Dogtooth (Kynodontas): three teenagers are completely isolated from the outside world by their overprotective parents; but they’re starting to become curious. This manages to successfully juggle various usually-avoided elements: it’s all very strange, quite full-on, and doesn’t really go anywhere; it’s completely awkward and deadpan – yet despite all of this, it manages to draw you in, entertain, and make you laugh. A lot of the funnies come from simple things like the misuse words; they call a salt shaker a telephone, a large lamp a cunt, flowers are zombies, and in one of the best – and weirdest – scenes the father intentionally mistranslates “Fly Me To The Moon”. The house is an unsettling location, almost like a laboratory: total white-out where everything is crisp, clean, clinical. There’s some full-on sex, full-frontal nudity, and a lesbian sub-plot – but these are also completely cold and sterile. Cast-wise, the three children are fantastic, and the main reason this film works: their naivety and childlike awe of external interference is completely believable and great to watch. It’s also masterfully directed, and effectively shot & framed – the most important part of scene is usually off-center, or sometimes completely out of shot. In a word Dogtooth is bizarre – on the cinematic map it’s in relatively uncharted territory between the severity of Haneke and the dark humour of Solondz – and as the runtime progresses it just keeps getting weirder and funnier. Dark and original, Dogtooth is a treat for those that want to try something completely different.
Videodrome: a sleazy horror TV exec is searching for new and extreme content when he stumbles across ‘Videodrome’, a pirate broadcast full of violence and torture. There’s only one thing better than a gory picture, and that’s a gory picture that has something to say, and better still when over 30 years later it’s more relevant than ever. James Woods is great as Max Renn; a character so jaded that he sees a snuff film and immediately falls in love with the plot and cheap production values. On both layers (the film’s plot and the movie itself) sex and violence no longer cut it as ‘extreme’, and both Renn and Cronenberg are pressing hard against the boundaries of sexual violence, perversions, pain for pleasure… Not content with just being ‘extreme’, Videodrome stands out as being unsettling in a number of ways; it intentionally blurs the boundaries between reality and off-kilter hallucinations; and contains stomach turning physical effects like the ‘gun hand’ – shucks, even seeing a living, moving, human-like TV set is disturbing. It’s been at least ten years since I previously watched Vireodrome and even though the sensational imagery and ideas have stuck with me for the entire time, they’re so twisted, unique, and eerily prophetic that they don’t lose any of their impact on subsequent viewings. A brilliant and intelligent horror director, grotesque physical effects sequences, and though-provoking ideas make Videodrome a timeless horror classic.
Arrow Films have just released the comprehensive 4-disc Blu Ray & DVD box-set of Videodrome, which includes 4 of Cronenberg‘s earlier movies and a shitload of interesting & rare behind-the-scenes footage and extras from UK and US TV archives featuring the likes of John Landis, John Carpenter, George Romero. More info here.
Submarine: Oliver Tate just got his first girlfriend, right as his parents marriage begins to crumble – so he tries to give them a hand… For being a one-boy show, the central character’s great; despite being a little clichéd he’s good fun to watch, and his monologues / voiceovers are a solid way of pushing the story forward. The scriptwriting scores in two ways: the dialogue is offbeat yet manages to stay below the annoying radar; and the humour is so dry, deadpan and dark that the two elements really complement each other. For being his first time behind a camera, it’s strongly directed, and has some surprisingly cinematic moments – given that it is intentionally an indie-feeling film. The casting’s spot on and despite each character having a hint of the absurd, you can still buy in to them as they’re all very human. What’s best about this coming-of-age tale is that it captures the awkwardness of youth like you rarely see; even though these exact events didn’t happen, it’s all too easy to relate to the story, and Oliver. Despite bring painfully indie Submarine remains very watchable and entertaining for the duration.
Michael McIntyre – Hello Wembley: this generation’s king of observational comedy plays slew of gigs at a sold-out Wembley Arena, cue a gratuitous Christmas DVD stoking filler. The main problem here is because Wembley’s such a huge stadium it’s pretty much an atmosphere vacuum, severely lacking the intimacy of regular comedy venues; most of the shots are very wide and long-range, which makes the DVD feel the same. Despite this, McIntyre is on top form, and sticks to his tried and tested formula of describing universal truths about life and delivering them perfectly. Compared to his TV image and last release this one’s ruder and cruder, with loads of F-ing and Blinding. Definitely more of a cash-cow than a genuine release, but still worth a watch for comedy fans.