Monday, 21 December 2015

merry christmas...

sorry for the short video this week, it's like christmas and stuff so i'm suddenly really busy. i am working on something a bit special for the next video so hopefully that will make up for it. if i'm honest saying 'see you next week' may have been a bit optimistic too as i'll be in devon with jack and my dad, but you never know...

hope you all have a fantastic christmas and thanks to everyone who has been watching this year! i have some exciting things planned for 2016!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

nekromantik 2

nekromantik 2 is jorg buttgereit’s more measured and somehow classier sequel to his cult hit nekromantik, if you can describe a film that uses a rotting penis on a plate as a plot device as classy.

the film opens with a ted bundy quote and then replays the final moments of the first film between the titles. i'm still not going to explain what happens to bob, the main character, at the end of the first film, you really need to see that for yourself. this time the story focuses on a young woman called monika (played by monika m.) who digs up bob’s body for sex, but things don’t really work out the way she hopes. infatuated with bob, she keeps his corpse around while she tries to figure out what’s missing. around the same time she meets a young man, mark, who dubs porn films for a living. they start a relationship, but mark soon begins to suspect that monika may be hiding something.

it’s really hard to describe the plot of nekromantik 2, because it could be argued that there almost isn’t one. certainly for the first half of the film i  t feels like this is more a series of moments than a story, but as the film progresses it becomes apparent that this is what buttgereit’s style has evolved into. nekromantik felt like being constantly slapped in the face, usually with something sticky and rotten. it was loud, brash and shocking, both in what was on screen and the way those images were presented. of course, it had its slow-moving, naturalistic moments too, there was a hint of how buttgereit would develop, but the style of film matched the shocking nature of the subject matter.

nekromantik 2 almost feels like it was made by another director. there these incredible camera moves, where the camera travels the length of a table in a smooth arc, for example, and there are also moments of extreme naturalism, where we watch characters go about their business in minute detail rather than cutting for pace. this naturalism carries over into the more disturbing scenes, and as a result dismembering a human corpse begins to feel like carving up a chicken or something equally mundane. it seems buttgereit wants us to feel like these people and this world are the most normal they can be, and by extension so is what they are doing. it’s slow-moving at first, but the film does have a rhythm to it that kind of works, so much so that when the pace does pick up at the end the speed of what is happening is almost as shocking as what we are watching. there is also very little dialogue in the film, and buttgereit does a great job of showing the development of a complex romance without words.

like the first film, there is a theme running throughout the piece of desensitisation. mark mentions at one point the ‘monotony of pornography’ because his day job has completely desensitised him to it. there is also a sequence in a cinema like the one in the first film, but while that film seemed more concerned with showing how desensitised the audience were to gore and horror, this time the characters are watching a kind of parody of an art film. the scene almost plays in exactly the same way as the scene in nekromantik, except mark and monika are clearly enjoying themselves. like bob in the first film, monika is not desensitised; she is open to everything and anything, it's just that the thing she really needs is just out of reach. there are times when it feels like monika genuinely likes mark, and that mark may even understand her secret, but then there are times when it feels like mark never stood a chance. their relationship has a reality and a heart to it that really makes it work.

while i missed the frenetic, punk energy of the first film, nekromantik 2 is still an engaging and fascinating work. despite the slow-pace of the film, there is a complexity to it that will hold your interest as well as moments of real beauty. this is my favourite type of horror film, because like dans ma peau or eraserhead it explores the horror of being human; the horror of living. monika is not presented as being particularly depraved, she’s simply one of us and how many of us have had thoughts and perhaps urges that we would rather the rest of the world didn’t know about? there is a bit of monika in all of us, and we should be thankful to buttgereit for showing us that.

it's also worth pointing out that the blu-ray is full of fantastic extras, including some really insightful interviews with buttgereit and his team in which they all come across as warm, lovely creative people. in case you hadn’t gathered, i really liked this film so if you haven’t seen it you should probably check it out.

nekromantik 2 is available now from arrow video on blu-ray and dvd in a 3-disc set that includes the cd soundtrack

Wednesday, 16 December 2015


i'm supposed to be reviewing the blu-ray of nekromantik 2, but i hadn't seen nekromantik so i thought i'd try to watch both. here's what i thought of the first one.

i had a bit of an idea of what i was in for. a few years ago, i realised i was about to spend the night of my twenty-second birthday alone, so i decided to watch der todesking. der todesking is a kind of portanteau horror film about suicide and violent death, so perfect for watching alone on your birthday. it includes a segment in which a man kills himself by bashing his head repeatedly into his bedroom wall. it's great.

nekromantic is by the same filmmaker, jorg buttregeit. it's also a film about death. it's about bob, a guy who works for a cleaning firm that specialises in disposing of dead bodies. bob steals a corpse from a crime scene, takes it home to his girlfriend, betty, and together they fuck with it, literally. but when bob loses his job and betty leaves him, he is forced to seek other ways to satisfy his urges.

it's a film about necrophilia, obviously. except, it's more than that. it's about sex, and the relationship between sex and love and dependency. bob seems to need betty to be involved in the necrophilia for it to work, whereas the film makes it quite clear that betty doesn't need bob, only a corpse. it's about nature and the fact that really we're all just rotting meat. at the same time it's about the miracle of nature and of being alive and at times is actually kind of life affirming.

it also had a bit about jesus that i didn't get. and there's a moment in which it seems to be either criticising horror movies or challenging them. that was the thing, the tone bounces around all over the place and i could never tell whether buttgereit wants us to take this seriously or not. there are definitely comedic moments, and contrasting moments of depravity and horror, and yet at the same time some of the sex scenes are filmed in a way that suggests what is happening is supposed to be beautiful. is this a filmmaker fucking with his audience? or is he making the point that whatever we do in the bedroom, it's all the same at the end of the day. would he be laughing at me right now for over-thinking it? or cursing me for not looking into it deeply enough?

i don't know. i think jorg buttgereit is perhaps the german lars von trier. i can never tell whether von trier is fucking with me either.

whatever it all means, it has to be said that nekromantic features one of the greatest endings of all time. never before have i been so gloriously shocked by a moment in a film. it's the kind of moment that you can't stop watching even though you really want to turn away from the screen. i loved it.

onto the second one...

Monday, 14 December 2015

a new leaf

a new leaf is a kind of alternative romantic comedy that on the surface seems completely innocent but underneath feels more than a little subversive.

walter matthau plays henry graham, a trust fund playboy who only exists to spend money, until he discovers he’s broke. when he confesses as much to his butler, harold (george rose), he is advised to seek a wife, preferably a rich one, so that harold may continue to be employed and henry can go along living the life he has become accustomed to. henry’s search leads him to henrietta lowell (played by the writer and director of the film, elaine may), a geeky, socially awkward botanist with a huge inheritance. henry decides that she is the one, he just has to figure out a way to marry her and then kill her so he can take her money.

a new leaf is based on the short story a green heart by jack ritchie, which was originally published in alfred hitchcock’s mystery magazine. i haven’t read the story and don’t know whether it’s similar in tone to the film, but there is something almost poe-esque about henry’s determination to kill henrietta. there is a darkness to this film that you kind of miss while watching it, because it all seems so light and absurd. and yet this is a film about a man who so can’t bear to live without money that he’s prepared to kill the most innocent, unassuming, inoffensive human being he can find. on the surface, however, this is a fun romantic comedy and there is something spectacular about the way the tone and the subject matter are so perfectly balanced.

the film was the writing and directing debut of elaine may, who had previously been part of a stand-up comedy duo with mike nichols. may would later direct three more features and worked on the scripts for films like heaven can wait, reds and primary colors. it’s amazing to think that here, with her first feature as a writer, she had the confidence not only to direct for the first time as well but also to star in the film. that the result is so unconventional and subversive is therefore doubly impressive.

what’s interesting is that for a film made by a woman in the 1970s, this is really a film about men. women don’t feature in henry graham’s life at all, and he makes it very clear that this is through choice. despite the lack of female characters in the film, the men do not come off particularly well. while may’s character is awkward and gullible, she is also depicted as incredibly intelligent when it comes to her profession, plus there’s a suggestion towards the end that perhaps she’s aware of more than she lets on. by comparison, matthau’s character is vain, shallow and heartless, and the other men in the film don’t come off much better. the sequence that opens this film perfectly sums this up, with henry talking about the problems with his vintage sports car with a friend who has similar problems with his vintage airplane. these are not the men who rule the world, but rather they are the sons of the men who ruled the world and they have nothing of value to add to society as a result. at the same time, henrietta comes off as something of an anomaly and the other women in the film are as obsessed with wealth as henry. i wonder if perhaps gender was not a huge part of the discussion when may was working on a new leaf; maybe it is simply a film about wealth, but it’s hard for me to disassociate the gender politics of the 1970s from a work by a female director making films in that period.

the only issue with the above set up is that it does occasionally make henry really difficult to sympathise with. obviously we’re not supposed to sympathise with him, especially when he coldly researches methods of killing henrietta, but i think we are supposed to care enough to want him to change. that does work eventually, and where it does is down to matthau’s performance. matthau doesn’t play henry as particularly likable or charming but manages to make him appear as both anyway. aside from the ending, the way henry develops as a character is incredibly subtle, which is a bold move because we're forced to spend time with him in every scene and it's not always clear that he is going to develop.

while the blu-ray is a little short on extras there is a nice visual essay on the film that contains a lot of background information on may how the project came together. for all its silliness and comedic set pieces, a new leaf is a film that challenges the audience. from the casting of matthau in a lead role to asking the audience to sympathise with the motivations of a psychopath, in some ways it feels as challenging now as it must have been on its original release. it's hard to believe anyone would get away with having a character like henry graham leading a romantic comedy today, so a new leaf really stands out as something of an anomaly.

a new leaf is available now on dual format blu-ray/dvd from eureka entertainment

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

day of the outlaw

day of the outlaw is a minimalist western that grabs you in the first ten minutes and doesn’t let go until the credits roll.

the film is set in a small, snow-covered town in the middle of nowhere made up of a small group of farmers who after years of toil are finally starting to prosper. then there’s robert ryan’s character, blaise starrett, a self appointed lawman without a badge who took it upon himself to protect the town and clear out all the bad men. except the townsfolk don’t feel he’s necessary anymore and they want him out.

the best way to describe the plot of the film is to tell you what happens in a fairly pivotal scene. it’s early on in the film but some of the tension may be diluted if you know what’s going to happen, so spoiler warning.

starrett is facing three of the townsfolk in the bar. they’re all armed. he tells his friend to roll a bottle along the bar, and when the bottle hits the floor they draw. the bottle rolls, and then just as it’s about to reach the end of the bar the door opens and in walks captain bruhn (burl ives) and his band of outlaws. it’s one of the most tense moments i’ve ever seen in a film and it’s an amazing set-up.

bruhn and his men take the town hostage, but he makes a promise that no one will get hurt. the problem is bruhn is dying so the townsfolk not only have to figure out how to survive, they have to keep bruhn alive too otherwise his men will be out of control.

no one plays world-weary gunfighter like robert ryan, and here he’s on top form. stripped of his gun early on, he has to figure out how to outwit bruhn whilst also keeping the townsfolk from getting themselves killed. in a way, this film is as much a deconstructive character study of the gunfighter archetype as it is a true western. starrett begins the film as someone with no place in the world and in the end he’s no better than bruhn’s men. like all the men in the film, starrett has to decide whether to evolve or die and seeing ryan play this out is fascinating.

evolution is a theme that plays throughout the story. there is a real sense of men as animals; that they can’t be left alone with the women for more than five seconds without forcing themselves on them. i found the treatment of the female characters in day of the outlaw troubling at first, as they almost immediately become commodity rather than people – something the men in the town must protect and that the outlaws consider playthings. there is a particularly uncomfortable bar scene in which the women are forced to dance with the outlaws and things get out of hand rather quickly. but at the same time, the men in the film come off way worse than the women. there is a sense that all men, even the good ones, are barely-evolved beasts and that this small town would not be prospering if not for the more civilised women. the script certainly considers the women equals – they all have names and they talk to each other about things other than men. while it’s uncomfortable to watch this is ultimately a film about failed masculinity more than it is about women being out of place in the world. by the end, it’s the men who are out of place and there’s a sense that they always were.

i don’t want to spoil the final act of the film because part of the enjoyment comes from seeing how starrett outwits the outlaws, but i guarantee it doesn't end the way you expect it to. it’s one of the greatest final showdowns i’ve seen in a western and yet it’s completely understated.

the blu-ray of day of the outlaw looks great and though it's short on extras this is worth checking out just to own the film. day of the outlaw is a classic example of a filmmaker pushing the boundaries of a genre and doing something truly different. the entire history of the western genre is played out then subverted in day of the outlaw and it’s worth seeing for that reason alone.

day of the outlaw is available now on dual format blu-ray from eureka entertainment

Sunday, 6 December 2015

a girl walks home alone at night

it's late, i've just finished a five hour drive in the rain, i have a billion things to do before i go to bed, but i have to write something about this film.

so it's about this ghost town that could be in america and could be in iran - it's like it's set in neither country and both of them at the same time and it doesn't matter. and there's this hipster/emo vampire on a skateboard who torments the people living there, apart from this one guy. there's not too much plot, it's one of those films that's full of silences and long, lingering shots of empty streets and forlorn faces. it's the kind of film my brother jack despises, and yet he insisted i watch it this weekend because he figured i'd be into it.

he was right. i loved it.

like most vampire stories it's about addiction, but it's more complicated that. ultimately it's about wanting to do the things that you know will hurt, and then doing them anyway. it's about ruined lives, and people escaping ruined lives. it's about decay and the end of everything. it's about a million more things that i've been thinking about all day and don't have time to write about here.

also, the soundtrack is amazing.

and the actors are great.

and ana lily amirpour is a genius. i hope she makes more films.

you should see it, if you haven't already. it's really good.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

ghost story

ghost story is a 1981 film based on a novel by peter straub, which stephen king rates as one of the scariest ever written. it stars fred astaire but he doesn’t do any dancing because he’s old, and douglas fairbanks jnr, but he doesn’t do any fighting because that was his dad. and over thirty years after its release it’s still pretty scary.

so there’s this secret society, the chowder society, made up of four elderly gentlemen living in the same small town they’ve lived in their whole lives and entertaining themselves with ghost stories. as the four old men start to experience nightmares they begin to realise that one of their tales might be more than a story.

ghost story is the epitome of the slow-build horror film. after a rather effective jump-scare early on (followed by an unfortunately dated effects shot of a man falling from a window), the film settles into some serious story set-up. while the four members of the chowder society are ostensibly the protagonists, the audience is given a younger character to identify with in the form of disgraced teacher and struggling writer don wanderley (craig wasson). don initially returns to his home town for the funeral of his brother but is soon drawn into unravelling a mystery that he feels he may be connected to.

the common element that binds the characters together is don’s ex-fiancee, alma mobley, played to spooky perfection by alice krige (who would later become famous as the borg queen in star trek: first contact. i totally imdb’d that fact, i didn’t just know it or anything, honest). what krige does that works so well is she manages to be sympathetic enough for the audience to understand why don falls for her and at the same time exudes a sense of mystery that gradually tips over into creepy territory.

the performances in the film are great, particularly from fred astaire and john houseman as the two strongest voices of the chowder society. the film also looks amazing and the blu-ray really brings out the best of legendary cinematographer jack cardiff’s work. but what really makes ghost story work is lawrence d cohen’s script. cohen also worked on another seminal horror adaptation, brian de palma’s carrie, and later adapt stephen king’s it. here, he clearly shows a talent for adaptation. having not read the source material it’s hard to say how faithful the film is to the book, but it feels like it has the layers of a novel whilst totally working as a film, and cohen manages to tell a story that covers two generations without ever feeling like he’s cutting corners. although the ‘twist’ in the tale becomes obvious early on, it’s the how and why that's important and cohen has the audience asking those questions from the opening scene. from a story-telling perspective it’s impressive work and is complemented by john irvin’s assured direction.

i also feel like there was more going on in ghost story than i have time to write about here. ultimately it’s a story about guilt, and it’s hard to really go into that without giving away the story. but there is something very masculine about the guilt and it seems to be connected to sex. there’s a key scene in which one of the men fails to perform in bed with krige’s character, and the suggestion is that the guilt he feels from this moment spirals into the big plot event that happens later. i wonder what the implication of that is? furthermore, i wasn’t as concerned as i usually am about the lack of female characters in the film and its failure to pass the oft-cited bechdel test. here, it seemed completely necessary that krige’s character is standing alone against the male characters. she came across as vulnerable and strong at the same time and that resonated with me. ultimately, i think this story belongs to her much more than it does to the men in the film; she is the protagonist, because despite having much less screen time, she is the focus of almost every scene.

the blu-ray comes with some great extra features, including some interviews and a commentary from director irvin. overall this is an impressive presentation of a compelling horror film that still stands up today, and definitely one worth checking out.

second sight release ghost story on blu-ray and dvd on 7th december 2015

Monday, 30 November 2015

blood rage

blood rage is a film that’s so bad it’s really hard to recommend, except for the fact that i kind of loved it.

the film opens at a drive-in where twin boys todd and terry sneak out of their mother’s car, steal an axe from the back of a pick-up truck then butcher an unsuspecting young man. ten years later, terry is the most popular kid in the neighbourhood while todd is still locked up in a psychiatric hospital for the murder. when todd escapes it’s not long before the bodies start piling up at the apartment complex where terry lives with his mother.

like any great slasher it’s all about the kills, and blood rage has some great ones. from the first scene where the guy at the drive-in is hacked to pieces with an axe to the doctor who is cut in two, no limb is safe in this film. the kills ramp up quickly, with nearly half a dozen characters losing their lives as well as various body parts within the first half an hour. that’s kind of where the problems start.

to say that blood rage lacks subtlety isn’t quite enough; whatever the opposite of subtext is, this film is full of it. this is a shame, because the idea that we as an audience don’t know which twin is the killer could have been really effective. instead, we are shown very early on that terry has a big problem with his mother having a relationship with anyone other than him, so we immediately know we’re in pseudo norman bates territory, and that terry is the killer. in case we have any doubts, terry kills his mother’s boyfriend in the very next scene, amputating his hand. we’re less than twenty minutes in all hope of intrigue has been butchered as brutally as terry's victims.

while it is kind of refreshing to watch a film this determined to not bury the lead, it causes major problems later on. after the blood-drenched first act, the film slows to a snails pace as the unlikable survivors, now only a handful of them left, trip over each other trying to figure what’s going on whilst occasionally stopping to fuck or play videogames, like what teenagers do. meanwhile, terry and todds’ mother drinks herself into a nervous breakdown. at this point it almost loses the all-important so-bad-it’s-good quality, but luckily there is some truly awful dialogue to make up for it. also, while mark soper does a decent enough job as a saturday morning cartoon serial killer, the other performances are either overblown or just bad. the only other thing that’s really great about the film is the synth score.

that said, i enjoyed every minute of blood rage, even the dull parts. when i was little my dad was obsessed with car boot sales. he’d always come home with these weird, knock-off films on vhs that my brother and i had never heard of then and have never come across since. we loved the horror films in particular. there seemed to have been an infinite number of slasher films released in the 80s and no matter how many times i thought i’d seen them all, my dad would always manage to find another. these are films that maybe a handful of people saw at the time they were released and perhaps deserve to have been forgotten, so the fact that we were there watching them as a family made it feel like kind of a unique experience. watching blood rage gave me that warm, cosy feeling of watching teenagers being hacked up on vhs with my dad and my brother. i don’t know if that’s something anyone else will relate to, or that other people have versions of, but it certainly helped me enjoy a film that is very difficult to enjoy otherwise.

what is cool is that arrow have put together an exhaustive and incredibly thorough selection of special features that even includes an interview with ted raimi, who is in the film for all of twenty seconds. it is truly fascinating to delve into the thought process behind a film like this and to find out more about the people who made it. special features on bad films are way more interesting than those on good films anyway, so giving blood rage such a wealth of extras is a real selling point.

less appealing is the theatrical cut, titled nightmare at shadow woods. deleted scenes restored from a 35mm print are re-inserted into the film, whilst other moments, including some of the more violent kills, are cut. there’s an overlong and completely unnecessary swimming pool scene that adds some redundant exposition and sets up a baby that appears later, and some extended moments to other scenes that don’t add much either but otherwise there's nothing new of note. there’s also a composite cut on the disc that takes the best elements of both versions, should you wish to watch the film three times. to be honest, the alternate cut would only really be of interest if you had seen the film in this form originally, but here it feels so inferior to the uncut version that it adds little value.

as much as i enjoyed watching blood rage, it is difficult for me to recommend it as a film, but i would recommend it as a curiosity. and if you’ve ever wondered how something like this got made and what was going through the minds of the people making it when they stepped onto set each day, the abundance of extras will certainly answer those questions.

blood rage is available now on dvd and blu-ray from arrow video

Thursday, 19 November 2015

robinson crusoe on mars...

robinson crusoe on mars is a film that does exactly what its title suggests. it’s also kind of like a 1960s version of the martian.

when his spaceship is hit by an asteroid, commander christopher draper (paul mantee) finds himself stranded on the surface of mars with only his pet monkey, mona, to keep him company. together, draper and mona must figure out a way to survive this most hazardous environment, all the while hoping that someone is coming to rescue them.

robinson crusoe on mars opens with a scene in which adam west, playing draper’s co-pilot, has a conversation with a floating monkey wearing a spacesuit. it is the most awesome opening of any film ever, but it’s also kind of misleading. to my modern sensibilities, a film that opens with adam west talking to a monkey in a spacesuit is going to fall into that so-bad-it's-good movie category. i was expecting queen of outer space or santa claus vs. the martians, but once draper lands on mars things get a bit more serious.

the first thing to note about this film is that it’s practically silent. the filmmakers get around the problem of draper being along by having him talk to his monkey and occasionally to record his thoughts in a journal, and he also has some instructional videos to hand, kind of like youtube tutorials about how to survive on mars. despite all this, there is very little dialogue for what at first seems like a typical schlocky b-movie, and as a result of this the film has a kind of haunting intensity, particularly when draper is exploring the martian landscape alone.

the first half of the film is really about draper figuring out how to survive on mars; how to get water, how to breath, what he’s going to eat. the solutions to these problems are more science-fiction than science-fact (despite the claims of the original publicity material), but there is a reality to his struggle to find them and a tension in the moments when he’s running out of air or water. his biggest struggle in the film, however, is with increasing loneliness and isolation. draper finds himself hallucinating at one point, and realises that the isolation is driving him mad. he confesses that although he spent two months in an isolation chamber in training, the fact that he knew he was getting out got him through it. it’s knowing that you’re going to be alone forever that’s tough.

i don’t know about that. there were moments where i kind of envied draper in his martian cave, alone forever. there’s something comforting to me about knowing that you will never again have to deal with people and their endless attention-seeking social media updates. i was actually disappointed when another character turned up, around halfway through.

having done their best to establish a realistic story world, we are then introduced to an alien race mining mars for ore with the help of slaves, and another alien race intent on destroying them. suddenly draper finds himself thrust into the middle of a space war and has to survive being shot at whilst managing to keep one of the escaped slaves alive. what does work about this is that the film keeps the aliens at arms length, and other than his new companion draper never encounters them in the flesh, which adds a welcome sense of mystery.

the director, byron haskin, was clearly the perfect person to direct this film, having previously directed an adaptation of treasure island and the 1953 version of war of the worlds (there is definitely a resemblance to the alien spacecraft of that film here). it also has to be said that the design and the effects in robinson crusoe on mars are pretty impressive for the time, even if they do reuse some of the same shots over and over again. mars itself is also very well designed and the landscape shots look fantastic on blu-ray.

overall, robinson crusoe on mars is a bit of a mixed bag. there is a great film here about a man struggling to survive the perils of an alien world and discovering that perhaps the greatest hazard he has to overcome is himself. at the same time, all this is happening on a stylized, sci-fi version of mars, and while that brings an element of camp excitement to the experience, everything great about it being on mars is at odds with the more down-to-earth nature of the story. as a result the film does outstay its welcome towards the end and feels a little directionless at times. that doesn’t mean it’s not an interesting watch and particularly given the recent success of the martian it is interesting to see how filmmakers tackled a similar story over fifty years ago. also, there is a monkey wearing a space suit. so there's that!

eureka entertainment release robinson crusoe on mars in a dual format edition on 23rd of november 2015

Saturday, 7 November 2015

6 - insomnia...

sorry this isn't me talking about something interesting or cool, but i've barely slept this week and the only thing i could think of talking about is the fact that i've barely slept this week. enjoy is probably the wrong word, but i hope you find this interesting, or maybe relate-able. let me know in the comments if you do.

in other news, i'm thinking of doing a q and a video soon. if there's anything you'd like to ask me either let me know in the comments or tweet me a question with #pazqanda

btw, i'm @pazvsstuff on twitter

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

technotise: edit & i

edit & i is a serbian animated cyberpunk thriller, which despite being set in the future feels kind of retro because no one makes cyberpunk thrillers anymore (i blame steampunk).

edit is a college student who keeps failing exams so decides to cheat by installing a military-grade chip into her arm that improves brain function. she also makes some extra money on the side by caring for a mute, autistic man who has in his head a formula to predict the future. when edit is exposed to the formula it reacts with the chip in her arm and suddenly she is evolving into a brand new lifeform, which would be great except the technology is probably going to kill her and that’s if the military don’t get to her first.

it seem kind of lazy to compare edit & i to the two other great animated classics of the genre, akira and ghost in the shell, but it does in fact share an awful lot with both of those films, both in the narrative and thematically. at it’s heart, this is a story about youth and friendship, and how friends react when one of the group is essentially transitioning into adulthood, only adulthood is represented by having your nervous system replaced by wires and your brain taken over by a supercomputer. like akira, this focus on the friendship group and the reaction of the friends to the transformation of the central protagonist is a key part of the film. at the same time, edit spends much of the film in conversation with her newly developed computer brain and this idea of artificial intelligence evolved is very similar to the themes of ghost in the shell. it also reminded me of perhaps the best entry in the animatrix anthology, koji morimoto’s beyond, because it’s a sci-fi story that feels very grounded in reality.

despite these comparisons, edit & i is very much its own film and what it adds to the genre is a sense of humanity and realism missing from many animated features. the film has quite a frank and naturalistic approach to sex and relationships, which somehow makes it seem more mature than many similar sci-fi titles.

edit herself really feels like a person too, and her decisions and behaviour always ring true. for example, when she is shown the top secret technology for predicting the future she immediately tells all her friends about it, which puts in her much greater trouble than she was in before but also is exactly what that character would do. she also has some rather explosive arguments with her mother and is constantly fending off her boyfriend’s advances, all of which adds a level of complexity to an already interesting character. at times it’s easy to forget that edit & i is set in the future and even that it’s animation because the world and the characters it presents are so recognisable and it all feels very grounded.

added to this there are some incredible action sequences. the computer inside edit’s body is obviously awesome at martial arts so there are a few fights along the way and there is an amazing hoverboard chase halfway through. overall the visuals are quite stunning and occasionally beautiful. the style is naturalistic for the most part but the filmmakers make full use of the medium to bend reality in the more surrealistic moments. at one point early on edit is distracted when she hallucinates a network of wires and circuitry expanding artfully across a concrete wall, and though the same effect could be achieved in a live action film, it somehow seems more integrated into the world of the story here.

on the down side, there are moments where the film veers more towards meandering art project than sci-fi thriller and while these moments do give the story its substance, they do occasionally feel a bit indulgent. it also has to be said that the translation isn’t the best and while it never fully detracts from the experience, the frequent errors in the subtitles are distracting.

edit & i is a welcome return to a genre that felt like it disappeared after the last matrix film. while the ideas presented in the film may not be anything new, the well-written characters and more naturalistic narrative elements make the big sci-fi themes and ideas seem somehow refreshing and new. and the animation is beautiful so it’s worth checking out for that alone.

technotise: edit & i will be released on dvd by simply media on 9th november 2015