17th Raindance Film Festival

Date: 30 September-11 October 2009

Venue: Apollo Cinema, London

Title: Kakera – A Piece of Our Lives

Part of a Raindance strand on Japanese Women Directors

Director: Momoko Ando

Based on the manga by: Erica Sakurazawa

Cast: Hikari Mitsushima, Eriko Nakamura

Japan 2008

Raindance website

Kakera - A Piece of Our Lives does what its title suggests. Kakera presents a slice of life. No grand narrative; no neatly conceived conclusions; just a segment of a relationship between two women, Haru and Riko, as they define their feelings for each other. Shooting with a microscopic attention to detail, first-time director Momoko Ando creates a thoroughly compelling world - beautiful, surreal, romantic and personal - aided by an excellent soundtrack and strong visual sense.

Rumpled and gamine, Haru is an especially engrossing heroine. All expressive eyes and otherworldly charm, she belongs to the Amélie school of little-girl-lost. Just starting out at university, Haru is growing more and more detached from her two-timing, loutish boyfriend, when she meets Riko, a self-assured medical artist working for Tanaka prosthetics. The film follows Haru’s sexual confusion as she tries to decide between Riko and her increasingly obnoxious boyfriend. As a young director (she was born in 1982), Ando perfectly captures the intensity of the women’s age and the excitement of their first, stumbling conversations. But while Amélie praised naive, kooky heroines in a nauseatingly self-congratulatory fashion, Kakera presents the reality of living with Haru’s dreamy drifting. The film explores both the allure of the inexperienced girls and their sometimes hurtful, self-centred behaviour.

The self-absorption of youth is beautifully played out in a subtle scene when a disinterested, distracted Haru leaves a university lecture discussing the oppression of women, only to be confronted with her boyfriend arm-in-arm with another girl. Gender and what it means to be a woman is an important theme underlying the entire film and one of the reasons the work is to premiere at this year’s Raindance Festival, as part of a special strand devoted to women in Japanese cinema. Again, Ando chooses not to present us with a coherent theory but prefers fragmented, conflicting ideas and discussions. Riko, for example, gives a beautiful initial speech on the arbitrariness of gender but later becomes irrationally hostile towards men. Beautiful fireworks enjoyed by Riko and Haru are echoed by aggressive, masculine explosions on television in Haru’s boyfriend’s flat. When the two women first meet, Haru has accidentally given herself a milk moustache while drinking a mug of cocoa while later in the film Haru’s boyfriend is unkind about the hair on her upper lip.

Kakera is all about the pieces that make up the whole: from the prosthetic body parts made by Riko to the chromosomes that determine the difference between men and women. When a distraught Haru eats too many marshmallows, she is advised ‘not to over-eat the food you love. Favourite foods are better eaten a little at a time’. Kakera takes each character little by little, each life slice by slice, allowing us the luxury to come to our own conclusions.

Eleanor McKeown

Kakera is part of a strand on Japanese women directors at Raindance. Director Momoko Ando will attend the festival, as well as pink director Sachi Hamano, the most prolific female director in Japan, who will present her 2001 non-pink title Lily Festival. Also showing are the rarely seen Hotaru by the critically-garlanded Naomi Kawase and Yukiko Sode’s distinctive and promising debut Mime-Mime. More information on the Raindance website.


White Lightnin'

Format: Cinema

Date: 25 September 2009

Venues: ICA and Rich Mix, London

Director: Dominic Murphy

Writer: Eddy Moretti, Shane Smith

Cast: Edward Hogg, Carrie Fisher, Muse Watson

UK 2009

92 mins

A dark, surreal semi-biopic about the ‘Dancin’ Outlaw’ Jesco White (impressively played by newcomer Ed Hogg), Dominic Murphy’s feature debut White Lightnin’ follows Jesco from his early childhood in West Virginia, mostly spent sniffing gasoline and lighter fluid, to an increasingly criminal and violent adolescence. Although his god-fearing father, the legendary Appalachian mountain dancer D Ray White, teaches him to dance in order to keep him on the straight and narrow, the temptations that torment Jesco prove too strong and frequently get him into trouble with the law, and he ends up in a mental institution. While he is locked up, Jesco learns the shocking news of D Ray’s death. After his release, he decides to do his best to live up to his father’s principles and starts touring around the South, performing in bars with his father’s old guitarist. But his uncontrollable temper puts an end to this and Jesco settles down in a trailer with his much older girlfriend (surprisingly and superbly played by Carrie Fisher). His inner demons increasingly take over and the voices in his head scream for revenge for the murder of D Ray, who was killed in a senseless act of redneck violence. From there, the film takes us deeper and deeper into Jesco’s crazed visions and wild religious fantasies, culminating in a horrifically inventive Old Testament-style revenge followed by an equally violent act of Christ-like self-sacrifice.

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 Murphy takes the subject matter to cinematic extremes, using a hand-held camera, bizarre angles and repeated blackouts to convey Jesco’s disturbed state of mind. Jesco’s narration guides us through the remembered fragments of his life, occasionally intercut with a thundering preacher’s voice delivering apocalyptic sermons against backgrounds of darkened skies and ominous mountains. Rare touches of colour bleeding through the moody, grainy, muted cinematography combine with the score’s distorted sounds, sparse guitars and shrill strings to convey the story’s underlying sense of doom and despair. Intensely imagined and vividly directed, White Lightnin’ is a raw, rabid, howling hillbilly hell trip that doesn’t let up.

Pamela Jahn

The Electric Sheep Film Club presents a preview of White Lightnin’ on Wednesday 2 September at the Prince Charles, London, followed by a Q&A with Dominic Murphy. More details on our events page.

Read Pamela Jahn’s interview with Dominic Murphy in the autumn 09 issue of Electric Sheep. The focus is on religious extremes on film from Christic masochism to satanic cruelty to coincide with the release of biblical hillbilly nightmare White Lightnin’, with articles on Jesus Christ Saviour, a documentary on Klaus Kinski’s disastrous New Testament stage play, and divine subversives Alejandro Jodorowsky and Kenneth Anger among others. Plus: Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, political animation, Raindance 09 and louche mariachi rockabilly Dan Sartain picks his top films!



Format: Cinema

Date: 16 October 2009

Venues: key cities

Distributor: Kaleidoscope Entertainment

Preview: 25 September, FACT, Liverpool, as part of the Abandon Normal Devices Festival

Director: Bruce McDonald

Writer: Tony Burgess

Cast: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak

Canada 2008

95 mins

Returning after the ambitiously flawed drama The Tracey Fragments (2007), Canadian director Bruce McDonald offers a bizarrely original adaptation of Tony Burgess’s novel Pontypool Changes Everything. Taking place within a single location, a radio studio in small-town Ontario, the film centres around frustrated shock jockey Grant Mazzy, whose innovative views and delivery are wasted on routine news items such as school bus cancellations and missing cats. Joining him in the studio are producer Sydney, with whom he shares a tempestuous professional relationship, and his bright assistant Laurel. On a typically mundane morning, their ‘eye in the sky’ helicopter correspondent calls in with reports of disturbing behaviour downtown and unexplainable acts of violence. Switching between pre-recorded shows and live broadcast, the three attempt to investigate the situation using what facilities they have, soon discovering their own broadcasts may be contributing to the mayhem.

Despite the limitations of the single location, Pontypool uses the confinement to the radio studio to great advantage, giving the film an insular and paranoid quality that only unravels in the film’s last quarter, as the infected residents inevitably break through the studio doors. The impossibly peculiar situation is well channeled through the three characters, occupying a position of power through the radio airwaves, and the relationships between them are interestingly played, particularly the contrasting ideologies and sexual tension between host and producer. Stephen McHattie gives a brilliant performance as Mazzy; with his gruff vocal delivery and withered yet enigmatic appearance he inhabits the role of an ageing radio host perfectly.

While the virus reveals itself to be unnecessarily complex and quite confusing, the concept of danger being spread through language is an interesting exploration point for a horror film. To elaborate would give too much away, though a hilariously notable set-piece shows two characters desperately speaking in pigeon French to avoid catching the virus. Scenes such as this confirm Pontypool as an imaginative addition to the zombie/virus horror canon.

James Merchant

Pontypool will preview at the AND Festival in Liverpool on September 25. It opens in the UK on October 16.

Double Take: Jane Arden’s Separation


Format: DVD + Blu-ray

Release date: 13 July 2009

Distributor: BFI

Director: Jack Bond

Writer: Jane Arden

Cast: Jane Arden, David de Keyser, Ann Lynn, Iain Quarrier

UK 1967

93 mins

Also released by the BFI: The Other Side of the Underneath (1972) and Anti-Clock (1979)

Although she has been inexplicably forgotten in recent cultural history, Jane Arden was a prolific and challenging writer, filmmaker, playwright and actress. To mark the release after 26 years of obscurity of restored versions of three of her films, Separation (1967), The Other Side of the Underneath (1972) and Anti-Clock (1979), LISA WILLIAMS discusses the former with SELINA ROBERTSON and SARAH WOOD, film curators of Club Des Femmes. Written by Arden and directed by her partner Jack Bond, Separation is a visually inventive, fragmented but playful evocation of a woman’s inner world as she faces the breakdown of her marriage.

Sarah Robertson: When I searched for Jane Arden’s name online initially I found her to be a US comic book heroine from the 1940s… So there are two Jane Ardens floating around.

Lisa Williams: Arden was born Norah Patricia Morris. I wonder whether she had the early comic book heroine in mind when she renamed herself. Both figures are women braving a man’s world, whether that be investigative journalism or filmmaking.

Sarah Wood: It made me think of Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden where all gender roles can transform: girls can be boys. I had mixed feelings about the film. In some ways, I found Bond’s direction too stylised, too self-conscious. I felt that it hadn’t found its own form, that it was 8 1/2 crossed with Performance crossed with Persona crossed with Alphaville. At the same time, I liked the fact that it was a fractured jigsaw of styles, that no one approach could express the new thing that the film was trying to convey. What is radical for me about the film is the content. To hear the early voice of feminism expressed before there was any form of collective identification is amazing and vulnerable. I was most struck by the dialogues between Arden’s character and her ex-husband. It was very powerful to watch his pathologising control countered by her tentative voicing of the need to be seen as an equal.

SR: I have to say that I had never seen anything like it before, certainly in British avant-garde cinema. It was thrilling, painful, coquettish, beautiful and so joyfully experimental that all I could do was watch. I just couldn’t believe that I had never heard of her name before. The way she placed herself in the story, her body, her image, her emotions, for me very much challenged the typical construct of female subjectivity - woman as spectacle…

LW: I loved how ‘Jane’ the character and Jane the filmmaker were represented by ‘Jane’, ‘Granny’ and ‘Woman’. To me, it was like a forerunner of some of Cindy Sherman’s photography.

SR: Absolutely - feminist personas. I loved the fact that the film notes say that her clothes were from Carrot on Wheels, Quorum, Deliss and Granny Takes a Trip!

SW: Yes! She is a wonderful fashionable construct. It is such a joke within a joke!

LW: It is said that Arden ‘directed the film from within’. She wrote the script and praised Bond’s way of reinterpreting it on the screen. But it certainly complicates matters that such a feminist and personal work is directed by a man.

SR: At the BFI screening of Separation her absence created a big hole: Bond did not really want to talk about his working relationship with Arden – I’m not sure why – and there was only one question from the floor about her plays. I guess this is understandable because he was there representing the film - but frustrating as well. But I think her absence is not atypical. When was it that Linda Nochlin wrote that famous text ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ I think it was in 1971…


Read the rest of the dialogue in the autumn 09 issue of Electric Sheep. The focus is on religious extremes on film from Christic masochism to satanic cruelty with articles on biblical hillbilly nightmare White Lightnin’, Jesus Christ Saviour, a documentary on Klaus Kinski’s disastrous New Testament stage play, and divine subversives Alejandro Jodorowsky and Kenneth Anger. Plus: Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, political animation, Raindance 09 and louche mariachi rockabilly Dan Sartain picks his top films!



Format: DVD

Release date: 31 August 2009

Distributor: Shameless Entertainment

Director: Luigi Bazzoni, Mario Fanelli (uncredited)

Writers: Luigi Bazzoni, Mario Fanelli

Original title: Le orme

Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Klaus Kinski, Peter McEnery, Nicoletta Elmi, Lila Kedovra

Italy 1975

92 mins

Like Alice, the young translator whose strange journey we follow in Footprints (Le orme), you may find yourself hit by waves of tingling déj&#224 vu, recurrent nightmare and flickering, almost remembered memory when watching this long-lost Italian thriller. Have I seen that peacock stained-glass window before? I’m sure I’ve stood on that mysterious hill overlooking that same sea?

If it wasn’t for the fact that this psychedelically haunting giallo from 1975 has never before been released in the UK, and has been unavailable worldwide on DVD until now, it would be easy to cite its influence on later moonlit dips into the interior, like some of the more cerebral moments of Argento, Aronofsky’s The Fountain, US experimental filmmaker Nina Menke’s work and of course many of Lynch’s delights.

Through an impressive performance by Florinda Bolkan (who also starred in ‘nunsploitation’ flick Flavia the Heretic), we are drawn into Alice’s world and her degenerating psychological state. A yellow dress has appeared overnight in her wardrobe, lurid against her row of beige suits. There’s also a ripped up postcard with an image of an opulent hotel on her kitchen floor. Alice’s colleagues have just informed her she’s been missing from work for three days, and the dream of an astronaut abandoned on the moon continues playing out in her mind’s eye. Alice’s seemingly straightforward existence has been torn apart and she must travel to the exotic island of Garma to piece things back together. We are drawn all the more powerfully into her world as she seems credible and intelligent, not prone to hysterical flights of fancy like the flailing token females that plague many gialli. And to this is added the impressive, disturbing cameo by Klaus Kinski as the sinister scientist Dr Blackmann.

Director Luigi Bazzoni’s treatment of Footprints is visionary, being equal parts style and substance, enhanced much by the cinematography of Vittorio Storraro, who of course also contributed his extraordinary talent to the films of Bertolucci and Coppola. It’s certainly a visual treat and while it is true to its era, it retains an elegance even in the final surrealist sequence on the stunning Balkan beach. The dream/memory flashbacks are executed with restraint and subtlety, and as a result have a particularly memorable impact on the subconscious mind. Perhaps a little like Storraro himself, this is a film with a sassy sense of its own style: it’s not just dressed to impress.

Footprints comes with the added appeal of obscurity: you’ll probably be the only one you know who’s seen it. The price to pay for this obscurity is the crude restoration of previously lost scenes, and the sudden (unintentionally) hilarious switches from English to Italian. These can be forgiven but do detract slightly from the overall credibility of the film. All in all, however, for those longing for an existentialist, sci-fi adventure that combines the narrative mystery and sense of isolation of Solaris with the vivid Italian visions of Argento: this is the film you’ve been dreaming of.

Siouxzi Mernagh


Goth: Love of Death

Format: DVD

Release date: 21 September 2009

Distributor: 4Digital Asia

Director: Takahashi Gen

Writers: Gram, Hotta Takashi, Kashiwada Nichio, Saitô Midori, Takahashi Gen

Based on the novel by: Otsuichi

Cast: Takanashi Rin, Hongô Kanata

Japan 2008

95 mins

Serial killers, severed limbs, angsty teens, another Japanese splatter-fest right? Wrong, Goth is the complete opposite, an anti-serial killer film. It does without the shock and gore, the screaming and squelchy sound effects, and takes a distant, detached view on murderers and their victims. It’s not about making the audience jump out of their seats but taking them on a journey of morbid fascination into the cold, almost serene, stillness of death.

The film follows two teenagers in a grey Tokyo suburb; Morino (Takanashi Rin) is a pale, though pretty, loner that no one takes an interest in and Kamiyama (Hongô Kanata) is one of the most popular guys in school. They’re opposites but have one thing in common - an unhealthy interest in the work of a local serial killer who murders beautiful women, removes their left hand and leaves them elegantly posed to be found by a horrified member of the public.

Though the content suggests otherwise, director Takahashi Gen never seeks to shock or linger on the gruesomeness of killing. Instead, he mostly sticks with the point of view of the teenagers who start to visit the crime scenes, and through them we see the artistry involved: the victims are treated as sculptures, or art installations, in a twisted attempt to preserve their beauty. The pair later stumble across the killer’s notebook, which allows them to visit as yet undiscovered bodies and gain further insight into his reasoning.

Takahashi moves things along very slowly, his camera often drifting with the characters in a daze reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant. It perfectly captures the mood of the disillusioned teens who rarely feel connected to the world around them. The ‘goth’ of the title isn’t about their outward appearance (they don’t wear long black coats or freaky make-up) but their inner feelings towards death and how their fascination blocks out everything else. While an impatient adult might want to say ‘oh, just grow up’, Takahashi understands that the young, developing mind must come to terms with its own mortality.

Morino and Kamiyama remain passive for most of the film. After finding the notebook they decide not to turn it over to the police, even though it could save someone’s life. They remain withdrawn, desperate to know where the killer will strike next like the admirers of a celebrity. Theirs is a life of watching, whether it’s the news or their teacher at school, so when something exciting and dangerous comes along they want to be a part of it. Morino even goes as far as dressing like one of the victims, a dig at Hollywood movies where the dowdy goth girl suddenly becomes the gorgeous babe.

There’s an attempt to unmask the killer but not in the way you might think, resulting in an unpredictable ‘showdown’ that oozes tension. Takahashi’s only misstep is to add a bonus twist surrounding Morino’s sister and this seems needless, an extra layer of confusion to try and explain why she is the way she is. The director need not worry, his handling of suicidal teen frustration is rightly melancholic and easily believable in a world where death surrounds us in all forms of media.

Rich Badley


Rider on the Rain

Format: DVD

Release date: 21 September 2009

Distributor: Optimum Home Entertainment

Director: René Clément

Writer: Sébastien Japrisot, Lorenzo Ventavoli

Original title: Le Passager de la pluie

Cast: Charles Bronson, Marlí¨ne Jobert

France/Italy 1970

120 mins

Mélancolie ‘Mellie’ Mau (Marlí¨ne Jobert) looks every inch the swinging 60s chick, a gamine with boyish red hair in a killer white plastic number and matching go-go boots. But it’s raining in the pretty French coastal town she swings around, her mother is a bitter lush and her husband is an unbearable sexist prick. Both are absent when a creepy stranger only she has seen breaks into her house and rapes her. She rather enterprisingly kills the bastard, but cannot face dealing with the police and elects to dump the body and hide the crime. It seems to be working until the mysterious Harry Dobbs (Charles Bronson) turns up at a wedding, and everywhere she goes thereafter, mocking, flirtatious and menacing by turns, full of questions, but not a cop. Slowly, everything Mellie knows about her life seems to be called into question. The stakes of this cat and mouse game are unclear…

For much of its length, Rider on the Rain is a two-handed play well handled by the leads. Jobert is great, sexy, vulnerable and defiant; we may worry for the seemingly friendless Mellie, but she is never a victim. It’s a tough trick to pull off, and I wish I was more familiar with the rest of her CV - it’s a damn shame if she wasn’t given the scope to be this good again. Bronson’s turn saddens for different reasons. He briefly holds a gun in Rider on the Rain, but, to many viewers’ doubtless confusion, fails to use it to blow away a gang of curiously multiracial street scum. It’s kind of heartbreaking to see him in this, giving the kind of playful, solid macho performance Hollywood leads used to deliver. His classic 60s roles behind him, a sea of right-wing horseshit ahead, and here he is being charming, graceful and strange. He’s not De Niro, but it’s a performance, goddamnit, and suggests that he was a lot better than Death Wish 14.

René Clément’s film comes from 1970, near the tail end of a lost age of Euro-cinema, the films that used to pepper the TV schedules in the 70s and 80s and then slowly disappeared: not art-house, they would be described as stylish in the listings, boasting chic clothes, swish locations and sharp camerawork. And it’s pretty damn fine, too, conjuring a dreamy, off-kilter atmosphere (it starts with a quote from Alice in Wonderland) in which we can’t quite be sure who’s up to what, or whether they are quite real at all. Clément at least plays with the idea that some or all of this may be in Mélancolie’s head, with odd flashbacks, recurring visual motifs and artful framing. It nods to Hitchcock (not subtly, a character is named Mac Guffin,) and satisfies as a conventional thriller, but is more open and ambiguous than Hitch would allow. No car chases, kung fu or exploding helicopters here - the best moments are created by actors being filmed with cameras by someone who knows what they are doing. Sweet.

Mark Stafford


Penny Points to Paradise

Format: DVD and Blu-ray

Release date: 3 August 2009

Distributor: BFI

Director: Tony Young

Writer: John Ormonde

Cast: Harry Secombe, Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers

UK 1951

68 mins

During an interview in the 1970s, Peter Sellers was asked to recall his screen debut. His verdict – perhaps unsurprisingly for such a famously self-critical character - was pretty damning: Penny Points to Paradise, he said, was ‘a terrifyingly bad film’. Viewed at a distance of 58 years since its release, it’s hard to disagree too wildly with Sellers’s own opinion. As a very low-budget, very knockabout farce made in a hurry by a group of untested newcomers, at best it’s an uneven affair. Still, there’s more than enough rough vitality here to compensate for the film’s manifest shortcomings.

Marking the first cinema outing for three quarters of the team who would very shortly afterwards find fame as The Goons, Penny Points to Paradise follows gormless pools winner Harry Secombe and his friend Spike Milligan as they attempt to avoid gold-digging girls and thieving forgers on holiday in an extremely gloomy-looking post-war Brighton. Paying homage to silent comedies, Abbott and Costello and some ancient music hall humour (‘did you know that a man dies once every six months from flu?’ ‘how boring for him’), at best the film is enthusiastically played - Secombe’s lengthy mime of a surgeon performing a heart operation is particularly memorable - but its main point of interest lies in seeing the young Goons – Milligan was the oldest at 33 - finding their feet despite the very obviously cheap and rushed circumstances surrounding the picture’s creation.

Indeed, Penny Points to Paradise was made so quickly that Arthur Dent’s Adelphi Films encouraged the team to fill a spare week in Brighton improvising the skits that ended up as the 30-minute short Let’s Go Crazy. Also included on this DVD, Let’s Go Crazy sees Sellers take on six different parts (including a passable Groucho Marx impersonation) with evident relish in a manner that prefigures both the multiple roles of 1959’s The Mouse that Roared and, more famously, Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, for which he was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. Interspersed with some local Brighton end-of the-pier-type variety turns, the result is a vivid portrait of the era of British seaside entertainment also captured in Tony Hancock’s underrated The Punch and Judy Man.

Both films flopped when released, although in 1960 enterprising distributors in Australia attempted to cash in on Sellers’s new fame by cutting segments from Penny Points to Paradise and replacing them with scenes from Let’s Go Crazy to increase the comedian’s screen time. Painstaking work was necessary on the part of the BFI to restore both films to their original form - and while neither exactly qualifies as art, as an artefact documenting a period in British history this new DVD is of undeniable importance.

Pat Long

This release launches the BFI’s new strand The Adelphi Collection.