30 October 2006

Dream Double Bill # 17 ‘Martin’ and ‘The Addiction’

Or my personal thoughts on two films portraying modern day Vampires in America.

For the purpose of today’s Vampire Blog-a-thon I decided to put some thoughts down on what I consider to be the two most interesting modern day Vampire films.

‘Martin’ aka ‘Martin, the Vampire’ (British title)

Martin Madahas - “And that’s another thing about those movies; Vampires always have ladies, sometimes lots of ladies. Well that’s wrong too. You don’t need all that.”

Radio Talk Show Host “You don’t need all that?” [Laughs]

Martin – “No, you really don’t. I mean if the magic part was real and you could make ‘em do whatever you wanted to, well that would be different. In real life, in real life you can’t get people to do what you want them to.”

Martin may or may not be a Vampire. I don’t know it really matters to the viewer, certainly Tada Cuda (played by Lincoln Maazel in, according to IMDB his only ever film role) his elderly relative believes him to be one.

Martin appears to be lacking is the physical strength, charisma or fangs for a Vampire.
From earlier Vampire films we understand that garlic, exposure to the crucifix and the Vampires reflections are all things to be avoided, these do not seem to cause a problem for Martin at all. Nor does John Amplas who portrays Martin bear any resemblance to Bela Lugosi nor Max Schreck for that matter.

However he does however prefer to wear sunglasses during daylight, and lest I forget does have a taste for blood. Aside from this Martin, at least outwardly appears to be, what could be construed as a troubled young man, often seen spending long periods of time alone and without many friends. He is awkward in female company but through his errands develops a friendship and his first (for his partner) conscious sexual experience.

Is he a troubled loner or is he a 84 year old “Norsferatu” as Tuda asserts?
He confesses to a phone in radio show, whose presenter dubs him ‘The Count’ his penchant for blood. We see him sometimes melancholically kicking around the town of Braddock, PA, sometimes delivering groceries for Tada.

Tada -“Vampire! First I will save your soul, then I will destroy you!”

For me what struck me most about the film and why I liked it when I re-watched it again recently was this ambiguity, the tone of the film, the very mood of the film just comes together perfectly, I also like films that end unexpectedly. According to Romero it’s the favourite of all of his films..

It’s the concept of the acts rather than the visualisation which is so prevalent in modern horror films that is more shocking, contemplate if you will for a moment being drugged, feeling the needle pierce your body, you turn to Martin, as do his victims and he offers comfort by assuring you that you will not feel pain, will you even awaken? What is he going to do to you? For me at least that’s were the fear comes in and why it’s my favourite of all of Romero’s films too.

‘The Addiction’

I first saw this on its theatrical release hot on the heels of ‘The Funeral’. I still liken ‘The Funeral’ to ‘The Outsiders’ and ‘The Addiction’ to ‘Rumblefish’. Both were made and released back to back and the second films by both Coppola and Ferrara were both shot in crisp black white whilst their first and generally wider seen and better known shot in colour.

If ‘Martin’ gives us suburban America in the mid to late 70’s ‘The Funeral’ gives us early to mid 90’s Manhattan. The youth in ‘The Addiction’ is the urban street savvy, hassling Kathleen Conklin (Lili Taylor) and her friends on the street.

Whereas Martin doesn’t outwardly display signs of being a Vampire, philosophy student Kathleen has all the mirrors in her apartment covered up, she also has to wear sunglasses and in one beautifully lit sequence in the film when she steps out of college into the bright sunshine has to retract into the shadow immediately. If we are not sure if Martin is a Vampire we are certain that Kathleen is. Where Martin may be 84 and Romero uses flashback sequences to show him remembering being pursued, Kathleen is just beginning her new eternal life.

Kathleen – “What do you want from me?”

Piena – “No! What do you want from me? You came after me, you took my hand you tried to force me into some alley. Isn’t that how it went?

[Angrily] You think you understand things? You know nothing! You understand nothing!

I’ll show you what you are. I’ll teach you what hunger is.”

If Kathleen is the urbanite student victim turned predator then Piena is her newest teacher, of sorts. He provides amongst other things reference points in modern literature for her understanding of her new lifestyle, he also tells her that he has his hunger under control.

Kathleen [Voice over] – “There is a dull nature to the addiction. It satisfies the hunger which evil engenders but it also dulls our perceptions so we are helped to forget how ill we really are. We drink to escape the fact that we’re alcoholics. Existence is the search for relief from our habit and our habit is the only relief we can find.”

Nicholas St. John and Abel Ferrara brilliantly place this Vampire tale against a back drop of New York and layer it with the horrors of genocide, questions of philosophy, concerns about AIDS and issues around addiction. For it’s New York setting, Kathleen’s admissions to hospital and subsequent diagnosis or rather non-diagnosis of her Vampire condition make this a bizarrely almost realist take on the Vampire film genre. It is very different in my view from something like ‘The Lost Boys’ or ‘The Hunger’ or even ‘Near Dark’, It’s a great film, perhaps one of my favourites of Ferrara’s.

Sit back, relax and enjoy today’s double bill.

Go to Film Experience for full list of contributors to today’s blog-a-thon, link.
IMDB entry for Martin, link.
Wikipedia entry for Martin, link.
Locations used in Martin, link.
IMDB entry for The Addiction, link.

Wikipedia entry for Vampire fiction, link.
Wikipedia entry for Vampire, link.

Martin, written and directed by George A. Romero (1977).

The Addiction, written by Nicholas St. John, directed by Abel Ferrara (1995).

28 October 2006

Coming attraction: Lights in the Dusk

Last night I attended the LFF screening of 'Lights in the Dusk' (Laitakaupungin Valot), the third in a loose trilogy from Aki Kaurismäki. Sadly, owing a very slow tube I missed the start so I don't feel comfortable writing too much on this film. What I can tell you is that what I saw I enjoyed as much as the other Kaurismäki films I have seen.

Maria Järvenhelmi as Mirja and Janne Hyytiäinen as Koistinen in 'Lights in the Dusk'.

'Lights in the Dusk' deals with lonliness and isolation, the first in the loose trilogy; 'Drifting Clouds' (Kauas pilvet karkaavat) dealt with unemployment and the second and only other one I'd seen; 'The Man Without a Past' (Mies vailla menneisyyttä) dealt with homelessness.

After the screening, the lead actress who plays Mirja in the film (Maria Järvenhelmi) above with was briefly interviewed by critic Geoff Andrew, mostly about how she and Kaurismäki worked together on the film. The tone was quite light and not analytical with a few questions from the audience, most of which seemed to really enjoy the film. The sort of topics that were touched up included a discussion of Kaurismäki, according to Järvenhelmi, prefers to capture the shot in one take and scorns on improvisation. How he is against the anti-smoking lobby in Finland which is one of the reasons everyone seems to smoke in 'Lights after Dusk' and that he wants to make at least 20 features (he’s currently made 16).

My friend Neil, who attended the showing with me tells me the UK release will be in Spring/Summer 2007 so I will have to wait until then to catch the start of this film and see what I missed.

Maria Järvenhelmi and Geoff Andrew at last night's London Film Festival Screening of 'Lights in the Dusk'.

IMDB entry for 'Lights in the Dusk', link.
Listing on LFF website, link.
You Tube clips of part of the interview, here and here.

26 October 2006

Coming attraction: Kenneth Anger comes to London

Okay, I had completely missed this in the London Film Festival guide but Kenneth Anger will be at the National Film Theatre this Sunday to introduce; 'Fireworks', 'Rabbit's Moon', Scorpio Rising' and 'Kustom Kar Kommandos'.

Kenneth Anger at LFF, link.
A new film on Anger; 'Anger Me' is also showing as part of the LFF, link.

24 October 2006

Coming attraction: Hombre Kabuki

This looks like a very interesting short film, showing tonight and tomorrow as part of the London Film Festival's 'Nuggets' programme. It has already scooped a couple of awards when it was entered at other competitive film festivals, LFF is not a competitive film festival.
If you can't catch it there then it's showing at several other film festivals around the world, be interested to know what you think if you do happen to see it.


IMDB entry for Hombre Kabuki, link.
Listing on LFF website, link.
Official website for the production company, including trailer, other film festivals where Hombre Kabuki will show, link.

22 October 2006

Gene Tierney

Film and stage beauties # 15: Grace Adrian

Reverse reads:

A series of 54, No. 39, Grace Adrian.

A series of real photographs now being issued with Black Cat Medium Cigarettes. Carreras Ltd (ESTD 1788) Arcadia Works, London, England.

21 October 2006

Real Location # 4 - Vertigo

'Vertigo' is very much a film set in San Francisco, the city is intergral to the film. I had a spare few hours as was in town for a conference and managed to visit Mission Dolores, a Spanish mission in, more or less the downtown area of San Francisco. About a year ago I'd bought a copy of Nathaniel Rich's book 'San Francisco Noir' which I'd recommend to anyone. I suppose this is where the inspiration for my visit came from.
Inside the book lists some of the great Film Noir's made in San Francisco and some of their locations. As I had been to the city twice before I was keen to explore some different sights with what little spare time I had.

Mission Dolores itself as I hope the below sequence of photographs demonstrates really hasn't changed that much in the 48 years since the film was released. The trees are certainly a lot larger and they've changed the entrance but it's very easy to trace, as I did the scenes filmed in and around the mission with the exception of the grave where Madeleine Elster played by Kim Novak stands. This I had trouble finding, I think the very helpful young lady that worked in the gift shop on the day of my visit (last Saturday: 14th October) explained that there was a grotto, at least I believe that's what she called it, which has subsequently been removed. I was able to spot one headstone that is quite clearly identifiable in the film as a reference point.

Interestingly in Rich's book he states that the headstone of Carlotta Valdes constructed for the film stood for a further twenty years after the film was shot. The helpful lady did not know anything of this.

For those who remember this sequence in the film you'll remember that the cemetery is filled with flowers, roses specifically stood out in my mind. Last week, some roses were in bloom and although my camera could not match the outstanding Technicolor of the original film I was pleased to be able to spot a couple of landmarks and come close to creating a kind of then and now blog-scrap book.

Little did I realise that this had, in part been done before. Fellow film blogger Brian who run's the excellent 'Hell on Frisco Bay' pointed me to a wonderful site called 'Vertigo...then and now' which I thoroughly recommend, there are many more wonderful San Francisco locations to be checked out on this site, it's almost like you can do a tour without even having to go there and really see the locations as they were in the late 50's and as they are today.

Location: Mission Dolores, Dolores Street at Mission Street, San Francisco, California.

Below the information leaflet given to visitors about the history of the site.

Brian's Hell on Frisco Bay, link.
Vertigo - Then and Now, link.
IMDB entry for 'Vertigo', link.
Vertigo Movie Tour of San Francisco, link.
Book: San Francisco Noir by Nathaniel Rich, link.
Official website for Mission Dolores, link.
Wikipedia entry for Mission Dolores, link.

The entrance to Mission Dolores

The Chapel at Mission Dolores

The cemetery at Mission Dolores

20 October 2006

Coming attraction: NFT December

John Huston retrospective, part 2 including an extended run of 'The Dead'. On Friday 8th and Sunday 17th December they have 'Reflections in a Golden Eye', a film I caught by accident in Madrid where it was shown in 40 degree heat, no air conditioning, two subtitles and a very weird colour. 'Fat City' will show on Sunday 10th and Thursday 14th December, a film that hasn't been shown on British TV for quite a while.

Plus - Louise Brooks: The Transatlantic Lulu.

08 October 2006

Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Earlier this week I caught ‘Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait’. I was suitably impressed.

The perspective, the sense of space are distorted as the camera focuses entirely or maybe it was almost entirely on Zidane from multiple camera angles, the reason I can’t be sure is that the film often appears dream like, time appears suspended.
We are given several close ups, aerial views, views of hundreds of pixels on a television set; the action in this film is almost secondary. The use of sound further distances the viewer from how a regular match would be viewed, we have only very partial fragments of a commentary and whilst we hear what goes on in part inside the stadium from the crown for the most part the sound we hear seems to be emanating from the pitch itself, the thunder of boots as the players change direction, the thud as the ball is kicked, an occasional shout of “Hey!” In what I thought was a nice scene we hear what sounds like a football being kicked around in the streets, with dogs barking and the ball bouncing on the concrete, we are for that moment inside Zidane’s head. Short voice over segments are delivered from Zidane, memories are briefly shared.

I’d thought a real time portrait of a professional footballer would be constant movement, full exertion and scenes of athleticism on display. This film doesn’t really give us these things, the action is sporadic. Zidane is involved in the game but there appear to be times when his mind may be wandering, we see him gaze upward, the film makers cut to the flood lights atop the stadium, he pauses to pull his socks up again and as we see several times pulls them high as they’ll go and meticulously folds over the top or he will kick the front of his foot toward the grass in an almost schoolyard scuff-your-school shoes gesture and then suddenly, he’s in amongst the action again.

I’d classify myself as having only a slight interest in football, I like to play five a side for fun but have no real interest in attending live matches nor watch them when they are televised. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed this film so much, I fully admit to knowing nothing about the technical skill involved in professional football and what Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno show in ‘Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait’ is something so far removed from the TV coverage we are so familiar with, and this is why I think it’s a good film. I’d recommend it.

IMDB entry for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, link.
Earlier post with film poster artwork, link.

02 October 2006

Gene Tierney

Film and stage beauties # 14: Merle Oberon

Reverse reads:

A series of 54, No. 36, Merle Oberon.

A series of real photographs now being issued with Black Cat Medium Cigarettes. Carreras Ltd (ESTD 1788) Arcadia Works, London, England.

The Rex Cinema, Berkhamstead

"possibly Britain's most beautiful cinema..." BBC.

I was intruigued by this quote on the cover of the above film programme but not by their future presentation of 'Snakes on a Plane'. The interior does indeed look fantastic and the programme is very good too, showing a selection of older films as well as new releases including:

21st October - 'A Night at the Opera'
23rd October - 'Woman of the Dunes'
31st October - 'The Innocents'

The Rex Cinema, Berkhamstead, link.

Roald Dahl Museum

Costume worn by Johnny Depp in the Tim Burton version of 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and two of the life like little fellas from the film.

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, link.

01 October 2006


‘Water’ has just been released on DVD. This is third in Deepa Mehta’s trilogy after ‘Fire’ and ‘Earth’.

The film quickly shows us the harsh realities of life in 1930’s India when a young girl of seven is asked by her father if she remembers getting married. Not surprisingly the girl answers with bewilderment “No”. Her father goes on to explain that now she is a widow. “For how long?” asks the girl innocently not realising that society’s fate for her is to spend the rest of her life with other widows mourning.

As the above screen shot should illustrate widows have very little other than a life of self denial and social exclusion to look forward to. A political film, in the broadest sense Mehta does an excellent job at educating those, like me who were ignorant to the plight of how women were and still are treated in India and parts of Asia. In one scene in the film we learn that widows are offered three options; to be cremated with their husband, to, if the husbands family permits remarry the husbands younger brother or live the life on the outskirts of society.

As has been widely reported the production of this film was moved from India to Sri Lanka after a catalogue of protests, death threats to the film-makers and sabotage. I hadn’t seen the earlier two films either and 'Water' certainly works as it's own story.

I actually think it’s a film that has very broad appeal and will, I am sure will further highlight this cause.

Entry for 'Water' on IMDB, link.
'The politics of Deepa Mehta's Water' by Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan, article on Bright Lights Film Journal, link.
'India's Neglected Widow's' by Jill McGivering on BBC News, link.
Widows Rights International's website, link.

Coming attraction: The Departed

I think this has a simultaneous UK/US release.