Tag Archives: Coen brothers

Petey Dammit’s Film Jukebox

Petey Dammit
Petey Dammit

Petey Dammit is an American daredevil who became an icon in the 1970s for his incredible motorcycle stunts. Some of his most famous include riding through fire walls, jumping over rattlesnakes, flying over Greyhound buses, and nearly dying from a launch over the fountains in front of Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. Before becoming a stuntman, he had a greatly varied career in underground music, including such bands as Big Techno Werewolves, Dylan Shearer, The Birth Defects and Thee Oh Sees. He broke 37 bones and one guitar during his lifetime. He is also one of the main characters in Ada Bligaard Søby’s documentary Petey and Ginger. Below Petey picks the 10 films that have most affected him.

1. The Castle (Rob Sitch, 1997)
This movie centres around the Kerrigans, an Australian family who has to fight to keep their home from being taken away by a neighbouring airport expansion. I watched this movie on a flight to Australia the first time we toured over there, and it gave me pretty much everything I needed to know about the amazingness that country had to offer, and I instantly fell in love. Everything about this movie is great and works really well together. The low-budget look of the film and set designs go perfectly with the acting, and the Kerrigan family as a whole. Although it’s a great comedy with constant dry laughs and memorable quotes, I can’t help but tearing up in happiness at the end with the amount of love the family members have for each other.

2. Raising Arizona (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1987)
I think I’ve watched this movie more times than any other movie throughout my life. I could quote it word for word while watching it. In fact, I don’t like watching it with other people, because I know how annoying my ability to speak along with the dialogue must be. There is a pencil sketch of Nicolas Cage hanging on my wall that I bought at a tourist trap here in San Francisco, and I can’t look at it without thinking, ‘My name is H.I. McDunnough… Call me Hi.’ Nicolas Cage is the man!

3. Wristcutters: A Love Story (Goran Dukic, 2006)
This love/buddy/road-trip black comedy is set in an alternate, afterlife limbo designated for people who commit suicide. The main character is distraught after his girlfriend breaks up with him, so he decides to kill himself. As punishment, he finds himself in a new world where everything is pretty much the same as when he was alive, except slightly crappier. For such a depressing (yet extremely interesting) concept, it’s surprisingly upbeat and has a lot of cameos from great people like Tom Waits, John Hawkes, Will Arnett and Eddie Steeples.

4. Festen (Thomas Vinterberg,1998)
Oh man, whenever I try to talk about this movie to friends, I explain that after watching it you will either call your parents and tell them you love them, or you will never speak to them again. This is a pretty heavy film, and the first of the Dogme 95 films. I think this works to Vinterberg’s advantage, because the simplistic nature of the filming and acting make it seem more believable, as if you were there at the party witnessing all the events unfold. I feel pretty gross after watching it, and that’s why it’s one of my all-time favourite movies. Not for that feeling of grossness, but because it makes me feel it so much.

5. Wild Zero (Tetsuro Takeuchi, 1999)
Guitar Wolf, the coolest rock’n’roll band in the world, get a feature-length film that is just as cool as they are! This movie has pretty much everything that you’d need for a Saturday night – zombies, gratuitous blood and gore, UFOs, fire-spurting microphones, hot pants, a transsexual, a naked girl firing guns, and the best takedown of an alien mothership ever put to film! Just watch it!

6. Mother Night (Keith Gordon, 1996)
I’m a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing, but I can’t think of too many examples where his books have been translated to film with much success. This one is about as good as it can get. Nick Nolte is perfect as Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American-born playwright in Germany during WWII who spews Nazi propaganda that is laced with important hidden messages for the Allies on a radio show. Years later he is living in New York and his former life comes back to haunt him. I find a lot of this movie to be pretty powerful without being cheesy or in your face. It’s great for Sunday afternoon, lying around the house movie watching.

7. Jerkbeast (Brady Hall and Calvin Lee Reeder, 2005)
A friend in Seattle played this movie for us during some down time on tour and it changed my life. Jerkbeast started as a small, public-access TV show where viewers would call in to dial-an-insult the cast (including Brady Hall in a giant, papier mâché monster costume). The cast was known to assault the callers with hilariously foul-mouthed insults at rapid-fire speed. After the TV show ended, they decided to amp up the insults and create a feature out of the carnage. Starting a punk band with many name changes (Blood Butt, Anus Pussy and Steaming Wolf Penis) they hit the road to perform shows for no one, slinging as many insults as possible, such as, ‘I don’t know how I resist the urge to stab you in the face with a frozen stream of horse piss!’ until fame and fortune finds, and then ultimately destroys them. This no-budget (purportedly $5,000–$6,000) movie is perfect for sitting around with your mates getting drunk and laughing until you can’t even sing the words to ‘Looks Like Chocolate, Tastes Like Shit’ any longer. Co-director Calvin Lee Reeder has also made the surreal films The Rambler and The Oregonian, which are also worth checking out if you want to take a drug-free journey to bad acid town. A lot of great clips from the public access show are up on YouTube.

8. Duel to the Death (Ching Siu-tung, 1983)
I love kung fu/wuxia films, and this one has it all. Duel to the Death is from my favourite era of these films, because it was made in the days (and was among the first) where invisible wires and matting worked alongside the martial arts action to create the fantasy style which I greatly love. I generally don’t like CGI-heavy films as they don’t seem real enough for me, or they look slightly off enough that my brain can’t trick me into believing what I’m looking at is real. In this film, a Chinese swordsman is pitted against a Japanese swordsman to determine who is the best, and which nation has the greatest honour. Leading up to this battle, we find that this year’s fight is rigged and no one is to be trusted. The incredible fight scenes aside, this movie features a lot of bad ass ninjas! Kite-flying ninjas, buried-in-sand ninjas, a naked ninja and a fifteen-foot-tall ninja who explodes into multiple ninjas. Why would you not want to watch that?

9. Bunny and the Bull (Paul King, 2009)
OK, I know I just said I don’t like CGI-heavy movies, but I love this movie. The effects create the world within the movie instead of enhancing the world that we know, and it’s amazing. I’m a huge fan of British comedy shows, so finding out this starred many of my favourite people was a treat.

10. Four Lions (Chris Morris, 2010)
Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain? I’m there!! I’ve gotten tired of being constantly bombarded with the ‘War on Terror’ and terrorists. It’s frustrating, because I know that those words/phrases are primarily used as a scare tactic to divide our nation and make us afraid of people/cultures that we don’t know or understand, so we will be complacent while the government continues to make the world a worse place by keeping cultures and people apart. The War on Terror is also a great vehicle for continuing a pro-Christian agenda, which also separates society into a hopeless us vs. them scenario. I think Four Lions does a great job of satirising our fears without exploiting any one. Even though the main characters are jihadists trying to kill people, I still want to hang out with them. I still want to help them, and I’m saddened that their plans fail or when they die in the most idiotic situations. On top of it being a great movie, I love it because of that aspect. It’s nice to see a movie where Muslims who are normally portrayed as negative stereotypes are here portrayed as people, who happen to be Muslim. We’re all people, we have different ideas, but that’s what makes the world interesting. Rubber dinghy rapids, bro!

Cannes 2013

The Congress
The Congress

Cannes International Film Festival

15 – 26 May 2013

Cannes, France

Cannes Festival website

Just like the weather – after all the most talked about subject in Cannes, besides the films and the red carpet hoopla – the 66th edition of the festival was a patchy affair. There were some true marvels that staggered people’s imaginations, interspersed with a number of average efforts, but thankfully very few real stinkers. If Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin, Abdellatif Kechiche’s Palme d’or winner Blue is the Warmest Colour and J. C. Chandor’s All Is Lost (screening out of competiton) represented the most welcome and exciting surprises, then Takashi Miike (Shield of Straw) and François Ozon (Young & Beautiful) delivered merely mediocre, and quite possibly, their least thrilling films to date in the Competition. Likewise, the three major sidebar sections – Un Certain Regard, Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week – proved as strong, unpredictable and adventurous as ever, with even one or two remarkable stand-outs and smaller-scale cinematic pleasures, which could have easily rivalled the big players in the official selection. Below, Pamela Jahn revisits some of the highlights worth looking out for in UK cinemas or at other festivals in the coming months.

The Congress (Ari Folman, 2013)
Opening this year’s Director’s Fortnight, Ari Folman’s follow up to his 2008 Cannes competition entry Waltz with Bashir is an idiosyncratic masterpiece, highly ambitious in its scale and complexity, and fuelled with dazzling animated beauty. In a daringly intimate performance, Robin Wright plays herself, an acclaimed actress just past her prime with a market value diminished to zero, her previous stardom being long buried in Hollywood history. When her agent, Al (Harvey Keitel), tells her she’s being given one last chance by her studio, Miramount, Robin reluctantly agrees to a meeting, unknowing what this final offer entails. The plan is to motion-capture Wright, to copy her body, feelings, memories, and gestures in order to create a digital alter ego that can easily be adjusted to fit into any blockbuster, TV show or commercial as required by the studio. As part of the deal that promises her both a generous pay-off and the guarantee of eternal youth on screen, the real Robin Wright must retire with no claim as to how her virtual self is being used in the future. At first, she refuses, but family constraints force her to reconsider.

So far, The Congress might appear as a vicious, darkly cynical take on the movie industry in the digital age and how Hollywood treats its ageing goddesses. What then happens, however, about 50 minutes into the film, is best seen first-hand. Loosely inspired by Stanislaw Lem’s The Futurological Congress, and again combining animation and live action to puzzling effect, Folman jumps forward 20 years to find the real Wright aged and out of business, while her alter ego has become one of the biggest action heroines on screen as ‘Rebel Robot Robin’. Invited to Miramount’s Futurological Congress, the actress must pass into a strange animated zone, which opens an entirely new, imaginary universe of its own, crowded with celebrity doubles who escape their daily misery through drug-induced hallucinations; it’s a place that visually blends the style of 1930s Betty Boop cartoons and the trippy aesthetic of Ralph Bakshi’s Cool World. At the same time, Folman slows down the action to plunge into something darker, deeper, more inventive and more existential than merely teasing the Hollywood system to the core. Soused in gorgeous imagery and surreal, intoxicated melancholy, the second half of The Congress meanders gracefully between philosophical, religious and ideological reflections on the human condition, yet despite minor flaws, never loses sight of its original premise. The film is a fiercely original, bold and riveting meditation on the future of the silver screen and the stars that make it shine.

A Touch of Sin
A Touch of Sin

A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke, 2013)
Although director Jia Zhangke officially denied in interviews that his close relationship with Office Kitano was more than simply based on financial support for this production, A Touch of Sin feels like a ferocious piece of work very much in the same vein as the best films by the Japanese director and friend, albeit intensified by the social-political backdrop addressed here. Based on four real-life criminal cases (including a murder, suicide and a couple of killing sprees), Zhangke’s protagonists represent a cross section of contemporary Chinese society, from different areas of the country. Seen from that perspective, the film, which deservedly won Zhangke the award for Best Screenplay, is a sanguinary, tense investigation into the Chinese economic miracle and the brutalising effect it has on the lives of ordinary people at the bottom end of the ladder, who ultimately can’t help but vent their rage, rising up against authority, in a world not theirs. Likewise, on a visual level, A Touch of Sin is a powerful war of the senses, in the way the stylised violence seems gently aligned with the character’s innermost thoughts and emotions, enabling the audience to savour a similar cold adrenaline rush as those wuxia and Lady Vengeance-type characters on screen.

Blue is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
The winner of the Palme d’Or was the talk of the town from the moment of the first press screening until long after the award ceremony. Although most critics immediately fell in love with this oddly seductive, three-hour lesbian love saga, soon after taking home the main prize, the film was slammed by others for some oddly positioned camera angles focusing on the central character’s arse and the lengthy scenes of real-looking sex between her and her female lover, allegedly all designed for the male gaze. What’s more, Julie Maroh, author of the graphic novel the film was inspired by, has publicly expressed her disappointment about Kechiche’s adaptation, describing the sex scenes as ‘ridiculous’ and comparing them to porn. What’s true is that Kechiche does have a tendency to keep the camera pointed and rolling just a little longer and deeper than most directors would have done when it comes to depicting Adèle’s lust for life, love and home-made spaghetti.

Blue is the Warmest Colour will be released in UK Cinemas by Artificial Eye on 15 November 2013.

On the other hand, the sex aside, there simply aren’t many films that manage to keep you hooked for that sort of running time on not much more than the coming-of-age of a middle-class, high-school girl who instantly and desperately falls for a foxy art student, from the moment she spots her on the street until their painful and moving break-up as young adults. That of course is in no small part thanks to the two leads, Adèle Exarchopoulos (Carré blanc) and Léa Seydoux, who play their parts with utter conviction, guided by a script that allows them to find their own voices.

The Dance of Reality (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2013)
Jodorowsky’s first film in over 20 years is a strictly personal affair, an attempt to reconstruct his life from childhood to the present. For most of its 130-minute running time, The Dance of Reality (La danza de la realidad) feels like a potpourri of adventures both magical and tragic but, sadly, the film meanders along a bit too nicely and gradually loses momentum in the second half. That is, of course, if you compare it to the vicious energy and boldness that his earlier midnight movie masterpieces (El Topo, Santa Sangre) generated, which clearly does this beautifully constructed and aptly surreal biopic a little injustice. Arguably, the more revealing film about the Chilean director might have been Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune, which premiered in the Director’s Fortnight section alongside Jodorowsky’s feature film, and is an eye-opening, highly entertaining glimpse into the truth behind Jodorowsky’s famously aborted plans to bring Herbert’s epic fantasy novel to the screen.

La grande bellezza1
The Great Beauty

The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)
Certain parallels aside (Rome, the passive journalist protagonist, the lavish life-style), The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) is no simple remake of La dolce vita, although it might ask the same big existential question about the meaning of life in a city that, as it appears in Paolo Sorrentino’s film more than 50 years after Fellini’s, is as dazzling and captivating as ever.

The Great Beauty is released in UK Cinemas by Artificial Eye on 6 September 2013.

An ageing art journalist, one-off bestselling author and tireless gigolo, Jep Gambardella (brilliantly played by Sorrentino’s favourite and long-term collaborator Toni Servillo) knows many a secret and the entire high society in Rome, but can’t seem to make sense of his own extravagant life. At his 65th birthday party, his façade of irony and ignorance slowly begins to crumble as he bemoans the lack of ‘true’ beauty in his world of excess, luxury, endless spiel and easy women, and blatantly shares his disgust with his so-called friends and enemies, as much as with himself. The film itself is somewhat exhausting, and might seem to some superfluous from the start and preposterous in the execution, but it’s also a beautiful film about loss, death and sacrifice, and about those special, unforgettable moments you share with others that make life worth living.

Bastards (Claire Denis, 2013)
As soon as this year’s festival programme was announced in April, debates emerged about the lack of women directors in the Competition (there were none last year and only one this year), and in particular, the question over why a director as accomplished and exciting as Claire Denis would be screened in Un Certain Regard instead, which was once thought of as more of a discovery zone for new and emerging directors. And while Denis’s film clearly felt more at home in this section than Sofia Coppola’s Bling Ring, which opened Un Certain Regard, Bastards (Les salauds) could have easily competed at the top level. Denis’s latest, about a man’s doomed shot at payback for crimes committed against his family, is a puzzle-like drama of family struggles and secrets, and lives destroyed by the power of money and a ruthless businessman with a taste for vile sexual entertainment.

Artificial Eye will release Bastards in UK cinemas in Spring 2014.

Delivering a rock-solid performance, Vincent Lindon plays Marco, the lonely cowboy (or in his case, supertanker captain), whose plans for revenge are frustrated by his own emotional desires as he starts an affair with his enemy’s long-term mistress. While Bastards has a dark, gloomy allure throughout, accompanied by an intriguing score by her frequent collaborators Stuart A. Staples and Tindersticks, the fragmented, non-linear structure and opaque character development run fatally dry towards the end. It might not go down as Denis’s best works, but it’s still a film worth watching if you are familiar with, or would like to explore, the director’s contrary, elliptical style, which is full of alluring shady textures and tones.

only lovers left alive
Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)
After Jarmusch’s last film, The Limits of Control, it seemed that another great director was close to losing his genius, but there is a welcome sense of rebirth about Only Lovers Left Alive from the moment it opens. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston make for a brilliant pair of vampire lovers who have been truly, madly, deeply in love for centuries, yet are now living apart. Swinton’s resilient and enigmatic Eve resides in lush Tangiers while Hiddleston’s disheartened underground musician, Adam, is holed up in the outskirts of derelict Detroit. When their longing for each other becomes unbearable, Eve decides to take on the difficult journey (she can only travel at night) to reunite with Adam, but soon after the couple are back together, their gently hedonistic idyll of non-murderous blood and old vinyl is disrupted by the arrival of Eve’s unnerving, uncontrollable younger sister (Mia Wasikowska).

Only Lovers Left Alive is released in UK Cinemas by Soda Pictures on 21 February 2014.

Nothing much happens in Jarmusch’s sensuous fantasy of night and nostalgia, apart from the fact that the pair are running short of the sort of pure, uncontaminated blood that they now need to keep them going. But watching these two archetypal outcasts, still in full possession of their animal instincts, as they roam around trying to blend in with their surroundings, is an undemanding, irresistible pleasure.

Watch the trailer for Only Lovers Left Alive:

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
As expected, the latest offering from the Coens was one of the hottest tickets of the festival. Inside Llewyn Davis tells the heartfelt story of an itinerant, relentlessly failing and unashamedly self-pitying folk singer in 1960s New York, loosely based on the life of Dave Van Ronk, who was at the centre of the Greenwich Village music scene. Adored by many at the time, Van Ronk never had his big breakthrough, just as Davis (Oscar Isaac) struggles to keep his head above water with occasional gigs in a tiny club called Gaslight, and with the help of his peevish ex-girlfriend (Carey Mulligan) who might, or might not be, expecting his child. But that’s only one of the many problems leading to his downfall, which culminates in a trip to Chicago to visit the legendary folk club The Gate of Horn.

Inside Llewyn Davis will be released in UK Cinemas by Studiocanal on 24 January 2014.

To a large extent, the Coens are working in known territory: a bunch of flawed, but strangely intriguing characters, dry-as-dusk dialogue and some wonderful music supervised by T-Bone Burnett, fused together into an impressively subtle, dark but magical character study that says as much about shattered dreams and the trouble with art as it does about the mystery of life and luck. What makes the film uniquely special, however, is Isaac’s riveting performance (both playing the guitar and acting), and who makes his precariously unlikable character unexpectedly compelling, as he wanders through the streets and other people’s lives, and shines whenever he’s on stage.

Watch the trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis :

Festival report by Pamela Jahn

Alastair Bruce is Fargo’s Marge Gunderson


Alastair Bruce was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in 1972 and studied at the University of Cape Town, where he started a science degree, but ended up with a major in English literature. His haunting dystopian debut, Wall of Days (Clerkenwell Press) has been described as a ‘post-apocalyptic Robinson Crusoe‘ and deals with guilt, historical revision and reconciliation. Eithne Farry

A character in a film I really admire is Marge Gunderson in Fargo, played by Frances McDormand. What I admire is how she reacts to the mayhem about her. Whether she is confronted by grisly murders or inept and uncomfortable attempts to chat her up, she deals with it all with a stoic demeanour and is unfazed by the insanity around her. She is the calm centre of a hurricane.

The film itself is possibly The Coen brothers’ best, though Barton Fink and No Country for Old Men run it close. William Macy and Steve Buscemi are fantastic in the movie as well. It’s the combination of the bleak snowy landscapes of Minnesota, the gruesome and quite shocking violence, and the black comedy that makes it so compelling. Add in a character who shows incredible bravery, especially since she is seven months pregnant, and maintains a polite and likeable mien in the face of everything that goes on around her, and it’s no wonder it is seen as a modern classic.

Marge is extremely self-effacing. She politely lets down an old acquaintance who hits on her. After solving a murder and bringing a killer to justice she gets into bed with her husband and listens to him talk about how a drawing of his has been selected to appear on a 3c stamp but not the 29c stamp. When she says that she is proud of him and that everyone uses the 3c stamp it shows that she is the sort of person we could probably all be a bit more like. The unfussy and unemotional way of reacting to events is not that of an uncaring rationalist. It’s the reaction of someone vested with unbound empathy. Politicians and tabloids take note.

And then there’s the accent. The melodious Minnesota accent, sounding almost Nordic, is almost the best thing about the film, and that’s saying something.

Alastair Bruce