The Search Continues

Well it’s certainly been a while; 7 months I’ve been in hiding in fact. Well what can I say, sometimes life just gets in the way…

Those of you that know me when I am away from the keyboard will know that for quite a while I’d been looking to move on career wise, but for various reasons it was becoming a bit of a struggle and I had a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.

In a nutshell life had hit a bit of a rut this Summer, not just with my job but various other things too. Things just felt very stagnant and it’s because of this I decided to put aside a few projects, including this blog, to focus the majority of my spare time on self evaluation, self improvement and generally just formulating a plan.

I am delighted to report that this ‘time off’ worked a treat and for the past two months I have been working in a new job and life is feeling pretty good. It’s funny how sometimes things come into place very naturally, the new job just feels like it ‘fits’ and I feel like life is starting to fall together nicely.

So anyway that’s where I’ve been hiding, but now that I’m settled again I plan to bring this blog back to life. I have certainly missed having the time to do it!

Whilst I have been away I have still caught the odd new film here and there, namely the okay 10 Cloverfield Drive, the pretty good The Girl With All the Gifts and the bloody brilliant Embrace of the Serpent. But all in all my Picturehouse membership has been dangerously under utilized, so I need to right that wrong!

So watch this space, The Search for Macguffin goes on and in the immortal words of Russel Casse who red-necked the world to safety in 1996, ‘Hello boys, I’m BAAAAAACCKKK!’

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The Clip Show: Purple Rain

Today came the sad news of the untimely death of the masterful Prince. In my opinion no artist blended together music with a cinematic and theatrical presence quite like Prince; well Prince and another tragic 2016 loss David Bowie that is.

Prince was a man who never stopped performing. His commitment to entertainment was second to none.

Here’s the theatrical trailer for 1984’s ridiculously cool Purple Rain…

Pictorama: Allyson Wonderland, ‘Who Framed Rodger Rabbit?’ (1988)

Childhood favourite to an entire generation and a film that may well have kicked started many young boys into puberty thanks to the curvaceous Jessica Rabbit; wee little Richard definitely felt some new and strange feelings thanks to her odd but somehow intriguing shape.

But enough about the fantasies of a young Huddersfield lad, did you know there is a rather blue easter egg hidden in this great film?

During the Toontown chase keep an eye on the wall when Eddie runs into the blue bathroom to see an advert offering a ‘good time’ from Allyson Wonderland. Look closely as it only shows up for a few frames.

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I’ve not been able to find out much about this other than the fact that in the original theatrical release the message was accompanied by a phone number that was rumoured to be Michael Eisner’s direct line!

Replay: Eraserhead (1977)

eraserhead_hair‘In heaven everything is fine’ sings the lady behind the radiator but for Henry in David Lynch’s outstanding feature length debut Eraserhead life is the opposite of heaven and everything is certainly not fine.

Eraserhead follows the struggles of electric-haired Henry (Jack Nance) as he comes to terms with love, lust, marriage, parenthood and above all anxiety all from within his claustrophobic bedsit apartment in an unnamed grim dystopian industrial town.

I want to say little of this film’s plot for the sake of not wanting to ruin any of it’s many surprises to those who have never tasted it, only to say that the journey this film takes you on is quite unforgettable and very, very disturbing. If you have seen Blue Velvet or Mullholand Drive you will know all about Lynch’s dream-like way of telling a story and how you can never quite expect what is around the corner; it is both thrilling and unsettling and Eraserhead is certainly seminal in this aspect.

Analysts could talk all day about what the vast amounts of symbolism and allusions in this film but at it’s very heart this film is in essence a nightmare. Indeed I would argue that no other film portrays the true essence of a nightmare quite like Eraserhead.  

So often when writers and film-makers attempt to recount true nightmares or dreams they do so through tinted eyes with crystal clear dialogue and focused plot but nightmares are never so straightforward and conveniently structured. What Lynch offers instead is a very real interpretation of a nightmare.

Nightmares showcase our subconscious and its deepest fears and anxieties but they very rarely do this in convenient ways we can interpret; they take you completely out of your comfort zone, they put you in outlandish situations that oddly seem familiar, and they make you feel powerless with your actions and very voice out of your own control.

What makes the nightmare of Eraserhead feel so real is just how everything seems so constantly disjointed and off-key and yet oddly relatable; it is a familiar unfamiliarity. For example, Henry’s fatherhood struggles stem from an extremely outlandish source but holds at it’s heart an absolutely true to life discomfort and parental fear.

The consistent drone of the apartment’s plumbing and the industrial machinery outside his window provides an uneasy soundtrack to the whole film and there is a foreboding, overpowering and ever-present tension stemming from this. Only the sweet tune of the ‘radiator’ gives us any respite from this.

Even the dialogue adds to this audio tension, conversations are disjointed and muted. Much like I see myself doing in dreams and nightmares Henry seems at odds and uneasy with his own responses and reactions. The conversation he has at the dinner table with ‘Mr X’ is a prime example of this, look at Henry’s motions and unease at the bizarre situation and hearing his own jaded speech; not to mention how the unstoppable mess he makes of the ‘food’ will be an anxiety often explored by many.

For me not only is Henry the star of the show but I feel he plays a major part of the audience as well. Sometimes he is in control of his own destiny but occasionally he is stuck helplessly alongside us on the outside looking in, anxious and paralysed. My interpretation of this is that this is Henry’s nightmare whoever ‘Henry’ is, could be me, you or maybe even Lynch himself.

As an audience we are trespassing on Henry’s subconscious and if indeed Henry represents Lynch himself then that is such an amazingly brave and humble thing to do as Henry’s subconscious certainly has some serious troubles and anxieties; but then again so do we all in one manner or another when we truly take a look inside ourselves.

Lynch has always been very cryptic about what this film represents and encourages viewers to develop their own interpretations whilst revealing next to nothing of his own. If you have never seen this film and enjoy the style of Lynch’s other work I would absolutely encourage you to go out and watch this, there is so much that can be taken from this film and I haven’t even scratched the surface with this post!

In my opinion this truly is an absolute masterpiece of the horror genre.

Review: Rams

HRUTAR_RAMS_StillUp in the cold, remote and exceptionally striking hills of Iceland, feuding sheep farming brothers Gummi and Kiddi set off with their prize specimens in tow to the village’s prestigious ram competition. What follows is an intense, bitter-sweet story of sibling rivalry and an epidemic that threatens their very way of life in this brilliant drama full of sombreness, laughs, big knitted sweaters and, of course, sheep!

The characters of Gummi and Kiddi (Sigurður Sigurjónsson and Theódór Júlíusson) certainly steal the show, in a film with little dialogue they say more with their gestures, grunts and beard twinges than could be truly said in words. This is wonderfully portrayed with a cold face and a finger point the first time we see the brothers interact. Much like the sheep they love and care for you don’t truly sense their thoughts, feelings and intentions unless you look closely.

The brothers very much play a part of the landscape and either through choice or by circumstance they have slowly grown to represent the harsh land that provides them their livelyhood; their weather-worn grey sweaters, their hard faces, their thick bushy facial hair. Indeed the landscape its self plays a starring role in this film, it is cold, harsh and bitter, but not without moments of brightness and beauty; yet another parrelel between the two brothers. As the film goes on you will soon see how the weather sculpts these brothers relationship.

What really stood out for me with this film was the storytelling. Director and writer Grímur Hákonarson doesn’t take the audience by the hand and shove all the exposition in their faces, as so many directors feel inclined to do nowadays, instead it is left to us to discover. With of course the biggest question being why have these two brothers refused to speak to one another in 40 years despite dwelling an actual stones throw from one another? Piece by piece we discover the history and the complexities behind the brothers all the way up until the point the story breaks into it’s very powerful conclusion.

For those of us who grew up in a rural environment will certainly feel a lot of connection to the areas scrapie outbreak and Hákonarson does an excellent job at portraying the farmers struggles. I grew up in a village up in the Pennines near Huddersfield and remember well the devastation of the ‘foot and mouth’ disease. I think for many in the cities or suburbs foot and mouth disease was just a funny name for a seemingly consequence-less outbreak given that beef supply didn’t go down, but for local farmers they may as well have had their farms burned down as cattle were slaughtered and huge financial losses inevitably followed; some of whom never recovered at all.

In a nutshell Rams is a simply excellent film. It is a very primal comedy-drama that showcases the deep humanity that dwells in isolated lands. It will have you laughing out loud then holding back tears and all the while completely griped. Maybe for some it could be seen as a film that requires a little patience but for me it had me right from the start! Definitely my favourite film so far this year.