Daily Archives: Friday, March 26, 2010

  • Salo Pier Pasolini (It. 1975 154 mins) Paolo Bonicelli, Giorgio Cataldi

    Salo Pier Pasolini (It. 1975 150 mins) Paolo Bonicelli, Giorgio Cataldi

    Viewed as free computer download 23 March 2010

    Adrin Neatrour writes: QED

    ‘It is only at our moment of death that our life, to that point undecipherable, ambiguous, suspended, acquires a meaning.’ Pasolini

    Salo, Pasolini’s last film, is based on the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. Like the book (not published until 1902) the film also experienced censorship and was banned in most countries, as indeed it still is. Salo’s significance is coloured by Pasolini’s brutal murder, his body burnt and mutilated, by a male prostitute shortly after the film’s completion. Conspiracy and teleological theories compete in trying to explain a death that remains a mystery. On seeing the film I found it hard not to think about the state of mind of Pasolini when he went out to meet his death, the director who had just meticulously orchestrated this filmic take on the Theatre of Cruelty. Salo is a series of savage sadistic events unequalled until Michael Haneka’s Funny Games (both versions): no surprise that Haneka cites Salo as an important influence on his filmic thinking.

    Sade’s 120 days is transposed by Pasolini from revolutionary France to Salo, the fascist occupied portion of Italy in 1944, an area well known to Pasolini who actually lived there in 1944: Salo has a real provenance in Pasolini’s own experience. The film like the book is based on the idea that four fascist libertines accompanied by four middle aged prostitutes, kidnap 18 young people, nine of each sex. They proceed to lock them up and imprison them in a remote chateau where with their armed guards they subject the young victims to a series of degradations tortures and death. The film’s narrative is divided into four acts, based loosely on Dante’s rings of hell in the Inferno: the Ante-Inferno, the Circle of Manias. the Circle of Shit, the Circle of Blood.

    Salo, like Sade’s book is premised on a mathematical logic. It takes place in an enclosed world, governed only by its own laws. However perverse it may appear it is ‘a pure world’. What takes place in this world is a series of operations, of increasing intensity, that are conducted not on ciphers but on bodies. Of course the operations are designed to reduce bodies to the status of ciphers, sites for the imposition of manipulation and power. Using Cinema as his blackboard, Salo is Pasolini as demonstrator of the theorem of the total corruption of society through inequality. Most evident in Fascism, but exactly the same forces at work in the Abu Ghraib Guantanamo, Bagram as well as the realms of BerluSconi SarKozy and BrOwn. With Pasolini the circuitry of amplification between the personal and the political is always evident: his own sexuality in constant mutual dialogue with his political instincts.

    There is something about the music in Salo. Aside from the beguiling and haunting 30’s foxtrot which sounds like a Cole Porter composition, most of the music is present in the film, played as an accompaniment to the events by the lady pianist in the big hall. The music has an arch-presence which has a direct effect on the psyche as we watch the horror in front of us. The discordance between the harmony of notes played on the piano and the action perhaps has some equivalence in the classical orchestra that played in Auschwitz. The music, and I include the Porter style Foxtrot which is a sort of leitmotiv, is physically nauseous. It releases powerfully ambivalent and conflicting emotional responses. The tunes played on the piano follow familiar harmonic cadences, yet something in the form of the individual notes, in the hammers striking the wires, in the working of the dampers, is discordant and painful. The sound creates a demand coming out of the pit of your stomach, for the music to stop. Shoot the pianist!

    I think that the way Pasolini shot Salo was intended to make the film an experience the audience cannot deny. It is shot front on and full on, in effect incorporating the viewer into the film: trapped like the victims in the chateau. There is no escape, no lines of flight, either emotional or spiritual. You dear viewer are IN the film and you must live thereafter with the consequences of this.

    adrin neatrour


  • Defendor

    Defendor review

    Once in a while comes a small film that is the centre of a zeitgeist. Is this it? Probably not but maybe it should be. I love the concept of the superhero and like many kids I read comics picking the heroes that I felt reflected my ideals even before I knew I had ideals. I rejected the ones with superpowers as the result of radioactive spiders, genetic deformities or aliens from outer space. It was always the vigilante or the person driven by revenge. This could be anyone. This was a person and a switch flicks and they no longer relied on the system, in fact much of the time the system was the enemy. Well I grew up, I realised the system was us and lost touch with the hero. Later in life I bought a mask and started getting folk to wear it and would photograph them. I got them to create a whole character around just them and the mask. A character that reflected them, whether it was their pets, their love of music or their distaste for insects. I wanted to, at least for a moment get in touch with what made us super.

    Defendor touches this. It has the feel of a superhero film with its swipes and its driven by a brilliant score by John Rowley. The film is a vehicle for Woody Harrelson who gives his best performance since… well since Cheers. He plays a Arthur Poppington who is on the slow side, who dresses up in a costume, using weapons like bees and marbles to right the wrongs of his past by transporting them to the present. He teams up with Kat played by Kat Dennings that is in many ways is an archetype side kick but she doesn’t even know it. She is a crack addict, street whore who like Defendor dresses up, but she dresses up for business. She takes to lodging with defendor in his friend’s workshop, which he uses as his lair and charges him dollars a day to give him information he thinks he needs which she uses to buy drugs.

    The reasons for why these people do what they do is complicated and is in many ways something difficult to explore in 90 minutes, one line goes a long way to explain it though. Defendor asks Kat why she does drugs and she asks him why he dresses up as Defendor. He says because as Defendor he is not afraid, not stupid and he is a million times better than Arthur. Kat says when she smokes that stuff, it is the same. There are many of the archetype hero characters in this film, the villain, the police ally, the bent cop but like Kat they actually don’t know they are playing these roles. In fact I feel we the audience are watching a movie and not too sure much of the time we are watching a superhero movie.

    What makes Defendor a hero is the things his Psychoanalyst diagnoses him with, FAS, ADT, Depression, Delusional Megalomania, unable to anticipate consequences, serious lack of common sense, socially immature. His weaknesses are his strengths. To me this film highlights something in all of us. An ability to make change, to do little things that make a difference, to do what we think is right despite always being told we shouldn’t or worse we can’t.

    5 years ago I wanted to capture a bit of the hero in all of us. Maybe highlight our ability to do something despite us being told again and again we can’t


  • Lebanon Samuel Maoz (2009 Isr, Fr, Ger, Leb)

    Lebanon Samuel Maoz (2009 Isr, Fr, Ger, Leb) Raymond Anslem, Oshri Cohen, Ashraf Barhorn

    Viewed Tyneside Cinema, Northern Lights Film Festival, ticket price £7.00

    What I had heard about Samuel Maoz’s (SM) film Lebanon (Leb), was that it was all shot from within a tank that took part in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). The idea held out the prospect of a statement about war, in which the tank as a setting, with the armoured isolation of its crew from the outside world, could engage with its audience as one of the forces at play in the movie. There was the prospect of a film that might explore ideas.

    Leb is not so purist that it all the action takes place within the confines of the tank; and tanks have always seemed to me to be like steel coffins. But most of the action is located either within the steel hull or viewed through the cross sights of its cannon. Some war movies, All Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory use the theme of war to deepen thought and emotion in relation to armed conflict. Leb fails in this respect. We have an interior situation in Rhino (radio code name for the tank) which is ultimately just a pretext for individualised stories, individuation that is a standard Hollywood device for humanising ‘our side’. By featuring the crew’s subjectivities SM moves the film out of the hard death dealing carapace of Rhino softening the interior with sentimentality. Recoiling from the implicit hard implacable the idea of ‘ tank’, the film takes on the business of reconciling oppositions: the hard and the soft. Good men bring death. War as a story of sentimental enterprise.

    The action, outside the tank, mostly seen through the cross hairs of the gun sight, comprises mostly of the ‘face’ of war. With its formulaic parade of burnt mangled corpses, smashed people and buildings, and mutilated bodies, Leb is just another Spielberg type war film relying for its effect on image fetishism and faux realism. In its own way a sort of pornography of simulated effect, but which is often used by film makers as a justification for their work with the claim to be bringing the “true” uncensored horror of it war to the audience. The tyranny of the action-image. As if we didn’t know that war is terrible; as if our eyes might consume these images in any different manner from which they consume an ice cream advert. Our perception of the image is guided by desire. In looking at simulated realism, we are dealing with sign language.

    The other issue that interested me in relation to Leb, is that ingrained in the production of any war film is a political point of view, an ideological understanding and statement about what is happening in the conflict. How would this be expressed in Leb? Would it take the form of an outright justification of Israel’s action and position; or would Leb take a more oblique more nuanced less direct but no less propagandist line, as for instance in Ari Fisher’s Waltz with Bashir?

    Ari Fisher’s film represented the Phalangist massacres of Palestinians in the Shatra and Chatilla camps as taking place over one night. It is a matter of historical UN record they took place over 2 nights, thus irrevocably implicating the IDF as complicit in the killings of thousands of innocents. One key concern of Israeli propaganda in relation to the ’82 Lebanon war is to suggest a critical gap between the acts and intentions of the IDF (representing Israeli policy), and their Christian allies, the Phalangists. In simplistic form IDF are presented as good and honourable; the Phalangists unavoidable allies, but pretty bad people. It is interesting that this is exactly the line taken by SM in Leb. The second half of the movie revolves about the captured Syrian prisoner Rhino is forced to take on board. This soldier’s presence is discovered by a couple of Phalangists who first try to take him. Failing this, one of them has a long unpleasant, one way conversation in Arabic about what he is going to do to the unfortunate man when Rhino gets to its rendez-vous point. This is vicious stuff which the Israeli crew, not speaking Arabic, don’t understand. As the shackled Syrian does not speak Hebrew , the crew’s non understanding is convenient as they are exonerated from responsibility. As director/writer SM does not permit the Syrian to use basic communication of his fear of the threats made to him and his penis by the Palangist. The viewer is left with the message: bad Phalangists, they bad men, and the Phalange are the villains the evil force in Leb. The oblique delivery of this message is of course in perfect tune with Israeli propaganda in relation to the ’82 Lebanon war: the Israelis represented the forces of moderation and fairness. Unfortunately their approach was sullied by the savagery of their unavoidable allies, the Phalange. At a propaganda level, Leb toes the Israeli line, and the film is part of a long term strategy by Israel to control the definition of its wars with its neighbours.

    The opening shot of the film, a still shot held for a considerable time of the field of ripe sunflowers suggested a film that might be rich in associations, but the body of the film didn’t develop into anything beyond standard Hollywood fare. Though interestingly the last shot of the film shows the same field, but now occupied by the stranded Rhino. My mind again drifts to the association of Van Gogh and his last picture before his suicide.p

    adrin neatrour