Twin Peaks: The Return

0

twin-peaks-season-3-poster-laura-palmer

Director: David Lynch

Stars: Kyle Maclachlan, Sheryl Lee, Catherine Coulson

Episodes 1 & 2

Before I start delving into the two-part premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return, I’d like to give you some context to my Lynch obsession. To me David Lynch is the greatest filmmaker that has ever lived and I mean no hyperbole by that statement. His films aren’t for everyone but there’s no denying that there’s nothing like them around, he’s simply incomparable to his peers. Watching his films is like viewing a painting or listening to a piece of music, there’s something inside of you which either likes it and accepts it or doesn’t, and it’s fine if you don’t like it. It’s a perfectly normal reaction to watch a woman in a radiator singing at you with massive hamster cheeks and think ‘what the heck is this load of rubbish!?’ and turn it off. However, to me it’s an indescribably haunting and hypnotic experience which makes my heart race.

I am definitely more of a David Lynch fan than a Twin Peaks fan. For me, the episodes directed by the man himself are by far the strongest and most ground-breaking, particularly the final cliff-hanger episode which stands as one of the most fantastically immersive things Lynch has ever done. I also much prefer the dark, horrifying vision of Fire Walk With Me which departed from the jovial tone of the TV series, signified by the opening shot of a television being destroyed. However, there are still hardcore Twin Peaks fans who consider the film an abomination due to how drastically different the story and tone is. These same people are going to be incredibly frustrated by the opening of season 3.

untitled

David Lynch seemingly (and tragically) disappeared from the edge of the Earth after the release of his impenetrable feature film, INLAND EMPIRE in 2006. So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that Twin Peaks was going to come back with 18 episodes, all directed by David Lynch. That’s almost 18 hours of pure magic after over ten years of nothing Lynchian on our screens. The announcement was made back in 2014 so we’ve been patiently waiting for what feels like an age for Twin Peaks to come back on our screens and the other night it finally appeared!

No one knew what to expect when the two-hour premiere was about to start. The production has been kept absolutely top-secret and the teasers released by Showtime barely show more than three seconds of new footage at a time. However, I can guarantee that no one in the world would predict how the opener turned out as it did. In typical Lynch fashion our expectations were completely and utterly subverted within the first ten minutes. Those expecting a cosy rehash of the original series must be incredibly disappointed because this is not the old Twin Peaks we know and love, however it is unapologetically the David Lynch we know and love.

untitled3

I was immediately reminded of Eraserhead in the opening five minutes which sees the kindly giant chatting with Dale Cooper in stark monochrome adjacent to a puffing gramophone. They’re in the iconic red room which they’ve been sitting in for twenty five long years. Everything about the scene has the director’s fingerprints all over it and it’s beautiful to see. The giant spouts total nonsense to an aged Cooper to which he responds, “I understand” a hysterical in-joke for Lynch fans. Things don’t become much clearer in the next 100 minutes.

Shockingly, the premiere spends barely any time in Twin Peaks and is more interested in startling events surrounding New York, South Dakota and Las Vegas. Old characters are met fleetingly and with more weirdness than usual. The structure and atmosphere of the show resembles Mulholland Drive more than the original Twin Peaks as there are so many strange strands and subplots which all somehow relate to each other in intriguing and inexplicable ways. It’s interesting to think that most of the feature film, Mulholland Drive is actually a pilot episode; so this new season may give us a glimpse of what the shelved Mulholland Drive TV series could have looked like.

untitled1

Like most David Lynch films, the best way to experience it is to just go with the flow and ask questions later because nothing makes sense. It feels like we’re watching an explosion of Lynch’s unconscious mind on film, only I do believe that there is a solvable plot in there unlike the anarchic madness of INLAND EMPIRE. There are some extraordinary scenes of pure cinema which cannot be explained with words. The New York segment, for example, is utterly hypnotic and finishes with one of the scariest moments I have ever seen on screen thanks to nightmarish imagery and a terrifying sound design. I literally flew out of my seat, something I haven’t done since the tramp sequence in Mulholland Drive. There are also moments of surreal terror in the red room which go beyond anything we’ve ever seen in the world of Twin Peaks.

It’s the most astonishing two hours of telly I’ve ever experienced. It’s a true work of art and the directing is unparalleled. No other director can conjure up such an immersive dreamlike atmosphere quite like this. Detractors will moan about how they don’t understand it but it isn’t supposed to be totally understood. It isn’t a Christopher Nolan sci-fi flick, it’s a surrealistic painting designed to terrify and thrill. After watching The Return and being thrown back into normal life I stuck on an episode of Game Of Thrones (which I’ve just started watching) and was struck by just how ordinary it was.

The original Twin Peaks was ground-breaking stuff and The Return looks as if it’s going to be no different. This is unlike anything that has ever been on TV before and is already way ahead of its time. Thank the heavens that Showtime have given David Lynch free reign to truly create what is bound to be a masterpiece. David is back with a vengeance and reminding us what we’ve been missing whilst he’s been on hiatus for years. It’s incredibly exciting to think that a whopping 16 more instalments are left. Who knows where they’re going to take us, but it’s going to be one hell of an unforgettable ride.

Ranking David Lynch’s Films

0

lynch

Just last week I managed to tick off the final Lynchy feature film I had left to see, Lost Highway. I was saving it and saving it until I finally gave in so that I can finally say that I have seen every feature film from my favourite ever filmmaker, David Lynch. The man is a god! He understands that film can be as artistic and powerful as any other piece of art. No other director creates worlds like David Lynch. You know that if you stick on one of his films that you’ll be transported into another place for a few hours and it’s quite an extraordinary feeling. The very best David Lynch films are more like an experience than an average film so it’s important not to think about what’s going, but to feel it instead. Even his short films like The Alphabet and The Grandmother offer more ingenuity than the majority of Hollywood’s churnings.

I would normally be feeling mournful at the fact that there’s no more David Lynch output to look forward to, however that simply isn’t true! Laura Palmer promised that she’d see us again in 25 years and here we are with David directing a Twin Peaks revival. With the renaissance TV is going through at the moment with brilliance such as, Breaking Bad and Fargo, there’s every chance that David could blow every series that’s gone out of the window! But for now, here are my rankings of David’s ten film canon complete with my weirdness rating and overall film rating.

10) Dune

dune-original1

Let’s begin with the elephant (man) in the room. Dune was a self-confessed disaster which even the most hardcore David Lynch fan finds impossible to excuse. There are a few sci-fi weirdos who love it, but I’m not one of them. Everything about this film is just plain bad, from the clunky dialogue to the inexplicable plot. David had absolutely no control over this beast and was lost amidst a gigantic behind-the-scenes crew and controlling production company. David wanted to create a strange three hour plus epic, but those pesky studio execs grabbed hold of it and butchered the film to its very bare bones. The scene which sums the film up is the part where David Lynch himself plays a muddied miner whose trying to harvest all the good spice he can until a giant sandworm (which he couldn’t possibly control) gobbles him up. So as David didn’t really have any power over Dune at all, let’s just pretend it didn’t happen okay?

Best bit: Probably the line, “Bring in that floating fat man!”
Weirdness rating: 6/10
Movie rating: 3/10

9) The Straight Story

straight

David Lynch surprised the world when he released a genuinely sweet film for all the family to enjoy. Younger viewers might get a little restless at its snail pacing, but for those who appreciate great acting and warmth will find a lot to like. It follows the (mostly) true story of Alvin Straight, a man who rode for miles on his lawnmower to meet his estranged brother. Honestly, it really is that simple! Not a lot happens but somehow it isn’t boring at all. Perhaps it’s because of how involving it feels. You feel as though you’re going through the long and strenuous journey with Alvin, and the end scene really is beautiful and moving. However, us Lynch fanatics see it as one of his lesser films due to the lack of dancing dwarves and general dreamlike weirdness.

Best bit: The cockles-warming end scene.
Weirdness rating: 1/10
Movie rating: 8/10

8) Wild At Heart

wild-at-heart-willem-dafoe

This Palme D’or-winning road trip boasts plenty of Lynchy weirdness, including a squealing peg-legged Grace Zabriskie and an appearance from the fairy godmother herself (played by Laura Palmer). In fact, Wild at Heart features some of the most memorable characters and performances David has ever mustered. Diane Ladd (Laura Dern’s real Mum!) possibly steals the show as Lula’s nightmarish, psychotic mother. Her wildly hammy performance quite rightly garnered an Oscar nomination as she gives Bette Davis a run for her money! Equally impressive is Willem Dafoe as the terrifying Bobby Peru. Willem has never been easy on the eye but Lynch turns him into the stuff of true nightmares. The only thing that stops Wild at Heart propelling to the top is Barry Gifford’s linear and less interesting plot. It’s still a fantastic journey full of fun, frights and lunacy!

Best bit: When Diane Ladd turns to reveal her entire face smothered in lipstick.
Weirdness rating: 7/10
Movie rating: 8/10

7) The Elephant Man

elephant-man-2

The other ‘normal’ David Lynch film (along with The Straight Story) which catapulted him into the big time. After the super low-budget Eraserhead found its way into the hearts of Midnight Movie fans, Mel Brooks gave David the chance to direct the true story of Joseph Merrick. The story goes that Lynch accepted the job as soon as he heard the title of the film! Considering how young and inexperienced he was at the time, The Elephant Man is a truly miraculous piece of work and a timeless film by anyone’s standards. It’s impossible not to feel moved and involved in Joseph’s tragic life as he’s taken into care by a kindly Anthony Hopkins. Seeing him transform from a terrified mute into a compassionate and confident character is a pretty life-affirming experience. It also features one of the most powerful and upsetting endings of all time. Despite the scenes which bookend the film, The Elephant Man features virtually no signature strangeness which is why it falls slightly shorter for me. However, it’s still a fantastic piece of work.

Best bit: The soul-crushing ending
Weirdness rating: 1/10
Movie rating: 9/10

6) Lost Highway

lost_highway_08_dvd

Another Barry Gifford collaboration, although it’s clear who’s in the driving seat here! After a terrific title sequence over David Bowie’s haunting I’m Deranged song our polarising non-linear narrative begins. The first Fred Maddison story features some of the best stuff David has ever done as we’re transported into a frightfully eerie dream world in which a saxophone player and his missus are plagued by mysterious videotapes. The suffocating atmosphere disappears slightly when a perplexing second story begins involving a young mechanic called Pete Dayton. Lost Highway is a gripping and thought provoking psycho-sexual-horror-neo-noir which offers no easy answers. It also features one of the David’s scariest creations in the Mystery Man who’s probably the key to entire mystery but who doesn’t fit into the story at all (seemingly). It perhaps doesn’t feature his strongest protagonists’, but it is unfairly overlooked when discussing David. It’s also masterfully directed.

Best bit: Fred’s first meeting with the Mystery Man is probably the moment which sticks out the most. After his dream!
Weirdness rating: 8/10
Movie rating: 9/10

5) Eraserhead

Eraserhead

This is where it all began! A five year labour of love where a cash-strapped young Dave even lived on the set for a short while to save money. Those five years resulted in 90 minutes of pure genius. It’s quite possibly the weirdest film ever made and transports the viewer into a strange and terrifying land where a funny-haired young man copes with the struggles of caring for a mutant baby. No, it’s weirder than it sounds! It’s exactly like watching a dream and every scene is filled with an inexplicable sense of dread. Eraserhead is the quintessential Lynch film with a polarising narrative, strange characters and dreamlike sequences which end up everywhere and nowhere. Whilst there is no real explanation to it all, David has claimed that he’s still yet to read an interpretation which matches his.

Best bit: The Lady in the Radiator’s haunting singing solo
Weirdness rating: 10/10
Movie rating: 10/10

4) INLAND EMPIRE

Inland_Empire_17

Another film where David gave himself complete control to let his dangerous creative juices flow. Unsurprisingly, it’s also tied with Eraserhead as one of the very weirdest films of all time (IMO). It’s the ultimate test to see how much of Lynch fan you really are. Most people despise INLAND EMPIRE with pure venom due to its hefty 180 minute runtime and incomprehensible plot which is clear as mud. I’ll never forget when I first watched it though (one of my first David Lynch films) and feeling utterly transported. I watched it alone, in the middle of the night with no distractions (the only way to watch a David Lynch film) and I felt as though I was actually having a nightmare. It didn’t feel like I was watching screen, it felt as though I was asleep and having a nightmare I couldn’t escape. Once the film is over you feel as though you’ve spent you’re whole life watching it, yet you can only bits and pieces which is exactly like waking from a dream. At the centre of it all is a stunning performance from Laura Dern, a woman transported into total madness. INLAND EMPIRE is by far David Lynch’s scariest film, and also his most magical.

Best bit: When the prostitutes dance to the locomotion
Weirdness rating: 10/10
Movie rating: 10/10

3) Blue Velvet

blue00140

The velvet of blue is often cited as the best film in the Lynchian canon (along with my number one) and it’s easy to see why. Whilst the film has its moments of bizarreness, for the most part it’s an audience-friendly mystery thriller although it’s far from conventional. Kyle Maclachlan is a Dale Cooper in training as he becomes obsessed with finding out where a severed ear came from. The first thirty minutes are like a straightforward albeit gripping, mystery film. Things get dark and subversive when Kyle hides in Isabella Rossellini’s closet and watches her get horrifically raped by Dennis Hopper. Somehow Dennis Hopper didn’t get Oscar nominated for his electrifying performance as Frank Booth. Every scene with Frank is filled with intensity and jet-black comedy. Luckily, David Lynch got himself nominated again as best director to make up for things! Blue Velvet is a masterpiece by anyone’s standards and features scene after scene of classic Lynchian moments.

Best bit: Ben’s strange lip-synch to In Dreams
Weirdness rating: 7/10
Movie rating: 10/10

2) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Laura Twin Peaks

Ooh would you look at me being controversial! It was booed at Cannes and reviled by fans of the series yet somehow it’s crept its way up to second place in my list. I love the original Twin Peaks series but the darker elements have always interested me more than the comedic side and with Fire Walk with Me, David goes full into full horror mode as we explore Laura Palmer’s final week of life. She was an enigma in the series, but here she’s thrown into the spotlight and becomes one of the most compelling characters David Lynch has ever created. After a bizarre opening in which we’re transported into a parallel Twin Peaks universe with Fat Trout trailer parks and reappearing David Bowie’s we suddenly focus on Laura’s final days. Sheryl Lee’s performance is outstanding and the moments of horror are frighteningly intense. The final sequence where Laura is killed is particularly horrifying and ultimately moving. Fire Walk with Me is, in my opinion, one of David’s most harrowing films.

Best bit: The powerful final scene which manages to be tragic and uplifting at the same time.
Weirdness rating: 8/10
Movie rating: 10/10

1) Mulholland Dr

mulhollanddriveno.

 

Ah yes, Mulholland Drive is possibly my favourite film of all time. It wasn’t always that way though! When I first saw it I gave it a 9/10 and wasn’t totally spellbound, but then I read all the explanations and realised just how rich and detailed every single scene was. Mulholland is all the magic of the movies rolled into one. It’s set in Hollywood and features the archetypal Hollywood noir plot of an amnesiac, a mysterious key and a bag of cash. It’s so much more than that though. In fact, Mulholland Drive is so layered and ingenious that it hurts your head just thinking about it. On the surface it’s just a series of random and meaningless scenes which shouldn’t work, but it just does. There’s an intense signature dreamlike atmosphere which dominates every scene right up until the final thirty minutes where the rug is pulled from our feet and the film spirals into total lunacy. Mulholland Drive is an extraordinary achievement which will never be topped.

Best scene: The entire sequence in the Club Silencio is the probably the best thing David Lynch has ever created.
Weirdness rating: 9/10
Movie rating: 10/10

Well there’s my ranking of my favourite filmmaker. Agree or disagree? Let me know below please!

Alleluia (2014)

0

allluia.35276

Director: Fabrice Du Welz

Stars: Lola Dueñas, Laurent Lucas, Héléna Noguerra

Praise the Lord! Another fabulous Fabrice film

Even though a little middle-aged Belgian man called Fabrice Du Welz has only made three feature films in his career, he still happens to be one of my favourite directors. My love affair started when I sat and watched a film called Calvaire which left me dumbstruck and disturbed. How it still hasn’t become an iconic horror classic is still beyond me. I love every single thing about it, even down to the little details like the name, Marc Stevens and his bulky Michelin Man red coat. It’s one of my favourite ever films. Then came an underrated little atmospheric English-language horror called, Vinyan. You can imagine my excitement when Fabrice announced a thematic sequel to Calvaire starring Laurent Lucas and featuring Fabrice’s favourite theme of ‘mad love’.

I was blown away by the intense trailer but unfortunately the film wasn’t getting much buzz. Even now, after it has been released for yonks, no one seems to be talking about it or seeing it. There’s barely five reviews on IMDb and the message board is dead in the water, but oh well it’s everyone else’s loss! Alleluia is an electrifying slice of raw and intense romantic horror. Well, I say romantic, it’s Fabrice’s idea of romantic which tends to involve obsessive psychopaths. His debut short film, A Wonderful Love featured a woman falling in love with the corpse of a stripper and Calvaire saw an inn keeper convincing himself that a male guest was his long-lost wife. Alleluia tells the tale of an insane woman becoming besotted with an insane man and going on a killing spree.

Alleluia-2014-Sitges

It’s frightening to think that Alleluia is actually based on a real-life case in America where a couple ended up murdering 17 women in America during the 1940’s. Fabrice of course puts his unique spin on things. It opens with a disturbing shot of our hero, Gloria sponging the body of a corpse in the morgue she works at. She then stops and looks directly at us sitting in our little living room arm chairs with her wide eyes penetrating our souls until ‘Alleluia’ flashes up on the screen. Right away you know that you’re in for the Fabrice Du Welz experience.

Alleluia has that same grainy, dirty look as Fabrice’s other films. It feels incredibly raw and scarily real, almost like one of Lars Von Trier’s Dogme films. There’s also a strong claustrophobic atmosphere throughout thanks to the intrusive camerawork which is almost always in front of the actors’ faces or backs. In fact, it’s pretty jarring whenever we’re given a long-shot, it’s almost as though the film is allowing you to breathe. All of the lighting feels very natural too with dark scenes being almost completely black and grainy so that it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. All of this contributes to an overall atmospheric and intense experience throughout.

Alleluia-Featured

What surprised me was the stupendous quality of acting from our main stars. Laurent Lucas is usually cast as the charming goody in the films he’s in but has lately been venturing into darker territory. Those who saw the recent French series, Witnesses where Laurent played an everyday family man who liked to put white make-up on his face and kill young women at night won’t be surprised to find out that he’s similarly chilling in the role of Michel. We first see him performing some sort of voodoo on a photo of Gloria before he meets her for the first time and he only gets creepier from there. Laurent puts on a strange raspy voice and plays the part of the serial seducer extremely convincingly and never without a psychotic glint in his eyes.

It’s Lola as Gloria who steals the show though. Lola too usually plays the part of the kindly woman, mostly in Pedro Almodovar’s terrific dramas. Here she’s in total psycho mode as the dangerously obsessed lover who will do absolutely anything and everything for Michel. In fact, Gloria makes Michel look positively normal in comparison and Lola acts the hell out of it without it ever feeling too over-the-top. In a fair world, the Academy would’ve recognised Alleluia and popped Lola up for an Oscar nom. I’m not even kidding, she really is that good!

alleluia

Alleluia is split into four acts, all named after the women Michel seduces. Their master plan is for Gloria to pose as Michel’s brother whilst Michel seduces the women and steals of their money. However, there’s that old green-eyed monster in the way called Jealousy. Gloria does not like seeing Michel being affectionate with the old women he’s marrying and so intense violence and chaos ensues for the majority of Alleluia’s tight 90 minute runtime. To say any more about the plot would be to spoil the fun of it all. I can tell you, though that there was not one moment where I was bored. Alleluia always kept me gripped by the throat and didn’t let go.

Whilst the film is less surreal than Fabrice’s previous efforts, it’s still absolutely insane and full of WTF moments. For me Calvaire feels like a string of iconic moments and Alleluia has a few of them too. My favourites include a bizarre Magnolia-styled musical interlude (with added corpses), a creepy Humphrey Bogart-infused trip to the cinema and a disorientating segment which sees the couple dancing around naked in flames with grinding electronic music. The film has more than its fair share of sensory overload and it all makes for an unpredictable and absorbing experience. It also has lots of brilliant uses of black humour. The best example probably comes from when Michel is trying to fleece a religious woman by telling her blatant lies whilst Gloria hysterically laughs, covering it up as hysterical cries.

The strongest segment is arguably the final act which results in a terrifyingly intense finale which leaves you begging for more. Alleluia really is a blistering thriller full of shocking violence, stupendous acting and intense directing. Chances are that you’ve never heard of it so it’s your duty to seek this out and give it the attention it deserves. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed.

nine-out-of-ten

Escape From Tomorrow (2013)

0

escape-from-tomorrow

Director: Randy Moore

Stars: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez

Disney on Prozac

Disney World really is one of the best places on the planet. I spent the happiest days of my life there as a kiddy, at the tender age of ten and I’m desperate to get back there. Randy Moore’s disturbing vision is unlikely to convince Disney World virgins to go though! In this film, Disney World is more reminiscent of Banksy’s Dismaland. Whenever you read a review of Escape From Tomorrow you always get an essay on how the film was made rather than the film itself. The extreme guerrilla tactics are important to the raw and intimate atmosphere of the film (and are extremely impressive) but there’s much more to Escape From Tomorrow than ‘that film that was shot illegally in Disneyland.’

escape

It’s the American Beauty-esque tale of a man going through a midlife crisis, except it also sparks a total mental breakdown and it happens in the middle of Disney World. It begins with a ride on the Rocky Mountain rollercoaster which is sledgehammer foreshadowing of the rollercoaster ride we’re about to go on in our hero’s haunted head. What struck me was how funny most of the film was. The trailer would lead you to believe that it’s a full-on Lynchian horror nightmare, but in truth the majority of it is pretty hilarious.

That isn’t to criticise it because the humour worked very well. Roy Abramsohn is so amusing as Jim, the typical twat Dad. His acting is a little questionable but it did add to the humour of the whole film. The first hour is basically like watching a family’s home video of a trip to Disney with splashes of sinister surrealism (get a load of that sibilance!) but I mean that in the best possible way. It isn’t boring because there’s a strong dark humour layered throughout. It also feels extremely intimate and involving with a strong focus on characters to keep you interested.

escapefr

The film hits its stride once the gang enter Epcot and Jim starts to drink lots and lots. This triggers his descent into complete surrealism and the film abandons linear narrative. It’s loud, chaotic and absorbing but I was hoping for a little more Inland Empire styled directing, but perhaps I was hoping for too much. It could’ve been more surreal and dreamlike, but it was still suitably disorientating and inventive. There’s also very intelligent themes and symbolism buried underneath if you’re willing to dig hard enough. I like how a lot of it is open to interpretation.

Escape From Tomorrow might look a bit shoddy with its rough camerawork and dodgy acting, but that’s also part of its charm. I did find the black and white photography quite stylish and the searing Disney golden-era score is pretty brilliant. The low rating on Netflix and IMDb might suggest that I’m in the minority when I say that I enjoyed it, but I am definitely biased when it comes to these weird kind of films. Normal cinemagoers will see it as a curiosity piece, but us weirdos will be dazzled by the surrealist imagery, comedy and overall strangeness. It’s not as good as it could’ve been, but I still found a lot to like.

sevem out-of-ten

The Holy Mountain (1973)

0

holymountainposter

Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky

Stars: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Horacio Salinas, Zamira Saunders

Don’t watch whilst intoxicated

The only Alejandro Jodorowsky film I had seen prior to The Holy Mountain was El Topo. I thought El Topo was one of the weirdest films I’d ever seen with a gunslinger traipsing around the desert with a naked child on his back and encountering a corrupt town full of disabled people. Could things get much weirder than that? Yes they bloody could. You know a film is going to a little bit off the wall when it has the line, “Your sacrifice has completed my sanctuary of 1,000 testicles.” El Topo seems as deadly realistic as a Michael Haneke film compared to Alejandro’s The Holy Mountain. I made a list of weird movies a while ago and placed Eraserhead as my number one weirdest. If I were to revise that list, I’d definitely place The Holy Mountain directly behind Eraserhead. It’s that weird.

holymount

Casual moviegoers beware. This is a film funded by John Lenon and Yoko Ono so it isn’t your average Owen Wilson cosy romcom. Within in the first half hour we’re bombarded with bizarre imagery. A man who looks like Jesus walks around a dreamlike town full of frogs in clothes getting blown to smithereens, Jesus statues made out of sponge cake, armless dwarves, sex in the street and eyeless paedophiles. All of this section is told without dialogue bar a few screams and Baldy Man styled gibberish.

I was so taken back at the sheer amount of strangeness. Every single shot has severely strange imagery in it. It’s like a Salvador Dali painting coming to life and the pacing is so fast, especially in the first act. There’s no point trying to read the symbolism because too much happens, too quickly. The best thing to do is just let the film wash over you like some sort of fountain of oddness. Even after reading some ideas on the film I still have no idea what any of it means. However, my guess is that Alejandro isn’t a fan of religion or weapons, but he is a fan of nudity and animals. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they cleared out London zoo to make this film.

holy-mountains-(1973)-large-picture

The second act takes a slower pace, but is no less bizarre. The production design in this section is pretty astonishing. I was particularly astounded by the rainbow room which seems like something from another world. A kind of plot does kick in with our Jesus hero meeting a ‘master’ (played by madman Alejandro Jodorowsky himself) who plans to take him and a bunch of increasingly bizarre misfits on a quest to meet the gods. We’re introduced to nine new characters in quick succession. All of them have a detailed backstory involving everything from orgasm machines to testicle collections. This section does get a little repetitive and lengthy but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

The rest of the film follows the oddballs on the quest to meet the gods. Compared to the weirdness overload we’ve been having, this section does feel a little less weird so it’s less memorable. I do have to say though that it acuminates into one of the best endings to a film I’ve ever seen. It’s incredibly jarring and the most postmodern thing I’ve seen since The Cabin in the Woods.

holy-mountain-(1973)-large-picture

So what else can I say about The Holy Mountain? As its trailer states, it’s a film which defies conventional plot and criticism. It’s like a piece of art or music. It’s something you have to feel and depending on what you felt, you either like it or you don’t! As a connoisseur of the weird, I really liked it. It definitely leaves an impression and leaves you with an army of images you won’t forget in a hurry. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as hypnotic and dreamlike as it could’ve been thanks (or no thanks) to Alejandro’s directing style. The film feels quite detached and objective. I think the film would’ve been stronger if it was seen more through the eyes of the Jesus character. The reason I love David Lynch films so much is that he takes us on an experience with the characters. Alejandro shoots like we’re just spectators and so part of the experience is lost.

The Holy Mountain is still an extraordinary film though. It’s rich and full of surrealist imagery. It’s almost like the ultimate surreal film with so much impenetrable symbolism crammed in to make your brain melt. Most average moviegoers won’t make it pass the first ten minutes, but then again why would an average moviegoer attain a copy of The Holy Mountain? For the rest of us weirdos, this is unmissable!

eight-out-of-ten

Magnolia (1999)

0

magnolia

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Juilanne Moore, John C Reilly, William H Macy, Philip Baker

My God, it’s full of frogs!

I’ve been looking forward to seeing Magnolia for ages now. There Will Be Blood was my first taste of Paul Thomas Anderson and has rapidly become one of my top five favourite films I’ve seen. Then I saw Punch-Drunk Love which I think is a little underrated, and then Hard Eight (or Sydney as it should’ve been called) which is a striking debut, although definitely not up to scratch with the others as mentioned. And then there’s Magnolia! Many cite it as the best film ever made and Paul himself has even gone on record saying that he’ll never do a film as good as Magnolia again. That could well be true.

Whilst at the time of writing, I still do prefer There Will Be Blood, there’s no denying the marvel of Magnolia. It’s sheer audacity is enough to be respected, yet somehow Paul Thomas Anderson (why is his name so frigging long? I’m just going to call him Paul) manages to handle this great big beast he’s created with flawless ease. Magnolia is basically like Love Actually with lots of little separate stories going on which are loosely inter-connected with each other. However, Paul isn’t too concerned with love. He’s more interested in the bleaker side of life such as: child abuse, drug addiction, rejection, loneliness and regret. For most people, the idea of a three hour long film with all these themes would be a turn off. However, I’d urge you to stick with it.

To be honest, I loved Magnolia from the moment it began. It tells three stories within the first five minutes in the whimsical style of Amelie. They’re expertly told, but also quite misleading. We’re lead to believe that the big story which is about to follow will end in a way which connects all the characters, but it never does. Or at least, they don’t come together as explicitly as the first three stories told. These first five minutes would make a superb short film of its own, alas it’s just a warm-up for the main event. Suddenly the depressing One is the Loneliest Number starts to play as the titles bloom out of a brilliant magnolia flower. What plays is basically a music video with all the depressed characters being introduced whilst the fitting song plays over them.

Magnolia has over ten main characters and by some sort of miracle, Paul manages to develop each one deeply. Each character is so rich with detail and each has a story which manages to be thoroughly engaging and entertaining. I mentioned all the heavy themes at the start, but Magnolia is actually quite a funny film in places too. If I were to mention what I loved about each charcter and their story then this review would probably be as long as the screenplay for Magnolia, so I’ll just mention a couple of my absolute favourites. Probably the most extraordinary character arc is Tom Cruise’s character, Frank. We despise him at the start with his disgusting misogynistic ramblings, however as his arc goes on we see him turn from cocky a prat into a vengeful and weeping little boy. Paul gives us just enough to suggest why his character is the way he is, yet leaves enough ambiguity to let us come to our own conclusions.

magnolia-gameshow

Another fascinating character is Donnie Smith, the child star who’s now all grown up and forgotten. His story is arguably the most moving. He’s a drunk whose lost his job and is hopelessly in love with a barman who doesn’t love him back. One of the saddest parts of the film, for me, was when Donnie got drunk at the bar and started rambling about how much love he had to give. What makes all these stories so engaging is that they’re all so identifiable, or at least will be. We’ve all felt alone, we’ve all felt love, we’ll all have to cope with dying or seeing a loved one die etc. this is perhaps the secret to Magnolia’s greatness.

The acting is also brilliant across the board. Tom Cruise is an actor I normally can’t stand, yet here he’s Oscar-worthy. He’s been given such a complex character to play and he plays it with terrifying ease. The iconic moment when he confesses his hatred to his dying father feels almost too real. Julianne Moore is also another one who stands out. Her hysterical suicidal outbursts are almost exemplary. I also loved Philip Baker Hall as the game show host dying of cancer. At first he’s a character who you feel deep sympathy for until you find out the dark secret he’s harbouring. The scene where he confesses his secrets to his wife is another stand-out moment.

magnolia1

Paul’s directing is nothing short of masterful, as ever. It might not have the same Kubrickian shots like, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood had but there is still a distinct style which holds the film together. I loved the long and involving tracking shots and some of the editing was extraordinary. At times it reminded me of a Christopher Nolan film as there are several powerful moments in Magnolia where stories all come together with one character narrating over a different unconnected image involving another character. It’s difficult to explain, but it works and creates a superb mood. There’s even an inspired moment where all the characters burst into song, thus unifying them even further.

Magnolia really is the definition of a masterpiece. You can tell that Paul set out to create the greatest film ever made and he has pretty much succeeded. It’s such a magnificently rich, deep and emotional film. In fact, it’s so deep that it would take you at least three viewings to totally appreciate it all. It’s a brave piece of work and even features a moment of bizarre surrealism towards the end which should feel completely out of place, but doesn’t. Magnolia works on so many levels. It’s not so pretentious that it’s inaccessible to average movie-going audiences, however if you want to dig deeper into it then there’s more than enough there to allow it. I certainly can’t wait to experience it all again.

perfect-10

Industrial Symphony No.1: The Dreams of the Broken Hearted

0

industrialsymphony

Director: David Lynch

Stars: Julee Cruise, Michael J Anderson, Laura Dern, Nicolas Cage

David Lynch does broadway!

Ever wondered what it would be like if David Lynch put on a musical stage show with Julee Cruise? Wonder no more! Industrial Symphony is a supremely strange stage show put together by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti for the annual Brooklyn Academy of Music. They only had two weeks to prepare for the show, and so the result is rather remarkable.

industrial-symphony-no-1-the-dream-of-the-brokenhearted-w1280

It opens with Sailor and Lula from Wild at Heart (presumably it’s supposed to be them?) on the phone, with Sailor leaving Lula. The rest of the film is an extended fever dream set on stage. It reminded me of a concert, only this is a concert by David Lynch so there’s awful blonde wigs, half naked women gyrating on cars and dwarfs sawing logs. I found it fabulous.

Julee’s vocals are incredibly haunting and hypnotic. Match this with the visuals David presents us and it feels incredibly nightmarish. There’s a moment where Julee stops and screams mid-song and falls from the rope suspending her from the ceiling. It’s so jarring and it actually scared me a little bit. It doesn’t help that she turns into some 30ft skinned papier-mâché deer either.

industrial

The whole thing wouldn’t have felt out of place if it appeared as a scene in Inland Empire, so that gives you an idea of its mesmerising weirdness. For most people it will be unwatchable, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. Like with most David Lynch films, the experience is difficult to put into words, it’s something you simply must see for yourself. Twin Peaks fans might also be interested as a few of the songs Julee sings in the Road House are also performed here. All that’s missing is Falling and Mysteries of Love. It’s a shame that there’s no good quality version available. For Lynch fans, it’s unmissable. For everyone else, it isn’t.

eight-out-of-ten