Monday, 17 August 2015

BFI Cult: Blue Sunshine by Jeff Lieberman

In Taxi Driver (1976), the contradictory and unstable Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) - an ill-educated Vietnam veteran and porn-addicted romantic - is a product of the same gutter-level environment that he so despises. Though illiberal and unhinged, in his desire to clean up the streets Bickle is not unlike the idealistic political campaigners with whom he keeps crossing paths - and in the end, while we have seen for ourselves both his psychotic volatility and its bloody consequences, he will be publicly declared a hero. Made just two years later, Jeff Squirm Lieberman's eerie Blue Sunshine plays with similar themes, while inverting Taxi Driver's dynamics.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Theeb - Desert set coming of age story from Jordan

Winner of the best director award at the Venice Film Festival, Theeb (Wolf)  is a powerful story of one Bedouin boy's  journey to manhood, filmed in the stunning area around Wadi Rum and Wadi Arebeh. Part Western / part Lawrence of Arabia and set in 1916, there is a brutal raw honesty to the film, and you can't help but feel that it was made in the 70's. This is the first film from British director Naji Abu Nowar.

Monday, 3 August 2015

BFI Cult: God Told Me To by Larry Cohen

"I grew up at a Catholic Boys' School at the Bronx. Graduated to DeWitt Clinton High School. A year at Fordham University before I joined the force. Where did you go to high school, Harold?" The speaker is Detective Lieutenant Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco), but at this point, at the beginning of Larry Cohen's God Told Me To (aka Demon) all the focus is on his addressee, Harold Gorman (Sammy Williams), who is perched on a building-top water tower and has just shot dead, with eerie accuracy, a number of random New Yorkers in the streets below.

It is only after Harold has calmly explained his outrage with the words "God told me to" and leapt to his death that the film refocuses its attention on Peter - and now that brief introductory bio which Peter had given to Harold, expressly as a measure to humanise himself in the eyes of a killer ("I want you to know me. We don't kill people we know, do we, Harold? Only strangers. That's why I'm coming up, Harold, so you can see my face."), starts to resonate with the film's key themes of faith in crisis. Peter had even told Harold sadly, "We can't bring anybody back to life - nobody can," - suggesting his own conflicted attitude to the central tenets of his Christian upbringing.