s return to the big screen, The Harvest, a chilling autumnal fairy tale of sorts.
Fabrice Du Welz’s intense take on The Honeymoon Killers story Alleluia was another heavyweight of the festival and the most accomplished of the unsettling psycho-sexual thrillers in the programme. Ate De Jong’s Deadly Virtues used bondage to explore the bonds of marriage in a story of home invasion with a twist. Despite its flaws, it was a captivating film with ideas and originality. Marriage was also under scrutiny in simmering two-hander Honeymoon. The dark rape-revenge thriller Julia investigated violent catharsis and female empowerment in interesting, if rather muddled ways – director Matthew A. Brown did not seem entirely sure of where he was taking his story. On a lighter note, Hitoshi Matsumoto took a delirious approach to S&M in R100, an insane Japanese comedy about a middle-aged widower who gets more than he bargained for when he joins an underground club whose dominatrixes include The Queen of Spit in an eye-popping musical sequence and The Queen of Gobbling…
With a greater diversity of complex characters, in particular female, than in previous years, the programme also interestingly reflected a strong male anxiety. Deadly Virtues made a point about the wife earning more money than her husband, an important element in the shifting dynamic of their marriage. In the same way, Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal added a twist to its familiar jealous husband story in that the wife is the one with the high-powered job while his job, seen as lowly, is dismissed by other characters. With physical castration featuring in a number of films in the programme (Julia being the most notable), there seemed to be a simmering unease about the place of men in marriage and society, and a fear of sexual and social emasculation.
The Canal was one of a handful of films concerned with its own medium, probing the ghostly quality of film itself. In R100, the story of the widower is a film being made within the film – and shown to flabbergasted executives. The excellent occult-tinged Hollywood ambition tale Starry Eyes focused on a would-be actress who sells her soul to a satanic production company for stardom. VHS Viral continued the found footage franchise with a great segment by Nacho Vigalondo while Jessica Cameron’s Truth or Dare took on reality TV with the same subtlety as the shows it satirizes. Among the documentaries, David Gregory’s fascinating Lost Soul – The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau was one of the most talked about films of the festival.
It was great to see werewolves used to dig into a variety of themes, even if the results were not always fully convincing. The Samurai, by German director Till Kleinert, was an intriguing, although heavy-handed take on queerness in a small town. It had a very memorable character in the transvestite sword-wielding lone wolf maniac who leads the solitary young local policeman into a journey of bloody self-discovery. Another interesting angle came from Adrian Garcia Bogliano in Late Phases, which stars the brilliant Nick Damici as a cranky blind veteran who moves into a retirement community terrorised by a mysterious creature. With most of its characters above the age of 60, it was a fairly brave, original and entertaining film about ageing, and how to face death with dignity.
Science fiction had a strong presence in the programme this year with Nacho Vigalondo’s mind-puzzler Open Windows, The Signal which closed the festival in beautiful, if somewhat mystifying manner, and James Ward’s convoluted chiller Coherence presented by the Duke Mitchell Film Club. For the first time, the Duke Mitchell brought their inimitable film party to FrightFest, invading one of the cinemas on the Saturday night with their anarchic mix of outlandish clips, excellent guests and wild shenanigans, which was much enjoyed by the packed auditorium.
Starting on Sunday 29 June, the brilliant Duke Mitchell Film Club prsent their first DukeFest Zero festival, four nights of fun, intriguing and odd cinematic gems, including special guests, an anniversary screening, a music night, a mystery trailer reel and a live translation by someone who doesn’t speak the film’s language.
The festival kicks off with the European premiere of My Name is Jonah, a documentary on self-described ‘real-life warrior, adventurer and musician’ and cult internet icon Jonah. Monday 1 July is ‘Mix-It-Up Night’, including a screening of Stockholm Nights with live audio translation by Duke host and Electric Sheep contributor Evrim Ersoy (who doesn’t speak Swedish), the Japanese edition of The Great VHS Experiment, and Night of the Trailers. The following night is a music night including Death Waltz’s Musical Horror Trip and Music Video Found Footage. The festival closes on Wednesday 3 July with a 30th anniversary screening of Ulli Lommel’s SF musical comedy Strangers in Paradise, about a hypnotist who cryogenically escapes from the Nazis only to be defrost by fascist Americans in the 80s.
Birmingham’s brilliant Flatpack Film Festival returns for an eighth year for 11 days of inventive film delights, from 20 to 30 March. As always, expect a mind-stretching mix of new features, shorts and special guests, as well as avant-garde Austrian animation, a solipsistic installation, a Victorian magic lantern show, a psychedelic music night, walking tours and pop-up screenings in unexpected venues across the city.
Among the highlights:
• PHONO-CINEMA-THEATRE, the first UK screening of short films, many of them in hand-tinted colour, which were made for the 1900 Paris Exposition and featured theatre and variety stars of the day. The films include Sarah Bernhardt’s Hamlet and a can-can by Gabrielle Réjane; many of them have original sound thanks to an ingenious gramophone system.
• The UK premiere of THE GREAT FLOOD, a portrait of the devastation caused by the Mississippi floods of 1927 presented by experimental filmmaker Bill Morrison. Also screening are Morrison’s poetic take on archive footage of Durham miners’ lives from the 1900s to the 1970s THE MINERS’ HYMNS and his ode to cinematic decay DECASIA (we have an article on Decasia in our book, The End: An Electric Sheep Anthology, available from Strange Attractor Press).
• CAFÉ NEURO: a weekend of talks, screenings and activities that will exploit recent developments in brain-imaging and eye-tracking technology to explore what cinema does to our brains.
• JAPANIMATION: a retrospective of Japan’s offbeat DVD label Calf including work by Mirai Mizue, Tochka Collective and Atsushi Wada.
• DVD BANG, a Korean-inspired viewing lounge, where you can book in to watch a movie day or night.
Feature films include an immersive, semi-horizontal screening of Douglas Trumbull’s 70s eco-sci-fi movie SILENT RUNNING, electrifying Kathleen Hanna documentary that will make you happy to be alive THE PUNK SINGER, Haskell Wexler’s counter-culture classic MEDIUM COOL, fascinating, thoughtful UFO doc about disinformation and the creation of truth MIRAGE MEN, Ken Russell’s mind-bending ALTERED STATES, sensuous neo-gialloTHE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS, Krzysztof Zanussi’s 1970s exploration of the mind ILLUMINATION, F.W. Murnau’s classic silent horror NOSFERATU, part faux doc on East German 80s skate subculture THIS AIN’T CALIFORNIA and Eiichi Yamamoto’s amazing-sounding psychedelic animé BELLADONNA OF SADNESS, based on a French novel about medieval witchcraft.
Alex Fitch talks to film critic and historian Kim Newman about The Edgar Wallace Mysteries, a series of British B-movies made in the 1960s and subsequently rebranded as a TV series, based on novels by the co-creator of King Kong. Plus: in a Q&A recorded at the Raindance Film Festival, Alex talks to director M.A. Littler about his documentary The Kingdom of Survival, a road movie that explores the current state of scepticism and philosophy in modern America and features interviews with Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Kanaan and Joe Bageant.