All posts by Kat Doherty

CAPSULE: GIRLY [AKA MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY AND GIRLY] (1970)

DIRECTED BY:  Freddie Francis

FEATURING:  Ursula Howells, Vanessa Howard, Michael Bryant

PLOT:  The four titular characters form a dysfunctional family living in a large, isolated house amidst rambling grounds.  Sonny and Girly regularly venture out to bring back lonely, homeless men as “friends” for the family. Each friend’s well being depends on his willingness to abide by the family’s bizarre rules and games. The latest friend adapts only too well, turning the family’s rules against them and revealing the sexual frustrations and power games simmering just below the surface gloss of nursery rhymes and tea parties.Scene from Girly (1970)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It just isn’t weird enough.  Whether you consider it weird at all probably depends on whether you grew up with this brand of self conscious black humour.  The British are traditionally fond of it, for reason’s best known to ourselves.  Murderous, nonsense-prattling dysfunctional families are as mother’s milk to us, so this really didn’t seem all that odd to me.  Pared down to basics this is a tale of four maladjusted people, who may or may not be related, who seem to be independently wealthy and are isolated from society.  They have formed a family unit and devised a set of perverse games and rules to pass the time.  Periodically they lure in a lonely outsider, subject him to their games and when he inevitably breaks a rule, they kill him and film the proceedings.  Certainly it’s a little off kilter, but  in the company of the Premier League weirdness on this site it just doesn’t measure up.

COMMENTS:  If you are charmed by the idea of adults chattering out nonsense in sing song voices and constantly referring to themselves in the third person then I’ve got good news for you… this film has it in spades!  I’m not entranced by it, so the first ten minutes were touch and go.  A brief cameo by character stalwart Michael Ripper was enough to distract me, though, and I gradually found myself becoming interested in what was developing.  The first fifteen minutes or so of the film are an introduction to the games and rules.  Sonny and Girly are out at the crack of dawn scouting out park benches and ferreting under newspapers in their search for a New Friend.  The last Friend has apparently proven himself unsatisfactory Continue reading CAPSULE: GIRLY [AKA MUMSY, NANNY, SONNY AND GIRLY] (1970)

BORDERLINE WEIRD: 964 PINOCCHIO (1991)

DIRECTED BY: Shozin Fukui

FEATURING: Haji Suzuki, Onn-Chan

PLOT: Pinocchio 964, a malfunctioning sex slave, is thrown out onto the street by his

Still from 964 Pinocchio (1991)

dissatisfied owner.  Without speech or memory he stumbles, literally, into the lap of an amnesiac woman, Himiko, who takes him home to care for him.  As her memory returns she undergoes a cruel personality change, returning Pinocchio to the mysterious corporation that made him.

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: 964 Pinocchio is certainly weird, but doesn’t hang together as a totally coherent film.  However, days later, I was still thinking about it.  I don’t think that the film is a satisfying blend of the weird and the entertaining; in fact some sequences are seriously hard work.  Pinocchio deserves a second look in the future though, because odd and confusing as it was, distasteful as some scenes were, that sad sex slave worms his way into your mind.

COMMENTS: 964 Pinocchio is quite clearly a low budget film, but it is inventive, imaginative and uncompromising.  Many scenes are filmed guerrilla style, and I found myself looking sympathetically at the bemused bystanders during some of the full-on craziness.  A film which includes a three minute vomiting scene will not be to everyone’s taste; and it’s not as if that’s an uncharacteristic sequence.  964 Pinocchio is a wet, messy film throughout.  Pinocchio emits a flood of custardy mess from some unspecified point on his head; Himiko regurgitates mounds of porridgy vomit before rolling in it and re-ingesting it; the head of the company which made Pinocchio continually eats cherries from a bowl of spittle.  The film really screams in your face and refuses to apologize for any of its bizarre imagery.

The film introduces us to one of the two central characters, Pinocchio, as he flounders unwillingly in the middle of a M-F-F threesome.  It’s an unerotic sex scene intercut with shots of a man in vague surgical garb, a huge drill bit entering someone’s head, and a voice informing someone that their memory will not return.  The opening scene really lays the film’s cards on the table; it’s just going to get more confusing from here.  Thrown onto the streets for failing to perform sexually, Pinocchio stumbles into Himiko.  She’s sitting, looking through Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: 964 PINOCCHIO (1991)

BORDERLINE WEIRD: HANSEL AND GRETEL (2007)

DIRECTED BY: Pil-Sung Yim

FEATURING:  Jeong-Myeong Cheon, Hee-soon Park, Shim Eun-Kyung, Eun Won-Jae

PLOT:  Eun-Soo, a young man whose girlfriend has just told him she is pregnant, crashes his

Still from Hansel and Gretel (2007)

car on a lonely road and finds himself rescued by a young girl, who leads him to a strange cottage hidden in the depths of  a dense forest.  The family living there tend his wounds and put him to bed.  His gratitude soon turns to fear, as the “parents” disappear and he is left in charge of three children who have no intention of letting him leave.

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: Much as I love this film I doubt it makes the final cut.  Yes, it’s odd, beautiful and moving, but it could stand more ruthless editing, something it shares with the director’s previous Antarctic Journal.  The storyline is predictable in parts, especially if you’ve seen a number of “bad seed” films.  The style makes it stand out but, honestly, some of the weird scares seem to be a little misplaced.  Hansel and Gretel‘s weirdness seems tattooed on rather than bred in the bone.

COMMENTS: Watching Hansel and Gretel is like settling down to enjoy a nice cup of tea and a fondant fancy, only to discover that your cake is crawling with ants.  The set design is fascinating; wherever you look there is some odd detail  that catches the eye.  The color palette is lush, just the green of the woods is breathtaking.  The score is beautiful, composed by Byung-Woo Lee, who also composed the music for the sublime Tale Of Two Sisters.

In short this is a quality production, clearly made with love.  What prevents it from quite firing on all cylinders is the plot, which is a little predictable.  Sinister children with dangerous powers are something of a staple of the science-fiction and horror genres, and anyone who’s seen or read a few such stories will be fairly confident about where this is headed.  From the moment Eun-Soo sets foot in the fairy tale cottage where every day is Christmas Day and the decor makes your retinas bleed, our suspicions are roused.  They’re all but confirmed by the behavior of the “parents”.  Their rictus grins and desperate eyes scream that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  They handle their “son” as if he’s a box of sweaty gelignite and Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: HANSEL AND GRETEL (2007)

READER RECOMMENDATION: VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS [Valerie a týden divů] (1970)

The sixth submission in the June review writing contest: by “Kat.”

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Jaroslava Schallerova, Helena Anyzova, Petr Kopriva, Jiri Prymek

PLOT:  13-year old Valerie lives with her grandmother in a small rural village in

Still from Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

Czechoslovakia; on the week of her menarche she drifts into a sensual, and at times threatening, dreamworld.

WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST:  This is a gently weird film, as close to representing a dream on film as I have yet seen.  Every shot is a thing of beauty.  The plot is loose but generally true to its own dream logic.  As she approaches adulthood Valerie finds herself the object of desire for men, women and weasel-men alike.  Responding to all the strange occurrences around her with unflappable calmness, Valerie is a passive heroine, but Schallerova oozes charm and is a complete eye magnet whenever she is onscreen.

COMMENTS: A tight, coherent plot is not the strength of this piece, it has to be said.  It’s very much like the moments when you first wake from a puzzling dream, before your conscious mind has started to add little bridging details to try and make sense of it.

Valerie lives with her grandmother, and at the age of 13 has her first period.  Her grandmother tells her that this is the same age as her mother was.  It seems to be an occasion for neither celebration nor shame.  Valerie tells her grandmother that she is excited at the prospect of a troupe of actors arriving in the village and is informed that she’d do better to be excited about the arrival of the bishop and his priests.  You’d be forgiven for thinking that her grandmother is a bit of a party pooper, but like everyone in this film she’s not just what she appears to be at first glance.  Throughout the film religion and sexuality arm wrestle for dominance, but it’s rather like both arms are on the same body.

The performers arrive, as do the clergy.  The bishop has come to deliver a sermon to the virgins of the village, and it’s a pretty inappropriate one.  The bishop himself is a tad inappropriate at times, and has a face not designed to inspire confidence, looking like the hideous love child of Graf Orlak and Bergman’s Death, but with some of the most terrible teeth ever committed to film.  Again though, by the end of the film you’ll see him in different light.

During the course of the film Valerie will see transforming weasels, a hairy priest striptease and the nubile young women of the village will invite her to join them in a game of “hide the fish down your bodice” in the sun dappled river.  She will cure a young women of a strange vampiric ailment by sleeping with her, spy on her grandmother in a odd sexual situation while the toothy bishop lurks at her shoulder and will laugh in the face of being burned at the stake.  Throughout it all Valerie is protected by her mother’s magic earrings and is watched over, in a slightly creepy way by her brother (or would be lover?) Eagle.

Films about girls “coming of age” are few and far between and this is a gorgeous example.  Valerie is surrounded by sexuality both threatening and inviting.  She is on the receiving end of aggressive approaches from the hairy priest and her domineering female cousin, but also sees a guiltless, inviting sensuality in the form of the women in the river, the young woman she spends the night with and the gentle Eagle.

In the end Valerie seems to have explored both the dark and the light of impending womanhood and emerged into the sunlight, where even the toothy bishop seems a bit of a sweetie.

This would make a perfect double bill with Neil Jordan and Angela Carter’s Company Of Wolves, if you fancy an evening of oestrogen-heavy weirdness.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a collection of dream adventures, spurred by guiltless and poly-sexual eroticism. Virtually every shot is a knockout…”–Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader (rerelease/screening)