Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported forward in time by her court astrologer, John Dee (Richard O’Brien) to a shattered Britain of the 1970s, where the present Queen is dead, Buckingham Palace has been turned into a recording studio, and law and order have completely broken down. Moving through the city, Elizabeth observes a group of aimless nihilists, including Amyl Nitrite (Jordan), Bod (Runacre in a dual role), Chaos (Hermine Demoriane), Crabs (Nell Campbell), and Mad (Toyah Willcox)…
This notorious study of British punk culture from avant-garde director Derek Jarman has garnered a huge cult following over the years. But when it was first released (on 3 February 1978 in the UK), Vivienne Westwood famously created a T-shirt with an open letter to Jarman printed on it denouncing the film and his misrepresentations of punk. And when it got its first C4 screening, it was deemed ‘corrupting, pernicious filth’.
Today, Jubilee stands as one of the few British features of the late-1970s to capture on film performances and cameos from some of most iconic bands of the era, including Adam and the Ants, The Slits, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. And for that reason alone is why you should add the BFI’s 2018 Blu-ray to your collection. Featuring a 2K re-master from the original camera negatives, and presented in both HD and SD (on the DVD). A must-see over and over.
• A Message from the Temple (1981, 5 mins)
• Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014, 8 mins); the singer and actress looks back on her role in Jubilee
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018, 33 mins): punk icon Jordan looks back on her friendship with Derek Jarman and the making of Jubilee
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018, 17 mins): Derek Jarman’s friend, and later collaborator recalls his unconventional involvement in the making of Jubilee
• Jubilee image gallery
• Illustrated booklet featuring a contemporary review
Cruising | William Friedkin’s controversial gay serial killer thriller gets a director-approved restoration
William Friedkin directs Al Pacino as an undercover cop pitched into New York’s gay underworld in Cruising – available for the first time on Blu-ray in a brand new director-approved transfer from Arrow Video.
New York is caught in the grip of a sadistic serial killer who is preying on the patrons of the city’s fetish clubs. Captain Edelson (Paul Sorvino) tasks young rookie Steve Burns (Pacino) with infiltrating the S&M subculture to try and lure the killer out of the shadows – but as he immerses himself deeper and deeper into the underworld, Steve risks losing his own identity in the process.
Taking the premise and title from reporter Gerald Walker’s 1970 novel, Cruising was the subject of enormous controversy at the time of its release (filming and screenings were picketed by sections of the gay community) and remains a challenging but deeply powerful thriller to this day, with Pacino’s haunted lead performance as its magnetic centrepiece.
It is also still the only Hollywood feature to shine a light on the gay fetish scene – just before another deadly killer struck the community – AIDS – with all of the poppers-fuelled club action being shot on location in New York’s Meat Packing District, with the club’s members all consensually appearing as themselves in the film’s most notorious scenes.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative supervised and approved by writer-director William Friedkin
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Newly remastered 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio supervised by William Friedkin
• Optional English subtitles
• New audio commentary with director William Friedkin, moderated by Mark Kermode (PF: An incisive look at the film’s production, themes and legacy, this is a must-listen and will make you want to watch the film all over again with fresh eyes and ears — I never knew how important the sound effects were or that there are subliminal shots of anal sex inserted in the murder sequences — and Friedkin also clears up a few long-asked questions, including the supposed lost footage and what that closing shot really means)
• Archival audio commentary by William Friedkin (PF: Having listened to the moderated commentary first, where Kermode bounces off ideas off Friedkin, I found this a bit too scripted – though its still insightful)
• The History of Cruising: archival featurette looking at the film’s origins and production
• Exorcising Cruising: archival featurette looking at the controversy surrounding the film and its enduring legacy
• Original Theatrical Trailer
Derek Jarman’s first feature, Sebastiane, directed with Paul Humfress and released in 1976, presents the controversial, sensual and sexualised story of the 4th century Praetorian Guard whose human goodness leads to humiliation and martyrdom.
Back in March 2019, Sebastiane was released as a stand-alone Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, and iTunes, released by the BFI.
In Sebastiane, the heat of the Sardinian desert is powerfully captured on film – both cast and crew go through their paces, sweating it out Herzog-style – while Brian Eno’s distinctly moving score beautifully complements the superb framing and stunning slow-motion photography.
A glorious hymn to the very real, living, breathing, male body, Sebastiene is presented in a new digital version remastered from the original camera negative by the BFI National Archive.
• Presented in High Definition
• Jazz Calendar (1968, 36 mins): footage of the Royal Ballet in rehearsal featuring scenery and costumes by Derek Jarman
• Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (1976, 62 mins): an incomplete, black and white and un-subtitled work-in-progress cut featuring alternative music
• The Making of Sebastiane (1975, 23 mins): Super 8 making-of, shot by the feature’s sound assistant Hugh Smith, along with Jarman
• John Scarlett-Davis Remembers Sebastiane (2018, 7 mins): artist-filmmaker John Scarlett-Davis talks about his experiences on the set of Sebastiane
• Stills Gallery
• Illustrated booklet with writing on the film by BFI curator William Fowler, original review by Tony Rayns and full film credits
Jarman – Volume Two (1987-1994) | The BFI presents six final features from the iconoclastic artist, plus 66 superlative special features, on Blu-ray
It has been 25 years since British filmmaker Derek Jarman died, aged 52 (on 19 February 1994), and yet his artistic legacy continues to live on. Embracing the experimental, the political and the artistic, his cinema was fearlessly unique but also touchingly personal and truly inspirational.
The BFI’s second Limited Edition Blu-ray collection brings together Jarman’s final six features, made during a prolonged burst of creativity and political activism that followed his HIV diagnosis in 1987, and all of them featuring his artistic muse, Tilda Swinton.
These include The Last of England (1987), War Requiem (1989) with Laurence Olivier in his last screen performance, The Garden (1990), Edward II (1993) with Steven Waddington, Wittgenstein (1993) with Michael Gough, Blue (1993) with composers Brian Eno, Coil, Scanner and Simon Fisher Turner, and the posthumously-released elegy to Super 8, Glitterbug (1994), with music from Brian Eno.
All the films are presented in High Definition for the first time in the UK, and the box-set includes 66 amazing special features – both new and archival, plus trailers, galleries of rare stills and promotional materials, and a 100-page collector’s. This truly is a must-have, and a perfect companion to the BFI’s first volume (1972-1986), which contains In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Sebastiane (1976), Jubilee (1977), The Tempest (1979), The Angelic Conversation (1985) and Caravaggio (1986).
•••THE FILMS AND THOSE EXTRA FEATURES IN DETAIL•••
THE LAST OF ENGLAND
Jarman’s highly personal allegory of England in the 1980s. The film combines images of inner-city decay, footage from home movies of three generations of Jarman’s family and a post-apocalypse vision of London ruled by a para-military authority.
• Dead Cat (1989, 20 mins): Derek Jarman and Genesis P-Orridge feature in this startling surrealist film in which a young man is terrorised and humiliated, later engaging in a mechanised, industrial sexual encounter
• Isle of Sheppey (1984, 7 mins): edited highlights from a VHS video shot on a location-hunting expedition, featuring Derek Jarman and cultural historian Jon Savage
• Depuis le jour (1987, 5 mins): Derek Jarman’s sequence from the anthology film Aria
• Depuis le jour: audio commentary by producer Don Boyd
• Remembering Derek Jarman (2014, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Last of England (2019, 14 mins)
• Don Boyd Remembers The Last of England and Aria (2019, 16 mins)
• Homemade Stuff and Wild Ideas: Simon Fisher Turner on Derek Jarman (2019, 16 mins): the composer looks back on his involvement with Derek Jarman’s art
• Another Derek: Jarman’s Life Away From the Limelight (2019, 5 mins): interview with artist filmmaker John Scarlett-Davis
• An Odd Morality (2019, 4 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• Another World for Ourselves (2019, 9 mins): director John Maybury on meeting Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers Dead Cat (2019, 15 mins)
• Audio commentary on The Last of England with James Mackay, Christopher Hughes, Christopher Hobbs and Simon Fisher Turner
A must-see for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Benjamin Britten’s choral masterpiece, Jarman’s film interpretation includes readings of Wilfred Owen’s World War One poetry and disturbing images of wars since. Tragedy without the triumph, in other words. Features Nathaniel Parker (as Owen), Laurence Olivier, Sean Bean, Patricia Hayes and Nigel Terry.
• Books By My Bedside: Derek Jarman (1989, 25 mins)
• Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field (1989, 32 mins)
• Requiem For Jarman (2008, 37 mins): recollections on the making of War Requiem
• Don Boyd Remembers War Requiem (2019, 38 mins)
• John Maybury Remembers War Requiem (2019, 8 mins)
• The Nature of Super 8 (2019, 8 mins)
• Caravaggio was Accidental (2019, 10 mins): Simon Fisher Turner remembers his first feature soundtrack for Derek Jarman
• Before The Last (2019, 15 mins): James Mackay recalls working with Derek Jarman on The Angelic Conversation and Imagining October
•Derek Jarman Presents (2019, 27 mins): John Maybury remembers the Super 8 filmmaking scene
• War Requiem trailer
· Audio commentary on War Requiem with Don Boyd
• War Requiem image gallery
• Derek’s Shoot in Dungeness (1990, 6 mins): rare behind-the-scenes Super 8 footage shot on location at the time of The Garden
• The Wanderer (1991, 30 mins): experimental film by David Lewis based on the Anglo-Saxon poem of the same name, featuring Michael Gough and Michael York
• Kiss 25 Goodbye (1991, 7 mins): experimental short on the 1991 OutRage! ‘kiss-in’ protest at Bow Street police station
• Clause and Effect (1988, 19 mins): the gay community unites against Clause 28
• Orange Juice (1984, 41 mins): Derek Jarman’s location shoot for the promo for ‘What Presence?!’ by post-punk band Orange Juice, fronted by Edwyn Collins
• Shooting the Hunter (2015, 5 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• Anything Can Happen (2019, 11 mins): Richard Heslop on working with Derek Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• The Other Great Masterpiece (2019, 6 mins): John Maybury considers Jarman’s enthusiasm for gardening
• The Garden trailers
• Life with Derek (2018, 44 mins): Composer Simon Fisher Turner’s collage of audio clips
Jarman’s trenchant sort-of-modern-dress adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s play about the downfall of the medieval monarch, richly-textured with atmosphere, but with the homosexual content expanded, embellished and politicised.
• Derek’s Edward (2009, 24 mins): the making of Edward II
• Ostia (1987, 27 mins): Jarman embodies Pier Paolo Pasolini in this ambitious student film imagining the last hours of the Italian director’s life
• Ostia director’s audio commentary
• The Clearing (1993, 7 mins): short film by Alex Bistikas starring Derek Jarman and Keith Collins
• The Extended Derek Jarman Interview (1991, 70 mins): With Colin McCabe
• Cut/Action (2019, 8 mins): Video essay with music and narration by Simon Fisher Turner
• David Lewis Remembers Edward II (2019, 4 mins)
• The Same Spirit (2019, 6 mins): Don Boyd remembers Jarman’s later years
• Truly Beautiful (2019, 19 mins): interview with costumer designer Sandy Powell
• Derek Jarman in Conversation with Colin McCabe (1991, 97 mins, audio only)
Jarman executed this critically-acclaimed Channel 4 film celebrating the life of Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in just two weeks (on a tiny £300,000 budget). Visually stunning, with some fantastic costumes (from Sandy Powell), it explores Wittgenstein’s repressed homosexuality alongside his reputation as one of greatest thinkers of the century, and features Michael Gough and John Quentin as Bertrand Russell and Maynard Keynes.
• Karl Johnson on Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
• Tilda Swinton on Wittgenstein and Derek Jarman (2007, 10 mins)
• Tariq Ali on Producing Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
• Wittgenstein: Behind the Scenes (1993, 22 mins)
• Wittgenstein: An Introduction (2007, 4 mins)
• Face to Face: Derek Jarman (1993, 41 mins): Jarman discusses his HIV status and sexuality with Jeremy Isaacs
• Producer Tariq Ali on Wittgenstein (2014, 7 mins)
• Jarmanalia with Simon Fisher Turner (2019, 17 mins)
• Films Made by a Painter (2019, 5 mins): James Mackay reflects on Jarman’s distinctive style as a filmmaker
BLUE & GLITTERBUG
Blue – the third film in the highly-personal trilogy begun by The Last of England and The Garden – received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival for its uncompromising look at what it’s like to live and work as an artist with the emotional and physical agonies of AIDS. A challenge to conventional filmmaking ideas, the film sees Jarman (and friends) musing on life, death and living with AIDS using vocal and musical testimony against a blank blue screen. Its a fitting goodbye from a director who never once compromised his principals or his own vision. The posthumously-released Glitterbug is a wonderful elegy to Super 8, featuring a compilation of shorts in which the likes of Adam Ant, William S Burroughs and Marianne Faithfull all contribute.
• 21st Century Nuns (1994, 10 mins): A look at the British chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their ‘colourful’ activist efforts at fighting homophobia. Great to see this included, as it features some dear friends (some of whom are no longer with us), and is a reminder of just how far we have come with gay/lesbian/transgender rights.
• Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman (2009, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers Blue (2019, 15 mins)
• Simon Fisher Turner Remembers Blue (2019, 8 mins)
• David Lewis Remembers Blue (2019, 13 mins)
• Hard to Imagine (2019, 8 mins): John Maybury recalls Jarman’s journey towards Blue
• After The Garden (2019, 10 mins): Richard Heslop remembers Jarman’s later days
• Total Magic (2019, 6 mins): production designer Christopher Hobbs looks back upon Jarman’s fascination with occult imagery
• After Neutron (2019, 8 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• The Best Mentor (2019, 9 mins): John Scarlett-Davis on Jarman’s artistic legacy
• Glitterbug and Beyond (2019, 7 mins): James Mackay on the production of Glitterbug
• David Lewis Remembers Glitterbug (2019, 7 mins)
• Bliss (1991, 40 mins, audio only): the London debut of the avant-garde live show that helped raise funds to produce Blue, featuring Derek Jarman and Tilda Swinton. This is another of my personal favourites as I was in the audience for this performance, and ended up meeting and chatting with Jarman after the gig. He later gave me some Super 8mm film to shoot my own experimental short, Cruising Headstones.
The Boys in the Band (1970) | Mart Crowley’s ground-breaking queer drama still has the power to shock!
The Boys in the Band was one of earliest directorial efforts of William Friedkin (who had impressed with his 1968 adaptation of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, and would next helm The French Connection and The Exorcist), and it proved hugely controversial on its original 1970 release, dividing the gay community across the world. Now, the game-changing queer cinema drama is making its UK Blu-ray debut from Second Sight.
Based on the seminal 1968 Off-Broadway hit of the same name, playwright Mart Crowley adapted his own play for the big screen. The original stage cast including Kenneth Nelson, Peter White and Leonard Frey all starred in the film, one that Friedkin rates as ‘one of the few films I’ve made that I can still watch’.
Famed for its caustic wit, savage put-downs and many expletives, the film follows a group of gay men celebrating the birthday of one of their friends, Harold (Frey), amid much drunken backbiting and, as the drink flows, the evening descends even further…
The Boys in the Band Special Edition Blu-ray is out on 11 February 2019 complete with a raft of extras, including an exclusive, brand new interview with Mark Gatiss and Ian Hallard (who resurrected the play for a sold-out run in London in 2018), commentary from Friedkin and writer Crowley, as well as features looking at the film, the play it was based on and its cultural impact and resonance in the years since it first caused controversy.
Released 50 years after its theatrical debut – a year before the Stonewall riots – The Boys in the Band still has the power to shock…
Out now on Blu-ray in the UK from Second Sight
Whatever you do, don’t go by the IMDb listing for this 1970s schlockfest, which is supposed to be about ‘a gay drag queen with a mother fixation who terrorizes a city, hunting down, killing and dismembering women’. While that sounds like something I’d rather like to see, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is actually about a maniac obsessed with transporting her spirit into the bodies of young women, while the ‘dolls’ of the title are the preserved corpses of the girls she failed to possess.
With long black Morticia Addams hair, bushy eyebrows and five o’clock shadow, and dressed in a matronly purple robe, Miss Leslie looks like Aleister Crowley in Norma Bates drag. Now it’s pretty obvious from the outset that she’s being played by a bloke (Miami theatre actor Salvador Ugarte) being dubbed by a woman, but it all makes sense in the end and the road to the reveal is an absolute hoot.
This trangressive spin on the Old Dark House and House of Wax sees students Martha (Kitty Lewis), Lily (Marcelle Bichette), Roy (Charles Pitt) and their teacher Alma (Terri Juston) seeking shelter from a storm at Miss Leslie’s remote home in the woods.
On setting eyes on the lonely middle-age woman’s tableaux of female statues, the teens suspect her of belonging to some weird love cult, but Miss Leslie explains that she has long held a fascination for dolls and for creating life size ones as her family once owned a doll factory that was burned down in a fire. Martha, meanwhile, is the spitting image of the girl Miss Leslie was in love with 20 years ago.
Things go all Thundercrack meets Psycho as soon as the lights go out, with the students and their teacher getting in some bed swapping and heavy petty (Roy’s a bit of a sex god, and there’s some girl-on-girl action), while ‘girl worshipper’ Miss Leslie heads to the cellar for an emotional heart-to-heart with the skull of her dead mother, whom she blames for her murderous acts. We then learn that all Miss Leslie wants in life is to be desired – and to do that, she needs to be reincarnated into the body of a young woman. Oh dear… there are three potential candidates upstairs!
What happens next is really ‘Out there!’ – with the standout scenes involving the waxwork ‘dolls’ coming to lurid life; Martha, Lily and Roy being chased by Miss Leslie armed with an axe dripping in blood, and a drugged Alma, dressed in baby doll negligee and fluffy mules, trying to escape from the deranged maniac. So does Miss Leslie succeed in her spirit swapping? Well you’ll have to see the film to find out. But I can reveal that’s there’s a neat twist at the end.
For decades this would-be cult classic was considered lost, and doesn’t even get a mention in any of my cult film reference books, including Michael Weldon’s Psychotronic Encyclopaedia (my go-to book for the weird, the strange and the freakish). But kudos to Network Distributing and The Erotic Film Society’s Julian Marsh for unearthing this hidden gem (which I’ve now watched three times).
As I’ve mentioned, the film shares its DNA with a host of other genre classics, with Psycho being the obvious one. Shot at the same studios in Florida where Hershell Gordon Lewis lensed his grand guignol offerings, it has the look and feel of the godfather of gore’s grindhouse flicks (especially Gruesome Twosome), but also has shades of Ed Wood’s Glen Or Glenda and even Beyond the Valley of the Dolls running through its exploitation veins.
There’s much debate as to who really directed this bizarre cinematic experience, which is all explained in the booklet, written by film historian Laura Mayne, which accompanies Network’s release, but that doesn’t matter, as this is a hugely enjoyable slice of cheap and sleazy 1970s horror, which also benefits from an unusual score by the film’s screenwriter (Ralph Remy Jr as Imer Leaf) that fuses the space-age electronic sounds of Bebe and Louis Barron’s music to Forbidden Planet (1955) with Bobby Beausoleil’s otherworldly orchestral score to Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising (1972).
Newly scanned from one of the few surviving prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, Miss Leslie’s Dolls is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on 3 September from Network.
The Naked Civil Servant (1975) | John Hurt’s Bafta-winning turn as gay icon Quentin Crisp restored in HD
Originally broadcast on UK TV in December 1975, this Bafta-winning adaptation of Quentin Crisp’s best-selling autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant, boasts a career-best performance by the late John Hurt as Crisp – a flamboyant south London engineer’s tracer turned artist’s model living an openly gay lifestyle during the intolerant pre-war years, where he proudly challenges the authorities that seek to suppress him and his kind.
Blackly comic, poignant and yet also life-affirming, this courageous story about a very unconventional British eccentric is masterfully directed by Jack Gold (The Medusa Touch, Escape from Sobibor), from a screenplay by Philip Mackie (TV’s Raffles), and executive produced by Doctor Who’s Verity Lambert.
It also boasts some colourful turns from the likes of Shane Briant as a cross dressing male prostitute called Norma and Patricia Hodge as an Isadora Duncan-styled ballet teacher. But kudos go to Stanley Lebor as the tragic Mr Pole (his descent into madness will have you reaching for some tissues).
One of the most significant LGBT British-made TV dramas of all time, the Thames Television production gave Hurt his first Best Actor Bafta and turned Crisp into an instant international celebrity and a gay icon.
The self-proclaimed ‘Stately Homo’ was hailed as a modern-day Oscar Wilde due to his aphoristic witticisms which led him into creating a successful one-man show and publishing further works including 1996’s Resident Alien (which inspired 2009’s An Englishman in New York, also with John Hurt). Crisp died, aged 91, in 1999.
Check out his archives here: http://www.crisperanto.org/index1.html
Voted fourth in BFI’s Top 100 TV programmes of 20th Century, The Naked Civil Servant has been restored in high-definition from the original film elements.
With 2017 marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, it’s the perfect time time revisit the film, which also gets a special cinema screening on 28 May at a number of selected venues nationwide part of Picturehouse Cinemas’ Criminal Acts season. For more information go to: https://www.picturehouses.com/film/the-naked-civil-servant
THE NETWORK RELEASE
• HD feature version (HD Blu-ray exclusive), restored from the original film elements and presented in its original 1:33:1 picture ratio with the ad-breaks removed
• Commentary with John Hurt, director Jack Gold and executive producer Verity Lambert
• Seven Men: Quentin Crisp – a Granada profile from 1971
• Mavis Catches Up with Quentin Crisp: an interview from 1989
• Image gallery
• Philip Mackie’s original script (PDF)
ALSO… CHECK OUT THIS UNRESTORED VIDEO OF QUENTIN CRISP’S ONE-MAN SHOW
The Almodovar Collection | Six of the best from the Spanish director – restored and in one beautiful box-set
From Studiocanal comes six newly-restored films from Spain’s celebrated filmmaker, Pedro Almodóvar – complete with brand new interviews and bonus extras – in one box-set on DVD and Blu-ray.
Dark Habits (1983)
Despite the commercial constraints that prevented Almodóvar from taking full flight, this is a ferociously funny satire of religious institutions and morality that still packs a punch. Cristina Sánchez Pascual plays a fugitive nightclub singer hiding out in an impoverished convent with a group of nuns, whose eccentric number include a heroin addicted Mother Superior, a writer of lurid pulp fiction and a acid head masochist with a tiger for a pet. Imagine Sister Act, dressed in day-glo and speeding on a cocktail of LSD and cocaine. Fabulous kitsch fun.
What Have I Done to Deserve This? (1984)
Almodóvar mercilessly sends up family life in this terrific hyperrealist black comedy starring Carmen Maura (the director’s favourite leading lady) as a blissfully clueless Madrid mother driven to amphetamine addiction by her ungrateful family. Her husband is forging Hitler’s diaries, one son sells drugs, while another is pimping himself to a lecherous dentist. Add in some sex maniacs, a pet lizard, and a mischievous mother-in-law (Chus Lampgreave) and you have Almodóvar at his most absurdist.
The Law of Desire (1987)
This kitsch camp melodrama was Almodóvar’s first film to be screened in the UK, and helped propel Antonio Banderas onto the international stage. It was also Almodóvar first explicitly gay movie as it spun an overblown tale about the complicated love lives of a gay film director (Eusebio Poncela), his hunky lover (Banderas) and a struggling transgender actress (Carmen Maura). Playing fast and furious with Spain’s beloved telenovella genre, this is a hilarious, albeit offensive, delight with more than whiff of early John Waters in its blackly comic approach.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Almodóvar scored a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination for this OTT screwball comedy in which a pregnant actress (Carmen Maura in fabulous form) becomes embroiled in a chaotic series of misadventures when she desperately tries to track down her ex-lover. Irreverent and surreal, this stagey cult hit is pure slapstick of the wackiest kind.
This outrageous satire on television journalism follows an overly optimistic Madrid beautician named Kika (Veronica Forque) whose tangled relationships with an underwear photographer, an expat American novelist and a psychotic escaped rapist turn into tabloid TV fodder by an unscrupulous reporter (Victoria Abril). Attracting controversy over its rape scene, Kika is one film in Almodóvar’s canon that deserves re-assessment and revisiting, especially in how the director approaches his favourite theme – the power of women. It also marked the first time the director collaborated with fashion designer Jean-Paul Gautier.
The Flower of My Secret (1995)
This precursor to Almodóvar’s critically-acclaimed success, All About my Mother, is amongst the director’s most elegant and emotive works. Ditching the kitsch in favour of a more low-key approach, Almodóvar weaves a sentimental tale in which Marisa Paredes (in a career best role) plays a bestselling novelist of pulp romance at the crossroads in her professional and private life. Nominated for multiple Goya awards, this is an intimate yet comic portrait of suffering and pain, and marked a big turning point in Almodóvar’s filmmaking, which makes it the perfect final feature to complete this box-set.
Each disc includes brand new interviews with the director, his producing-partner brother Agustín, plus his stable of stars, including Marisa Paredes, Mercedes Guilamon, Javier Camara, Carlos Areces, Anabel Alonzo, Esther Garcia, Alberto Iglesias, Elena Anaya, Javier Camara, Rossy di Palma, Victoria Abril and Loles Leon.
‘To scandalise is a right; to be scandalised a pleasure’
So said Pier Paolo Pasolini, the outspoken Italian filmmaker, writer and Marxist, whose final days in 1975 are relived by fellow provocateur Abel Ferrara.
Willem Dafoe gives an illuminating, introspective performance as the maverick artist who goes about his daily affairs, reading scripts, attending interviews, entertaining guests at the house he shares with his mother, before he is brutally murdered one evening on a beach on the outskirts of Rome in circumstances which still arouse suspicions today.
A film that neither accuses nor investigates, this engaging biopic celebrates Pasolini’s fearlessness and creativity, and can be read as Pasolini’s own Passion. It may have got mixed reception at recent film festivals, but Dafoe’s magnetic performance as well as the presence of Ninetto Davoli, Pasolini’s long-time confidant, lifts Ferrara’s portrait from mere navel gazing.
Now, I have always been a huge fan of Pasolini and this film certainly evokes the spirit and essence of Pasolini the intellectual and the artist, but what about the man? Ferrara’s Pasolini is all words and no action, and only lives vicariously through his friends. And when he does act on his sexual impulses, he’s punished – is it because he prefers the company of men or just young men in general?
Running just 82-minutes, it left me wanting more (although Kim Newman remarked at the screening I attended that it gets an extra star because it was so short) and if I didn’t already know anything about Pasolini before watching, then I’d be wondering what it was all about and what it was trying to say.
But there’s a lot going on under the surface in this one, and Ferrera layers his film with a mix of reality, fantasy and the absurd and he tries to get into Pasolini’s mindset, whose mottos were ‘Great, absolute, absurd’ and ‘To have, possess and destroy’. And these are best displayed in the imaginary scenes with Davoli (who plays like Charlie Chaplin in his dotage), which are quite magical and recall Pasolini’s Hawks and Sparrows (with a bit of Fellini thrown in). I could happily have watched this film within a film as a stand-alone.
For me, however, there was another story begging to come out: Pasolini’s relationship with Davoli, who is seen in the flashbacks happily married and with a baby. And it’s this scene that says so much about the importance of family in Italy. It’s also the only time that we see Defoe’s Pasolini smile. What is Ferrara trying to say here. Again, it’s all about what’s going on underneath…
With November 2015 marking the 40th anniversary of his death, at just 53, Pasolini is a timey and meticulously researched portrayal of a visionary creative.
Pasolini can be streamed on BFI Player now
Victim (1961) | This landmark British classic remains a compelling drama about the love that dare not speak its name
With the ground-breaking 1961 British drama screening on Film4 today at 1.10pm, here’s a look at the film and the 2014 UK Blu-ray release from Network
Ssh! Don’t mention the ‘H’ word…
When youngster Jack Barrett (Peter McEnery) commits suicide in his prison cell after stealing money from his employers, respected barrister Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde), who is secretly gay and once had a dalliance with Barrett, risks his reputation, career and marriage to his loving wife Laura (Sylvia Sims) to track down a group of blackmailers preying on homosexual men…
A Daring Picture About the World’s Most Un-talked About Subject
This brave, banned and ballsy 1961 British drama could have ended Dirk Bogarde’s career – but it didn’t. In fact, it gave the matinee idol the kudos and respect that he so longed for, and made him one of the most admired actors of his generation.
Directed by Basil Dearden (who also did The Blue Lamp with Bogarde), Victim not only gave the 39-year-old actor his career-best performance, it also shone a very public light on the law of the time which made homosexuality illegal in the UK, and also on the ‘blackmailer’s charter’ that was destroying so many lives in its wake. Banned in the US on its release (the term ‘homosexual’ was outlawed at the time), Victim became a cause célèbre in Britain about attitudes towards homosexuality and a plea for reform (which eventually happened in 1967).
Today, this landmark film still packs a mighty blow as a tense and compelling drama, and has become a true British cinematic classic thanks to Basil Dearden’s assured direction, Janet Green and John McCormick’s powerful screenplay, and Otto Heller’s noir-esque monochrome cinematography. Supporting Bogarde there’s impressive roster of rich talent, including Sylvia Syms and Dennis Price.
THE UK BLU-RAY RELEASE
The Network Distributing Blu-ray release features the film in a high definition transfer made from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.
• Dirk Bogarde in Conversation – an extensive interview with Bogarde where he talks frankly about his career
• Original theatrical trailer
• Four image galleries, including extensive promotional and behind-the-scenes shots
• promotional material PDFs