• Targets                                    Peter Bogdanovitch (USA; 1968

    Targets                Peter Bogdanovitch (USA; 1968)   Boris Karloff; Tim O’Kelly

    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema 26th May 2024; ticket £7


    Ironic play out of the cool.


    The year before Bogdanovitch made ‘Targets’ there occurred the first mass killing by a shooter in post war USA. It was carried out in 1966 by Charles Whitman who went to the top of the University of Texas Tower Building from where he shot and killed 15 people, wounding 31 others. He was eventually shot dead by the cops some 90 minutes after first opening fire.

    It’s obvious that Bogdanovitch made ‘Targets’ as a response to this event. Like Charles Whitman, Bobby, Bogdanovitch’s fictional killer in ‘Targets’, murders both his wife and mother prior to his killing spree. But what Bogdanovitch took from the Tower murders was not the bemusement horror or moral outrage provoked by the murders or even the sensational reporting of what happened. What Bogdanovitch sees is that killing in this particular way has become an expression of the ‘cool’; an extension of a certain stylistic mode out into an extreme behavioural zone.

    Post Whitman mass murder has become an expressive statement, a ‘life’ or rather ‘death’ style consumer choice. Using pump action rifle with telescopic sights the killings by Bobby, patterned on Charles Whitman’s actions can be understood as a particular behavioural geste not dissimilar to sunglasses a leather jacket a tattoo, a sports car or use of a particular fashionable word or sign.

    ‘The Cool’ in this respect denotes on the part of the individual a level of expressive calm disassociation in relation to their manifestations and actions. ‘Whatever.’  

    The radiation of the Cool Ethos through the American social matrix may be connected to the alienation of people’s lives from a root culture.   In ‘Targets’ Bogdanovitch depicts a domestic world dominated by the output of TV, where time is on hold and rhythms of life are shaped by the blandishments of the mass entertainment industry. The culture of the ‘cool’ develops out of this suburban world of psychic containment and disassociation. The gun is cool because it represents a force that reduces people to ‘thingdom’. The TV kills minds the gun kills bodies. The gun’s cool because like TV it is also has a detached mechanism, the trigger; and through the rifle sights the victims are unreal, like the figures on a TV screen. When the trigger’s pulled there’s nothing personal, no involvement no messy blood. The targets just roll over: dead. That’s cool. As if it could be contained.

    But Bogdanovich’s achievement in writing and directing ‘Targets’ was to give a particular ironic form to the film, exploiting the actual process of casting to imbue the scenario with wit and lightness of touch. Counterbalancing Tim O’Kelly’s rendering of Bobby as a methodical killer gunman is the performance of Boris Karloff as the imposing figure of Horror Movie star Byron Orlok.

    On every metric Bobby is a little man, petty, inconsequential in demeanour. Bobby the little man driven by a certain feeling of insignificance for which the culture has no redress, is ironically offset in the scenario by Byron Orloc, a giant gracious Gothic presence both in life and on screen. The irony is that the future belongs to the little man and all his countless imitators; the big man, the giant is a dinosaur the purveyor of old phantom horrors that no longer count for anything consequential. Bobby heralds the dread that will characterise the time to come when a legion of anonymous men will turn their guns and shoot anyone – men – women – children, anyplace – church – mosque – school – mall – carving their mark deeply into the flesh of the social body. Byron the King of Horror movies has now been relegated into the world of the fairytail, a faded eidolon, symbolic of stories that might once have have stirred up fear but are now relegated to the nursery. Realising this Byron Orloc has decided to retire with immediate effect; he knows he is out of time that in the world of fear he has been superseded by a new generation of intense psychic anxieties.

    ‘Targets’ is structured about the intercut ironic counterpoise between the coming inarticulate actual manifestation of horror and the receding old school theatrics of gothic fright. Bogdanovitch climaxes ‘Targets’ with a scene wittily modelled on the denouement of Welles’ ‘Lady from Shanghai’ where the two protagonists face off in the shoot out in a hall of mirrors, image be-lying image, the actual and the virtual inseparably intertwined. In ‘Targets’ Bobby tries to escape from his snipers nest behind the drive-in screen where the last movie of Byron Orlok is being projected (amidst all the carnage). As Bobby moves to escape the actual Byron sees him and sets off in pursuit; simultaneously Byron’s on screen presence is also engaged in a chase. A he looks about Bobby melts down into a state of panic, brain sent haywire by the two schizo images of the same man coming after him. Finally overwhelmed by image he is reduced to a state of psychic paralysis, cornered and disarmed by Orloc.

    Unlike Charles Whitman, Bobby is captured alive and led away by the police. In the last shot as Bobby is strong-armed to the prowl car he turns to one of the cops and quips: “I hardly missed a shot…didn’t I?” How cool is that.

    adrin neatrour


  • Twelve Angry Men     Sidney Lumet (USA; 1957)  

    Twelve Angry Men     Sidney Lumet (USA; 1957)   Henry Fonda’ Lee J Cobb

    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema 2nd May 2024; ticket £7.00

    we’re on count down

    Strange thing about Lumet’s title is that there are not twelve angry men in the film’s script. The jury is twelve men but only three of its members might be called angry. Taken as a whole the jury as individuals may be formed by some of the prejudices of their class race ethnicity and sex, but in the film only a minority are driven by their own particular narrow perceptions of society.

    Films as social products can mark significant shifts in the political and economic mood of a country, working as signifiers of the values working through the social matrix. America is no exception to this. Films made there are sometimes intentionally produced as ideological statements, and Twelve Angry Men falls into this category, but most of the production output sees Hollywood simply on auto-pilot replicating reaffirming and sustaining core America values.

    ‘Twelve Angry Men’ feels like its made as a riposte to Ayn Rand’s script of ‘The Fountainhead’ (1949). Rand’s script developed from her novel of the same name was made with the contractual obligation that none of her dialogue could be altered or cut in the production of the film without her permission. ‘The Fountainhead’ directed by King Vidor and starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal, was a densely packed philosophical affirmation of individualism, advocating the primacy of the individual over the collective – think Thatcher’s: “There is no such thing as Society.”

    Rand’s protagonist was Howard Roark an architect with a personal artistic vision governing his work that stood in opposition to the establishment, comprising the mindless crowd that follow conventional ideas of the herd. Rand’s script depicts the struggle between individualism and collectivism, drawing a conscious parallel between communism and freedom in the rapidly escalating cold war between the West and the Soviet Union. Anti communism was at the root of Rand’s belief system and her work is the expression of her detestation of its societal ethos. The characteristic mood of ‘The Fountainhead’ is anger. It’s an angry film in which Roark, prefers labouring jobs to working on commissions in which he’d have to compromise his individuality and vision either to placate clients or to work with colleagues. The cumulative effect on Roark is frustration at his powerlessness and a contempt towards those forces that conspire against him. Certainly Rand’s political writing has been revisited and reworked by the current generation of right wing populists to direct feelings of anger frustration and hate against the notional deep state of collective governance.

    ‘The Fountainhead’ centres about an apocalyptic event. Roark, working through the auspices of another architect, finally gets a commission for a huge housing project. But to Roark’s fury during construction the client decides to change some of his design. Demented by rage and anger Roark burns down the newly built edifice razing it to the ground. Having handed himself in, he represents himself at court. In his closing speech he justifies his act on the philosophical grounds that the rights of the individual are primary values that justify violence and destruction when not recognised and betrayed. His long and sometimes tedious speechifying is pure Rand, intoxicated with her own libertarian rhetoric.

    The court finds Roark not guilty of all charges: the individual is exonerated and recognised as having a special status in society that raises them above the constraints that apply to the crowd. The verdict suggests that it is better to destroy and/or be destroyed than to compromise individuality. A particularly hard core message at a time when the the Soviet Union was developing Atomic weaponry and the Cold War was intensifying. “Better dead than red..” a message that a nuclear war with the USSR was worth fighting to maintain American values.

    ‘Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ with its fundamentalist justification of rabid individualism worked within the political atmosphere in which the Committee of Un-American Activities was hunting out and perusing vendettas against alleged communists and socialists. Lumet’s ‘Twelve Angry Men’ is surely a riposte to Rand’s ideology at a time in the mid ‘50’s when there was a significant pull back from the paranoid atmosphere of the 1940’s. It can be no accident that the main protagonist Davis, played by Henry Fonda, is like Roark, an architect. Davis is certainly a strong individual; he is prepared to stand out against the initial pressure of the whole group to find the accused boy guilty. But Davis as an individual sees that there is in the collective a depth of knowledge insight and wisdom that can be brought to bare on issues that is greater than the resources possessed by any one individual. It is the remit of society to understand how to harness this collective energy – a process that Lumet expresses through the agency of his architect, Davis. Through dialogue and discourse the jury starts to question and examine its understanding of the evidence arriving at a verdict opposed to the one suggested by their initial prejudices.

    ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Twelve Angry Men’ are myths pitched to spin out redemptive ideological themes. ‘The Fountainhead’ ends with a mythic image: Roark, at the top of his new building, completed without compromise, stands with his arms raised in triumph. Like an Olympian God, he is master of all he surveys, beholden to no man, free of the crowd, a winner on his own terms. ‘Twelve Angry Men’ ends low key with a series of exterior shots of Davis and another jury member leaving the Court House. The shots are prosaic, ordinary, as befits the fact that nothing out of the ordinary has happened. A group of men have met on jury service. They have done their collective civic duty as instructed, following the directions of the judge in weighing up the evidence, they have found a man: ‘Not Guilty’ of first degree murder. As perhaps in Ancient Greece the collective wisdom of the polis has been consulted and decisions reached through debate. There is nothing to remark: the mythic model of justice has prevailed.

    Both films are of course as much fairy tales as myths. The neo-Nietzchian new man becomes monster and the prejudices of juries often decide trials.

    As myths both movies have a deep grounding in the psychodrama of the times. The films with their opposing belief systems evidence the schizo culture of the USA where the conflicting pulls of individualism and collectivism have played out since the nineteenth century with more or less vehemence. In this US election year of 2024, Trump versus Biden, Roark versus Davis, the gravitational counter force of these two myths threatens to pull the country apart.

    adrin neatrour   adrinuk@yahoo.co.uk  

  • La Chimera      Alice Rohrwacher  (It; 2023)

    La Chimera      Alice Rohrwacher  (It; 2023)  Josh O’Connor

    viewed Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle 10th May 2024; ticket: £11:25

    empty tombs 

    Rohrwacher’s ‘La Chimera’ comes across as a distressed imitation of the type of scenario that Fellini made his own.  Fellini’s films comprise the revelation of life lived out as immanent spectacle.   Fellini’s scripting and direction produced films that opened out to the audience joyously inviting them to be part of what was happening on screen.  Rohrwacher’s film has the ostensible look of Fellini but plays as a series of token gestures lacking the spirit which runs through and permeates films like Clowns, 8 1/2 or Julietta.   Rohrwacher film take in the expressive faces of the sisters and the gang, the processions and the parties, but these elements all have a distant disconnected feel as the portal into the action, her protagonist Arthur, is a closed being.

    Arthur the lead character in ‘La Chimera’ is designed as an enigmatic.  He comes across as shut off even to himself.  The core thematic is designed about his pursuit of the chimera of his dead lover and the tombs of the Etruscans. There is a divide between his chimerical ‘world’ and the spectacle that revolves about him.  But it’s a divide that rather than heightening the film in oppositional intensity, acts as a deintensifier and finally leads to indifference.    

    It may be that the script  following a precept of Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen demands O’Connor do too many contradictory things at the same time: he is the Chimerist in pursuit of both the recent and the long time dead, the archaeologist, the squatter, one of the gang, the lover of beautiful things, the flirter, the ex-prisoner, the dowser.   Arthur is in fact simply a construct, not even a male lead.  He’s an artificial device designed to fit into the chicanery of Rohrwacher’s plot.  The character has to jump through so many multiple personality hoops that in the end it looks like he gives up and adopts a default face characterised by an adopted immobility.  O’Connor looks over directed with Rohrwacher calling the shots on his performance asking him to pull back on any overtly expressive responses as a means of trying to keep the script under her control.  Either that or O’Connor abandoned by Rohrwacher adopted his default face and body to an inexpressive mode as the only way out of the conflicting aspects of the construct of script.  Either way, as the film describes its circuits of intensity around the character of Arthur, it quickly runs out of energy and comes to a stop – a dead end.

    The problem with many current film makers is that they feel they have to incorporate a wide range of issues and themes into their scripting in an effort to make their work   relevant to contemporary life. They do this either as some form of justification or as a means of exemplifying or highlighting aspects of their belief systems.  The result is often dilution confusion and loss of focus to the point where the intention underlying the film simply collapses. Rohrwacher’s  ‘La Chimera’ seems a case in point as her scenario bounces about between feminism, lice, Arthur’s fits when dousing, aesthetics, exploitation, aging, the antiquities racket, industrialisation etc, death and entombment finally ending up as an incoherence. An incoherence which is mirrored in the music track which like the script seems to want to cover all bases from Baroque to Italian folk and popular music, the which seems to evidence Rohrwacher’s polytonal anxieties as much as anything. 


    Five starred by ‘The Guardian’  Alice Rohrwacher’s ‘La Chimera’ is the sort of drama that functions by featuring one thing after another. Many contemporary directors perhaps taking note of the influence of iPhones and advertising  on attention span, punctuate their scenario’s with abrupt changes of focus to maintain audience connection.   ‘La Chimera’ is a film in which ideas are replaced by a pot pourri of affects and gimmicks cobbled together and presented as a film. 

    adrin neatrour



  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant   Rainer Fassbinder(1974; FDR)

    The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant   Rainer Fassbinder(1974; FDR) Margit Castensen, Hanna Schygula

    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema Newcastle 14 April 2024; ticket £7


    as it is from above so from below


    Fassbinder’s movies divide into dialogues with two of his principle underlying concerns:

    the socio-political aspects of fascism that continue to feed into and shape Germany

    and the psycho-social effects of the burgeoning consumer society shaping

    contemporary relationships.  moat of his films, Bitter Tears…included take on a satirical



    ‘Bitter Tears …’ an atactile sumptuous melodrama that revolves about a

    group of women who Fassbinder depicts as Goddesses rather than mortals. Shot in

    1974 his characters are not costumed in the fashion styles of the era: short skirts and

    tights, flared pants, dresses with waist belts, tartan or strong patterned material etc.

    His principle women Petra and Karin are rigged out in resplendent gowns draping

    over their bodies reaching down to their ankles. They look like they might

    have stepped out a painting by Poussin, a huge enlargement of one of which

    dominates Petra’s bedroom where most of the action takes place. But of course Greek

    Gods and Goddesses, in their foibles their love life their ambitions and jealousies,

    were human all to human.


    Fassbinder saw clearly that consumer society developing out of the 50’s and 60’s by the 1970’s had created a new set of Gods and Goddesses from the worlds of fashion and music. They were more or less conjoined with Hollywood stars in the firmament of the public’s imagination. Like their Greek forebears but in a different culture, these new titans were living out in exaggerated form the new possibilities presented by capitalist culture, and in a sense the characters of Petra and Karin are ironically depicted in ‘Bitter Tears’ as larger than life facsimiles of ourselves. Bodiless beings real in image.


    There is a contradictory force running throughout ‘Bitter Tears’. The interplay of image and body. The characters have an incorporeal nature. Petra’s infatuation with Karin is for her image not herself or her body; Petra who designs clothes to cover the body also wants to drape the soul so that all that is seen of the woman is form. Fassbinder’s method of filming promotes the idea of disassociation. On a number of occasions when editing from a long shot to a close up, he often crosses the line, disrupting continuity by introducing an angle of view that breaks the audience’s expectations of scene unity – inducing a momentary disassociation with character. The filming of ‘Bitter Tears’ is also marked by the camera’s movements both about and through the set and also in the filming of his characters, in particular Marlene and Petra.


    The set comprises one more or less unified space which is dominated by the huge double bed and the large Poussin repro. Aside from the Poussin mural it’s a bleached out space. The double bed all white linen, the room dominated by whiteness with dark recesses, background areas occupied by Marlene her helper. As the camera tracks about and through the space it creates the effect of being in a timeless domain. This effect is compounded by the use of mirrors as a key component in Fassbinder’s shot culture as the camera pans off and through mirrors from reflection to action creating effects that intermingle past and present time, intermingle the real and the virtual: a world where nothing is quite as it appears to be. A world based on an existential fragility, shared by Goddesses and mortals.


    Broken down into chapters Fassbinder’s focus is the successful fashion designer Petra and her psycho-social state of mind as she moves from rationalisation to infatuation, from control to despair recrimination and reconciliation and finally loss. The agitation of life captured not just in Petra’s dialogues where she moves from cynicism to desperate need rejection and judgement. Fassbinder’s dialogues for Petra work to trap her in an dense web of self involvement that is ultimately unseeing. The more she wants to understand the less she understands.


    This inability to understand what is happening is concentrated in her relationship with Marlene whose precise role is unclear.   She acts as a personal assistant come dogs body come collaborator. Whether working in the shadows or ordered about by Petra she is put upon abused treated with the contempt reserved for minions. What passes by Petra’s attention is that Marlene loves her; but it is not an unconditional love. It is a particular form of love premised on Marlene’s need for her love to remain unrecognised unreturned. In a sense it is the religious love of an acolyte for a goddess, which demands only the opportunity to suffer in return for the right to worship. Petra doesn’t understand this so when her infatuation with Karin is rejected her emotionally aroused state requires another object. With few candidates she lights upon Marlene and suddenly announces to her that she loves her. At which point Marlene’s love dissolves drains out of her, setting up the ironic and humorous last shot in which we see in mid frame an open suitcase on the floor of Petra’s bedroom.     Dropping her clothes and belongings Marlene passes to and fro in front of it, finally closing it, picking it up and without a word leaves Petra.


    Goddesses have to understand there are consequences for playing human games.

    adrin neatrour




  • Late night with the Devil – 2024

    Late night with the Devil – 2024

    Directed and written by Cameron Cairnes and Colin Cairnes

    Company logos seen at the beginning – IFC Films, Shudder, Image Nation Abu Dhabi, VicScreen, AGC Studios, Good Fiend Films, Future Pictures, Spooky Pictures, Cinetic Media….  I think I got them all.

    On walking in to the film, I spoke about the film we were going to see with the woman at the box office.  She said she hasn’t seen it yet but imagines it to be something like 1992s ‘Ghostwatch’.  That wasn’t something I saw until a couple of years ago.  At the time I was too busy robbing, running and getting high to watch TV.  I understand it has cultural significance for many but with my general dislike of the cheesiness of British chat shows and having been exposed to decades of many great additions to the found footage genre, I find it cheap and obvious.  I also find Ghost Watch to be a complete failure in the area of being scary.  Saying that, ‘Late night with the devil’ isn’t scary eitherand I loved it.

    ‘Ghostwatch’ is fictional TV pretending it is reality.  ‘Late night with the devil’ is fiction emulating reality and there is a difference.  With late night with the devil you don’t have to buy in to the premise you are watching real TV.  It starts with the most number of studio and production company logos I’ve seen before any film, ever.  I’m amazed it turned out as well as it did with so many companies behind it.  It starts with quite a long narrated introduction to the history of the show and its presenter, which is a bit annoying as it is tell rather than show but it is expedient to get to the night of the show in question.  The night is Halloween 1977.  It is the 6th year of the late night talk show, ‘Night Owls’ and the show host is ‘Jack Delroy’.  It’s also sweeps and ‘Night Owls’ is losing traction in it TV slot, ‘Jack Delroy’s’ contract is nearly up and the show is on the edge of cancellation.  Something drastic is needed to drive up ratings and attract sponsorship.  The audience is full of folk in Halloween garb, there’s a guest who’s a psychic and another who is a sceptic.  The sceptic is really annoying.  Which is a shame because I’m a sceptic and the character put’s us in a bad light.  After these 2 characters are introduced to us there is another of those tell rather than show segments about a devil worshipping, suicide cult with one survivor, a little girl named ‘Lilly’. Again I forgive it for expediency and the film does roll by at a brisk 93 minutes.  The ‘Lilly’ is now a young woman and is taken in by a parapsychologist.  Both these characters come on to the show to ramp up the weirdness.  Lilly, the girl who survives the cult is really interesting to watch.  She is always looking directly at the camera and talks to Jack in way that she knows everything about him. She often has this smile that says I have been waiting for this and it’s going to be so much fun.  Not for everyone else on set but definitely for ‘Lilly’.

    The real star of the show though, is the show.  The film captures the period and style of a 70s late night talk show and exaggerates it.  The magnificent brightly coloured set design.  The warm up/side kick character who introduces and supports Jack and is somewhat put upon.  The sleazy show runner bullying everyone who wasn’t Jack.  The show’s in house band.  Playing just the right numbers before each guest is introduced and between ad breaks.  Also all the on-set and in studio smoking of cigarettes and cigars.  Also ‘Jack’s’ wife died of lung cancer but she didn’t smoke.  All in all the person I saw it with and me had a hoot watching this.  The style and the caricatures of the late night cast were so much fun to watch.  A thumbs up from me.


  • Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World   Radu Jude (ROM; 2023)

    Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World   Radu Jude (ROM; 2023) Ilinka Manolache

    Viewed Film Forum NYC 18th March 2024; ticket $14

    one fast lady

    In the opening sequence of Jude’s ‘Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World…’ (DNETM) we see protagonist Angela awakened by her alarm, getting up, walking out of frame to visit the toilet returning naked into frame and getting dressed. We see a core and quintessentially human aspect of life represented in her slow movements out of sleep, out of her nakedness into her clothes. These few moments at the start of Angela’s day are simply a prelude to her entrapment in a life as a slave of turbocharged capitalism subject to the accelerating forces of economic materialism.

    Jude is using film to expose in particular the squalor of existence in contemporary Romania, but in general laying bare the ugly reality of life and work in the 21st century global economy dominated by a small number of huge companies. But like Godard, Jude makes films to have fun, unconstrained by the ridiculous production demands of story spectacle and spookies. He just has something to say. Jude’s DNETM is scripted from a particular political space, a space of joyously seeing through the bullshit lies and hypocrisy characteristic of this society.

    Jude’s film unequivocally depicts life in post communist Romania where the diktat of Capitalism shapes people’s daily experiences penetrating their psychic responses to society and the world around them; the substitution of the hammer and sickle by Coca Cola et al, the sudden destabilising collapse of Romanian notional ‘collective’ ownership and its replacement by ‘Corporate’ entities.

    Life mutilation death – everything’s a racket.

    DNETM has a structure that in writing is complex to describe. But film’s strength as a medium is the possibility of using its resources: juxtaposition, insertion, superimposition, split image and track, montage, text etc. to create the transmission of homogenous communication, to suggest linkage and understanding by simple manipulation of these inputs. DNETM’s structure intercuts the main story of Angela’s day (shot in black and white, with a look suggestive of a comic strip) in which she is working on a ‘safety at work video’ being made by a Bucharest film production company; with a 1981 Romanian movie (shot in soft colour suggesting a feminine aura) about a woman taxi driver (also called Angela); and with protagonist Angela’s ‘TikTok’ alter ego as misogynist Andrew Tate. These sections are further intercut with Jude’s own collection of quotes and a montage comprising the memorial crosses of some of the hundreds killed in car crashes on one specific road in Romania.  

    Before thinking about Jude’s use of the parallel stories of the two Angelas, it’s interesting to look at the contrast between his scripting of Katia in ‘Bad Luck Banging’ and Angela’s scenario in DNETM. In ‘Bad Luck..’ Katia walks through Bucharest. She walks, one foot in front of another. Her walk is permeated by her anxiety and interspersed with taking and making mobile calls. It’s not an easy walk because she has been summoned to attend the school where she teaches to explain her behaviour. But it’s a walk for all that; the pace is human and the life in the city is seen and experienced, allowing her to interact with the streets and the people. Cut to DNETM. No one walks. Life has accelerated. Angela drives. Everyone drives. The car has become a crucible in which the drivers are subjected to concentrated alchemical forces that transform them into human ‘gold’ for their masters. The roads and highways Angela navigates become vectors of intensity in which passage is characterised by the alternation of juddering advance and ferocious acceleration. Driving is dehumanised. It’s a Hobbesian war of all against all, a parody of Capitalism itself.   To drive is an endless battle with the road other vehicles other drivers the weather and fatigue; for Angela it’s punctuated by the casual vicious sexist snarls spat at her out by male drivers as they pull up alongside her in the traffic.

    The other distinct difference between the experience of Jude’s two female leads, Katia and Angela, is that throughout Bad Luck Banging, Katia is engaged in a constant dialogue/debate about her behaviour and how she should be seen and judged. For Angela there’s no debate. She may rebel against it in internalised violent self hating, but her position of one of complete menial subservience, she exists to either obey or engage in demeaning but self aware protective self censorship. Angela retains an essential humanity despite having the shit kicked out of her, but it’s difficult to see how she can avoid slipping down into the black hole of Bucharest’s engained sexism and its drug of self induced nihilistic indifference.

    Back to cars for a moment. Except for Jude’s long last shot, in the main part of the film the force field of the automobile dominates Jude’s black and white visuals. DNETM is a sort of road movie. Road movies in the American tradition usually have something to do with ego, with a testing of the absolute limits of self as an experiential subject. Predictably US road films usually end with death, as the protagonists run out of road and there is no where left for ego to go. In contrast Iranian road movies are characterised as extensions of the self, the automobile used as a device for reaching out to and finding others, an expanding of the boundaries of ego. Jude’s movie is the antithesis of this.  Fuelled by demented Capitalism drivers are trapped in a self referential nightmare where they experience the phantoms and spectres of their own distorted anxiety and terror.  

    The intercutting by Jude of an 1981 Romanian movie about a woman taxi driver gives the contrast. Jude is no apologist for Ceausescu’s regime, its oppression and its gratuitous acts of destruction, but in this period Romania had not moved into the stage of late capitalist acceleration. The car had not become a trap. In this section for its female driver Angela, her car, the taxi, is simply a means to make a living. She is subjected to casual male sexism, but the sexist comments aren’t screamed obscenities. They are more suggestive and in a form that can at least broker dialogue. The pace of the human interactions, of the movement of the taxi about the city, are shot in mellow colour signifying a gentler more forgiving emotional and physical environment than the present day black and white comic strip. The language in the 1981 movie is mediated by observation and dialogue; in the main section of DNETM language is mostly reduced to manipulation or particularly in the TikTok alter ago section, to expressive destructive misogynist violence.

    My feeling is that Jude overloads his film, there is too much content, content that is overly repetitive and in repetition loses cogency. His constant stream of ‘quotes’ sometimes indicate a desire to show off his cleverness. But these are personal judgements. It may be that this excess of content is related to Jude’s intention to subject his audience to an ‘experience’ in the film itself. This is exemplified in the long last shot of some perhaps 25 minute duration (?), in which a man in a wheelchair accompanied by his family, is filmed recounting his industrial injury for the work safety video. Of course as the subject and his family are put through the mill, we see that the filming is a dishonest manipulative fraudulent exercise. The man in the wheelchair is a poor innocent sap ripe for exploitation. So during this section, which is rather scrappily played out, the audience is subjected to a similar long enervating experience to that of the group being filmed.

    Like it or not we get to understand something of what it is like to be screwed in Romania today.

    adrin neatrour


















  • Perfect Days     Wim Wenders (2023; Ger/Jap)

    Perfect Days     Wim Wenders (2023; Ger/Jap)  Koji Yakusho

    viewed Tyneside Cinema Newcastle 27 Feb 2024; Ticket £11.75

     No pun intended

    To begin at the ending. Third shot from the end of ‘Perfect Days’ is a long close up of protagonist Hirayama’s face seen through the reflecting images on the windscreen of his little cleaning van as he drives through Tokyo.  In the shot his face goes through a number of different acted out contortions as if wanting to express in this one take a condensed accelerated series of facial images representing the spectrum of both the emotions and aging.  The shot is overlaid with Nina Simone singing ‘Feeling Good’ recorded in 1965, the last of the classic 60’s and 70’s tracks featured throughout the film. The Simone song, like the other tracks represent Wenders’ abandonment of exposition for the sake of exploitation, music used as a direct line into the vein of the audience experience to manipulate their experience of the film, and ‘Feel Good.’  Feel Good just like Wenders.  

    Wenders’ decision to make ‘Perfect Days’ seems closely related to his well known admiration for Japanese film maker Ozu about whom he made a circumspect documentary in 1985.  Ozu’s films are what could be called quiet propositions.  The scenarios mostly comprise long takes in which we see the action from a particular position.  Ozu’s narratives, such as  in Tokyo Story, whilst they have dynamic traction seem less central to the films than their structure and the ordering of the shifting and instable social relations that underlie the scripts.  Ozu’s particular way of shooting his films use the seen to reveal the unseen, what is seen by the camera points to the unseen, the emotional substrate underlying the surface of life.  There is no manipulation, no judgement, no direct representation of meaning, simply exposition. A series of shots that ask the audience to move beyond the presenting lucidity of the image.

    Wenders’ opening focuses on his central character Hirayama and the round of actions and activities that comprise the way that he lives.  His getting up in the morning routine, starting his little van and setting out for his work as an itinerant cleaner of public lavatories.  Nodding in Ozu’s direction  ‘Perfect Days’ through Hirayama’s daily round shows something both of contemporary urban Tokyo and the way people live in this city; the small dramatic subplot involving Hirayama’s runaway niece opens up something about his past his character and the forces that might underlie his choice of a particular way of life. 

    But as the film develops its momentum the weight of the material shifts from the dilation of the richness in the detail of the everyday to the contraction of the film into emotional impoverishment, the reduction of the material to a sentimental nostalgia.  In the opening section of the film when Hirayama sets off to work he puts one of his tapes into the van’s cassette deck which blasts out the 60’s hit by the Animals ‘ The House of the Rising Sun.’  As his film progresses Wenders increasingly features Hirayama playing his music, almost exclusively the sort of British and American tracks that are redolent and characteristic of a certain spirit of the 1960s’ – Brown Eyed Girl, Dock of the Bay, Sunny Afternoon and of course Perfect Day.

    As the music plays it has an increasingly dominating effect that exerts emotive control over ‘Perfect Days’.  The music becomes overwhelming.  It is as if Wenders’ intention is to pitch us back into a mythic era when the sun shone on the top ten hits and the voices carried a message of hope.  A golden time that of course that never was but in which we might like to lose ourselves if we accept to drink from the director’s golden but addled chalice.  As one character comments: “Why can’t things just stay the same…?”   As a line from Wenders’ script it isn’t just  nostalgia that takes over and dominates the scenario, it is in particular, Wenders’ nostalgia. 

    In some respects ‘Perfect Days’ is a shadowy film.  Interpolated throughout the film are self contained sequences depicting the purely optical: fusions of the reflection and refraction of shadow: the play of light and darkness.  These sequences may depict Hirayama’s vision but in themselves are a core element of the Japanese aesthetic, the transient and the natural.  But as discrete clips detached from the natural world these shadow sequences lose their aesthetic validity, the essential imminence of the world.  They are not seen; they are viewed.  Perhaps one ‘shadow sequence’ might have had a particular strong effect.  Repeated a number of times throughout the film they become devices to represent an idea to Western audiences, a shadow of the actual.  And there is another shadow that interpenetrates the film: the shadow of Wenders.

    What seems to be happening in ‘Perfect Days’ is that Wenders (perhaps in a perfect daze)  has surreptitiously inserted himself as the main character in the film.  As the film develops scene by scene Wenders substitutes himself for Hirayama until in that final shot with Nina Simone singing ‘Feeling Good’ there is no Hirayama left only his outer form.  Hirayama’s essence has been sucked out completely devoured by the shadow of Wenders who so disguised proceeds to regale and seduce us with his yearnings for simpler times. ‘Perfect Days’ becomes by default a psychic vampire movie.

    adrin neatrour


  • The Zone of Interest   Jonathon Glazer (UK/Pol; 2023)


    The Zone of Interest   Jonathon Glazer (UK/Pol; 2023) Christian Friedel, Sandra Hueller

    viewed 13 Feb 2024 Tyneside Cinema; ticket £11.75

    tricks of the trade

    Following a long durational shot of a dark blank screen, we hear the sound of bird song as the film’s opening images depict a series of riverside shots of an idyllic summer’s day. An ordinary family, mother father and their young children are enjoying a leisurely picnic before heading back home. We are in the world of normality.

    Home we discover is Commandant Hoess’ house situated hard by the wall of Auschwitz l where he lives with his wife Hedwig and their five children.

    Jonathon Glazer has chosen to make a film about Auschwitz some 80 years on from its existence. Auschwitz is the site of mass murder. If its invocation comprises no more than a background for situational melodrama or if it’s exploited as an exercise in intellectual or artistic posturing, then you join the legions of those who profit from the betrayal of the dead.

    Film makers (and of course by extension those using other media) laying claim to the good faith of their Auschwitz project need courage knowledge and a commitment to truth, even if it’s difficult or inconvenient to represent. At this point when research histories and accounts of Auschwitz have generated multiple layers of analyses insights and explanations relating to the Nazi’s industrialisation of death, there should be some compelling moral imperative driving the movie, perhaps something urgent to say.

    ‘The Zone of Interest’ (“The Zone’) comes across as a project grounded in Hannah Arendt’s account of the Eichmann trial in 1961. It looks like Glazer has taken Arendt’s oft cited phrase about Eichmann as representing “…the banality of evil” and used this idea as the basis of his scenario. Arendt’s concept of the banality of bureaucratic evil has in itself has been subject to very critical review. Be that as it may, the idea that many people whilst perpetrating murderous atrocities are quite able  to lead parallel ‘normal’ lives is now a sociological trope: the compartmentalisation of roles. Glazer doesn’t take his script beyond this idea with which we are now well familiar from Nazi Germany (Goebbels) through to multiple exemplars in the American wars in Vietnam Afghanistan etc. ‘The Zone’ takes its cue from a borrowed concept, one element of Arendt’s characterisation of Eichmann. Without holding it out to further inspection, Glazer is satisfied to express repetition of idea rather than conceptual urgency. And in these times we need urgency, not self satisfaction.

    Locked into a concept that may well be played out, Jonathan Glazer’s film aims no higher than the cool rendering of the banality of evil. Film as a putative enactment of the home life of Hoess and his wife Hedwig in the ‘death camp’ location. Tastefully shot, a mapping rather than a narrative, ‘The Zone’ communicates as a walk through installation complete with little courtesy stops to allow the audience to assimilate the co-existence of both everyday life and murderous evil in the course of the house’s daily routine. Alongside the river visits, the celebration of birthdays, the planning of holidays, housewives’ gossip we pause to see Hoess order his new more efficient gas chambers and Hedwig indulge her venal greed in acquiring the expensive possessions of those Jews murdered and incinerated by her husband.

    Glazer marks his film with particular signifiers of authenticity: the dialogue is in German, and the furniture clothing and other meticulous detailing are all evidential of ‘the period’. These outer signs are of course central to the representational but not to moral claims of ‘The Zone’. They obviously work as standard filmic accoutrements, as does the soundtrack representing the constancy of the evil emanating from the Auschwitz l. The issue is that the more effort filmmakers concentrate on representational authenticity, the greater the work that is needed to imprint a moral core in the material. When image is dominant in a stream of communication it crowds out anything other than the simplest message. Advertisers know that after a series of beautiful shots designed to fill out and engender positive associative connections, all that is needed to condition the audience’s consciousness is a one word strap line: Apple – Samsung – Toyota. When compelling images have associative connections or qualities making a claim on truth they overwhelm the capacity of mind to question. Authenticity of image in itself can induce a moral deficit which as Glazer’s film progressed became more evident.

    Glazer’s script relating to the authenticity of his characters has one highly questionable moment. It’s known that Hoess (perhaps from his autobiography which I haven’t read) had a least one Jewish lover from Auschwitz: the film duly but obliquely documents this. But there is also one similar oblique scene suggesting that Hedwig was partial to take on sex with her Polish house gardeners. This suggestion is at odds both with everything we are shown about Hedwig (“They call me the Queen of Auschwitz”) her beliefs and behaviour, and with the self image of Nazi wives. It does not ring true; it lacks palpable credibility. The script has moved out of the realm of period re-enactment into the realm of acting out contemporary social mores. Hedwig’s moment feels like Glazer’s sop to the feminist sensibilities of contemporary audiences. The scene is a statement that he is ‘cool’ about sexual equality to the extent of retrofixing Hedwig with her own ‘date’ so she is not outdone by her husband’s infidelity. This ‘false’ event suggests that one of Glazer’s prime concerns is to add lustre to his own self image, to ingratiate himself with the audience by flattering them with anachronistic sensibilities.

    ‘The Zone’ is intercut with a number of sequences presented in an other worldly colourisation, in contradistinction to the flat realism of the main shoot.   These sequences depict in contradistinction to the evil of the main characters, the compassion of a young woman trying to hide apples in the environs of the camp so that they may be found by starving workers. The sequences are mute but overlaid with voice over telling the story of Hansel and Gretel, a fairy tale with a gruesome but just ending. The logic for employing such a stylistic differentiation in these cutaway sequences isn’t clear. The effect is similar to the pool shots in Glazer’s ‘Under the Skin’, but different in that those shots were a continuity of the action, whereas the ‘little girl’ story lies outside ‘the installation’ scenario. In both cases the edited effects are a resort to spectacle. This works well on its own terms in ‘Under the Skin’, but in ‘The Zone’ came across as a debasement of integrity.   Glazer has chosen to prioritize the spectacle of image over the claims of compassion and understanding, form over content, design over intent, overwhelming the viewers’ attention with visual display. Consequently these colourised sequences function like an advert for something or other than no one really understands, but which somehow stake a claim on the audience’s attention to being important.

    At the end of ‘The Zone’ Glazer intercuts his last shots of Hoess leaving the ‘final solution conference’, with scenes from today at the Auschwitz Museum. We see a series of shots: its gas chamber and its contemporary display cabinets piled high with the detritus of mass murder: suitcases shoes etc. We see local Polish women engaged in the cleaning of these spaces. The intention of inserting these contemporary shots of Auschwitz is unclear. If Glazer had only shown the Auschwitz display cabinets evidencing ‘The Horror’, these shots would have pasted into ‘The Zone’ the actuality of what was happening behind the camp walls. ‘The Zone of Interest’ that we saw outside Hoess’ house was the screened off reality of the warped psyches of the participants which conditioned and defined them. Filming Auschwitz with the women cleaners at work loads the shots with alternative meanings. Is Glazer making a feminist comment that women’s work is never done? That Polish women had moved from being cleaners in the Nazi Hoess household to being cleaners in the Auschwitz museum, from serving the Germans to serving the remains of the Jews? Is Glazer pointing to the ironic consequences of Auschwitz becoming a site of mass tourism where the press of visitors gazing on all that remains of Hoess’ kingdom of genocide need an army of cleaners to sweep up after them? Both these ideas, even if unintended, are implicit readings of the shots. But perhaps this section of ‘The Zone’ was simply Glazer’s solution to the ending to his film.   Perhaps he felt the need to sign off ‘The Zone’ with a token contemporary, but ambiguous reference to Auschwitz today, thereby indicating that he was in a cool but unspecific post-modernist way, alert to all possible readings of the death camp.

    With or without the cleaners the shots of the Auschwitz seem the inevitable place to finish for a film that embraces itself as an arts project rather than a moral project. A walk through movie that is ultimately vacuous but exploits tasteful authentic period repro, spectacle and ambiguity to convince some audiences that they have experienced a rare insight into the ‘banality of evil’.

    An Auschwitz film today either has to propose another way of seeing or extend the material out into the world as it is now. ‘The Zone of Interest’ does neither of these. Revisiting familiar ground Glazer has filled out ‘The Zone’ with clever tricks of the trade, his film echoing the banality of evil with the banality of film making.  

    adrin neatrour









  • Scum       Alan Clarke – writer, Roy Minton (UK; 1979; 15)

    Scum       Alan Clarke writer – Roy Minton (UK; 1979; 15) Ray Winston, Mick Ford, Julian Firth, John Blundell

    viewed Star and Shadow Cinema 8th Feb 2024; ticket £7.00

    raw porridge

    Alan Clarke’s ‘Scum’ feels like the result of a close collaboration with writer Roy Minton. It’s a situational drama that was one of the last in a line of social realist plays commissioned by the BBC. These productions such as Loach’s ‘Cathy Come Home’ were produced periodically through the ‘60s and 70’s and undercut the comforting messages usually projected about British Society and its institutions. Viewers were presented different perspectives of the forces at work in our culture so that the vacuous policy rationales of the governing bureaucracies were exposed through the scarifying experiences of the people who were the objects of state intervention.

    Of course ‘Scum’ as commissioned by the BBC was banned from transmission and not aired by them until some 8 years later. As an act of defiance and protest the Clarke/ Minton team proceeded to garner finance and make a feature film with a script that was slightly different from the BBC play but encoded with the same working premise: the corruption of prison institutions where relations based on force engender not just the abuse of power but the cynical abuse of power. Interestingly the successors to the British social realist movement were in some ways satirical TV shows such as ‘Spitting Image’ in which the actions words and intentions of ruling elites were exposed for their hypocracy and seen by the audience through puppetry’s magnifying glass, these distorted images of the politicians seemed to signal the diseased nature of their souls.

    ‘Scum’ has a core singularity of logic. The script is a mathematical equation expressing the whole of the Borstal regime as the sum of its relations of violence. The disturbing intra-trainee relations of dominance as first suffered by Carlin and then correspondingly exploited by him as the new ‘Daddy’; the taxing of the small vulnerable, the vicious racism and the rape are recorded by Clarke’s unblinking camera and linked by Minton’s script to the ethos of fear and intimidation governing the behaviour of the staff towards the inmates. Each new arrival greeted with a vicious slap to the face accompanied by the warning that there is more where that came from if there is any stepping out of line. And of course the whole system of fear is underpinned by the implementation of the ‘rule book’ by the Borstal governor so that it reinforces and abets the savagery of the system by imposing arbitrary punishment for any alleged infraction. The Governor’s overarching objective is to use the objectification of force to contain the institution so that to an outside observer the prison looks like it is running along on the smooth wheels of rectified justice: those compliant with their sentences learn useful lessons; the non compliant are made to learn. All anyone learns is that in a closed system based on sadism and brutality there is no justice: only survival for the stronger, disaster for the weaker.

    Minton’s script is founded in research of Borstal experience. Some might argue that the film is to some extent a parody, meaning that it takes the extreme end of the Borstal experience spectrum as its exclusive material. But of course since the making of ‘Scum’ which coincided with the abolition of the Borstal system, more sinister and disturbing accounts have emerged about the running and management of these institutions which the more deeply implicate the staff not just in running and maintaining regimes of terror but in direct sexual exploitation of ‘the boys’. “Who’s the daddy?” The use of the inmates by the staff for their own sexual gratification was a place that even the condensation of Minton’s script didn’t visit.

    In a sense more disturbing than the depiction of violence as the medium of control was the cynicism that was the psychic handmaiden of the Borstal regime. The gap that existed between the idealised expressed order of the rules and objectives of the the regime, and the actual manner in which the place was run, was filled by cynicism.

    And like the violence the cynicism was top down filtration, the well spring being the Governor. The justification of the terrible transgressions by the staff: punishing victims, their sanctioning rape theft vicious beatings, was accompanied by claims that these were character building, chances for lessons to be learnt etc. rather than admittance that this was the system. The lead player in the gratuitous use of officialese is the helmsman, the Borstal Governor whose recourse to cynical justification for his ‘punishment’ of trainees put on report, was an exercise in plausible deniabilty and practiced political manipulation that set the example for staff and trainees alike.

    The centrality of cynicism depicted in ‘Scum’ to the psychic structure of Borstal puts the script at the forefront of exposing the political response systems as they have developed during the later years of the last century and the subsequent the arrival of social media. Of course cynicism has always been at the expressive core of political institutions and bureaucracy. It lay at the heart of the colonial mentality in particular in the 1920’s and 30’s. But it was often hidden: newspapers and other news outlets, radio and TV normally drew a veil over the underlying duplicity of statements by principal state actors. But first satirical programmes opened up this mainline artery leading to the dishonest heart of governance and today with the scepticism induced by social media dialogue, suspicion of cynicism is a rife element in political debate. A feeling reinforced by interviews with today’s politicians who on TV and radio, defending their particular policies sound ever more familiar, ever more kin to the Minton’s Governor in ‘Scum’.

    adrin neatrour











  • Poor Things   Yorgos Lanthimos (UK; 2023)

    Poor Things   Yorgos Lanthimos (UK; 2023) Emma Stone, Ramy Youssef; Willem Defoe

    viewed Tyneside Cinema 13 Jan 2024; ticket £11.75

    Duck Soup

    Poor Things   Yorgos Lanthimos (UK; 2023) Emma Stone, Ramy Youssef; Willem Defoe

    viewed Tyneside Cinema 13 Jan 2024; ticket £11.75

    Duck Soup

    In making ‘Poor Things’ Yorgos Lanthimos has directed a film that expresses a key feature of the times, the spectacle of narcissism. ‘Poor Things’ is a persuasive pervasive spectacle woven into the very stuff of contemporary experience – the self absorbing nature of today’s lifestyles, exemplified by social media in which the private transmutes into the public. Lanthimos’ film exploits the commodification of the self but has abandoned the critical edge that characterised earlier work such as the ‘The Killing of the Sacred Deer’.     

    For Lanthimos the settings of his scenarios have always played a significant and/or prominent part in the design of his movies.  In ‘The Killing of the Sacred Deer’ the spaces representing contemporary USA are signifiers of his thematic concerns. The manner in which he filmed the suburbs, the hospital, home interiors were intrinsic to his satiric theme of the intrinsic impersonality of this culture. We are shown the emptied out spaces, vacuous and devoid of meaning in which the black comedy of an ‘all American’ ritual death is played out.  The fusion of setting and theme was central to the concept underlying the ‘Sacred Deer’ script.  

    With his production of ‘The Favourite’ Lanthimos exploits relations in an historical context to play out some tropes of today’s oppositional gender politics. The drama takes place in an English Country House and its environs. But despite, or perhaps because of Lanthimos’ camera work with its long internal tracks and his use of wide angle distorting fish eyed lens, the setting never amounts to more than a backdrop. It serves simply as an authentic looking feed into the anachronistic script. The long galleries the wainscoted chambers the high ceiling salons play no part in the psychic dynamic of the film. His three principal characters are as detached from the film’s setting as a visiting tourist. The featured Country Pile has high background value, prominence but not significance.

    Like ‘The Favourite’, Lanthimos’ ‘Poor Things’ is a retro-temporal piece. It uses a vaguely depicted nineteenth century as a canvas upon which to project its female protagonist Bella’s proto-feminist career.   Unlike ‘The Favourite’ in ‘Poor Things’  Lanthimos fuses theme and sets but not in a manner in which they offset each other critically, but rather so that they work togather to uncritically support the conceits of the times. The sets are shop windows, display areas characteristic of a film that empties itself out as spectacle. As in department stores or adverts for fancy soap, the sets exist solely to promote the product on the centre stage; product which in this case is Bella. Bella – woman commodified as a feminist icon.

    In the manner of a large number of contemporary films ‘Poor Things’ scenario comprises one thing after another. The scenes follow on from each other with quick fire delivery. A product of Baxter’s experiments, Bella has been implanted with the brain of her own in utero child. As Bella matures she decides to move out of Baxter’s house (which is also his lab and surgery where he conducts Dr Moreau type experimentation – it would seem by and large with happier results) going off with libertine Duncan to various ports of call before ditching him and ending up in a Parisian brothel.   Using similar camera techniques as in ‘The Favourite’ the fish eye lens zooms and tracks, each of these locations is a showcase for advertising Bella’s development from naïve child to self loving woman. In a culture of narcissism spectacle has a particular rationale in its justification and legitimation of the individual.

    In ‘Poor Things’ narcissism and spectacle are inextricably linked as dominant forces within the contemporary matrix. Both narcissism and spectacle work to blur differentiation between the public and the private sphere. Through the projection of social media life can be lived out as a sort of spectacle where the self exists in a social matrix where things have value only in relation to the attention they attract. The price paid for the primacy of attention is the reduction of life to the simplistic criteria of one dimensionality. And Lanthimos’ characters in ‘Poor Things’ all flaunt their uni-dimensional cartoon type representations. As such we can have no investment in them other than as types, in a similar way to characters in superhero movies.

    As a quest movie scripted in the key of narcissism, ‘Poor Things’ shares some striking features with David Finch’s ‘The Killer’. Both movies feature self obsessed protagonists who canter through their respective scripts experiencing only self vindication and the validation of success: their brilliant careers. Without self doubts or serious obstacles the scripts of these respective movies celebrate an unconditional triumphalism. In ‘Poor Things’ Lanthimos’ scenario vindicates the arrogance of narcissism and and celebrates a world in which hubris has no consequences.

    adrin neatrour






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