Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, revivals and shorts...
< <
R E V I V A L S > >
last update 21.Jul.17
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Multiple Maniacs
dir-scr-prd John Waters
with Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole, Cookie Mueller, Rick Morrow, Paul Swift, Edith Massey, Howard Gruber, Michael Renner Jr, Susan Lowe, Vincent Peranio
mink and divine release US 10.Apr.70
reissue UK 17.Feb.17
70/US 1h36
Multiple Maniacs Rarely screened, this early John Waters romp is jaw-dropping in all the best ways. Consistently over-the-top, it hilariously plays around with stereotypes as it tells a story about social outcasts literally eating each other for lunch. It's utterly bonkers, relentlessly vulgar, broadly acted and made on what looks like a pittance. It's also a masterpiece.

In the suburbs, Mr David (Lochary) lures bystanders to a travelling cavalcade of filth run by Lady Divine (Divine) and her acolytes. It's actually a scam to rob the patrons, and if one gets shot in the process, Divine doesn't mind. On the other hand, she's enraged because David is having an affair the bleached-blonde Bonnie (Pearce). On the way to kill them in their love-nest, she is raped by cross-dressing glue-huffers and more pleasantly stimulated in a church by the voracious Mink (Stole). Meanwhile, Divine's daughter (Mueller) is growing tired of the drama.

The plot traces Divine's murderous quest over the course of one day, shot in sunny black and white 16mm, beautifully restored digitally with a remarkably clear sound mix. And pretty much everyone in the movie has killing in mind, leading to a final act that takes a series of turns that would feel Shakespearean if they weren't so absurdly comical. Even with these increasingly outrageous situations, Waters saves a few even more raucous touches for the closing scenes, from an amorous lobster to a militarised street mob.

All of the performances are exaggerated, and some are rather amateurish, but they combine to create an amusing collection of characters who interact in ridiculous ways. Divine anchors the mayhem in diva mode, a bizarrely likeable sociopath who revels in becoming a full-fledged maniac. She's simply amazing, and has terrific chemistry with everyone, especially Stole. Lochary provides a solid kick as the unfaithful boyfriend, even giving David a reason for his frustration. And scenes are packed with colourful side characters.

Where this all goes is very, very silly, with a nonstop string of rude gags that have been inserted simply for shock value. But this is entirely the point, and adds an important layer to the joke, exploring the lines society draws in seemingly random places. These people are unbothered about crossing those lines in every conceivable direction. This may make the movie seem like a gimmicky bit of nastiness. But it also reminds us how important it is to have people in society who push the limits, even if we may not want to witness it firsthand.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
shadows all-time top 100 filmsLa Strada
aka: The Road
dir Federico Fellini
scr Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli
prd Dino De Laurentiis, Carlo Ponti
with Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart, Aldo Silvani, Marcella Rovere, Livia Venturini, Anna Primula, Pietro Ceccarelli, Mario Passante, Giovanna Galli, Yami Kamadeva, Gustavo Giorgi
masina and quinn release It 23.Sep.54,
UK Nov.55, US 16.Jul.56
reissue UK 19.May.17
54/Italy 1h48

la strada This Oscar-winning Italian drama predates Federico Fellini's equally famous The Nights of Cabiria by three years, and it offers an even more devastating performance from the awesome Giulietta Masina. Sweet, moving and darkly wrenching, this is a beautiful story about the power of hope and the deep need for a sense of purpose in life.

After his sidekick Rosa dies, Zampano (Quinn) returns to her seaside home and buys her younger sister Gelsomina (Masina) to assist him as he travels performing his strong-man routine. But Gelsomina has an askance way of looking at things, and the brutish Zampano treats her more like a pet than a partner. She's hurt by his relentless womanising. And when she befriends cheeky tight-rope walker The Fool (Basehart), she's confused and infuriated by the feud between these two men. But The Fool notices her curiosity and intelligence, and he sees her quiet influence on Zampano.

Shot in bracing monochrome, the film vividly captures the dusty life on the road, including raucous drunken nights and boisterous circus performances. While everything has a raw, earthy tone, the realism is heightened to draw attention to the drama taking place in the lives of the characters. The perspective is largely Gelsomina's, as she tries to make sense of Zampano's thug-like behaviour while marvelling at all of the new things she discovers around her. This gives the film's final sequence, in which the point of view shifts to Zampano, a proper kick.

Masina is radiant as the impish Gelsomina, a giggly, shy girl who is underestimated by almost everyone she meets. The actress vividly depicts the complex mix of wonder and fear, delight and irritation, as she contemplates running away from the circus. But there's a sense of purpose with this violent man that she can't escape. Both Quinn and Basehart are also excellent, breathing so much life into these complex men that they both feel capable of almost anything.

The film's production style may date it, but the performances and themes are still powerfully resonant. The interaction between these three very different people bristles with energy, offering profound insight into the way our attitudes and actions have an impact on each other, regardless of our intentions. And in Gelsomina there's a provocative challenge to break out of the expected mould, to look at the world through our own eyes rather than the way others think we should see it.

PG themes, violence
revisited 14.May.17
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir Basil Dearden
prd Michael Relph
scr Janet Green, John McCormick
with Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms, Dennis Price, Anthony Nicholls, Norman Bird, Peter McEnery, Donald Churchill, Derren Nesbitt, John Barrie, John Cairney, Nigel Stock, Hilton Edwards
bogarde and syms release 31.Aug.61,
US 5.Feb.62
reissue UK 21.Jul.17
61/UK Allied 1h36

Victim On its release in 1961, this ground-breaking drama sparked a public debate that led to Britain's decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. So the film gets a worthy re-release to coincide with the 50th anniversary of that ruling. The premise may seem quaint today, but that's the point. Not only is it still a punchy and gripping drama, but it's also an important document of a much darker time.

In London, builder Jack (McEnery) seeks help from various men, all of whom rebuff him, including eminent lawyer Melville (Bogarde). Arrested for stealing money from his boss, Jack can't admit that he's being blackmailed for being gay, because homosexuality itself is a crime. As the case develops, Melville is drawn in, forced to open up to his loving schoolteacher wife Laura (Syms). So he sets out to catch the swaggering villain (Nesbitt) who's blackmailing Jack and others, but this means unravelling his own carefully constructed secret life and finding someone who trusts him.

After skilfully circling the characters and situations, the film dives into the subject matter, noting that 90 percent of blackmail cases at the time involved homosexuality. But the script remains darkly personal, building narrative intensity with help from Philip Green's striking score and marvellously shaded monochrome cinematography by Otto Heller. As the emotional resonance powerfully grows, the audience is forced to look from angles that must have been revolutionary at the time. Even today, this is riveting drama packed with surprises.

The acting is naturalistic with strong edges of humour and vivid emotion. Bogarde expertly delivers a bold, honest performance. His confrontations with Syms are astonishing, beautifully played by both of them with passion but no hint of sentimentality. And there are wonderfully detailed characters around them whose predicaments are equally involving, kind men treated as criminals and narrow-minded predators who are allowed to get away with what is essentially murder.

Packed with pungent questions about morality, the script is peppered with knowing conversations. "Well, it used to be witches," one of Jack's friends says. "At least they don't burn you." It's quite telling that a movie that was rated X on its initial release now barely merits a PG. And even though society has progressed, the film is packed with themes that resonate strongly today, from bullying and self-righteous prejudice to the arrogance of trying to teach someone a lesson. Indeed, this is still a compelling drama that cries out for compassion and understanding.

PG themes

back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

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

© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall