Friday, February 26, 2010


I'm a big fan of German supermarket chain Lidl. It's not just because you enjoy superior continental European quality, nor that everything is about a third of the price of the dreaded Tesco, nor that you can mingle with a better more knowing class of customer. It's a forager's paradise: you just never know what you're going to find in there since every week part of the stock changes in the most unexpected, if not downright bizarre, ways.

One week it could be motorcycling gear, another week maybe a load of equestrian stuff will come in, another women's lingerie, another space telescopes, or Scottish kilts, camping equipment, sewing machines, guitars and synths, CCTV kits, chainsaws, blood pressure monitors, even combine harvesters. OK, I made the last one up, but it wouldn't be so surprising. I even got my trusty satellite dish from there.

A couple of weeks ago it was Lidl's 'Greek Festival' (this week it's 'Scandinavia') and I felt strangely compelled to get me a tin of the musky octopus. No idea why.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Another wholesome helping of decidedly unlegitimate italosleaze goodness.

What Have They Done To Solange? (*****)
sensational movie with a terrific international cast; the tone -whilst not without welcome moments of giallo sleaze- is relentlessly dark, containing shocking plot developments that nowadays nobody would dare touch, and all leading to an extremely satisfying finale

Death Walks On High Heels (****)
a gloriously creepy, if at times convoluted, giallo set in a remote unnamed English coastal village with a superbly bizarre cast of support characters and extras

Tenebrae (****)
Dario Argento has lots of amazing wonderfully wild cinematic ideas; his direction however, like the quality of the women he casts (comparatively speaking), is pretty rough around the edges - that said, Tenebrae is arguably his best and notable for its memorable climax, Goblin's fantastic soundtrack - oh, and a very scary dog

Forbidden Photos Of A Lady Above Suspicion (*****)
what it lacks in gore, Forbidden Photos more than makes up for in sexual intrigue, its feisty script and glossy cinematography, and above all, Dagmar Lassander's array of cripplingly beautiful outfits and sezzy looks

Who Saw Her Die? (***)
this thematically dark giallo set in the magisterial ambience of Venice (like Roeg's later and derivative Don't Look Now) is simply astounding leading up to the second shocking murder; unfortunately, the direction then becomes somewhat incoherent, Lado perhaps trying too hard to stick to the genre's formulae

Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (*****)
you've got it all here: stellar cast featuring a perfect role for Edwige Fenech and an outrageous performance by Luigi Pistilli, finally a male actor up to the task in hand; some top-class sleaze; a twisty satisfying plot; some gorgeous cinematography; an astounding baroque Bruno Nicolai soundtrack.... and a black cat

All The Colors Of The Dark (***)
it's testament to the beguiling charisma of Edwige Fenech that she manages to single-handedly carry what would be an otherwise mediocre giallo, here, as she is caught up with some Satanic crusties in London and an unlikeable husband

The Strange Vice Of Mrs. Wardh (****)
even Conchita Airoldi is upstaged by the magnetic painful beauty of Edwige Fenech - classic giallo, set in Vienna and a still-Francoist Sitges, which explores unusually brave themes regarding female sexuality; Nora Orlandi, a Morricone cohort, provides a memorable, at times experimental, soundtrack to the proceedings

Strip Nude For Your Killer (***)
for what 'Nude per l'assassino' lacks in terms of plot cohesion, character development, and plausibility, we are amply compensated by the quality of sleaze on display


Wednesday, February 17, 2010


As the opening credits of the film documentary Smells Like Teen Spirit are emblazoned with the dreaded credit to 'UK Film Council', your hopes sink. And with good reason. This sloppy work is watchable thanks only to the remarkably fun phenomenon that is Eurovision, and thanks to the ability to augment from YouTube all the requisite footage that's shamefully omitted. (By the way, Romania got my 12 points.)

Britain has never been able to get it, Eurovision; we're a nation always fighting through our own invisible patina of self-loathing supercilious cynicism (typified by the tacit support for xenophobic prats like Terry Wogan and Graham Norton) and our own continually spurious attempts at wider musical legitimacy. This documentary is no exception to that.

I mention all of this because it lies at the heart of something I've discovered and learnt in the wake of my series of posts regarding the paintings of Congo the chimp. It's what makes Eurovision so much fun and the Brit awards or Turner Prize or Oscars so cringeworthy. It's what makes the satellite music channels like Viva Polska and Music Box Russia so watchable next to the wretched MTV. It's what makes Italo Disco so magical, yet 90s Britpop so awful. It's what makes everything from Wire magazine to Rolling Stone, books by writers such as Simon Reynolds and Jon Savage, Guardian and other broadsheet rock and pop critics, BBC music documentaries, and more, so fucking depressing. And of course it goes beyond music into the worlds of literature, art, performance, pornography, film.

It's this continually insufferable attempt to legitimise; the compulsion, through endless rationalisation, to give art some kind of special worthiness or moral weight. (And yes, it does have quasi-religious connotations.) Music, film, books, pictures should not have to justify their existence. Far better that they should not.

The act of attempting to legitimise one's own or others' work betrays the questionable underlying intent of trying to justify a belief system, a set of superstitions, a worldview. It says almost nothing else about the aesthetic value of the art. That's why it comes across as so overbearing and pompous and smug. It's an impure artistic intent.

that which is considered as having unique irreplaceable worthiness, beyond its core artistic worth, rationalised by the creator or by others (i.e. legitimisers)

that which is considered as disposable, or replaceable by other similar examples, spanning the full spectrum for popularity and potential for personal satisfaction

that which is considered artistically unpalatable or unworthy by legitimisers, not on grounds of disposability or replaceability, but for a perceived threat to pre-established moral convention

Feel free to fill in your own examples for these categories according to taste.

Friday, February 12, 2010


The Naked Man - Desmond Morris
Against The Odds - Peter L. Bernstein
Zodiac - Robert Graysmith

Music For Strange Situations - Alessandro Alessandroni & Nora Orlandi
Il Profumo Della Signora In Nero - Nicola Piovani
Perfume - Triangle

Grande Occhio
Perfume -
First Tour : Game
Les Statues Meurent Aussi


HK47 4

Still ferreting for Valentine's Day ideas? Here's a gift suggestion (thanks, Steven) which is a surefire way to your beloved's heart, something as romantic as it's badass, as cute as it's useful: a Hello Kitty chainsaw.

HK47 3
HK47 2
HK47 1

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


A good giallo, before it can be considered great, must fulfil certain specific criteria:
- stunning locations unfamiliar to the viewer
- beautiful charismatic girls of all types and backgrounds that revel in the celebration of their tarterie, to wit, the showing-off of their bodies in sensationally alluring outfits
- a brilliant eclectic soundtrack by a single composer
- an unknown sex maniac killer sporting stylish black leather gloves

Torso (****)
the red-headed beauty that is Tina Aumont, plus the extraordinary proto-slasher chase scene in the woods (remorselessly imitated ever since), would alone make worth seeing what is otherwise a patchy yet tremendously fun and sexy giallo

Six Women For The Murderer (*****)
Sei Donne, in its entirety, is a vibrantly beautiful sexy feast for your greedy eyes; Bava's 1964 classic was a huge influence on the giallo genre

A Lizard In A Woman's Skin (****)
weird and highly satisfying giallo by Fulci set in 60s swinging London, it captures the sordidness of the hippie acid scene better than most films of the era

A Bay Of Blood (****)
fascinating to see the origins of the slasher-by-numbers genre, in particular the Friday 13th franchise - the ever-inventive Mario Bava was, once more, way ahead of his time

Don't Torture A Duckling (*****)
Fulci's masterpiece, way better than all his later zombie shit; there are some extraordinarily memorable and twisted scenes, some wonderful mystery and polemic, a fine cast including the incomparable Barbara Bouchet, a killer Ortolani soundtrack, and all set in astounding locations in southern Italy; what more could you possibly want?

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (**)
from a promising outset this starts to drag badly, the actors lack charisma, Morricone's score is substandard, and the cinematography is nothing special compared to the best of the gialli; Dario Argento is, once again, way overrated

The Red Queen Kills 7 Times (****)
brilliant stylish (and oft-overlooked) giallo by Emilio Miraglia set in beautiful Wurzburg, Bavaria - with a classic Bruno Nicolai soundtrack to match

Monday, February 08, 2010


Hachiko: A Dog's Story (*****)
beautifully understated, heartwrenching film about a loyal Japanese akita - Richard Gere is wonderful in the role of the professor
who finds him at the station

Bandslam (*)
it's tragic to see VAH doing crap like this as director Graff forcefeeds us and the cast his utterly lamentable taste in music

Sherlock Holmes (*)
starring Sherlock Holmes in the role of Robert Downey Junior, this is one of the most embarrassing films of all time: RDJ and Jude Law are absolutely pathetic in the roles of Holmes and Watson, and the laughable mix of
Matrix-style punch-ups and Dan Brown-esque plot devices transform Conan Doyle's original into a ludicrarse pantomime

The House Of The Devil (*)
diabolically awful, infernally inept

Midnight Movie (*)
laughably bad Z-movie horror - it'd seem the entire $500 budget was blown on the cheesy heavy metal opening credits

The Time Traveler's Wife (**)
kind of creepy (sadly, for all the wrong reasons)

Triangle (*)
yet another UK Lottery-funded film school dud - the plot is as all over the place as are the various attempts at US accents; Lottery ticket holders won't be comforted to see half their money going on relentlessly sucky films, the worst Olympic Games in history, and the collected papers of that war criminal Churchill

Cold Souls (*)
this 'soul' nonsense should have been rejected out of hand upon being submitted for production - the very best you can say is that Jim Carrey wasn't cast in the lead role

Up In The Air (*)
awful - predictable - George Clooney

Blood Creek (*)
Joel Schumacher ruins what could have been a fun outing with uber-corny po-faced dialogue

Interrogation (****)
Przesluchanie (to use its original title) is as interesting as much for its origins in Stalinist Poland (and thus unsurprisingly banned); Bugajski's and others' courage in making it cannot be overestimated - amidst the gloriously low-budget scenic fetishism, there is brilliant lampooning of the terrifying bumbling incompetence of a totalitarian state, rather than the stereotypical Orwellian brutal efficiency one's used to in books and movies

Torrente (***)
all in unbelievably crass taste, yet there's an underlying honesty about Torrente that, firstly, allows it to transcend the Spanish subcultural stereotypes it affectionately lampoons, and secondly, allows us to lol out loud

Ebola Syndrome (****)
completely sick OTT HK Cat III black humour - brilliant performance by Anthony Wong, who, with great vigour, carries the entire grisly proceedings

The Stepfather (****)
refreshingly believable classic 80s horror - nice Patrick Moraz soundtrack to boot

The Stepfather (*)
dreadful, pointless 2009 remake of the superb 80s original