Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2015 - Heather Drain ""

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Heather Drain

Heather Drain has been writing about fringe film and culture for almost ten years. She currently writes for Dangerous Minds, as well as her own site, Mondo Heather.
She's also on Twitter here:

See her discoveries from last year here:
When starting off a New Year, it's imperative to enter it with the right amount color, pep, razzle-dazzle and perhaps a wee bit of murder, sociopathic pathologies, kinks, melancholia, old school punk and ballet. At least that was my approach with my own film discoveries that got me through the beginnings of Winter and the entrance of 2016. Do not judge, fair reader, for the following films are all slices of the beauty and shriek show of our own human condition. Plus, fun!

Now, without further are my most recent film discoveries! 

Jorg Buttgereit's 1990 film DER TODESKING was one I had read about for years, dating back to seeing it mentioned in old yellowed issues of Film Threat Video. So to live in an age where not only is that film readily available but on a lovely Blu Ray release via Cult Epics, is a blessed one indeed. Buttgereit is one of the biggest auteurs to have emerged out of the 80's underground whose work should be as well regarded, nay better regarded than, say, Wes Anderson. DER TODESKING is a fantastic example of why. A series of events explore, without judgment, the event and nature of suicide. Like any artist worth his/her salt, Buttgereit does not play you for cheap or give you any easy answers. Such is life, mes amis. 

Keeping with the art house-horror vibe, discovering Gerald Kargl's absolutely brilliant ANGST was one of the biggest highlights of 2015. I was hit hard by the combination of the objectivity of a terrifying subject, in this case the inner and outer workings of a serial killer, portrayed with bone deep conviction by Erwin Leder, with the visuals being from the twin creative brilliance of Kargl and cinematographer Zbigniew Rybcyznski. The latter, who also helmed some of the most fascinatingly constructed music videos of the day (check out his work on Iam Siam's video for “She Went Pop” if you need convincing), has the camerawork itself react heartbeat-like to our main character's varying emotional states. 

Speaking of the darker side of the human condition, getting the chance to finally see Roger Watkins' surrealistic CORRUPTION was another gift, especially after hearing about it for years. Watkins was such a singularly unique director whose films often mixed strange imagery, an anti-eros tone despite and especially with nearly all of his hardcore sex scenes, borderline nihilism and most peculiar of all, heart. You cannot be someone who doesn't care about humanity and make the kind of art that Roger Watkins did. CORRUPTION, a film that deals with themes of the danger of seeking power and how indecision get good intentions grimed up, is a fine example of this.

Same flip but different coin, there is Carter Stevens' 1977 modern-day New York City Noir, PUNK ROCK. The film stars the late great Wade Nichols as private detective Jimmy Dillinger. Nichols' charismatic gravitas as a leading man could have made him a star in 1930's Hollywood and he absolutely shines here. His search for a moneyed man's missing daughter takes him on a journey involving mob ties, human trafficking, one of the most legitimately scummy looking drug pushers in film history, the double cross and, of course, punk rock. Seek out the R-rated version of this film, which features some great live performances at the legendary Max's Kansas City. Getting to see The Fast, one of the must underrated punk bands that emerged out of the NYC music scene, is a treat unto itself. 

Last but certainly not least was perhaps the most unexpected discovery. While I cut my teeth on old Hollywood films as a child and teenager, I had somehow missed Henry Koster's 1947 ballet drama, THE UNFINISHED DANCE. Featuring an early performance by the always leggy and lovely Cyd Charisse and the first on screen performance by Danny Thomas, THE UNFINISHED DANCE centers around little Meg Merlin, played with the right amount of moodiness and quiet passion by Margaret O'Brien, who was around only ten years old at the time. Meg is a strange but sweet girl whose parents are presumably dead and her legal guardian is an aunt who is rarely home due to her busy burlesque dancing career. (Which is never spelled out exactly since this film was made firmly in the Hays Code era, but one can read between the lines enough to figure it out. Viva subversion!) Meg's main companion is an eccentric clock maker who tries to protect her, even when it is from her herself. This character, Mr. Paneros, would have seemed either stereotypical or possibly creepy if played by anyone other than Danny Thomas, who steals every frame that he graces. Koster, who is best known for directing the Jimmy Stewart classic HARVEY, created a compelling gem of a film that smartly delves into moral gray areas and features some beautiful ballet sequences. My only question is how did Karin Booth, who plays the saintly La Dorina, not become a huge star after this? There are few women that the camera loved more than this blue eyed gem of a knock out. 

Anyways, hope you enjoyed my journey into the cinematic darker heart of man and woman via suicides, murder, crime, punk rock and the seedy world of ballet. 

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