Monday, 4 April 2011

film demons past and present, and a fine book

Pleased to find various friends agree with my view of Night of The Demon. (A few months back the Fortean Times reviewer called it a "genre masterpiece" and awarded it 10/10!) And yes, the producer's quite unnecessary insert of the diabolical apparition was indeed the film's only false move. The director Jacques Tourneur never did put a foot (or giant claw) wrong… In fact he directed various brilliant movies, just as good in their various ways: he's what the Cahiers du Cinema crew would once have dubbed (and probably did, for all I know) "un cinĂ©aste maudit". Tourneur's superb Caribbean horror version of Jane Eyre – I walked with a zombie – a B&W cheapie from 1943, produced by the equally original Val Lewton, I've already discussed in my book Jean Rhys revisited. And there are other Tourneur-directed gems, including 2 great noirs, well worth seeing: Out of the past, with Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas, and Nightfall, adapted from a David Goodis novel. These will surely delight any connoisseur of 1940s and 50s B&W cinema.

But alas for imagination, inventive low budgetry and 'less is more'! In recent years, the more graphic, highly coloured and expensively choreographed the movie violence, the less convincing it gets. Having sought out the second film of The Girl Who… trilogy (see previous blog) I must admit that The Girl Who Played With Fire is a sad disappointment. Another terrific performance from the intrepid heroine Noomi Rapace, but what with a different and not as competent a director, some poor continuity plus a risibly unlikely script and action-sequences, it's subject to the inexorable law of sequels and diminishing returns. Which is not to say I wouldn't watch part three, if only out of curiosity and admiration for the remarkable Ms Rapace, though I won't be in any rush to borrow the dvd.

More imaginative is a slow-burning, modest-budget British treat, very low-key, almost music- and action-free – Joanna Hogg's slyly satirical dissection of a posh, dysfunctional family group holidaying on the Scilly Isles, Archipelago. This concise little flick maps out its territory and sets its tone in a downbeat area somewhere between Chekhov and Eric Rohmer, but it's certainly far more involving than the latter's endlessly pretentious and miserabilist chatter! There are, too, several exquisitely revealing and embarrassing scenes involving food and mealtimes (these seemed once to be the favoured preserve of Nouvelle Vague types, e.g. that grim joker Claude Chabrol) but Joanna Hogg matches the French here. The editing and colour photography are impressive also; the faces and landscapes unfamiliar and all the better for it. Recommended.

So too is a marvellous memoir I picked up recently for a quid in a local charity shop. A hardback a few years old now but clearly unread – more's the pity – by one of my favourite cartoonists, Martin Rowson. Rowson as caricaturist is currently second only to the great Steve Bell: here, in Stuff, this graphic artist shows most of the over-hyped British wordsmiths a thing or two! Sometimes sharp as a stanley knife, sometimes poignant, often very funny and quite without sentimentality, Stuff is the work of a genuine original. There's probably a paperback around by now, and so there bloody well should be.

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