Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - David Flint ""

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2012 - David Flint

David Flint is the editor of, freelance writer, author of assorted movie books, occasional film maker, general miscreant and peddler of pop culture related products at

2012 has seen a lot of older films come my way – some shameful omissions finally corrected, some movies I was only vaguely aware of beforehand. These are the highlights, in alphabetical order:

Black Magic Rites(1973):
Aka The Reincarnation of Isabel, this deranged slice of sleazy Italian horror is a feast of celluloid madness from director Renato Polselli. Not 'good' in any conventional sense, but so demented that it becomes compulsive.

The Black Panther(1977):
Hugely controversial when originally released, this dour slice of British true-crime cinema has a kitchen-sink authenticity and is a brilliantly bleak, non-sensationalist study of a criminal reaching the point of no return.

Charley One-Eye(1973):
A gritty, surprisingly brutal British western with the most racially charged dialogue you could imagine. Don Chaffey directs, and Richard Roundtree, Roy Thinnes and Nigel Davenport give extraordinary performances.

Cries of Ecstasy, Blows of Death(1973):
A weird, bleak post-apocalyptic softcore movie as the final survivors await their inevitable deaths. Some impressive visuals and interesting ideas make this above average. Available from Something Weird.

The Doom Generation(1995):
Gregg Araki's painfully cool, industrial, bi-sexual take on the road movie feels remarkably fresh and daring, even now. A case of style over substance perhaps, but WHAT style!

Les Enfants du Paradis(1945):
I'd somehow never seen this before. Terrible, I know. And yes, it's a masterpiece -a glorious, joyous tale of love, passion and freedom. Nothing to fault here.

Fire in the Water(1977):
Peter Whitehead's film is a mix of documentary, drama and post-Sixties nostalgia. Combining a hippy-like back-to-nature story with archive footage of rock ands and political protest, it's a heady, intoxicating affair.

The Insect Woman(1963):
Shohei Imamura's melodrama is a remarkable study of one woman's life, from innocent beginnings to 'corrupt' end. Claustrophobic, free of sentiment and gripping.

The Iron Rose(1973):
Jean Rollin's ode to the love of death is his finest work. Set almost entirely in one location – a cemetery – it's a beautiful, melancholic work of art with a fine central performance from Francoise Pascal, who manages to be both sexy and haunting.

The Landlord(1970):
Barely remembered now, Hal Ashby's directorial debut is a witty social satire about race and class. Very much of its time (1970) but still a delight, with a lot of heart and awareness.

Mother Joan of The Angels(1961):
Based on the same events that inspired Ken Russell's The Devils, this is a darkly satirical look at religious obsession and hypocrisy. A great companion piece to the Russell film.

Nowhere to Go(1958):
Seth Holt's debut feature, this is a gritty slice of Brit Film Noir with conman George Nader's life rapidly falling apart after what seemed like a simple crime. Dark, nihilsitic and bitter, with a fine jazz score by Dizzy Reece.

One of Pier Paolo Pasolini's more difficult films, but the glacial pace, intercutting of stories and even the self-indulgence all combine to make a fascinating experience. Satirical, intellectual and challenging, it's a hard but rewarding slog.

Ruggles of Red Gap(1935):
A charming, if inconsequential fish-out-of-water comedy with an excellent performance from Charles Laughton at its centre. A good natured, feel-good tale.

The Saragossa Manuscript(1965) / The Hourglass Sanatorium(1973)
Two films from Wojciech Has, both visually stunning and with stories that twist and turn. Extraordinary works of art, both. Seeing these films was a highlight of the year.

Shadows(1959) / Faces(1968):
Two John Cassavetes films that I hadn't previous seen. Shadows is a freewheeling beatnik drama, semi-improvised and crude, yet compelling nonetheless. Faces is a grim, joyless tale of lost people in a desperate search for joy, however fleeting. Not fun viewing, but undeniably brilliant.

Le Silence de la Mer(1949):
Jean-Pierre Melville's debut film is a wonderfully dark tale of repression and resistance, with a stellar performance from Jesus Franco favourite Howard Vernon at its core.

A fairly throwaway Italian crime film by Massimo Dallamano, also known as Blue Movie Blackmail, this is nonetheless entertaining stuff, with Stephanie Beacham frequently naked and enough sex, violence and general sleaze to keep you from nodding off.

Twisted Issues(1988):
Charles Pinion's debut movie is an underground legend, and although badly dated now, is still fascinating stuff, with its 1980s video production values and skate punk splatter movie theme giving it the sort of retro feel modern nostalgic filmmakers would kill for.

Ugetsu Monogatari(1953):
Kenji Mizoguchi’s remarkable ghost story is another of those 'I can't believe I hadn't seen this before' movies, and well worth the wait. Moody, atmospheric and understated, it's a masterpiece of Japanese cinema.

Under the Table You Must Go(1969):
A 1969 obscurity from Arnold Louis Miller, this is very much a companion piece to his earlier Mondo Movies London in the Raw and Primitive London, taking a travelogue trip through a decidedly unswinging London pub life. This feels like another planet now, and is fascinatingly nostalgic and cringe-worthy.


Justin Bozung said...

Glad to see THE DOOM GENERATION on this list. While its style as you mentioned is impressive, it does have tremendous substance. It is a film ahead of its time in many respects as Araki was satirizing the culture of the '90s as it was happening in the moment. Almost twenty years later, it's still as poignant today as it was went it was first released.

Ned Merrill said...

UGETSU is one of those masterpieces that I was fortunate enough to be force-fed years ago via a college course, in this case, David Bordwell's. We watched a lot of Mizoguchi in that class and UGETSU and SANSHO, both in particular, blew my 20 year-old mind. I need to revisit via the new Blu-rays that have emerged recently.

I finally caught up with THE LANDLORD this year as well, though I'd hazard that it's more than "barely remembered," particularly since it's Ashby, who's had a considerable revival in the last several years and it's now finally available on DVD, albeit as an MOD disc. In the circle of NY cinephiles, writers, critics, and filmmakers, that I consider myself a small part of, Ashby and THE LANDLORD have been widely disseminated and the film's prescient politics and filmmaking techniques make it all the more relevant now.

Saw SUPERBITCH as well, via the nicely-priced Arrow disc. Have to agree with you, "throwaway," but a naked Stephanie Beacham ain't a bad diversion.

Unknown said...

'Barely remembered' IS probably harsh for The Landlord, but it was certainly a film I didn't see mentioned often alongside its contemporaries. 'Barely seen for years' perhaps is a better way of putting it.
I think The Doom Generation has plenty of substance, certainly - but a lot MORE style!

Ned Merrill said...

I agree, LANDLORD isn't mentioned much alongside the bellwether titles that even non-cinephiles know--the Scorseses and Coppolas, for instance. My point was more that, amongst cinephiles (in which I include filmmakers, critics, and writers), it's pretty well known and respected. Amongst a good number of emerging filmmakers I know, Ashby and his prime works such as LANDLORD are major influences.