Wednesday, 29 June 2016

100 Essential Films that Deserve more Attention - 3. The Incident

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to escape from the monotony of everyday life, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.

The Incident
Director - Larry Peerce
Country - USA
Year - 1967
Runtime - 107 Minutes
 
1967 was a milestone year for American cinema. The success of ground-breaking films such as Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate and In the Heat of the Night paved the way for film-makers to show more violence and tackle subjects that were previously deemed too risqué or controversial for the general public. One such film also released in 1967 that is arguably more provocative than the aforementioned titles, yet didn't receive the same critical acclaim as they did, is Larry Peerce's superb thriller, The Incident.

In a scene that would not feel out of place in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets we are introduced to two foul-mannered delinquents, Artie (Martin Sheen) and Joe (Tony Musante, pictured below), playing billiards and tormenting the owner of a snooker hall by refusing to acknowledge it is well past closing time. When they eventually head out into the night we begin to see the full force of their volatile and violent nature as they take over a subway carriage and refuse to let an innocent group of passengers leave.
 
Although it starts out as a playful joke, the situation soon turns sour and the two hoodlums become hostile, berating every traveller in turn. With each passing moment the audience hopes that someone will intervene, particularly as there are two soldiers on board the carriage (albeit one with a broken arm) but no-one steps forward as they are all too fearful of becoming their assailant's next victim.

 Where The Incident really succeeds is in the portrayal of its victims. By taking the time to show each and every passenger prior to them boarding the tube, Peerce adds to the pervasive air of unease as the audience can relate to their predicament by empathising with the passengers. There are people of all ages who represent many different walks of life and we get to see them all fall apart under the scrutiny of their attackers. Peerce knowingly provokes us with the uncomfortable question - 'Would you intervene?' No-one knows for certain how they would react in such a situation but it poses a difficult question by challenging the audience's courage in the face of moral dilemma.

As well as putting forth an important social message, The Incident works on its own merit as a gripping thriller but the underlying meaning adds power and depth to Peerce's film and prevents it from being just another blistering assault on the senses. In this way, The Incident is likely to resonate with audiences who have a penchant for exploitation films as much as those who relish a thought-provoking commentary on society. If you are open to both of these attention-grabbing approaches of storytelling then I am certain that The Incident will appeal to you just as much as it did to me, and I urge you to seek out this obscure gem as soon as possible.

I have scoured the internet to find a trailer for The Incident but my search proved fruitless. Instead, here's a clip of one of the intense scenes that shows exactly what you will be in store for:


you take the time to watch The Incident then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

Monday, 27 June 2016

Cinema Review - Silver Linings Playbook

Previously published by Front Room Cinema in 2012

Bradley Cooper has become the go to guy for Hollywood in roles that usually involve either a stereotypical ladies man, big laughs or lots of action, but it is great to see his acting ability given room to breathe in Silver Linings Playbook, as he proves that he is far more than just a pretty face with his gripping performance as Pat, a recovering patient fresh from a stint in a Psychiatric Unit. The wonderful film title refers to a message Pat takes to heart during his time in care as he searches for the silver lining in every situation but he still struggles to keep his composure when exposed to a certain song that was playing at the time of his breakdown.

It is initially unclear why Pat has served time in a psychiatric unit but the signs all lead to difficulties in his marriage, and this is soon confirmed by his increasingly desperate attempts to contact his estranged wife by any means possible, despite a restraining order being in place. Whilst an encounter with a new female friend - similarly troubled by events in her past - does provide a distraction to his desire, Pat's heart appears to be firmly set on rekindling his marriage, but this does not deter the ever resourceful Tiffany from becoming a key figure in his rehabilitation.

David O Russell proved he could bring dysfunctional families to the big screen with last year's fantastic sports film The Fighter, and he continues to expand on his flair for human drama by coaxing riveting performances out of a very talented cast. Pat's family is rounded out by the ever wonderful Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro as his increasingly concerned parents and Shea Whigham as his annoyingly successful brother who serves to remind Pat of his shortcomings, and all involved make every scene a joy to watch. Jennifer Lawrence shines as Tiffany, and her turbulent relationship with Pat is the key to most of the films laughs, as he remains immune to her constant advances.

Films which approach a serious subject matter from a humorous point of view can be in danger of offending certain audiences, but much like last year's 50/50 which tackled the risque subject of cancer in a comedy, O Russell's portrayal of mental illness is treated with such care that the viewers will undoubtedly sympathise with Pat and Tiffany's problems, whilst still finding laughs in the hilarious situations they encounter. 

Heartwarming, funny and at times poignant, Silver Linings Playbook is a great adapation of a well-received novel and it is likely to touch all but the most cynical of viewers thanks to the array of incredibly entertaining characters who breathe life to this story. Perfect for those tired of the usual romantic cliches as well as being funny enough for those seeking laughs, this is an uplifting drama which will hopefully inspire others to seek out a silver lining when everything appears to be against them.


Direction - 4
Acting - 4
Screenplay 3.5
Film - 4

Bottom Line - David O Russell's follow up to last year's Oscar grabbing The Fighter is a moving and at times hilarious character study of how a psychiatric patients recovery impacts on the life of a young woman bereaving the death of her husband.

Positives - Cooper and Lawrence shine as the unlikely couple who find friendship despite their personal problems

Negatives - With such a great cast, some of the actors involved are slightly underused

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

100 Essential Films that deserve More Attention - 2. Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to escape from the monotony of everyday life, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.


Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen
Director - Gyorgy Pálfi
Country - Hungary
Year - 2012
Runtime - 84 Minutes

Imagine a film that takes memorable scenes from all of your favourite movies and pieces them together to create a single narrative, where shots of different actors are used to represent the same character, and all form part of a new, yet familiar storyline. Director György Pálfi has done just that, and although copyright issues prevent the film from ever being officially released it is (at the time of writing) available on youtube for all to enjoy, and I have included the full film at the bottom of this article should you wish to consider my recommendation - trust me, you won't regret it! Where else would you be able to see Anthony Perkins (as Norman Bates from Psycho) smiling maniacally after Sharon Stone flashes him during a romantic meal?

Pálfi has painstakingly sifted through countless hours of footage to create Final Cut, and his unbounded passion for film is clear to all who behold it. Every film fan will relish the opportunity to play 'name that movie' throughout the film's runtime - I certainly did - although the simple yet effective boy meets girl storyline adds another layer of enjoyment to this incredible labour of love.

The films used range from mainstream cinematic classics such as Pulp Fiction and Singin' in the Rain to lesser known gems, like The Hill and Closely Observed Trains, and finally on to more obscure Hungarian pictures (that English speakers like myself are unlikely to have ever encountered before). All of these have been carefully spliced together in a way to create the illusion of a seamless narrative, in a manner that is both enthralling and incredibly impressive. Although foreign films are used there are unfortunately no subtitles to accompany the different languages which feature in Final Cut (unless you can read Hungarian). Thankfully, this doesn't detract from the experience as Pálfi relies on visual cues to form the basis of his storytelling; a look or a gesture can be just as expressive as spoken words - if not more so - and there are actually very few clips where words are uttered by the actors.

By utilising a selection of evocative film scores to accompany Final Cut, Pálfi taps in to our emotional receptors as it is difficult to listen to such grandiose and stirring themes without recalling the emotions we felt during previous encounters with the music. Artists such as Vangelis (Chariots of Fire), Michael Nyman (The Piano), and Simon & Garfunkel (The Graduate) feature among a host of eclectic musicians whose only connection is that their music has previously been used as an unforgettable backdrop to a powerful cinematic canvas. Hearing these familiar sounds cut to visuals that we wouldn't normally associate with the music is a satisfying experience for any film fan, and is another reason why Final Cut is deserving of far more attention that it has garnered since its inception.

You might be mistaken in thinking that Final Cut is nothing more than a novelty but I have watched it numerous times and find that it improves on repeat viewings. My first encounter with Final Cut left me in awe at the sheer volume of clips on show, as my brain frantically scrambled to identify the films which had been used to create this unconventional masterpiece. Following on from this, I managed to look past the clips on display and immersed myself into the beautifully realised story that elevates Final Cut to its position as a monumental tribute to the world of cinema.




If you take the time to watch Final Cut then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!

For previous instalments in the series click here

Sunday, 29 May 2016

100 Essential Films that Deserve More Attention - 1. Happy End

People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to escape from the monotony of everyday life, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.

With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.

This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.


Director - Oldrich Lipský
Country - Czechoslovakia
Year - 1967
Runtime - 71 Minutes

Choosing my first film for this series posed an enormous challenge; I wanted to pick something that would convince you of my ability to unearth forgotten classics without placing too much of a demand on those taking the plunge on my first suggestion. Some people may consider an overlooked black and white Czechoslovakian film from 1967 as too much of a punt but those who do would be missing out on one of the most innovative and downright entertaining films I have seen in years. With a runtime of just over an hour - and the entirety of the film available to stream on YouTube - there is no excuse for ignoring my recommendation, and I am fairly certain that anyone who watches this will be back for my second article in the series.

Many successful directors have played around with the notion of time as a narrative device; Christopher Nolan's Memento, David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Gaspar Noé's Irreversible all do this to give their stories an edge by taking the audience down unexpected timelines, but Oldrich Lipský's Happy End introduces a brilliant method of storytelling that is quite unlike anything I have ever encountered before.


It is not unusual for a film to begin with the death of an important character. However, in this instance, the scene is played out in reverse with our protagonist's freshly decapitated head rolling up from the floor to join its body as the executioner's blade is lifted up from the block. A voice-over informs us that this is the birth of Bedrich Frydrych (also known as The Butcher) and whilst the narration continues to describe the start of his life, the on screen action plays out in reverse for the film's entirety, creating a strange yet enthralling view of The Butcher's life.

The Butcher's stint in prison prior to his execution is narrated as if it is his formative childhood years, and the reason for his incarceration leads to one of the most morbidly fascinating scenes in the film when we are introduced to his wife and her lover. It may take a few moments to get your head around this backwards tale but once you do it is so utterly compelling that you won't ever want it to end.

Oldrich Lipský clearly had a lot of fun putting Happy End together; his visual gags have a timeless quality, and watching everyday life play out in reverse is far more entertaining than you could ever imagine. Observing people eating their food backwards is hilarious in its own right but when sex, murder and butchery enter the equation you find yourself in a whole new world of hilarious back-to-front shenanigans.


Clocking in at only 71 grin-inducing minutes, Happy End doesn't overstay its welcome but instead leaves you with a bitter-sweet sense of longing for more inspired madness. The jokes come thick and fast with barely any space for breathing room and range from moments of full blown slapstick comedy to smatterings of well-crafted word play which delight and amuse in equal measure. You will inevitably derive more pleasure from the gags that don't register until repeat viewings and this works to its advantage as Happy End is a film that deserves demands to be seen more than once.

Happy End is undoubtedly a work of comic genius but it also ventures into the realm of cinematic brilliance with its long takes that play out in reverse. The lively camera work heightens the feeling that you are watching something very special indeed, and the audacious shots are matched with a playful classical soundtrack that lightens the mood during the sombre scenes and adds a delightful poignancy to key emotional moments.

Why Happy End isn't more well known is beyond me, this classic comedy should easily sit alongside the greats of the genre and is definitely deserving of more attention, as you will hopefully find out for yourself. If you have come this far in reading my high praise for the first essential film that deserves more attention then what are you waiting for? Click play below and I guarantee you will be hooked in the first five minutes.



If you take the time to watch Happy End then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!