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Showing posts from August, 2014

Key Films #33

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre [Tobe Hooper, 1974]:
The film is bookended by two extraordinary if very different representations of light.At the beginning, darkness is pierced by staccato bursts of flashbulb photography; revealing, in small fractures of illumination, the grisly aftermath of a terrible crime.Later, at the very end of the film, we find the unforgettable image of the demented antagonist, Leatherface, wielding his chainsaw in a macabre dance against the amber sundowing of a rural plane.The first scene is significant in as much as it initiates the audience into the story - teasing us with those blink or we'll miss them flashes of violence and gore as an appeal to the viewer's natural sense of morbid curiosity - while the second image is one that seems to exist outside the realms of reality, instead, becoming symbolic; a physical manifestation of the violence that stalks and sears the American landscape.While the first scene is a prelude to the carnage that will follow…

Key Films #32

Stage Fright [Alfred Hitchcock, 1950]:
The curtain goes up.Not on a stage or theatrical setting, but on a London vista; a genuine street scene documentation (no studio interiors, for now, at least) that is alive with action and adventure.As a visual sleight of hand, it establishes, upfront, the intentions of the film and the way Hitchcock works to subvert the implications of the title, which, without the benefit of a plot-synopsis, might suggest something more predictable; the story of a young ingénue, perhaps terrorised by a masked avenger; one who stalks the theatre - Phantom of the Opera-like - killing anyone who stands in their way.Of course, this isn't what the film is about - although it does come somewhat close to such expectations in the final third (by which point the audience is well up on the joke) - but another example of Hitchcock taking something that could have been very generic and mundane and elevating it through his usual games of theatricality, deconstruction and…

Key Films #31

Ghost in the Shell: Innocence [Mamoru Oshii, 2004]:
If the original Ghost in the Shell (1995) used the practicalities of a generic cyberpunk conspiracy to question the moralities of mortality, free-will and the complexities of human identity, this follow-up feature - less a direct sequel, in the conventional sense, than a philosophical reimagining - re-examines the same considerations from an entirely different point of view.Rejecting the hard-line science-fiction influences and references to Hollywood action cinema that propelled its cult predecessor, writer/director Mamoru Oshii and his collaborators have instead taken the character Batou - a significant if peripheral figure from the previous film - and created around him an obscure but revelatory murder mystery that unfolds like a suspended riff on the tech-noir investigations of the Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner (1982), with the deeper shades of existentialism found in a story like Death and the Compass (1942) by Jorge Luis Bo…