Wednesday, 30 December 2009


The White Ribbon concerns the inhabitants of the German village of Eichwald, in the period preceding World War One. The village is clearly led by three patriarchs. The pastor reduces his children to penance-seeking zealots, punishing them for minor transgressions and tying white ribbons of ‘purity’ to them to remind them of their immorality. The doctor subjects both his daughter and housekeeper to sexual humiliation, while maintaining a good rapport with many of the other villagers. The despotic baron and lord of the manor shows no mercy to his workers. Suddenly, the village is beset by a series of dramatic incidents – the doctor is thrown from his horse, the manor barn is set on fire, the pastor’s canary is killed. Through struggling to piece the mystery together, the local schoolteacher soon learns that the pastor’s punishments have not gone without consequence.

Showered with praise upon its release, The White Ribbon is a slow-burning masterwork, the images of which will remain with the viewer for a lifetime. True to form, director Michael Haneke forebodes the real drama with short, disquieting scenes (such as the discussion Anni has with her little brother about the inevitability of death), as well as that most famous of Haneke mainstays, the unpopulated fixed-camera shot. Those who had doubted his film style before may feel the need for re-evaluation here – while it is no less shocking than the rest of his canon, there is a sense of artistic maturity here, the film often echoing Bergman and Reitz.


Widowed by a horrific car accident, Alice Hyatt decides to pursue the singing career she had kept on hold for her marriage. Taking her son Tommy with her, she sells off her personal effects and travels to Phoenix, Arizona, working evenings as a chanteuse in a sleazy bar. It is here that she meets the younger Ben, who seduces her into a turbulent affair. As it becomes clear to Alice that he is the last man she needs, she ups sticks once again for Tucson, where she takes a job as a waitress. Though initially mistrustful of her new surroundings, she settles into the fabric of the community and begins to warm to frequent customer David. The two embark upon an uncertain relationship, and Alice is left once again to ponder her future.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is that rarity: a cinematic masterpiece with commercial appeal. Scorsese’s direction is outstanding, the handheld camerawork doing nothing to interrupt Alice’s unstoppable journey. Ellen Burstyn, rewarded with an Oscar for her efforts, does a superb job of portraying a woman suddenly liberated from her domestic duties, particularly as she was simultaneously shooting The Exorcist. Alice is an unusual character, a childish tearaway confined by the adult responsibility of a family. Her relationship with son Tommy, a precocious yang to her yin, keeps her spirits up throughout the film, and spawns some brilliantly sarcastic exchanges: “Life is short.” “So are you.” Look out for a particularly masculine Jodie Foster as Tommy’s friend Audrey.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


Exploring the more sordid side of the Pashto film industry, Wild Scenes talks with some of Pakistan’s best known actors and filmmakers, as well as some devout religious dissenters. The ‘wild scenes’ in question are soft-porn sequences in which female dancers essentially lapdance the camera, often fully clothed. Some of the scenes are surprisingly erotic considering the industry is founded on Islamic values. Filmmaker Nasim Khan, while dismissive of the overall vulgarity of modern Pashto films, is particularly flabbergasted by these scenes and typifies the negative reaction which brought this documentary about. Another director, the appropriately named Anjum Pervez, argues that these scenes would not be so popular were the Pashto people not in conflict with their own value systems.

The documentary tantalises the viewer throughout with brief snippets from these ‘wild scenes’, but wisely spends most of its short running time discussing their cultural and societal impact. Pervez brings up the interesting point that almost all cinema attendants in Pakistan are male, painting the industry as some sort of inflated boys’ club (note titles such as The Pen and the Kalashnikov), and all the males interviewed for the film acknowledge some sort of religious guilt to enjoying. Though one gets the feeling that more could have been produced from such scandalous subject matter, director and journalist Akram Zadiq does a respectable and fair job of profiling modern-day Pakistan, and also encourages Western moviegoers to question the complexities of film censorship, and the hypocrisy surrounding sex and violence on screen.

Friday, 25 December 2009

a merry christmas to you all!

Well, the year is almost out! Thanks to everyone who has popped round to the blog for a quick read, you've made me very happy and keen to carry on. At the start of next year, I'm hoping to begin one or two other blogs relating to film and music, so keep an eye out for those...

Once again, thanks readers, you've been absolutely awesome! Merry Christmas, happy holidays and see you guys in the new year!


Opening with a promising meditative shot of the protagonist, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 follows the story of Ricky, younger brother of the murderous Billy from the first installment. Having committed a string of murders, Ricky languishes in a mental institute awaiting trial. Speaking with his psychiatrist, he begins to tell his own story, explaining to some extent his motives for carrying on his brother’s dirty work. Despite being a baby at the time, he somehow recalls his parents’ murder at the hands of a man in a Santa outfit, a grisly affair which had been the trigger for Billy. Ricky goes on to lose his new foster parents too, and somehow inherits Billy’s ‘naughty or nice’ murder mechanism, going out on a killing spree to avenge his brother’s death.

It’s a wonder how this sequel managed to cost more than its predecessor, given that it donates considerable time to ‘recapping’ the previous entry. Even more wondrous is how Ricky managed to remember so much of the first film, given that he was in it for all of two seconds. Lead actor Eric Freeman’s performance is marvellously over-the-top, producing some wonderful scenes such as the infamous “Garbage Day!” scene (link posted below). The saddest thing is that the filmmakers – and the actors, natch – clearly thought they were doing a great job with this sequel, given the histrionics of the screenplay. Needless to say, they were sorely mistaken – this sits up there (down there?) with Troll 2 and The Room.