Tag Archives: East End Film Festival

East End Film Festival 2013

smash and grab
Smash & Grab

East End Film Festival

25 June – 10 July 2013

London, UK

EEFF website

This year’s East End Film Festival provided an eclectic mix of films, opening with the world premiere of The UK Gold and ending with a special performance by Karl Hyde, who delivered a mesmerising live soundtrack to Kieran Evans’s The Outer Edges. Audiences were given a peek at Ben Wheatley’s astounding A Field in England, the charming Frances Ha, and eco-thriller The East, while the Best Feature award went to Halley, an intriguing Mexican film about a physically deteriorating security guard. The festival also presented a terrific opportunity to revisit the stunning and innovative La Antena.

Electric Sheep was pleased to co-host Secret Societies, a day of screenings in the opulent and ornate surroundings of the Masonic Lodge, the perfect venue for Amando de Ossorio’s Tombs of the Blind Dead and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Sante Sangre.

Below, Electric Sheep takes a look at a few more hits and misses of this year’s line-up.

The Outer Edges (Kieran Evans, 2013)

‘It’s not about the geographic route you take, it’s about the people who show you the way.’

The Outer Edges is an endearing and heartfelt collaboration between musician Karl Hyde (Underworld) and filmmaker Kieran Evans (Finnisterre) as they take us on a journey from the River Roding to the docks of the Thames, an area that Hyde refers to as ‘Edgeland’ and that forms London’s invisible borders. It’s an intriguing and somewhat neglected area of the British landscape – where the rural beauty constantly collides with industrial desolation – which Hyde and Evans manage to capture and celebrate with a visual vibrancy. Among the people interviewed along the way are an allotment gardener, a tour guide, members of a boxing club, a cabaret singer, a hot dog vender, bird watchers, and an all female bagpipe marching band from Dagenham, all of whom add poignant insight to the lyrical imagery.

Hyde’s own musings that form the narration are a bit hard to take at times. But they’re never too preachy, pretentious or whimsical, as he poetically reflects on the rarely addressed historical significance of the area, the importance of having a pastime in order to survive modern life, and how this overlooked terrain has shaped his own life. Much like the environment it’s depicting, The Outer Edges isn’t without its flaws, but it’s very rare that these hidden spaces are ever celebrated on film in such an understated and sincere way, which above all makes it a trip worth taking. RM

Watch the trailer for The Outer Edges:

Soldatte Jeanette (Daniel Hoesl, 2013)

Drawing from a tradition of European arthouse fare, Soldatte Jeanetteis one of those films where little is explained, nothing much is said, and it’s up to everyone’s willingness and imagination to make something of the slow-paced, fragmented and moody drama that unfolds on screen. In a scene that is unashamedly stylised and wooden, but intriguingly grotesque at the same time, we meet Fanny (Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg) as she tries on a dress in a chic boutique in Vienna, ensnared by its persuasive salesman, who is dishing out his best lines in order to convince her to make the purchase. And Fanny does buy the dress, only to through it in the bin as soon as she leaves the shop. Not that she has plenty of money to waste – soon after, she is evicted from her spacious apartment after having lived there for 20 years, forced to change her way of life. Swapping her extravagant city existence for a tough hike through the Austrian forest, Fanni then meets Anna (Christina Reichsthaler), who works on a farm, with little to look forward to but years of drudgery ahead. It would be a shame to reveal much more here but, on the other hand, apart from the sharp cinematography and the maverick attitudes of the characters, not much direction is given as to where all this is heading. Shot with no script, on a tiny budget, and with actors conspicuously happy to develop their characters as the sparse action goes along, Soldatte Jeanetteoverindulges in the freedom of being a formal rather than comprehensible cinematic experiment, bordering on pretentious in places, but never losing control. PJ

Leones (Jazmín López, 2010)

Five teenagers wander through a secluded forest looking for a mysterious house. Waifish Isa, the film’s protagonist, is troubled by the cold, hunger and fatigue; the forest appears to be watching them; a strange recording of their voices hints at a terrible truth. The atmosphere is infected by foreboding and anticipation. And so we wait, and we wait, and we wait for something to happen. They play a banal game based on Hemingway’s six-word story. They go swimming. They play a game of invisible volleyball, which is as awful as it sounds. Isa eats a lot of fruit. There is a pointless sex scene. Isa sings Sonic Youth’s ‘Rapture’ for no apparent reason. Tension rapidly gives way to boredom. Aside from some pretentious dialogue and far too many shots of the backs of characters’ heads, nothing happens. When it does, it’s a big shrug-inducing meh. Sure, the whole thing looks nice, but as a meditation on time, mortality and metaphysics it’s a fail. There’s an interesting idea nestled at the heart of this film, and told well, it could have made a decent short. Unfortunately, those going to watch Leones will have to settle for a dull feature. SK

Smash &#38 Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers (Havana Marking, 2013)

Using genuine surveillance footage and animated re-enactments of secret interviews, Smash &#38 Grab tells the true story of one of the world’s most successful gangs of international diamond thieves, in a visually spectacular and compelling documentary that’s as gripping as any fictionalised equivalent.

Meticulously edited with as much attention to detail as one of the gang’s criminal operations, what initially feels like a flashy glamorisation of the criminal underworld soon develops into something far more significant. Each detailed account, from the criminals themselves to the Interpol detectives on their trail, gives amazing insight into the techniques used to perform a perfect heist and the dark network of global crime that it supports. We also get personal reflections on what motivates the criminal mind, the allure of a such a life, and how the pursuit of freedom through illegal means can lead to a loss of identity, alienation and a psychological prison of constant paranoia.

The disintegration of former Yugoslavia and its devastating repercussions are seen as a major catalyst for turning the Serbian members of The Pink Panthers onto a life of crime, with petty robberies soon escalating towards more elaborate forms of thievery on an epic scale. This tragic political climate certainly gives strong reasoning behind their illegal activities, though I did feel the film lacked any testimonials from the many witnesses who often found themselves at gunpoint while the robberies took place, who were no doubt left traumatised. Nevertheless, Smash &#38 Grab is a thrilling and entertaining watch with enough cinematic aspirations to make it stand out. RM

Watch the trailer for Smash &#38 Grab :

Festival report by Robert Makin, Stephanie King and Pamela Jahn

Tetsuo: Metal Machine Music

Tetsuo: Iron Man

Title: Tetsuo: Iron Man

Format: Cinema

Screening date: 4 July 2012

Venue: Hackney Picture House, London

Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Writer: Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Japan 1989

67 mins

Title: Tetsuo II: Body Hammer

Format: Cinema

Screening date: 4 July 2012

Venue: Hackney Picture House, London

Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Writer: Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Nobu Kanaoka

Japan 1992

83 mins

A man in a scrap yard cuts a gash in his leg and then shoves in a metal rod. Later he finds maggots in the wound, runs down the street screaming and is hit by a car. And we’re off.

Released in 1989, actor/director Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo is an utterly inspired and darkly hilarious black and white romp. According to Wikipedia, there is a story but it is only sketchily revealed as the film progresses, and even if you’re glad of a synopsis, you’ll be perhaps healthily distrustful. Stuff happens certainly, but the whys and the wherefores are almost beside the point. The point is the energy with which the film is shot through and the inventiveness and downright oddness of Tsukamoto’s vision.

The man with the rod in his leg (played by Tsukamoto himself) pursues the couple who were driving the car and exacts revenge upon them by turning the bespectacled man (Tomorowo Taguchi) gradually into metal. It starts with his electric razor hitting something in his cheek which tings, then there’s a demure-looking woman at the railway station who turns into a metal-infected demon. From the very beginning, we are in a universe of extreme physical craziness. Parts of the film feel like elaborate dance numbers, a danse macabre of metal, flesh, wires, sexual organs, memories, television screens, guilt, rust and blood that sprays as black as oil. The acting is exuberantly physical and pitched operatically high, wavering between terror, agony, wheezing anxiety and all-out panic. The dialogue all the while blankly denies this. As Taguchi undergoes a metallic rupturing in the next room, he reassures his wife: ‘Nothing’s the matter.’ There is a dream sequence in which the bespectacled Taguchi is anally raped by his wife with a snake like probe. But to say ‘there is a dream sequence’ is to misleadingly suggest that there can be such a distinction between dream and reality. In Tetsuo, reality is a nightmare from which we are trying to awake.

Often compared to David Lynch’s Eraserhead and the early work of David Cronenberg, Tetsuo is actually in a league of its own. In comparison, Lynch’s film is a stately, brooding work of quiet desperation, and Cronenberg, although thematically radical, is stylistically conservative, often filming with TV movie reserve. Tsukamoto directs like one of his possessed characters. Everything is thrown at the screen from stop-motion animation to camera trickery: the camera races down streets and through alleys and the percussive soundtrack hammers along with growing intensity. Although the comment that a film resembles a music video is often meant dismissively, here the comparison is perfectly apt.

The pace of the film ends up having a logic of its own as it rushes headlong towards a collision between the now almost totally transformed victim and the demonic joyous fetishist. This is what the narrative really is: a process of initially vicious but energetic mutation. There is sex and there is the idea that we are perhaps just machines anyway. The drill penis seems like a literal realisation of our own violent idiom, talk of screwing, nailing, banging, etc., which reduces (or promotes) sex to a kind of carpentry. We are machines that use machines. From the car to the electric razor, we are already intimate with machinery and metal. The naked lunch of forks scraping against teeth reveals our daily internalising of metal. When the main character is remembering something (usually having sex with his wife), we see it through the stroboscopic screen of a portable television set.

And yet, the horror is, in this metaphoric resemblance, becoming identical to a machine. While we see ourselves becoming increasingly reliant on technology and ever more intimate with it (a blue tooth you stick in your ear, a touch pad), Tsukamoto’s maniacal insistence takes the relationship between man and machine to a literal, if bonkers, conclusion. The Godzilla-like monster that threatens to destroy Tokyo and the world at the end is merrily apocalyptic. The film ends with the cheeky letters stamping out ‘GAME OVER’.

A far more conventional film than its predecessor, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer was made in 1992 with a significantly bigger budget and yet is still mad enough for many. This time round, Tomorowo Taguchi plays Taniguchi Tomoo, a sort of Japanese Mr Bean, similar to the role he played in the first film, but now with a wife, Minori (Keinosuke Tomioka) and child. Shin’ya Tsukamoto once more plays the catalyst for the story, Yatsu, the leader of a violent skinhead cyborg army who kidnap Tomoo’s child and by enraging him cause him to start changing into a terrifying metal weapon. Whereas Tsukamoto’s first film was a low-budget anarchic helter-skelter of accelerated mutation, Testuo II is sporadically and superficially punk. The Iron Man disdained to have a story, but Body Hammer has a familiar-to-the-point-of-bog-standard thriller plot of the weak-willed family man being pushed to the edge by ruthless violence. If they do an English language remake, Liam Neeson can play Tomoo.

Of course, this being Tsukamoto, the plot pushes itself over into parodic lunacy. Tomoo has a Rocky-like training montage in which his feeble attempts become metallically assisted. There are stock figures: a mad scientist who wears a white coat and talks about his brilliant brains, just before said brains get visibly blown out, and villains who grin, jibber and sneer. There is a car chase, during which Tomoo pursues the villains on a push bike, mutating as he goes until he is able to ram the car with his bike. It is witty and absurd, but the wit and the absurdity seem to be at the service of a plot rather than being the point itself. The villains dress like punks – one of them obviously gave Laurence Fishburne costume tips for the Matrix sequels – but the film’s radical vision seems to have become watered down, or exhausted itself.

Perhaps this was inevitable. Iron Man was really like watching a ménage á trois between metal, rust and sex. This wasn’t a story about mutation but mutation as story. World destruction arrived at the end, almost as an afterthought, something glibly funny to do with all this power. The cause of the mutation wasn’t explicitly given – the man didn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider or anything like that – and as brilliant as Wikipedia is, the plot is a reading into the film rather than a description of what we actually see. The first film has no characters as such. There is Man and Woman and Metal Fetishist. The limit of all this was that the film didn’t have much to say. It was a disturbing nightmare that left you confused – was supposed to leave you confused.

In Body Hammer, the family has arrived, and with the family comes narrative proper. The beginning, middle and end of narrative are the child, the parents and the holy ghost. A poisonous family romance (we will eventually learn) is behind the whole fracas, a wicked father, fraternal estrangement and oedipal passions. It is Tomoo’s old family that has effectively destroyed his new one. Body Hammer has explanations, exposition for crying out loud, and as such feels like the smaller film, despite having a more ambitious agenda. The concluding apocalyptic fusion is effectively a repetition of the ending of the first film and feels like an admission that it has nowhere to go.

The East End Film Festival opens on 3 July and runs until 8 July 2012. The Tetsuo double bill screens on 4 July at Hackney Picturehouse. For more information please visit the East End Film Festival website.

John Bleasdale

Watch the trailer:

Tetsuo: The Iron Man from East End Film Festival on Vimeo.