Category Archives: Surrealism

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

cult film rocky horrorDirector: Jim Sharman

Writers: Richard O’Brien (original musical play), Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien (screenplay)

In 1973, an Australian named Jim Sharman directed a musical called The Rocky Horror Show. The musical was a success and, in 1975, was made into a film that soon gathered a cult following.

Brad Majors and his fiancee Janet Weiss (Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon), having just got engaged and seemingly destined to lead a very conventional life together, have a flat tyre during a thunderstorm and seek shelter in a rather eerie castle. Here they meet Dr Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry), self-proclaimed ‘Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual Transsylvania’ and alien scientist, his servants Riff Raff and Magenta (Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn), groupie Columbia (Nell Campbell) and a host of other odd and interesting characters. Frank N. Furter has created a ‘muscle man’ and, to applause from his guests and servants and to Brad’s and Janet’s dismay, brings to life the ‘beautiful creature’, Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood). This is followed by a violent intermezzo with Frank’s and Columbia’s former lover Eddie (Meat Loaf), a wedding between Frank and Rocky, a large amount of seduction, a bizarre floorshow and extra-terrestrial encounters.

The film is a parody of old horror and sci-fi films replete with all the stock ingredients – mad scientists, spooky castles, aliens, sex, gore, romance – with catchy music and remarkable costumes thrown in. It shows reckless abandon, decadent danger and carnal enjoyment, contrasted beautifully by Janet and Brad’s polite, repressed behaviour. Playing with identities and gender roles, and with the idea of taking risks and letting go, it brought together people who liked to do something different and not follow the rules. ‘Don’t Dream It, Be It’, as the song goes. Costume designer Sue Blane claimed that the musical, with its ripped fishnet stockings, glitter and dyed hair, influenced the punk movement, and we’re inclined to agree. Provocative, camp and funny, it still rocks today.

Singalong now!

SL-R

Advertisements

The Bed-Sitting Room (1969)

Director – Richard Lester

Writer – Spike Milligan, Charles Wood and John Antrobus

If you’re looking for odd movies, you’ve come to the right place. This film is in a class of its own. In fact, if it was in school, it would probably be in detention, or even expelled for insubordinate behaviour! ‘Post-Apocalyptic Surrealist Nightmare’ is a start to describing what it features, but doesn’t do it enough justice at all. This is an illumination of the darkest recesses of Spike Milligan’s 20th Century-addled mind. It gives us a disturbing view of a world after the nuclear Holocaust, with a very British take on it, in that people attempt to return to their dull daily routines. It is quite believeable in its absurdity. Heading the cast is the ever-watchable Arthur Lowe, depicting what could be considered as what Captain Mainwaring would do after nuclear Armageddon. He would maintain decorum and a stiff upper lip, of course, despite the wreckage and carnage around him, and despite any kind of common sense.

The radiation has caused strange mutations to occur, including a reference to the titular bedsitting room itself, with some bizarrely brilliant scenes, imagery and jokes that deliniate Spike’s sheer comic genius through and through, alongside his total insanity, or perhaps ultra-sanity, in his exasperation and disbelief at the everyday insanity that regular people possess in being able to ignore the devastation and problems around them. Enjoy the show! It’s a very harrowing laughter in the darkness, but what else can you do in the face of absolute nuclear annhialation?

TL-R

Pan’s Labyrinth (aka. El laberinto del fauno) (2006)

Director – Guillermo del Toro

Writer – Guillermo del Toro

This film has a harrowing beauty that lingers with the viewer long after the credits have rolled. Set during the Spanish Falange era in 1944, a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), the stepdaughter of oppressive captain Vidal (Sergi López), finds sanctuary in a fantasy haven at the bottom of her garden that leads to a deep underground labyrinth. The fantastical creatures that she encounters assist or assail her, causing her to gradually confront the reality of the situation unfolding around her by cloaking it with her imagination. The monsters are truly wondrous, and often terrifying (see below), conjuring visuals that have been rarely matched in their vibrant fairytale quality and richness of colour.

Image result for pan's labyrinth

There are chillingly dark themes at work, dealt with in an extremely sensitive, yet imaginitive way. The emotional power of the interweaving storyline is a deeply moving experience when it tragically unfolds.

This is the trailer with the husky-voiced man to tell you more about it, as I don’t want to give anything more away, but strongly recommend that you watch this film.

TL-R

Brazil (1985)

Brazil (1985) Poster

Director: Terry Gilliam

Writers: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown

Some films are so finely detailed that they require repeat viewings to appreciate  the extent of their content. This is more than true of Brazil, which manages to squeeze an entire retro-futuristic city into its compact time frame, replete with hallucinogenic dream sequences featuring giant samurai warriors, talking brickwork, and other flights of fancy, along with a serious message behind the wickedly grinning facade.

Image result for brazil movie

You could consider Brazil to be ‘Monty Python Does 1984’, but there are many essential differences between it and those elements. There aren’t any knights who say “NI!” or giant feet crushing anybody from above, for starters. 1984 itself is a critique of blind obedience to authoritarian regimes. Instead, Brazil mocks the mayhem of tangled bureaucracy. People are chewed up by long working hours, an oppressive political system, and excessive red tape. There are certainly bullying security to enforce the rules, keep people in their place and suppress the rebel terrorist threat, but these are nothing compared to the web of repression woven by emotionally blackmailing management. Desk clerk Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is in charge of the thankless task of processing data concerning suspected dissenters. He discovers an error in the system that has led to a wrongful arrest, and seeks to do the right thing by rectifying it. This, in itself, causes problems, something that the regime does not like. Everything must run smoothly and according to the rules. As one domineering technocrat bawls at Sam when he goes to express his concern about a mishap, “Mistakes?! We don’t make mistakes!” In as unbending a system as this, people get swallowed whole.


Sam is disillusioned and also becomes enamoured by a woman who he has dreamed about, Jill Layton (Kim Greist), but who he weirdly happens to then meet. She takes him away on a voyage of discovery, sprinkled with danger and adventure along the way, as well as meeting the actual dissenter, a rebel plumber by the name of Harry Tuttle (a riproaring Robert de Niro at his very best), and invoking the disapproval of his best friend Jack Lint (a wonderfully malevolent Michael Palin). We explore the very nature of escapism, and how our daydreams can become reality, but we have to be very careful about how we pursue them.

Brazil is a truly haunting film that reveals some bitter truths about the modern condition (and the ending is to die for!).

TL-R

Image result for brazil movie

The Exterminating Angel (1962)

The Exterminating Angel (1962) Poster

Director – Luis Buñuel

Producer – Gustavo Alatriste

Writer – Luis Buñuel

A quiet uprising of servants is fomenting as they talk about leaving while a banquet for the decadent upper middle classes is held. The everyday quirks and eccentricities of the stuffy rich elite slowly emerge, as do their hidden desires and prejudices. Windows are smashed, trays are dropped by discontented servants who promptly leave, and what’s that under the table?

The guests of the feast comment on the rude behaviour of the servants, and each other, chattering and sniping with some cracklingly witty, barbed lines, and then more mysterious matters begin to occur. The dinner guests find themselves stuck in an uncomfortable situation, unable to free themselves, frozen by some strange compulsion. Their encumbered state means that they become desperate and competitive for survival, cantankerously pecking at one another for status and authority. The smarter and more sympathetic of the group attempt to fathom the circumstances of the mystery, but it evades their wits, and some even end up losing them.

The group becomes sequestered in its own tempestuous world that exists within the confines of the stately mansion, not considering any of the activities happening outside. Their closed world offers them no sanctuary, it is just a stale, stagnant pool to listlessly stew in. Some may be affronted by the delineation of the upper classes in such a clear, unfettered way, which was just what Buñuel intended. He pulls no punches, and exposes the rotten core of their empty, hypocritical existences in a highly original and innovative way. Recommended to those who don’t like to be spoon-fed with obvious, predictable slush.

TL-R

Delicatessen (1991)

delicatessen

Directors – Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Writers – Gilles Adrien (screenplay and dialogue), Marc Caro (screenplay), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (screenplay)

You don’t get much more cynical, stylish or darkly humorous than this French delicacy. Never has there been such a sweet film made about such a, well, unsavory subject as this film is all about. What is it all about? It’s about eating things. Horrible things. You don’t really want to know what sort of things. Oh, you do? Well, you’d better see the film, hadn’t you? Just let me tell you a bit more about it first.

del

The story of the piece revolves around an apartment block built above a small delicatessen (hence the name) somewhere in France following some kind of apocalyptic atrocity in the near future. Food is now incredibly scarce, and is used as a commodity to survive. A butcher named Clapet (Jean-Claude Dreyfuss) advertises for helpers in his establishment, to which an out-of-work clown named Louison (Dominique Pinon) applies. The affable clown falls for the butcher’s charming daughter Julie (Marie-Laure Dougnac), who attempts to protect him from the horrors within. The clown has a dark secret that he must also come to terms with, and ensure that he, Julie and their friends can be saved.

delicatessen-6

That director Jean-Pierre Jeunet went on to make Amelie and The City of Lost Children is more than conceivable due to its luscious, sumptuous scenery, shots and settings (a handful of which I had to include here!), but the dialogue and action of this original, offbeat offering are uniquely special in and of themselves and create a wondrous vision of an unusual world that we thankfully don’t exist in (just yet…).

delicatessen2

Get your teeth into Delicatessen today!

   Delicatessen1

TL-R

Eraserhead (1977)

movie_eraserhead

Director – David Lynch
Producer – David Lynch, Fred Baker (uncredited)
Writer – David Lynch

Eraserhead is not the sort of film that you see every day. If it was, people would be even more confused than they already are. Eraserhead is a film that follows the daily routine of its main character, Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), a mostly mute, melancholic man who has a stack of hair to rival Marge Simpson herself, and an awkward gait that shows his uncomfortability within his world and in all that he does. And boy, is it an odd world! There are chicken-headed babies and clanking pipes connecting up to the Lady in the Radiator (Laurel Near), who sings an eerie song whilst dancing, as industrial noise erupts around them; and those are the relatively explainable parts. Then there’s the angry girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart), who keeps having unusual fits, the Man in the Planet (Jack Fisk), the seductive, elusive neighbour across the hall (Judith Roberts) giving Henry strange glances, and other obscure, irrational happenings. It’s all very peculiar.

The film possesses echoes of German Expressionist cinema and surrealism, but it creates a unique landscape of its own. It is probably the nearest thing to a dream that has ever been captured on film, but it’s by no means a pleasant dream. It is our daily lives dissected and reconstituted into vicious visual representations. To say that it is just art is to understate just how original it is. It’s an unsettling masterpiece.

Sing along now!

Get your own copy of Eraserhead on DVD here!

TL-R