Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
< <
R E V I V A L S > >
last update 4.Apr.09
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Gun Crazy
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE  
aka Deadly Is the Female
dir Joseph H Lewis
scr MacKinlay Kantor, Dalton Trumbo
with John Dall, Peggy Cummins, Berry Kroeger, Morris Carnovsky, Anabel Shaw, Russ Tamblyn, Harry Lewis, Nedrick Young, Virginia Farmer, Anne O'Neal, Mickey Little, Paul Frison
dall and cummins release US 20.Jan.50;
reissue UK 27.Feb.09
50/US United Artists 1h27
gun crazy Not only is this noir classic clearly the template for everything from Bonnie & Clyde to Natural Born Killers, but it's also smarter and more entertaining than virtually anything Hollywood put out this past year.

As a teen, Bart (Tamblyn) gets in serious trouble because of his obsession with guns. After a stint in reform school, Bart (now Dall) has renounced violence, but has also perfected his shooting skills. So of course he's madly attracted to Annie (Cummins), a sexy circus pistol expert. Running away from her blackmailing carny (Kroeger), the duo hit the road, where Annie seduces Bart into a life of crime. This is extremely glamorous until the law starts to catch up with them.

With its simple B-movie aesthetic and overworked guns-are-dangerous morality, it would be easy to miss the complex characters and astute situations. These are genuinely intriguing people painted in shades of grey rather than black and white, and the actors manage to deliver hysterically camp dialog ("We belong together like guns and ammunition!") while still creating deeply involving characters. Dall and Cummins also spark with a fierce, feisty sexual chemistry.

Director Lewis catches this with energy and style. Sure, some of the effects are rather cheesy now (such as touring the world through the magic of rear projection), but there are also several hugely inventive sequences, including that famous single take in which Bart and Annie drive through a small town, rob a bank and make their getaway. Combined with such vivid characters, these scenes help to build the wrenching suspense.

It's rare to watch a film with central characters that make us both root for them and hope they're stopped. Dall and Cummins are simply fantastic together on screen; they really do look at each other "like a couple of wild animals", and yet we ache for Bart's moral dilemma when he wonders why they have to kill people just so they don't need to work. And seeing it on a big screen where it belongs only reminds us how few filmmakers today know how to harness the raw power of cinema.

PG themes, violence
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Ron Peck
scr Ron Peck, Paul Hallam
with Ken Robertson, Rachel Nicholas James, Robert Merrick, Clive Peters, Stuart Craig Turton, Tony Westrope, Maureen Dolan, Frank Dilbert, Peter Radmall, Ernest Brightmore, John Angel, Derek Jarman
release US Nov.78
reissue UK 27.Mar.09
78/UK 1h53

longon l&g film fest
nightha Ron Peck's landmark 1978 film stands up remarkably well 30 years later, with its gritty authenticity and refusal to fall back on stereotypes. It also paints a picture that is still ahead of its time in mainstream cinema.

Jim (Robertson) is a geology teacher who spends his nights in search of instant companionship. And he's always hoping for something more. In London's gay discos, he scans the crowd looking for a man who's promising, followed by the trip home and, in the morning, the usual awkwardness. Some guys never call again, others call too often. He confides with his colleague Judy (James) about this lifestyle, and as they talk about their respective situations, he starts to get nervous about the fact that he may never have a stable relationship.

This is no-frills filmmaking that merely catches scenes from the life of this rather unremarkable man. His sexuality simply isn't an issue at all, although the (largely improvised) confrontation with his students is pretty shocking, as they indulge in homophobic name-calling, mainly out of ignorance because this is an issue they've never been allowed to talk about these things in class. These issues are still important in society all these years later, vividly showing exactly why someone like Jim has been condemned to a shallow life: society wants him to hide who he is.

Intriguingly, Peck cuts away from every sex scene, as if that's not actually the point. He opts to show the moments before and after, the small connections and disconnections, random moments of affection and a few bracing glimpses of insecurity and emptiness. It if weren't for the 1970s touches--electronic music, tight jeans, big hair--the film could have been made today. And the fact that the central character is gay is also rendered irrelevant by conversations he has with women and straight friends, who are facing the exact same issues. A real cinematic milestone.

15 themes, language, nudity
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Nighthawks 2: Strip Jack Naked
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Ron Peck
scr Ron Peck, Paul Hallam
with Ron Peck, Nick Bolton, John Brown, John Daimon Ken Robertson, Colm Clifford, Walter McMonagle, Robert Merrick, Judy Liebert, Michael Menaugh, Rachel Nicholas James, Clive Peters
peck with a friend
release US Jun.91
reissue UK 30.Mar.09
91/UK BFI 1h31

longon l&g film fest
strip jack naked Not actually a sequel, this is an experimental making-of doc that also serves as a detailed autobiography of the filmmaker. It's telling, provocative and extremely personal, and has its own important place in film history.

Peck assembles the material in a kaleidoscopic way, framed with images of men in an editing suite looking at clips from Nighthawks, including scenes from the fundraising pilot and extensive footage that was cut out of the film. Over this, Peck narrates the story of his life, including details about how Nighthawks was made, from casting and editing to funding and the public's reaction. We also see how much of that film came straight from his life.

Peck's life story is fascinating, and we follow as he decides to make a film at age 14, grapples with his sexuality, confronts his parents, finds a girlfriend and eventually has to make sense of it all. There's a powerful emotional resonance in this journey. He didn't have his first gay sexual experience until age 22, and as he got more involved in the protests of the period ("the personal is now the political"), he realised how the bar scene changed him, reducing men to coded signals and making him harder, tougher and narrower.

It's exactly these attitudes that Nighthawks addresses so powerfully, crushing every stereotype without preaching. And Peck includes some especially moving sequences that were deleted from the film, including the character played by Clifford, a friend and activist who died of Aids before turning 30. Peck explains why the scenes were cut, and we feel his grief and regret, as well as the sense that showing the footage now is a way to honour an important man.

This doc is essential for film fans; it's perhaps an even more vital work than Nighthawks. It's as personal, witty and angry as Terence Davies' Of Time and the City. And it's also revealing to see how Peck travelled to San Francisco to march with Harvey Milk and catch his vision. In the end, the film moves more strongly into political issues, mainly about the Thatcher era but also looking at positive changes in society. In other words, it looks like a film made today, not nearly 20 years ago.

18 themes, language, sexuality
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Strawberry and Chocolate
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE   Fresa y Chocolate
dir Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Juan Carlos Tabío
scr Senel Paz
with Jorge Perugorría, Vladimir Cruz, Mirta Ibarra, Francisco Gattorno, Joel Angelino, Marilyn Solaya, Andrés Cortina, Antonio Carmona, Ricardo Avila, María Elena del Toro, Zolanda Oña, Diana Iris del Puerto
cruz and perugorria release UK 18.Nov.94,
US 20.Jan.95
dvd UK 16.Mar.09
94/Cuba 1h48

strawberry and chocolate Nominated for the Oscar, this Cuban drama is a real charmer, tracing an unusual friendship against a strikingly involving political backdrop. And the characters are vivid and thoroughly engaging.

David (Cruz) is a young Castro loyalist who decides to stay a virgin until his marriage to Vivian (Solaya). But then she goes and marries someone else. In a daze, he meets Diego (Perugorria), a flamboyant artist who challenges him on every level: artistically, politically and sexually. He gets increasingly involved in this subversive lifestyle, befriending Diego's neighbour Nancy (Ibarra). But this only makes David's fellow Communist friend Miguel (Gattorno) increasingly suspicious about what's going on.

There are a number of powerful things underneath this film's cheeky, colourful surface. These are refreshingly realistic people who are grappling with all kinds of big issues in a society that suppresses anything out of the ordinary, and as the story progresses, the filmmakers make some astonishingly strong comments about Cuban culture and politics. The result is both introspective and energetic. And also boldly honest. David's odyssey of self-discovery is wonderfully involving--funny, scary and extremely personal as he struggles to define his sexuality and political views.

The clever thing about this film is the way it throws David into a world he knows nothing about. Diego is openly gay in a society in which homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment and torture, so when David doesn't turn Diego in, he becomes a counter-revolutionary himself, something he can't even imagine. But Diego and Nancy continue to push and stretch him, helping him realise that society only free if everyone is free, and also that a culture in which everyone is the same is incomplete.

These are pretty enormous issues for what's essentially a small, breezy drama about a group of offbeat characters. But it's beautifully shot and edited, and played with a genuine humanity that's infectious. It's absolutely fascinating to watch these characters open up and change because of their encounter with each other; their relationships are never remotely simplistic, and we feel the emotions right along with them.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< < R E V I V A L S > >

© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall