Friday, 28 October 2011

Free Things Friday, 28th Oct: Dahmer

Well, in these times of global recession, cutbacks, layoffs and trickle-downs, we're all looking to cut back a bit, aren't we? Whether it's recycling freezer bags, only using one ply of the toilet roll, or trapping rats for food, anything that can make the hard earned dollar (pound, Euro, shekel, rupee, talent, etc) go further is A GOOD THING; particularly the hard-earned ENTERTAINMENT dollar (rouble, yen, bottlecap).

"But Dear Impostor", I hear you cry from around a mouthful of partly-masticated Rattus Rattus; "how is one to obtain ones Quality Entertainment both legally and freely?" Turn to your mother, your helpmeet, your GOD; YOUTUBE! Yes, I said legally; hard to believe, but among the 9 minute 'videos' consisting of a still with a "go to www.jjfxnotarussiantrojansitereallyhonest7jw for the full version of this still-in-cinemas-hot-film" message, there are full, free (frequently out-of-copyright) gems. Of course, there's a large amount of dreck, but that is true of any given B****B**st*r rental shelf (Such a 20th-century concept!), and nothing is better than the opportunity to riff a bad film, save it be the opportunity to riff one FOR FREE.

So, for Instalment One:

It's Dahmer!

No, not Dahmer: The Secret Life, or the Trial of Jeffrey Dahmer, or another daft Ulli Lommel film (as Uwe Boll is to video games, Ulli Lommel is to true crime, and oh my word Tenderness of the Wolves was a long time ago and another country - literally - and besides the wench is dead. Though, if it stops him making another blasted Boogeyman film...). Unlike most surnamed serial killer films, this is actually good. Starring (Oscar Nominee ooh-la-la) Jeremy Renner as Hungry Jeff, and Bruce Davison as his buttoned-up dad Lionel (and why isn't Bruce Davison in many more films, eh? And why is Willard not out on DVD yet? Did the remake bomb THAT badly that it put a black pox on every version? Questions for another day...), real names are used for the Dahmer family, though the victims tend to have names and biographical details fudged; not too surprising, since this looks like an indie film without room in the budget for name-brand coffee at the cast's lunch table, never mind for lawsuits from aggrieved relatives.

I'll level with you now; if you're looking for human-thigh sandwiches, and skull-fucking, then this will NOT be the film for you; odd as it sounds, it's more of a character piece...It just happens that the character is a cannibal serial killer, and a serious challenger to Travis Bickle as God's Lonely Man. Renner is very good as the Loneliest Man on Earth, and we're with him all the way from his awkward late teens, to his attempts at disconnected sex with drugged strangers in gay bars and saunas; to his hamfisted attempts to get people to come home with him, to stay, and then to never, ever leave. To which end he almost succeeds, thanks to the unwitting assistance of the local police, who seem very willing to sign off a naked, blood-covered, incoherent (very) young man as a domestic dispute; implausible as it seems, this incident's straight from the police reports, much to the police's embarrassment after Dahmer's arrest when they had to face a lot of hard questions about exactly how concerned they were about the (mostly young, predominantly black or Asian) victims.

As far as psycho performances go, Renner's more Tony Perkins than Hopkins; scenery (and longpig) goes unchewed, there's not a one-liner to be heard, and the tensest moment is a confrontation between Dahmers Junior and Senior over the key to an old medicine box. This is Dahmer, not Lecter; not a droll intellectual with a penchant for chianti and opera, but a sad, lonely foul-up with a boring job and a drinking problem; that odd fellow at the bus stop, or in the supermarket who tries to make conversation with the checkout girl, that messageboard commenter who gets angry about odd things, or your strange downstairs neighbour, or your cousin, or you...or me.

It's not a perfect film; the flashback-flashforward structure is tricksy, and for not much effect; a very little of some of the supporting actors goes a long way; and good Lord there is a LOT of red light, and low light, that makes some scenes hard on my old pair of eyes.

This film is not for you if:
  • You think 'low-key' means 'boring'
  • Male-male sexuality makes you squirm, or titter
  • You want every serial killer film to have a body count; nubile coeds for preference
  • You work for, or have a relative in, the Milwaukee Police Department.
  • You have poor night vision,
BUT; if you'd like a little something different, and for free, come and see here:

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Blimey, that's...Brave

Cannibal Holocaust with an 18 cert? I've lived too long!!

Yes, Shameless films apparently spent another 3 months in the BBFC's waiting room, to get Cannibal Holocaust certificated, and only 15 seconds of cuts (replaced by reaction shots of the same length, to avoid jumps in the soundtrack)! I'm surprised that the BBFC had to cut as little as that, given the legal restrictions under which they operate regarding animal cruelty; since I'm the first person to verbally pistol-whip Our Esteemed Classificators for their often daft responses, I have to doff my bonnet to the serious consideration they gave to the film and that they describe here (Well, me with a nice thing to say about a BBFC decision? Maybe these are the End Times after all...).

Now; Cannibal Holcaust, see, was a harder watch than films like Salo, for me; because cheek-to-cheek with the faked rape, staged arson and body-painted extras chewing on ribs, CH has real, unfeigned animal cruelty and death of at least...four (possibly five) live animals, including a pig (kicked, then shot), a river turtle (de-shelled while still alive and piteously flapping its flippers), a spider (business end of a machete, may have been subbed for a rubber spider), a monkey, and some sort of muskrat(?) thing. Perhaps it's hypocrisy, since I'm comfortable with animals dying to fill my belly (yes, it was a delicious beef madras that I had the other day, thanks), but not for my amusement (not planning on a trip to a bullfight any time...ever). We all make our...accommodations with our consciences, and this one's mine. There is a non-animal-cruelty version available; included with the R1 boxset that I have; a sensitive viewer may find that less troublesome; rest assured that the real (pre-existing) atrocity footage of an African civil war has been retained in that version.

On an unrelated point...I'm not entirely convinced that the South American locals playing the anthrophages were ever, you know, PAID for all their running around, rolling in mud, and being pretend-raped and pretend-killed. I start to visualise a 'The Last Movie' situation, and shift awkwardly in my seat; curse you, white liberal post-colonial guilt!

CH is...actually, probably indefensible for a moral human being in the 21st century and just to shrug and say 'oh, them crazy Italians'...yeah, probably not good enough. What it is, among other things, is an indictment of an even worse trend in the Italian cinema of the time; Mondo films which really did traffic in 'real' war crimes footage [including a more-than suspicion that some of it may have been, um...'arranged' for the cameras] or at least, that executions, army-charges, etc were scheduled for the film-makers' convenience. Consequently, there's very little that the filmmaker characters in CH do, that Jacopetti and Prosperi (the directors of Mondo Cane and the fathers of the entire 'Mondo' movement) weren't at least accused of,up to and including real animal death, setting up atrocities, exploitation of native populations, and at the very least culpability in rape and killing. For more background on those charming fellows Signore Jacopetti and Prosperi, and the whole Mondo subgenre, I'd highly recommend Kerekes' and Slater's Killing For Culture, albeit vastly overdue for an updated reprint; I'd particularly like to see them cover the Blair Witch Project; the most successful 'Snuff' film ever made.

So, Cannibal Holocaust; problematic, all right, in more ways than you'd think were possible; still, I'm glad that it's around, and available in as intact a form as possible. Your correspondent urges you, in this as in all situations, to see it for yourself (punt some cash into Shameless Films' pockets, since I'm sure there are still more Sirpa Lane films awaiting their DVDebut), use your own eyes, and make up your own mind.