On 8th November 2013 John Waters performed his one-man show at Liverpool Philharmonic and was on top form. I attended this show and had a whale of a time. There was a signing session after the show and the line to get stuff signed was HUGE.
But not many people knew that there was to be a very special event the next day. Mr Waters was to teach the Film Studies class at John Moores University. There would be a screening of one of his favourite films, Boom! and then he would talk about it. This event was private and not open to the public- but I managed to blag tickets.
As soon as I saw Waters walk in I thought I was dreaming- I was sharing the same oxygen as The Filth Elder.
We then watched the movie Boom! And I can see why it’s one of Waters’ favourites. It’s fucking insane. Midget guards, Noel Coward and some of the best lines of dialogue in any film (An example- Liz Taylor’s character at one point says to no one in particular- ‘Hot sun, cool breeze, white horse on the sea, and a big shot of vitamin B in me!’)
After the film Waters spoke about the making of the film, why he likes it and how it has influenced his own work. He then opened up the discussion to us so that we could all talk about it.
We then talked about film in general and specifically his films. It was amazing. We could ask him anything. I’d be here all day if I tried to recall all of the anecdotes but I’ll tell you one. Waters was asked about the song he wrote for Serial Mom that L7 (called ‘Camel Lips’ in the film) called Strait Jacket. He said that he still received sizeable royalties from PRS because he wrote the song. He then said that if that was the case imagine what it must be like to be Madonna and the royalties she must receive!
This was such an amazing event and I felt so privileged to be there.
One of the earliest British gay-themed films ever made, this tells the tale of June ‘George’ Buckridge, the soon to be eclipsed star on the TV soap opera Applehurst. We see her relationship with the Baby Doll-like Childie and also the interventions of television executive Mrs Crofts. But does Crofts have her own agenda?
This lesbian drama has the amazing tagline ‘The story of three consenting adults in the privacy of their own home’ which obviously mimics the mantra of liberals and homophobes alike regarding ‘the gays’. It’s also a reference to the wording of The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalising homosexuality.
There’s something aesthetically pleasing about Beryl Reid in all of the films and TV programmes I’ve seen her in. This film is no exception. She plays George and she dominates proceedings whenever she is on screen. Her character is irreverent, rambunctious and a sheer delight. She’s ‘punk’ years before the punk movement actually erupted. Also, notice how she plays her rebellious character to perfection and got under the skin of George. This is very evident in her body language. No unconscious crossing of the legs or keeping them together when she sits down. She can manspread with the best of them. This is a headstrong woman who lives life on her own terms rather than conforming to societal norms regarding how a ‘lady’ should act.
Part of the film takes place in the real life lesbian bar The Gateways Club which was then in Chelsea, just off The Kings Road. The film used the real patrons as extras and it feels so natural it’s as if the crew just went in and filmed without warning. The wide range of cast extras show that the uneducated myth about lesbians being either ‘butch’ or ‘femme’ is a fallacy and the locale provides a fascinating peek inside not just 1960’s Gay London but specifically Lesbian London. George and Childie are also dressed as Laurel and Hardy in this scene which makes it even more joyous, surreal and brilliant.
A primary theme of the film is the power play within the character’s relationships. This is nicely shown in the ‘contrition game’ scene in which rather than being degraded by George’s task, Childie makes herself enjoy it thus taking away the power from George and being in control herself.
The film depicts it’s characters like human beings with all of their foibles rather than as freaks in a sideshow to be leered at and grimaced at by ‘them there normal folks’. The film prompts a new discussion on our perceptions of gay people in a Britain in which homosexuality had just been decriminalised (this was carried out in 1967- the year before this film was released). The tagline for the film also references the wording used in The Sexual Offences Act.
The Killing of Sister George was unsurprisingly very contentious with the unenlightened British Board of Film Classification when it was due to be released. The main bone of contention was with the scene between Childie and Mrs Crofts- Crofts kisses and caresses Childie. There is nothing gratuitous about this scene and it is dealt with respectfully and mostly takes place off-screen. From the BBFC Case Study regarding the film-
”(But) the BBFC was adamant that the scene be removed in its entirety. Trevelyan stated that the BBFC was “not prepared as yet to accept lesbian sex to this point.”
It’s unbelieveable today that the BBFC saw to not include this scene not because it may corrupt or adversely influence but because they thought the Great British public would have it’s collective minds blown by such a scene.
The BBFC Case Study on the film notes-
”The BBFC classified The Killing of Sister George as ‘X’ in February 1969, with the encounter between Mrs Crofts and Childie deleted. Nevertheless, a number of local authorities across the UK banned the film even in this version. The Greater London Council allowed the film to be shown within its authority area with minor edits. The increase in the age bar for ‘X’ films from 16 to 18 in 1970 saw some local authorities relent on their previous decision and allow the film to be shown under this higher age restriction.”
Today the film is thankfully uncut. This movie is an amazing time capsule, a perceptive and all too revealing glimpse into human relationships and a groundbreaking slice of LGBT history- a history that generally erases lesbians altogether. This film noisily and joyously bucks this trend. And audiences should be truly thankful for that.
Harry is on his way to a country holiday home with his new ex-model girlfriend, Diane when they cross paths with a rowdy car-full of drunken yahoos who try to intimidate them. After the couple run them off the road and ruin the suspension on their car, they are tracked to their country lair with the angry men proceeding to invade this picuresque idyll.
Violence and rape ensues as the hillbilly gang seek revenge. In the course of events Harry is actually killed and Diane is raped when trying to escape. But then Diane turns the tables single-handedly and in brutal fashion.
They are elements of both Last House on the Left and Straw Dogs within this film’s premise (in the UK, this film played as part of a double bill with the latter film) but theres also enough to distinguish Death Weekend from these two films. Theres a strong feeling of the ‘haves vs have nots’ thats interesting. The hillbilly gang see what they don’t have within the house and their lives and instinctively seek to destroy and tarnish it.
Also, this isn’t a case of the good vs the bad- when Diane arrives at the house by the lake she very quickly realises that Harry is a slimeball personified. Hes a swinger who has invited Diane to the house for one reason and that isn’t holding hands and going for long walks. We see him taking pictures of Diane as she gets undressed and showers as the mirrors in the swingers paradise masquerading as a country house are all two-way. Diane finds out this later when one of the gang stumbles upon the pictures that the pervert Harry has taken unbeknownst to her.
Also, just before the gang invades the house Diane is just about to leave as she learns that although Harry had told her that there were other guests who would be joining them, in fact this was a lie. Harry appears to be just as repellent as the gang members who are just about to kick the door in- its just his social class that separates him from them.
This film is also made noteworthy by the cast with Brenda Vacarro and Don Stroud deserving special mention.
A very good film that deserves a really good Blu ray release. In fact, this would be ideal for Scream Factory.
I actually went to see Lady Bird because the trailer was so good. Any film that uses ‘Days of Steam’ by John Cale instantly grabs my attention.
Lady Bird is a quirky film that makes me want to punch the air with delight. Thank Christ for all of the filmmakers who see things from a different perspective and dare to portray events by thinking outside of the box rather than just following the herd.
The lead character of Lady Bird is finishing up at school and waiting to go to college. The netherworld period of transition just before the bird leaves the comfort of the family nest is poignant, restless and full of conflicting emotions- a fact which doesn’t escape the filmmakers.
There are gorgeous observations concerning family relationships and dynamics. One scene involves Lady Bird and her mother having a very serious and embittered argument in a thrift store. But this all ends abruptly on the discovery of a beautiful dress. Suddenly all resentments and grievances evaporate as mother and daughter bask in the glory of this maroon lace concoction.
Another thing about the film that I loved was the Catholic setting. It was refreshing that we have such a setting in a film and it isn’t full of cruelty and abuse (OK- maybe thats me as I’ve watched both Spotlight and Silent Night, Deadly Night recently). Watch out for the inspirational Mother Superior, the all too enthusiastic play director/wannabe football coach and the drama teacher. All great characters which compliment this unique film.
The entire cast are awe-inspiring. Saoirse Ronan owns the role of Lady Bird and is perfect. And its great to see Laurie Metcalfe on our screens again after years of watching Roseanne.
Offbeat, innovative and original. Lady Bird deserves all of the praise its receiving at the moment.
Like many people the only thing I knew about ice skater Tonya Harding before this film was the incident of violence that she inflicted upon Nancy Kerrigan. This film deals with Tonya’s upbringing and her life in general leading up to this point.
One striking feature of the film is that it well and truly breaks down the fourth wall with characters speaking to the audience and even disputing their version of events as the alleged events are being played out. Theres even one sequence in which Tonya’s mother admonishes the film’s screenwriters as she seems to have dried up in the film’s narrative.
The film depicts the sheer insanity of the events that led up to the fateful encounter with Kerrigan but it never feels like this has been exaggerated or that it descends into farce. Theres an air of authenticity as we see the craziness and dysfunction unfurl before our bewildered eyes.
The setting of working class America also feels real, warts and all. The film depicts the obstacles to true success and the snobbery that Tonya has to endure and overcome. Theres an irony to the nouveau riche mothers, skaters and judges of ice skating looking down on Tonya for being cheap and trashy when all of the contestants are encouraged to look that way but without the actual poverty. The mainstream world of the sport doesn’t like the real thing but rather a contrived and affluent ‘faux’ version of it. It reminds me of a Dolly Parton quote- ‘It takes a lot of money to look this trashy’.
But whilst many events in the film are hilarious and surreal, the incidents of domestic violence depicted are as harrowing and serious as they deserve to be. These sequences still disturb, as well they should.
There are amazing performances from the central three actors of Stan, Robbie and Jenney as Tonya’s mother- a force of nature who is great entertainment on the screen but would be a nightmare in real life.
A special mention is needed for the soundtrack- any film that features both Siouxsie and the Banshees and Fleetwood Mac is something very special indeed.