Monday, 20 March 2017

DVD Review: S&M: Les Sadiques

With a wintry Berlin as its backdrop, Alex Bakshaev's "S&M:Les Sadiques" offers a heartfelt tribute to the late Jess Franco while making its own mark in the cinema of unease.
Here, in the heartland of David Bowie's greatest triumphs (look out for the shrine), trans peed along tracks headed to nowhere; the lost and the lonely nurse drinks in seedy
bars, and a young woman searches for bed and board in a city where everything has its price.

College dropout Marie (Nadine Pape) soon discovers that if the streets are mean, bricks and mortar can hose even more hazards as she narrowly avoids rape,
ending up in the abode of a woman who "takes orders from no-one.
Sandra (Sandra Bourdonecc) soon introduces her latest charge to a world where pain and pleasure co-exist; a lifestyle that leads to betrayal and murder.

With nods to "Succubus", "Venus In Furs" and "She Killed In Ecstasy", "S&M" also draws on the poetic elements of Jean Rollin, where snow covered streets replace beaches,
leaving short-lived footprints that will soon fade forever.
The film is accompanied by an evocative soundtrack from Kevin Kopacka and Alexander Zhemchuzhnikov ( Stuart Lindsay performing the music of Daniel White at various points), and brought to life by exquisite photography, capturing the magic and the harsh realities of the location.

Cast-wise, there are two stimulating performances from the female leads, ably supported by Kevin Kopacka (Marie's lover), Harry Baer as her Uncle Franz and Nikolaus Sternfeld as Tom.
Thanks to the script by Alex Bakshaev and Sarnt Utamachote, there's plenty to stretch performers and viewers alike, installing this as a film that will most certainly repay multiple viewings.

It's extremely bloody in places, with jealousy and betrayal leading to a reprehensible act that will surely make your blood run cold.
There are also moments of tenderness and togetherness, recalling happier times when the world seemed less oppressive.
"S&M: Les Sadiques" scores highly in all the key areas and carries my recommendation as a perversion story with a heart and soul.

Image quality on the DVD is pin-sharp, highlighting the beautifully lit interior and exterior scenes. There are also 3 trailers. One for the main feature,
and for two other enticing titles: "Dylan" and "The Devil Of Kreuzberg".

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Blu-ray Review: The Crying Game (BFI dual format)

In the world of cinema, different markets often deliver polar opposite responses. In the US, Neil Jordan's "The Crying Game" was greeted with open arms by audiences fascinated by the film's sexual politics.
In the UK, the spectre of the IRA - very much active in England at the time - turned off cinema goers who were unwilling to accept that a member of this organisation could possess a human side.

A carnival in Northern Ireland is the setting for the kidnapping of Jody (Forest Whitaker); a soldier who is ensnared by the gorgeous Jude (Miranda Richardson) and taken at gunpoint to a safe house near Newry, some 34 miles from Belfast.
One of the senior members of the IRA is being interrogated at Castlereagh, and Jody is informed that he'll be shot unless their comrade is released within 3 days.
Slowly, Jody's personality and situation infiltrates the very soul of Fergus Hennessey (Stephen Rea); a footsoldier for the IRA, who reveals that behind the political brainwashing lies a man capable of forging friendships across the great divide.
When the inevitable occurs, Fergus has cultivated a bond with Jude, resulting in a journey to London where Dil (Jaye Davidson) works in a hairdressers, awaiting Jodie's return.

"The Crying Game" is a film of secrets deceptions and identity, with a twist halfway through through that's beautifully timed, and which leads to some incredibly moving scenes.
Rea is particularly fine here, succeeding in a supremely difficult task of getting the audience on his side, moving from potential cold-blooded executioner to a person who can laugh, love and feel for fellow human beings. Praise too, for the excellent supporting cast, including Richardson's thoroughly evil agent who eventually turns up in London, reminding Fergus that "You're never out!", having established her cruel nature at an early stage: "Don't leave me with her!" implores a frightened Jody and that's before he takes a heavy blow to the face from the butt of her gun!
Jim Broadbent's go-between barkeep Colin; an affecting turn from Whitaker; Adrian Dunbar's fiery IRA hitman and a quite brilliant performance from Davidson make this a film to enthrall from start to finish.
While it's true there is one scene in particular that requires huge suspension of disbelief, the film overall succeeds as a love story punctuated by the blood and bullets of a dark period in our history.

"The Crying Game" may not have set the box office alight over here, but it's not been forgotten and the release of this dual-format BFI Blu-ray and DVD will delight old admirers and recruit a new generation of film buffs.
The Blu-ray presentation offers solid colours, deep blacks and no anomalies. A rich viewing experience.
The supplementary material commences with a director's audio commentary track. Neil Jordan talks about cinematic influences; casting choices; why he shot in cinemascope; the research undertaken for Jaye Davidson's character and also acknowledges the tip of the hat to "Mr Arkadin."
Jordan also talks about shooting with a minimal budget: a state of affairs amplified in "The Making of The Crying Game" (50m 24s).
Here, the director is joined by Stephen Woolley, Stephen Rea, Janes Giles and Nik Powell; the latter providing further insight with regard to the low budget.
We also hear about Channel Four's main two objections to the script; how the finance was raised and why this film was very much make or break for Neil Jordan.

An alternative ending (with optional director's commentary) is presented for the first time, taken from VHS tape and running for 4m 55s.
Channel Four insisted on an alternative ending being shot, and finally agreed with Jordan that his original ending was better and could be filmed.
I'd say this was the right decision, although the inclusion of the alternative - shot in snowy London streets - is worth seeing.
"Northern Troubles" (8m 50s) Here, a Catholic and a Protestant take separate journeys through Belfast, sharing their respective views on the politics in their world.
The package is rounded off with 2 trailers. The 1st runs for 1m 37s, while the second (53s) is a series of review quotes under the film poster.
The BFI have also compiled a booklet featuring excellent essays by Ashley Clark and Juliet Jacques, and a valuable Neil Jordan overview from Brian Hoyle. Excellent writing from all three participants and worthy of your time.

"The Crying Game" will be released on 20th February.