Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2016 - Cole Roulain ""

Monday, February 27, 2017

Film Discoveries of 2016 - Cole Roulain

Cole co-hosts a podcast with his wife, Ericca Long, called The Magic Lantern in which they discuss the films in their personal canons and their enduring cinematic memories. 

You can find it or contact him in these places:
The website: http://www.magiclanternpodcast.com/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/magiclanternpodcast/
On Twitter: http://twitter.com/Lantern_Cast
Cole on Letterboxd: http://letterboxd.com/coleroulain/

We do an annual round up of film discoveries on The Magic Lantern too (this year's edition: http://www.magiclanternpodcast.com/episodes/episode-037-ants-in-your-pants-of-2016/) and I wanted to take an opportunity to shine a light on a few films that we didn't already discuss. 2016 was a fun viewing year and it would be a shame to let these slip through the cracks.
Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory (Heusch, 1961)
This could have gone either way. It's such a great B movie title that almost no film could live up to that. Thankfully, it turned out to be a mini-bonanza of low budget delights. Barbara Kwiatkowska has a brainy allure that's uncommon for schlock movie heroines and it plays like a bit of an Edgar Wallace mystery with the added bonus of a monster. Heusch generates a decent amount of atmosphere on a shoestring and it's a take on the werewolf mythos that you don't see every day. Give it some room to work and you'll have a pretty good time with this one.
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Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (Asher, 1982)
Holy cats! This is possibly the most underrated '80s horror title that I have ever seen. It certainly has more going on, both text and subtext, than ten run of the mill slashers combined. It is a psychosexual madhouse. The murder that kicks off the whole affair exposes a particularly virulent strain of homophobia in the investigating detective, a homophobia that highlights how the film is ultimately pretty forward thinking in its treatment of these issues for 1982. All the while, it hurtles toward a near-oedipal resolution with Susan Tyrell getting wound tighter and tighter by her homicidal/incestual desires the whole time. Really, you have to see this just for her. This is a towering performance that belongs on the batshit insane Mount Rushmore.
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The House Is Black (Farrokhzad, 1963)
This is the only film that Forough Farrokhzad made in her tragically short life. Without this striking cinematic essay, it is entirely possible that we would not have the Iranian New Wave. The subject of the film is ostensibly life in the Bababaghi Hospice leper colony, but when juxtaposed with her poetry and judiciously edited it becomes a meditation on something larger than the suffering and hopes of the colony's inhabitants. It achieves a remarkable amount of philosophical probing in its short 22 minute running time and the images she captured are something I will not soon forget. If you are at all interested in the essential building blocks of international cinema, this is a must.
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The Image (Metzger, 1975)
It's a shame how seldom erotic films are exactly that - erotic. They often will get one or two of the necessary elements right, but will be missing something crucial. If they are playful enough, they will lack the necessary gravity. If they are titillating enough, they will lack a coherent story. They almost all miss the fact that self-discovery is vital. Radley Metzger was better at making these films than most and I think The Image is his crowning achievement. He walks the tightrope of portraying control, and the loss of it, in an erotic context with remarkable acuity. This adaptation of Catherine Robbe-Grillet's classic BDSM novel delivers on all fronts.The ending undermines the whole just slightly, but Metzger's ability to tell these kinds of stories puts him among the greatest purveryors of sex in cinema.
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Deep End (Skolimowski, 1970)
This is the film that grew most in my estimation in 2016 after my initial viewing. It's one that I ended up thinking about an awful lot. It's the story of a young man working at a London bath house that develops an infatuation with a coworker and it is a fascinating depiction of the toll these types of relationships take on both parties, especially when boundaries are shifting depending on the whims of the participants. It ranges from awkward charm to budding mutual tenderness to outright cruelty and manipulation. The power dynamic keeps you off balance consistently and completely and for all its drabness, it is a complete joy to look at it, with some of the greatest, and most subtle, art direction I have seen. As often happens when you're young, this one will break your heart, though maybe not for the same reasons.
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1 comment:

beamish13 said...

Glad to hear that you enjoyed DEEP END. Jerzy Skolimowski is one of the finest living directors in the world, and his early independent Polish features, as well as recent works like the Oscar-submitted 15 MINUTES, are all worth delving into.