Sunday, April 18, 2010

FILM INTERNATIONAL: Vol. 8, No. 1

I'm pleased to announce that my first book review for Film International has been published with their current issue 43 (8:1, pp. 80-81). I was invited to take a look at Diasporas of Australian Cinema, edited by Catherine Simpson, Renata Murawska and Anthony Lambert, which dovetailed nicely with my research into diasporas and imagined communities for Film Festival Yearbook 2.

The cover article "On the Edge" by
Gary McMahon--whose layout mimics a comic book--renders an evocative snapshot of why the horror genre addresses a social malaise of powerlessness and rage. McMahon writes: "Drugs, perhaps, and comforting obesity, and desensitizing la-la land on TV, keeps life and limb together through a mandatory nightmare, this pusillanimous void, this ogrous abomination that is everyday life. Another thing taught by the super-villainous 1980s was that nothing comes free, not public services, not emergency services, not education, not caring: everything is levied as a bribe, where briberies for amenities is legitimate commerce, and our human rights are leased to us for exactly as long as we can pay for them." (8:1, p. 9)

Garry Leonard follows through with "Monsters and Mortgages: The Horror Movie as Prime Economic Indicator"; a truly fascinating Marxian analysis of how horror films concretize unseen market forces, especially consumer debt as vampirism. "Descending inexorably into debt," Leonard writes, "is similar to the progress of a victim's relationship with a vampire: we move from a sense of fascination, illusory well-being and imaginary plenitude to a horrified awareness of the steady, unstoppable diminishment of our life force. The 'answer', as presented in the genre of the horror movie, is to identify, isolate and destroy this 'monster' in order to once more re-inhabit the present moment, regain control of the future and then stop the mysterious draining away by annihilating the now visible cause." (8:1, p. 12) Vampires aside, his argument begs a vision of our current economic collapse as caused by Wall Street financiers infected by their own philosophies; a brood of zombies, if you will, who have transmitted their infection onto not only a national but a global populace. He inspires me to write a novel on that premise; screen rights to follow.

The "infection film" is further meditated upon in Murray Pomerance's "What Ever is Happening to M. Night Shyamalan."

Shifting away from the genre of cinematic horror to real-life horrors of omission and erasure, Omar Hassan critiques censorship in "Real Queer Arabs: The Tension between Colonialism and Homosexuality in Egyptian Cinema." Hassan emphasizes the alarming trend by pious Islamic fundamentalists of viewing cinema as one of the "darker" arts fueled by perceived Western degeneracy.

My favorite article in Film International issue 43, however, is "Return to Third Cinema? The Case of Listen to Venezuela" by filmmakers Deirdre O'Neill and Mike Wayne, not only for their efforts to define a revolutionary cinema, but their cogent critique (by way of
Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino's seminal essay "Towards a Third Cinema") of classifying First Cinema as dominant commercial cinema and Second Cinema as film festival arthouse fare, which deems itself revolutionary for resisting Hollywood's hegemony while unabashedly catering to middle-class appetites and agendas.

And of course, there is much much more, not the least being Gary Kramer's festival report from the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, which I appreciated not only for his disclosure of how he selects films to watch from TIFF's voluminous entries ("I generally avoid popular titles ... to see films that might not otherwise get distribution"), but--anticipating its inclusion in San Francisco's upcoming International Film Festival--his commentary on Rigoberto Pérezcano's feature debut Northless (2008), which he says "belies a documentary approach" in its opening (and strongest) scenes, "shot with little or no dialogue. The heat is as palpable as the miles of unchartered territory." He adds: "Northless benefits from its incredibly assured sense of place, and the use of música norteña on the soundtrack lends an authenticity to many of the Tijuana scenes." (8:1, p. 93)

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