Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Reflecting Skin

I remember being very impressed by Philip Ridley's first feature film The Reflecting Skin back in the early nineties. And I wasn't the only one. The film was being shown at cinema clubs all over again and everyone loved it.

But then it vanished. There has been no proper DVD publication, and at least the Finnish VHS publication is pretty scarce. In Finnish television it's been shown twice, last in 1998. So it was no wonder there was quite a lot of people at the Film Archive screening of the film last Monday.

The film is still hauntingly beautiful, terrifyingly funny, tragically sad, absurdly real, full of grief, fear and laughter. It's a morbid film, but it's still full of warmth towards the people in it. Lots of these weird genre hybrids are devoid of feelings, but The Reflecting Skin is about real people and their real feelings, even though they are all pretty sick and weird. There was one young dude in the audience saying the film seems more like a curiosity, something no one's ever heard of, but then again he was two when the film came out. I'd like to ask him what he thought of the film after he'd seen it.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Nicolas Winding Refn: Valhalla Rising

I never blogged about Only God Forgives, even though I liked it to a certain extent. It was very exciting and interesting and extremely well done and beautiful in all its gore, though I never knew what Nicolas Winding Refn was talking about in his film.

Same goes for his viking epic Valhalla Rising (if you can call a film that has only some dozen people in it an epic). It's not as well made as Only God Forgives - he was clearly given a bigger budget for his OGF after the popular Drive. Valhalla Rising is just as baffling as OGF. It's something Jim Jarmusch might make out of an unproduced Robert Bresson script collaborating with Antonin Artaud. Very strange and impenetrable, but still somehow fascinating. But not as fascinating as I'd hoped it to be. Three stars out of five - or maybe three and a half.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Akiva Goldsman: Winter's Tale

Akiva Goldsman: The Winter's Tale: uneasy mix of whimsical fantasy, some scary and not-so-scary devil horror and sentimental coffee table book "wisdom". I haven't read Mark Helprin's 1,000-page novel, but seems like lots has been cut down in the film, which makes the bad parts show up.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stephen Graham Jones: The Last Final Girl

Here's a book I really wanted to like, but didn't for some reason or another get in. I understood Jones's idea of a metafictional book that takes place inside a film or a TV show, but this just didn't grab my interest the way I thought it would. I'll give it another try later, and I'm definitely interested in Jones's output which seems to mix noiry edginess with ultra-violent horror. Sounds definitely my kind of stuff.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Michael Koryta: The Ridge

Recently read: Michael Koryta's horror novel The Ridge. I'd read earlier one of Koryta's PI novels featuring Lincoln Perry and liked it a great deal (read the review here) and I grabbed this from the book store's sale. The Ridge is an entertaining horror novel with an interesting and an original premise - at least I haven't seen it used much. And there are some interesting locations, such as a shelter for big felines and a lighthouse nowhere near the sea. As in Koryta's PI novels, the mystery is rooted in the old times, where things were crueler than they are now. There's some truly fascinating stuff behind the lighthouse an old man has built for himself.

Koryta also writes in a clear and easy prose that's not overtly sentimental. There's an edge of noiriness in his words sentencens. The Ridge comes off as a quiet novel about the futile efforts of man. His people and the ending of the book are sad, as befits the horror genre.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Stanley Kubrick's Fear and Desire (1953) and an assortement of other strange films

Fear and Desire
We had another film festival at the cabin with some friends of mine. (Here and here are posts on the earlier festivals.)

One of the most interesting films we watched was the first feature film by Stanley Kubrick, Fear and Desire (1953) that Kubrick himself had put a ban on, so it hasn't been legally been available for decades. It's recently been released on DVD and is easily available. None of my friends had seen it, so it was all new to all of us.

It's a war film set somewhere in an unknown war, so it's heavily symbolic and abstract to the edge of being almost meaningless. Fear and Desire was written by a playwright, Howard Sackler (who also wrote Kubrick's second film, Killer's Kiss), so it's no wonder it resembles an absurdist play a lot. At times it gets bogged down by hilariously "deep" dialogue and monologue, but the first half-hour is actually quite good. Kubrick - who himself shot and edited the film - edits quirkily, against the rules, using quick flashes of people's faces and pieces of action. Kubrick was at least in the beginning of his career a noir director and there's a strong noir feel also in this little war film. It's an intriguing film, well worth a watch.

Other films with snappy mini-reviews and starrings:

The ass of the Machine Gun Woman
Ernesto Díaz Espinoza: Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman (Chile 2012): sounded great, but proved amateurish and boring.

Lucio Fulci: Beyond (Italy 1981): confusing and dead-serious zombie flick. **

Willard Huyck: Howard the Duck (USA 1986): absolute bore-fest, with people (and the duck) just shouting, running and jumping all the time. *

Kaarlo Kortelainen: Makkarakalakeittoa, sano Tympee Huttunen/Sausage fish soup, said the Grumpy Huttunen (Finland 1988): one of the worst films ever, only video-released calamity shot somewhere at a deserted cabin and in near-by woods. Very hilarious. * or *****

Veikko Itkonen: Mullin mallin/Topsy-turvy (Finland 1961): nonsensical and incoherent musical comedy made near the end of the Finnish studio system. Probably one of these: * or ****

Adam McKay: Anchorman (USA 2004): I'd never seen anything by Will Ferrell, but even though this was mildly funny, I don't feel an urgent need to watch more of his films. **

Robert Culp: Hickey & Boggs (USA 1972): pretty hard to follow without subtitles, but still great early seventies' crime flick, without any of the genre trappings. ****

Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel: Leviathan (USA 2012): experimental documentary of a fishing ship somewhere in the Atlantic, quite hypnotic at times, but don't go looking for a content. ***½

Tobe Hooper: Lifeforce (USA 1985): interesting movie about space vampires, but even though the main monster is one of the most beautiful women in the history of cinema, suffers from too much length and uninteresting lead actors. **½

Andrzej Zulawski: The Third Part of the Night (Poland 1971): very interesting allegory on Communist Poland, with lots of grotesque and surrealistic imagery thrown in. ***½

Fred Cavaye: Point Blank (France 2010): capable and snappy thriller. ***

Kinji Fukasaku: Message from Space (Japan 1978): a hapless Star Wars clone should've been more hilarious than it really was. **

Albert Band: Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (USA 1978): I didn't watch this myself, but from what I gathered is either * or *****

Ismo Sajakorpi: Merkitty/Branded (Finland 1984): early Finnish horror TV movie, not bad, but somewhat dated. ***

Steve Carver: Lone Wolf McQuade (USA 1983): hilariously serious Chuck Norris vehicle, quite entertaining if you're willing to forget it's very stupid and clichéd. **½

More Overlooked Movies coming in at a blog near you!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The 2000th blog post of Pulpetti

I've been thinking a lot lately of what I should be writing here now that I have reached the 2,000th post line. I've been unaware of whether I should just do a regular blog post (I have several things coming up) or whether I should do a long special post – and if that, what should it be? One subject I thought of was the history of this blog – but is anyone interested? My 1000th post was a long article on H. A. DeRosso. (For some reason many people have read this minuscule write-up on my 1900th post.)

There hasn't been much going on here at Pulpetti. I've been lazy for the past two or three years. At first I used to write one or even two posts per day! I can't grasp where I found all that time, still working my ass off writing books and newspaper articles and reviews of books and films and what not. I don't seem to be able to find that time even now when I seem to have less work at my hands than, say, five years ago. And some three years ago I decided I should concentrate more on my Finnish blog (here at Julkaisemattomia, meaning The Unpublished, the name I've been trying to get rid of). Hey, I'm a Finnish writer after all! My readers are Finnish, so why promote in English?

But then again I've made some friends with Pulpetti: Kevin Wignall, Todd Mason (acquaintance also from several Yahoo groups - and yet another thing I don't have time for anymore!), Bruce Grossman, James Reasoner, Bill Crider... Pulpetti was also elemental when I started editing the crime paperback series for the Arktinen Banaani publisher some years ago. The series didn't last long, but the books are still out there, here's hoping someone will find them and become a writer and write the goddamnedest book in the annals of the Finnish literature. And there's also this point: I really want to write about this pulpy and sleazy hardboiled stuff, I'm not sure if there's enough interest with Finnish readers to warrant a whole blog in Finnish. (I sometimes get the feeling that even though there's much love for, say, James Ellroy or Charles Willeford in Finland, there's not much interest for new writers in this genre we so affectedly call noir. Maybe that's the case everywhere.)

I've been working on a book that will be called "Pulpografia Britannica", focusing on the British crime fiction published in Finnish in cheap paperbacks or pamphlets. I haven't written about those books as much as one would hope, and I have a hard time explaining why that is. (One explanation is that I haven't really read all the books I'm covering, some I've just sampled or browsed through.) There are some writers I'd really like to cover (Angus Ross, for example), but at the same time I've been reading lots of other books, for example the new Finnish translation of James Fenimore Cooper's The Deerslayer which I painstakingly tackled through for a review. (I don't think I'll be reading the other books in the Leatherstocking series, though there will be new translations for all of them.) At the time I'm tackling through the collection of Bruno Schulz's weird surrealistic stories, again for a review. I should be writing about them as well in here. Why don't I? It is at times pretty hard to write something substantial about a book or a film in a language that's not your own. Try it someday! I don't know how people like Nabokov or Conrad did it. (Well, they were idiosyncratic and not easy writers, Conrad being even clumsy.)

I didn't mean this to get so wordy and, well, pathetic? Suffice to say that even though I've been thinking about quitting Pulpetti, I'm sure I'll keep on posting stuff about books and films and stuff.

When I posted the above-mentioned 1900th post, Jerry House (whose blog I should be reading more) said I should send a cake to every reader of Pulpetti, when I reach the 2000 limit. So here's cake to everyone out there!