Thursday, April 30, 2009

Greek Fumetti Masterpiece Has Legs (Eight of Them!)

They say you must keep your friends close and enemies closer.

What about books? How close to should you keep them?

I've kept this Greek fumetti very close every since a friend passed it to me many years ago. I don't read a spot of Greek (love the food, though), but I've been able to live with that -- illustration is a universal language.

The story occurring inside this digest-sized masterpiece is nothing less than riveting and certainly more than mildly disturbing.

As far as I can tell, a handsome fella has life-sucking sex with a pretty girl who turns into a charred husk of her former self.

None of this upsets the man terribly; afterall, he's handsome and he has no trouble getting the girls.

Meanwhile, an unfortunate fellow with the body of a grotesque spider...

... is being raped in his spider butt by an ugly Rondo Hatten type.

It's a positive thing for the world that this fine tale manages to pack in (excuse the pun) necrophilia, bestiality, homosexuality, heterosexuality (you just knew they'd wheel out that shocking deviance eventually!), and rape.

When Rondo Hatten decides to swap spit, the Spider Boy sucks the life from his bones instead.

Then he finds himself a pretty girl who is prone to masturbation and sleeping amongst skulls. My kind of girl!

The Spider Boy enjoys regular dalliances with this Masturbating Maiden. Her boyfriend, however, isn't happy competing with a guy whose extremities outnumber his.

The Spider Boy isn't open to negotiation or backing off, though, so he demonstrates his affection for the lass in classic arachnid style.

No doubt about it, the Spider Boy knows how to treat a lady. He's not one to lie there and insist on a blowjob without dessert.

In my experience, the ladies enjoy the act of cunnilingus so much, they'd hardly flinch if a spider with a human head dropped in to do the job.

Unfortunately, the military takes a dim view of the vagina-licking Spider Boy, and blows him to kingdom come before his devoted ministrations can be rewarded.

The young lady is escorted away from her unfortunate young, eight-legged lover, who is now is spider hell telling himself that every good deed will be punished.

If anybody can tell me anything about the origin of this Greek language fumetti, I urge you to not hold your piece.

Is this story known to anybody?

Is it simply a Greek translation of an existing Italian comic? Or is it an original?

I have only included panels from a dozen of its 125 glorious pages.

If any Greek readers (you know you are!) care to guess us a heads-up on this magnificent tale of a young boy's woe, it would be much appreciated.

This issue is No. 1281. Are there another 1280 volumes just like it?

The mind boggles.

And the body weakens.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hensher Versus Blyton and Motherhood

Enid Blyton's strongest association for most people is The Secret Seven books (15 volumes; '49-'63) and The Famous Five books (21 volumes; '42-63).

These were the first mysteries with regular characters I ever read.

The covers were always superbly evocative.

Blyton rarely addressed issues such as poverty and juvenile delinquency, but she made an exception with The Six Bad Boys ('51).

I recently stumbled upon a predictable assault on Blyton from one Philip Hensher of The Independent. In his essay, "The Fatal Childhood Addiction to Enid Blyton", this buffoon declares her unreadable, and attacks the values presented in The Six Bad Boys:

"In one really remarkably nasty one, (The) Six Bad Boys, a working single mother is condemned for not staying at home and cooking endless cakes for her demanding son - her neglect turns the hideous child delinquent. No child now, surely, would find this moral lesson anything but hilarious, or so one would hope."

Interesting how the tables have recently revolved, if not turned completely, on this issue. Blyton's consequence of absent parenting , though simplistic, is not near as "hilarious" as Hensher states. Many modern youth problems have been attributed to the break-up of the family unit and the absence of adult role models. It is not always possible (or financially realistic) for one parent to remain home, but it is certainly better for the child. Only a fool would argue otherwise.

Blyton celebrated the value and utter importance of Motherhood. I have no issue with that.

Interestingly, fathers were often absent in her novels, a situation that paralled her own upbringing.

The author's adventures were always tempered by the proximity of the action to the homes of the adventurers. The children usually managed to get home for "tea". As a very young child reading these books, I was comforted by the occasional presence of dependable adults. Blyton understood the young psyche and its needs very well.

Although I preferred freak circuses and sideshows from a very early age, my initial interest in the circus was stimulated by the author's exciting circus books.

The cover illustration here portends a shade of doom that isn't quite delivered. Still, the world of the big top was portrayed as a scary, foreign place.

I'll leave the second last paragraph to Hensher:

"As is well known, Blyton's attitudes are often frankly antediluvian - they were reactionary at the time, and probably ought to have relegated her to the ranks of unread authors by now. Some tinkering with language and images of golliwogs has been bravely embarked upon by publishers, but still, "foreigners" are automatically funny, dirty or cowardly - it hardly becomes racism, so little does Blyton ever distinguish between different varieties of the non-English."

There is nothing brave about revisionism, Mr. Hensher. It reeks of insecurity and an immature mind. Finally, the writer appears to be looking for a fight that doesn't exist. If Blyton is not drawing obvious race distinctions in her fiction, isn't that commendable? You say so yourself: "It hardly becomes racism." We're all funny, dirty, and cowardly at times. If you'd read enough Blyton, you'd know that she believed that, too, Mr. Hensher. It is your criticisms that are antediluvian.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Foursome I Cannes Wait To See

The Cannes line-up has just been announced, and I'm looking most forward to seeing Gasper Noe's Japan-set Into the Void.

I Stand Alone is one of my favorite films of all time, as is Irreversible, so my hopes for Noe's latest are not modest.

I haven't liked his short subjects much, but I admire his courage and sensibility.

Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces once again stars the dynamic Penelope Cruz.

My affection for Almodovar's films goes way back to Matador (my favorite film of his; '86), Law of Desire ('87), Pepi, Luci, Bom and the Other Girls ('80), and Labyrinth of Passion ('82).

This Vengeance poster has a Blade Runner/Black Rain vibe.

Johnny To's The Red Circle remake is listed as being "in production" on imdb, but that could easily be one hundred and eighty degrees north of the truth.

Frenchman Johnny Hallyday and the ever-reliable Simon Yam topline Vengeance.

The beautiful Camilla Belle stars in Heitor Dhalia's Adrift.

The plot shares parallels with Bertrand Blier's superb French erotic classic Beau Pere ('81):

"A 14 year-old girl finds out that her father has a mistress on the beach. From this moment on, she enters the complex adult world and has voyeristic relationship with the father."

Film also stars Vincent Cassell, Debora Bloch, and Tais Araujo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Pulpy Porn Blows In

Pulpy Born is back, and it's well nigh unstoppable! Paperback porn from a more innocent era in which the reader was required to have basic literacy skills.

Pornographers have always had a marketing advantage that other industries could only wish for. Without knowing it, pretty girls fuel the market for porno by simply existing. It's free PR. A porno purchase is usually triggered by a sudden impulse, an impulse that is primal and raw and straightforward. That impulse is provoked by a sighting. A sighting of a female.

It this an arrest or the first move of a new type of dance?

The Secret Policeman's Other Other Ball.

Pliars join the growing ranks of sex aids.

Rin-Tin-Tin and his brother get lucky.

Before the travel restrictions spawned by the 9/11 bombings, flying was just one big orgy.

After years of being told that only Bad Girls "need it", porn came to the rescue with honesty.

"Balling" is a classic 60's/70's expression that I miss.

Without the Nazis, where would the world of exploitation be?

Spanked by a giant.

"Ho-hum life to one hot wife"? Love it.

Days of innocence and respect for the cloth.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Buddy Giovinazzo's New Film Is Imminent

Finally, Buddy Giovinazzo's Life Is Hot in Cracktown has a US theatrical release date courtesy of LA-based Lightning Media.

I am a big admirer of this original and innovative director.

His Combat Shock, No Way Home, and Maniac 2 - Mr. Robbie are stellar examples of dark, compelling cinema. His The Unscarred is not too shabby, either.

My imdb review of Combat Shock ('86) went thus:

Originally titled American Nightmare and released by Troma in the States, this is a grim, depressing, heartfelt portrait of one Vietnam vet's rage. Unemployed, penniless, and father of a deformed infant (possibly the result of Agent Orange spraying), leading man Frankie (Rick Giovinazzo) walks the streets of New Jersey like a shambling corpse and encounters various miscreants as troubled as himself. Harassed by his fat, complaining wife (a great performance from Veronica Stork), chased by thugs he owes money to, and threatened with eviction from an apartment that looks like it should have been razed a decade ago, Frankie finally snaps and begins a campaign to erase his problems forever.

Giovinazzo's triumph is his believable creation of a bleak, hopeless, fascinating world, a world that eats its weak, neglects its old, and turns its back on its history. New Jersey, as seen through the lens of cinematographer Stella Varveris, is a metaphor for the rot in America's soul, a wasteland of trodden-on ambitions, poisoned dreams found in needles, and lingering death and disease.

The film employs Vietnam war footage, brutal recreations of Frankie's tour of duty and a pulsing, disturbing, electronic score by lead actor Rick Giovinazzo. The film's low budget enhances the grim subject matter and the stark interior lighting never allows the poverty to be romanticized.

The performances are all excellent and one sequence, where Frankie calls his broke father for a favor, is shattering on so many levels.

Combat Shock is a very powerful, amazing achievement.

Maniac 2 - Mr. Robbie ('89):

The bleak world view that Buddy Giovinazzo brings to every one of his films is why this "sequel" to William Lustig's Maniac ('80) is so damn rich. It's only short, but Giovinazzo and star Joe Spinnell create real magic from a premise that could have easily sustained a full feature -- TV host Mr. Robbie receives cries of help from abused children in the form of letters he reads on air. In his spare time, his visits the abusers of these children and murders them.

The letters from children that Robbie reads on air are voiced (cleverly) by talented adult actors, and are truly moving and painful to hear. Robbie's own history as a victim is economically conveyed and Spinnell, looking terribly ill (which he was at the time), is totally believable as Robbie.

This is like a shortened feature, a half dozen scenes in search of a financier. Maniac 2: Mr. Robbie never did become a feature, and it's a great pity because the material is so potent and adroitly handled by Giovinazzo, New Jersey's Dark Prince of Human Decay.

The violence is gloriously revolting and the film's sound design is a real asset. Shot in grotty greens and blues and boasting garish, deliberately ugly surfaces, this unofficial follow-up to the 1981 original has a stronger premise than its predecessor ("Jaws on Land") and would have made a better film.

Consistently dark and creative.

Go here to experience it:

No Way Home ('96)

With the exception of The Unscarred, this is Buddy Giovinazzo's most technically accomplished piece. It does share thematic similarities with Combat Shock, but it is a solid character drama that would not be out of place on a double bill with the Australian The Boys. Being a Giovinazzo flick, it's about deeply flawed characters living in a personal hell. They see no way out of their situation and are too emotionally paralyzed to act.

Deborah Kara Unger, who is a dynamite actress (and seriously sensual), is terrific as Lorraine, the girlfriend of James Russo's Tommy. Tim Roth plays Joey, who has just been released from jail and relies on his brother's goodwill to provide him with a roof and bed until he gets his act together. Complications arise when local criminal elements encroach on Joey's rehabilitation.

The plot is nothing new and hardly worth a mention. The drama's the thing here and it burns like a bolt of lightning once the the film's niceties are out of the way. Russo, who was also in The Unscarred, is hard as nails and scarily convincing as Tommy. Roth never disappoints, unless the script's not there, and in this venture he makes us feel his pain.

Another vacation in hell, with a great score, from one of cinema's darkest contemporary directors who is as seriously underrated as Ferrarra is seriously overrated.

The Unscarred ('99):

Buddy Giovinazzo is a consistently interesting filmmaker. Combat Shock and No Way Home are my favorite Buddy films, and his short Maniac 2 - Mr. Robbie is very good also, but The Unscarred is a more mainstream film and certainly the director's most technically polished.

It boasts so many twists and turns that anything but a basic plot synopsis would do it damage. James Russo, a resident of New Jersey, is seriously in debt. When he is invited to come to Berlin by old friends, he accepts the offer.

Giovinazzo is adept at depicting violent, visceral scenes. He isn't shy of blood and he doesn't neglect the emotions behind violence, either. This film's bloody set pieces are handsomely shot and the performances are strong. The beautiful Ornella Muti (the unforgettable female star of Tales of Ordinary Madness) is still gorgeous in this outing, though her delivery of the English dialogue is a little stilted.

A weak section of the narrative sees Russo irrationally instigating a short police chase. Clearly an example of something not carefully thought through, it is one of the few missteps in this otherwise effective suspense drama.

There are too many gratuitous travelogue shots of Berlin, probably a concession to the film's co-financiers.

The Giovinazzo novel on which Cracktown is based

I have been aching to see Life Is Hot in Cracktown since the movie's production was announced. I enjoyed Buddy's ultra-grim, powerful novel immensely so am confident the film will be a powerhouse.

Life is Hot in Cracktown will open for a one week engagement on the 26th of June, 09, at Laemmle's Sunset 5, which is at 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 90046.

Why only a one week engagement? Variety of possible reasons.

Lightning Media has the film for theatrical and video, so this one weeker is probably honoring their commitment to the producers to provide a theatrical release. A theatrical also guarantees (usually) a higher cable TV premium and greater video/streaming/on-line exposure.

I'm not surprised that the film isn't going wide, although I thought it would go wider than this.

Perhaps it will.

Often, distributors test their movies' strength by unspooling at theaters like the Sunset 5.

Because I no longer live in LA, I will still happily drive the 50 miles each way to see Life Is Hot in Cracktown.

A scene featuring actress/Exec Producer Melissa Wilfley is here:

...and here:

Director Giovanazzo currently lives in Berlin and has been directing gritty crime thrillers for TV.

When I reviewed his The Unscarred on imdb a couple of years ago, he contacted me to ask me where I'd gotten a DVD. I told him that I'd fished it out of a discount bin at an Aussie supermarket for the amazing price of $3. Buddy assured me that the copy I'd bought was a pirate copy because the film hadn't been licensed to any Australian distributor at that time.

Buddy is one of the very few truly original, consistent, exciting filmmakers of dark material. Abel Ferrara is a member of the same club, but I find his films wildly inconsistent. Most of his recent ones bore me. Not so Buddy Giovinazzo.

I'm counting down the days until I see this film, and will scribble a full review when I do.

This is a filmmaker who has found has found greater appreciation outside the US.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Filmmaking 105: What Filmmaker Are You?

What kind of filmmaker are you?

Are you Joe-Hollywood-in-Waiting? You know the guy or gal I'm talking about. You're in love with the IDEA of being a director. You're in love with the imagined fame. You're looking more forward to being on Entertainment Tonight than sitting down and rewriting your shitty script.

Or maybe you want to be a filmmaker because you want the money Spielberg and Cameron make. If that's the case, pick another occupation, because Spielberg and Cameron didn't get into the business to make money. They got into it because they had a burning, insane desire to make films. Original films.

Only a small percentage of filmmakers make big bucks. The rest survive and fight on.

Maybe you want to be an Original. Originality takes balls. It's hard being original. It's so hard that most people give up and become Unoriginal instead. The temptation to do that is strong.

I say make whatever the hell you want to make. Don't try to guess the market. Don't jump on the next big thing, which is probably a pile of crap, anyway, and will have the life expectancy of an embryo in an abortion clinic.

Don't kid yourself that you can make people in suits and ties like your stuff. Don't even waste time trying to please these people. Most of them don't even like movies. Especially not original ones. They got into the business to make money from suckers like you who they are paid to say "No" to.

If, however, you like the idea of trying to convince a Harvard Grad with a business degree that your script is going to wow the masses, good luck. You'll be sitting by the phone until the cows come home and starve to death while waiting for you to feed them.

Get decent equipment, write a script that is personal to you, and make it. Cast actors who can act, not friends who agree to "act". Audition everybody. Put them through their paces. Don't compromise (ever) on casting. Your worst actor will set the benchmark for everybody else, especially for the audience. Cast every role like it's the lead role. Don't promise roles to people you're sleeping with. Sleep with them after the film's shot (you'll need plenty of sleep then); but during the shoot you don't need the messy bullshit that sexual penetration can create between humans; if you're not careful, foolish choices based on sexual currency will sabotage your shot at the title.

Resist secretly remaking or imitating something you like. You like it because it's good, right? Don't be arrogant enough to think you can better it. Create something that hasn't been done before. Let the hacks try bettering you.

You're an individual. As much as the education system and the media will attempt to beat that fact out of you, it's true. Your point of view is original. Focus hard on how you feel about the subject. Fuck! what anybody else thinks if their thinking is totally out of step with you. They're not making your movie. You are.

Work with people who will support and help you. Don't work with people who see your project as a chance for them to tell their stories, to make their stand, while pretending to support your endeavors. There's a thin line between collaboration and domination. Find that line when you are interviewing. Interview hard.

Be suspicious of reels. Ask people to explain exactly what they did to contribute to what you're seeing or hearing. It's easy to build a bullshit reel. Speak to producers who have worked with them before. Get the lowdown on their working habits.

Whatever film you make, make it personal. Throwing huge chunks of money at a script doesn't personalize it. A strict adherence to your point of view on the material is what audiences will respond to. It's what makes your film unique to you. During production, you will have to fight to get that point of view up on the screen. Many of those around you will attempt to bump you off your path. Bump back gently and keep moving forward.

Treat actors and crew with respect. Explain things clearly. Don't be a stoic cunt. Nobody likes a stoic cunt who thinks its beneath him to explain his vision. Being silent or obtuse does not make you a genius, contrary to popular opinion. Actors operate at different levels and use different techniques. Some will need a lot of explaining and hand-holding. Some will not. Learn to adapt yourself to each actor.

Very importantly, create a working environment in which the actors feel comfortable to try new things and push themselves.

The great and decent Jean Rollin directs

When your film is done, do everything you can to get it seen. Nothing is forbidden. Film festivals are political. Most films get into them because of connections. Some get in on their own merits. Not many, though.

People who run small festivals finance their lives with the fees people like us pay to enter their festival. The majority of films, as you well know, don't get accepted. These festival organizers, however, keep your money, thank you very much, and use it to buy dope, travel the world, dine out, and reward hookers for turning a blind eye to their disgusting selves. Don't spend too much of your hard-earned money financing these peoples' lives. They wouldn't spend a cent on yours.

The internet is fast becoming the best way to get your film seen and sold. If a company wants to distribute your film, make sure they pay an advance. It's a token of confidence. If they won't pay an advance, they should be told (politely) to fuck off. Folks who pay no advances are equally likely to pay you no residuals. Avoid them, and avoid their car salesman bullshit.

Don't give your hard work away to these strangers. What have they done to deserve it? Nothing.

You don't have to use expensive SAG actors when you're starting out, or even when you're established. There are plenty of good, non-SAG actors who will act in your film for a more affordable fee. As a result of acting in your film, they may get a ticket to SAG, so everybody wins.

Just make sure you've got an idea that hasn't been done to death. The market is saturated with clones of popular hits that nobody is buying.

If you really do believe that you have talent, don't get depressed when somebody tells you that you don't. This shred of advice is especially aimed at the ladies. Women are much more likely to take negative criticism to heart than guys are (with exceptions, of course). It's part of the way they're raised. Parents are at fault for conditioning these princesses.

You will know that belief in yourself is authentic when criticism becomes water off a duck's back. If you find yourself still being beaten down by it, get into therapy, eat fatty foods, or give Dr. Laura a call.

If you really have no belief in yourself at all, get out of the arts -- you'll be contemplating suicide before the year's out.

Horror, Action, Drama, Porn, Surrealism, Comedy and a hundred variations thereof. It's all legit if it's done to perfection.

If you let the barbs and criticisms of others get you down, you are allowing them to own your life.

Any adult who allows another to own his or her life is a fucking idiot and a miserable, pathetic retard of the highest order.

With apologies to Timmy

As a filmmaker, you are your own industry.

It's destructive to measure your success in terms of dollars and cents. Measure it in terms of personal satisfaction. Is your film working on an emotional and a gut level? Avoid comparing your "success" to the the successes of others. That's a losing, one way street of depression. We're all on different paths. Acknowledge that often.

Find a subject that fires you up and attack it with pit bull-like ferocity.

It takes pit bull ferocity to make movies. Original pit bull ferocity.