Special Edition # 8
There seems to be some magical ratio that has been applied to Robin Williams. It seems for everyone one film that he does that is really good, there’s another five that turn out to be absolutely forgettable. Unfortunately, whilst The Big White (Cinema Club) no where reaches the nadir of Patch Adams (shudder) it’s forced quirkiness leaves one rather cold. Here, the hirsute thespian plays a downtrodden travel agent who decides to cash in his missing-presumed-dead brother’s insurance policy to cure his wife Tourette’s Syndrome (and you thought high concept was dead eh?). When an insurance investigator turns up on the scene everything sorts itself out … ok, not really, it all becomes rather complicated. There’s some witty lines and Williams alongside Holly Hunter and Woody Harrelson all gamely try their best. But this screams ‘oh, look at me, aren’t I so daringly dark’ throughout and just tries way too hard. Directed by Mark Mylod (who also directed ‘Shameless’, ‘The Royle Family’ and Ali G Indahouse) the flawed moments unfortunately outweigh the good but it suggests that Mylod will go on to great things sooner rather than later.
Do you remember in the Summer holidays when they used to ‘suspend’ children’s TV and replace it with films made by ‘The Children’s Film and Television Foundation’? Whilst the titles are lost to me in a haze of memories of long summer days, I still have fond memoires of ‘the one about a boy who had a tiger on his shirt that made him run fast’ and – the classic – ‘Keith Chegwin plays Robin Hood’. The point of all this nostalgia is that An Angel For May (Guerilla Films), the latest effort from the Foundation, is now available to buy on DVD. Despite the lack of shocking 70s haircuts, it’s as fun as the Foundation films ever were. Here a 12 year-old-boy finds himself transported back to WWII via a derelict fireplace and tries to save those destined to die. With moments of humour and drama plus some fine acting from the likes of Tom Wilkinson, it’s a children’s film through and through but one that you’ll sneakily watch. Also, %10 of the profits go to War Child when you buy it so, forget spending all that money at the cinema, and buy this for the little ‘uns instead.
Speaking of little ones, the Dardenne Brothers Palme D’or winning film The Child (Artificial Eye) is now available to buy. It’s a powerful story of a petty criminal who finds out he has become a father. But the temptation of money leads him to commit a heinous act: one that must find redemption for. A deserved award winner, this unsentimental film is a fine combination of measured performances and confident direction that avoids the melodramatic with aplomb. A fins example of the fact that cinema still has the power to tell emotional and compelling stories that can create an emotional connection with the audience. The disc also comes with a perfunctory interview with the Dardenne Brothers.
A filmmaker with a touch more flair for the dramatic was German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and you can now get four of his greatest films on DVD. There’s The Bitter Tears Of Petra Von Kant (Arrow Films), a brilliantly over-the-top feature and the relationship between a narcissistic fashion designer and a model who has ulterior motives. The Merchant Of Four Seasons (Arrow Films) is a swipe at the lifestyle of the bourgeoisie as a successful entrepreneur finds himself miserable despite his now found wealth whilst The Marriage of Maria Braun (Arrow Films) sees a woman whose husband is killed during the war. But when she takes a new – American – husband she’s shocked to find that her first spouse is still alive. Finally we have – in my opinion – Fassbinder’s greatest film in the shape of Fear Eats The Soul (Arrow Films) a film about an aging cleaning woman who marries a much younger Morrocan mechanic. On the surface each of these films are pure soap opera but if you look past the – intricately designed and amazingly realised – exteriors you’ll see that, much like in the films of Douglas Sirk, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. For all its generic trappings, Fear Eats The Soul still remains one of the great films of the 70s that deals with racism and hypocrisy and all of Fassbinder’s films brilliantly combine a kitsch aesthetic with highly charged political themes. Each disc also comes with a raft of extras which include interviews with Fassbinder himself and with those who were influenced by his work including Todd Haynes. If you’ve yet to discover his work, this is the best opportunity to do so make sure you get these films as soon as possible.
From the sublime to the ridiculous as the proclaimed ‘Citizen Kane of Cult Movies’ is available for all those who like there films really, really weird. Forbidden Zone (Arrow Films) features, in no particular order, monarch midgets, a chicken boy, a frog butler and the gun toting schoolteacher. By the time that the human chandelier turns up, you’ll think all of this is perfectly normal. Trying to describe the plot is inherently masochistic so I won’t bother. Suffice to say that the film, conceived in the warp minds of the musical-theatrical group The Mystic Knights Of Oingo Boingo, is kinky, bizarre, sick, incomprehensible, humorous and so much fun it should be declared illegal. There’s just something about Forbidden Zone that puts it above the usual B-Movie trash from the sheer exuberance on offer throughout to the glorious lack of taste. The fact that ‘Nick Nack’ from the Bond films is a main character is a bonus as well. If films are like drugs, then this is definitely a Class A.
History can be a cruel mistress, evidence for which can found in The Shirley Temple Box Sets (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). Films such as Dimples and The Littlest Rebel were made with the intention of being nothing more than escapist entertainment in which the moppet actor solved all the world’s ills by looking cute and singing a song. But in the cynical modern era there’s something decidedly dodgy. Not only are some of the politics expressed in the films a product of a very different era but the presentation of Temple sometimes takes a worryingly sexual turn. Of course, it’s not helped by the fact that – in the cold light of day – films such as Bright Eyes (in which Temple does ‘On The Good Ship Lollipop’) are nothing more than thinly plotted whimsy which are nothing more than a selection of set pieces for Temple. Temple has hidden from the public eye for years: it may have been a good idea to let her films do the same.
If Morrissey had his way then every person in Britain would be forced to buy a copy of New York Doll (Optimum Releasing) the story of Arthur ‘Killer’ Kane, the bassist of legendary band The New York Dolls. The miserable moaner from Manchester is one of the biggest fans of the band and, in 2004, asked them to reform for a special gig. It’s just one of the highlights of Kane’s incredible life that has the rock and roll musts of troubled marriage, wild excess, joy and tragedy. With interviews with likes of Sir Bob Geldof and Mozza himself, it’s a fascinating account of one of Rock and Roll’s unsung heroes. A fine addition to the recent spate of music documentaries.
To music that has a truly British flavour now as Quadrophenia: Special Edition (Universal), the cult film based on a rock opera by The Who. The 1979 film that charted the clashes between Mods and Rockers saw the emergence of some of the greatest British actors in the world such as Phil Daniels and Ray Winstone. Sting’s in it as well (who can’t act very well, but I’d rather him act then have to hear him sing). Still oozing style, but a style that has a very English sensibility, the influential status of the film is undeniable. For the mods and rockers still out there then this is a necessity whilst for the rest of us it’s a classically great British movie. The disc comes with a documentary that looks at the making of the film and a commentary from the director Franc Roddam.
Mephisto (inD DVD) is a gripping German film that received the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1982. With a transcendent performance from Klaus Maria Bandauer as an actor who sells his soul to the Nazi’s so that he can fame and power, it’s a searing indictment of evil. Based on the novel by Klaus Mann - which itself was partly based on reality and partly influenced by Faust - it’s an enchanting and moody piece of work that is in equal parts chilling and beautiful.
On to TV now as King Of The Hill: Season 3 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) sees everyone's favourite Texan (no, George Bush doesn't count) Hank Hill continue to juggle the needs of wife Peggy and his ‘not right' son Bobby whilst selling the world propane. The series has really hit its stride by his point and eschewed the ‘cutaway comedy' favoured by such animated shows as ‘Family Guy' and favoured a much more gentle and affectionate humour. Consistently funny, it's just a shame that this set doesn't come with any extras. More comedy in Steptoe and Son: Season 5 (BBC DVD) which sees the rag n' bone men argue constantly as they know they are trapped together forever. Even though this is constantly repeated on television there is something immensely satisfying about owning it on DVD. After all, it allows you to bask in the glory of the performances from Harry H Corbett and Wilfred Brambell and the spectacular writing of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. Finally The Andromeda Anthology (BBC DVD) contains both of classic 60s Sci-Fi serials. The first, ‘A For Andromeda' see Julie Christie as a woman born from a computer. Is this new creature benign or intent on destroying the Earth? This is followed up in the sequel ‘The Andromeda Breakthrough', now starring Susan Hampshire. Whilst primitive by today's standards, there's still a great atmosphere produced and the fear of new technologies comes across well. These discs also come chock full of extras including all, the existing footage of the long lost original TV show and PDF's of the original scripts.
You can read a review of the rude, crude and quite wonderful DVD release of the short film Who I Am And What I Want (onedotzero) HERE.
All the above titles should be available now, unless they've been shoplifted by all the kids who are currently on their school holidays.