A one-line spoiler-free review of everything I watched in the cinema in May, June and July 2023
I’ve never really been a movies person, they last too long and I always want the bar/toilet after 20 minutes like at a gig, which stresses me out. But I got myself a BFI and a Picturehouse membership and once a week I try to find the weirdest most ‘Martin’ thing to watch somewhere. But I’ve treated it like watching TV/gigs/football rather than a sacred art event. Boring? I’ll leave. Need a wee or a drink? Go do that. Occasionally you miss the vital two minutes of a movie but then so what? There’s another one next week. It’s been brilliant.
Suspiria (1977), Dario Argento – Another movie with a legendary soundtrack (this time by Goblin) that I knew really well but I’d never seen the film – see also Get Carter and Letter to Brezhnev passim – and it was absolutely superb. I loved how vivid the green/red visuals of the cinematography were. The main flaw of watching it now for the first time was that it was so influential that several of the key plot points have become even more trope-ish and the horror/gore effects that were shocking in 1977 now elicit jump-surprise-relief-laughter in a packed cinema viewing. Maybe they always did. Maybe they were always tropes. I really enjoyed it anyway.
Nam June Paik: Moon Is The Oldest TV (2023), Amanda Kim – This was on at the Picturehouse documentary strand and I must confess the name Nam June Paik rang no bells, but I saw that Yoko Ono, David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto featured in it, and I reckoned it would be my bag. And indeed it was. He was a pioneering video artist, geographically displaced into Europe and then the US by the consequences of the Korean war, becoming one of the people who laid the foundations down for a million visual effects and music videos that I have loved and enjoyed over the years without knowing I owed him the debt.
Le Mépris [Contempt] (1963), Jean-Luc Godard – A film about making a film and collapsing relationships. I hugely enjoyed Fritz Lang appearing as Fritz Lang in this, which centres around Michel Piccoli’s failure to grasp that his needy desperation for Brigitte Bardot to love him is the very trait that is making her feel such contempt for him
The Thing From Another World (1951), Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks – I feel like I must have seen all of these legendary cold war horror sci-fi movies on BBC Two at some point in the 1980s and 1990s, but for me obviously the most appealing thing about this film was the whole “civilian scientist base-under-seige as the military try and control an alien incursion” format, which I may have enjoyed reworked in multiple Doctor Who stories over the years.
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1979), D.A. Pennebaker – Newly restored and remastered, sounding better than ever, except for the reinserted Jeff Beck guest slot bit which was originally snipped out cos nobody was happy with it. It hadn’t got any more together in the years it has spent gathering dust on the cutting room floor.
Them! (1954), Gordon Douglas – This was preceded by a talk by maths prof Sarah Hart who wrote Once Upon A Prime which I endorse and recommend, about the maths of big screen monsters, and had stood up much better than I expected. The dialogue was pretty snappy and the ants not just giant matte superimposed actual ants which I had seemed to recall.
Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) (2022), Anton Corbijn – Morbidly fascinating story of the design studio partnership behind some absolutely iconic and amazing album sleeves (Dark Side of the Moon, Houses of the Holy, Band on the Run etc) and also a load of self-indulgent over-expensive dross (Photographing a statue on a mountain via helicopter in the Alps to produce a ‘Wings Greatest’ front cover that looks like a drawing done in a studio). Also featured Roger Waters, still seemingly oblivious to the fact that if you’ve fallen out with nearly all the creative people who have helped sustain your career over the years, maybe it is you who is the problem.