Saturday, 6 September 2014

The Cinema of the Abstract Canon

For the site, I'm going to have all the films ranked in the Abstract List here, with a link for easy access to the reviews. The original, full thoughts on how the blog works can be found here. For this however, I'll just add from it the following rankings found on all the reviews but with new descriptions that suit my thoughts on this blog now: 


Abstract Rating: 

High (Completely Unique) - The truly bizarre. The strange. The unrepeatable. Works which play with mood, structure, music, style, content or as many factors existent in ways you've never seen in film/motion art on purpose or by accident. They are films which create their own rules for themselves, even if they rift on the conventions of genre or areas within cinema’s canon that already exist. You won't forget them. 

Potential Examples – Satantango and the later films of Bela Tarr; Kenneth Anger, Guy Maddin

Medium  (Break Conventions) - Those that go against any conventions but still retain a lot of the style and moods of other films. They are not on the level of the ‘High’ entries, whose abstractness/weirdness is fully embraced, but the ‘Medium’ entries still push themselves to unexpected areas, and that doesn’t even mention the unintentional creations that manage to dumbfound the viewer by their accidents and mishaps.

Potential Examples – Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris; The Holy Mountain; Riddles of the Sphinx, Horrors of Malformed Men

Low (Flirt With Breaking Conventions) - Films that only exhibit some traits of the ideas I am exploring with this list. They are genre films, they are possibly experimental, they can be any type of film, but in comparison to the films in the higher ranks, wouldn't qualify for them. They may be great films, terrible films, but the ones that managed to make my list for clear reasons above the rest.

Potential Examples – A Chinese Ghost Story; Ichi the Killer; Lady In The Lake


The list will also include works that I review on Videotape Swapshop and even on my older blog if the reviews match my opinions exactly revisiting films I've covered years ago.

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Rankings


HIGH
Alice (Jan Švankmajer, 1988) - Review
Švankmajer's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland is naturally the most surreal of them all, replete with a tactile world on display.

Amer (Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, 2009) - Review
The experimental interpretation of Italian giallo films designed to be an audio and visual sensory experience to overwhelm the viewer. Watch it on the biggest screen possible.

Anti-Clock (Jane Arden and Jack Bond, 1979) - Review
A post-punk avant-garde drama in which, through the power of video and television screen technology, a man is put through an experimental therapy which filters through his memories and time itself.

Beyond, The (Lucio Fulci, 1981) - Review
One of the gates of Hell opens in New Orleans, leading to the most well known of Lucio Fulci's films, a dreamlike nightmare which gladly disregards logic for a chilling atmosphere.

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (Robert Wiene, 1920) - Review
One of the foundations of abstract cinema and subconsciously why I've ended up writing this blog in the first place. Somnambulists, murder, unsettling set design, and a twist done better than many films that borrowed it nearly a century later. 

Cowards Bend The Knees (Or The Blue Hands) (Guy Maddin, 2003) - Review
The Canadian director tackles sexual desires, revenge, murder and ice hockey. Originally split into a series of peepholes to see the whole story and manages to make murder and a scene of fisting seem poetic in a silent film influenced aesthetic.

Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (George Barry, 1977) - Review
The legendary man eating bed film. Not the joke others make it out to be, but a self aware and idiosyncratic gem which literally came from a dream and suddenly appeared in public awareness, after bootlegged obscurity, like one too.

Forbidden Room, The (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson 2015) - Review
After performing seances for the souls of lost or unfinished films, one of Canada's best imports (with co-director Evan Johnson in tow) gets possessed as a result, and spills out a Chinese puzzle box, starting with a group of men in a submarine that somehow leads to vampiric bananas and Udo Kier's mustache.

Inferno (Dario Argento, 1980) - Review
The sequel to Suspiria (1977) manages to equal the original film's colour saturated delirium as you follow multiple characters, not just one, and try to avoid being eaten to death by rats.

Last Year At Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1960) - Review
One of the shining lights of French New Wave cinema and a shining light of modern French literature Alain Robbe-Grillet collaborate on a puzzle about a man called X who may have known a woman called Y a year ago but cannot be sure, lost in a hotel that seems to be stuck in a time loop. The result led to debates to what cinema was back when it was premiered in French cinema and still raises questions today.

Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997) - Review
David Lynch examines the mind of a potentially guilty husband and skewers noir into the realms of nightmare fuel. If a man is in front of you and in your house at the same time, something is very wrong.

Possession (Andrzej Żuławski, 1981) - Review
Based on the break up of his first marriage, Żuławski created one of the most well known, notorious and acclaimed cult films about a couple breaking apart. Romancing of a literal monster sits side-by-side with externalized anguish acted out by Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill.

Rubber's Lover (Shozin Fukui, 1996) - Review
Scientists lose their minds trying to invoke psychic powers in patients - using drugs and full rubber costumes - to their regret in a black-and-white cyberpunk epic.

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) - Review
Jessica Harper enrolls at a German ballet school only for murders to take place, a secret black conspiracy to be responsible and Italian prog rock to kick off playing as she goes along. Suspiria has been proven by many accounts to be an Abstract canon film that has as large a female fanbase as it does a male one...

Things (Andrew Jordan, 1989) - Review 
Two Canadian horror film fans decide to make a film but have no idea how to. Thus a legendarily and infamous shot-on-video movie was born where people assault rubber bugs with an electric drill, a Salvador Dali painting presumed lost is found in someone's home, and the saturated VHS de-gloss as you watch it will mess with your eyes. Probably the only film where a porn star, Amber Lynn, technically qualifies as a overseeing narrator of the film as a reporter but is more interested in talking about the legal issues with Night of the Living Dead (1968) instead of making sense of it all.

Two Or Three Things I Know About Her (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967) - Review
Jean-Luc Godard assesses France in 1967, turning cinema into an audio-texture essay that you'd have never seen back when it was first released and will never see from anyone else baring Godard himself.


MEDIUM
964 Pinocchio (Shozin Fukui, 1991) -  Review
A brainwashed male sex slave slowly regains his memories. Chaos, psychological breakdowns, excessive amounts of vomit and running through a crowded city street chained to a metal pyramid ensures.

Blind Beast (Yasuzo Masumura, 1969) -  Review
A woman is kidnapped by a blind son and his doting mother, forced to live in a art studio where there are giant women's body parts made of plaster lining the wall and two giant plaster female torsos in the middle. Based on a Edogawa Ranpo story, an author who'll likely get a few films based on his material on this Canon.

Bobby Yeah (Robert Morgan, 2011) - Review
A rabbit eared humanoid's fatal curiosity leads to a stop motion nightmare which will never let you look at pink fur walls and meat in the same way again.

Branded To Kill (Seijun Suzuki, 1967) - Review
An assassin with a rice fetish finds himself being targeted by his own group in the legendary Japanese cult film that may have influenced anyone from videogame developers to Jim Jarmusch while showing it's director's complete disregard for convention. A film that stands above others for having its director dismissed by the film company he was working for because of it.

Cosmos (Andrzej Żuławski 2015) - Review
The final film of Andrzej Żuławski takes the mystery and comedy of error genres and turns them into chaotic absurdity abound in random objects being found hanging off string and emotional angst being channeled through a Donald Duck impersonation.

Détective (Jean-Luc Godard, 1985) - Review
Godard crafts a multi-narrative crime yarn whilst experimenting with sound, image, text and asking why pornography is called 'x-rated'.

Devil Story (Bernard Launois, 1985) - Review
Probably one of the films on this list that doesn't make any lick of sense even if you try to make up a rational plot for it. A man decides to try to shot a black horse repeatedly with a shotgun, a woman is terrified by a malformed man wearing a Nazi uniform jacket, and the film even throws in a mummy and a shipwrecked boat full of treasure for good measure. Nanarland fans should take interest or already have the French DVD release in their collection.

Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009) - Review
A Greek couple decides to keep their three adult children enclosed in their own closed in and controlled environment within their house and garden, where language is different from ours, domesticated cats are savage monsters and a videotape of a Stallone film can ruin this tiny reality completely. 

Evolution (Lucile Hadžihalilović, 2015) - Review
Nautical themed body horror of the subtlest sort filtered through a feminist and feminine lenses, of motherhood and starfish suckers. 

Eyes Without A Face (Georges Franju, 1960) - Review
Franju's legendary horror film, appearing on cult and art film fans' viewing lists equally, follows a surgeon desiring to rectify a disfigurement of his daughter by way of kidnapping other young women and removing their faces from an improvised skin transplant.

Fall of the House of Usher, The (James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber, 1928) - Review
Not to be confused with the Jean Epstein film from the same year, this is an abstract take on the Edgar Allen Poe story that drifts off from the original text into something of its own.

Footprints On The Moon (Luigi Bazzoni (and Mario Fanelli), 1975) - Review
An obscure gem of the seventies Italian genre boom. Somehow it manages to make its moon themed title make sense despite being set completely on Earth and about a woman who cannot remember the few days before, adding to its mysterious tone. Also includes an unexpected Klaus Kinski cameo.

Funeral Parade of Roses (Matsumoto Toshio, 1969) - Review
A picture of Japan's left wing and gay/transgender communities in the late 60s, through a myth inspired story of jealousy, direct questions to the actors about gender orientation, avant-garde techniques and sped up cat fights.

Ganja & Hess (Bill Gunn, 1973) - Review
Originally hesitant to make a Blakploitation vampire film, playwright and author Bill Gunn however takes advantage of the offer to make an artistic horror-drama about addiction. It took decades, after his death, for his original version to be available but the result is hallucinatory.

Immortal One, The (Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1963) - Review
The debut of the legendary novelist, director and Last Year At Marienbad (1961) screenwriter. A man meets a woman in Istanbul, Turkey, only for her not to appear as she was before.

Keyhole (Guy Maddin, 2011)  - Review
Guy Maddin's crime drama haunted house film, replete with taxidermy wolverines and perversity for all the family.

Nude Vampire, The (Jean Rollin, 1970) - Review
Suicide cults, pulp influences, deer masked guards, vampires with torches attacking a country home, and somehow a more plot driven film from Jean Rollin is actually more unconventional than the more minimalist films he made.

O is for Orgasm (Bruno Forzani and Héléne Cattet, 2012) - Review
From the anthology film The ABCs of Death. The directors of Amer (2009) depict an act of lovemaking that takes a turn for the worse. Whether anyone emits bubbles from their mouth when they orgasm or not for real shouldn't spoil the short.

Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006) - Review
Tragically the last film of the legendary Satoshi Kon, still young in his later forties in the anime industry, a conspiracy sci-fi adventure about a machine that lets people enter other's dreams for therapy and what happens if criminals use it to blurring reality, leading to a sumptuous audio-visual buffet of surrealism.

Repulsion (Roman Rolanski, 1965) - Review
Polanski's legendary psychological horror film about Catherine Deneuve losing more and more of her sense of reality in a London flat.

Rubber (Quentin Dupieux, 2010) - Review
A celebration of the "no reason" in cinema by way of a sentient car tire that can blow peoples' heads off with psychic powers. Part of the "no reason" monologue that starts the film is now the blog's motto.

Shogun Assassin (Robert Houston & Misumi Kenji, 1980) - Review
The first parts of a legendary samurai film series, based on a legendary manga, gets re-made for an American audience. The result, with its eighties synth and emphasis on decapitations, turned out to be unexpectedly hypnotic and wonderful as a result.

Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures, The (Marcelo Motta and José Mojica Marins, 1976) - Review
Letting legendary Brazilian horror figure Coffin Joe run a hostel will naturally lead to horror, ruminations of death, recycled footage, an inflamed colour palette and a monologue about existence placed over images of model planets hung on wire.

Teenage Hooker Became A Killing Machine (Gee-woong Nam 2000) - Review
Art house, shot on video aesthetic, splatter, softcore and all manner of things stewed together in a one hour oddity about a teenage hooker who, as the title says, is turned into a killer cyborg. 

Under The Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013) - Review
Scarlett Johansson is an alien siren who tempts men in urban Scotland in one of the most unnerving and sensory British films made in a long while.

Valhalla Rising (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2009) - Review
Mads Mikkelsen storms the Scottish highlands in a mystical Viking film.

Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983) - Review
If you watch too much violent television, you end up with a vaginal cavity growing in your chest people can stick pulsating VHS tapes into, and wind up in the middle of a political conspiracy involving television being the mind's eye. 

White of the Eye (Donald Cammell, 1986) - Review
A series of murders may be linked to a woman's spouse, leading to madness, uncomfortable past histories being evoked and "hot dogs" being used in unexpected ways. From the co-director of Performance (1970), and produced by the Cannon Group, the same company that brought us the American Ninja films.

Z is for Zetsumetsu (Yoshihiro Nishimura, 2012) - Review
From the anthology film The ABCs of Death. Japanese Dr. Strangelove rants about his nation loving tangerines as naked people promote and eat dishes of the national cuisine, whilst a battle between a Nazi dominatrix with a giant knife penis fights a half burnt-alive female cop who can fire vegetables from an intimate place. I'm not going to attempt to explain it or get into the eyebrow raising political references. It can only come from the director of Tokyo Gore Police (2008) when he doesn't need to follow a plot.

LOW
Baccano! (Takahiro Omori, 2007) - Review
A cult thirties American gangster and fantasy anime series with lashings of ultraviolence and a plot shuffled around like a pack of cards which keeps it's viewers on it's toes.

Bad Girls Go To Hell (Doris Wishman, 1965) - Review
A woman goes through a downward spiral of sexual molestation and murder, brought to us by the late Queen of Sexploitation and Sixties lounge aesthetics.

Black Cat, The (Lucio Fulci, 1981) - Review
Lucio Fulci reinterprets the Edgar Allen Poe story by way of a giallo-like supernatural murder mystery, one where Patrick Magee gets to show off his acting prowess against a Satanic black moggy. Deceptively strange as a film especially when its as less known as other Fulci horror pictures.

Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette, 1974) - Review
Rivette's most popular film, a three hour magical realistic romp following two women and a mysterious house.

City of the Living Dead (Lucio Fulci, 1980) - Review
The beginning of Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell trilogy, expect teleporting zombies, maggot rain and the same dread of a HP Lovecraft story.

Dead Leaves (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2004) - Review
Imaishi's debut follows two amnesiacs attempted a prison break on the moon, already running out of the starting gate with the brand of manic energy, likable and strange characters, and poo jokes he'd used to make smash hit anime shows like Kill la Kill (2012).

Death of Stalinism In Bohemia, The (Jan Švankmajer, 1991) - Review
The end of communism and the Soviet Union's influence on his home country leads the legendary animator/director to make his sole, openly political animation where the statue of Stalin gives birth to Czech communist party leaders directly from his head, and clay figures are made and then hung in a cyclical conveyor belt.

Death Powder (Shigeru Izumiya 1986) - Review
The sole directorial credit of folk singer/actor Izumiya and one of the first Japanese cyberpunk films to be made. Sperm are superimposed on images of buildings, and that's even before a character gets hit by a hallucinogenic mutation powder and the film becomes one long dream sequence.

Dementia [The "Daughter of Horror" Cut] (John Parker, 1955) - Review
From the bowels of American independently made films and grindhouse cinema, director-writer John Parker only made one film, about a woman going through a film noir nightmare where cops have her abusive father's face and a trip to a jazz club suddenly drift off into a graveyard journey, only to vanish from existence. 

Devil's Castle, The (Georges Méliès, 1896) - Review
Méliès created the horror genre with jump cut disappearance tricks, the Devil turning into a bat and ghosts terrorizing cavaliers. We should thank him even if we've all done so already for other things.

F is for Fart (Noboru Iguchi, 2012) - Review
From the anthology The ABCs of Death, Iguchi depicts a forbidden love between a female schoolgirl and her female teacher during the end of the world...one which involves breaking their hesitance of taboos and smelling the other's farts.

Hell of the Living Dead (Bruno Mattei (with additional material by Claudio Fragasso), 1980) - Review
Another zombie apocalypse is taking place, but by way of nature footage taken from seventies French films and a blatant environmental message. Add to this soldiers dressing up in a pink tutu and an abruptly bleak ending and it can only be the infamous Italian genre film duo Mattei and Fragasso who're responsible for it.

Hunger, The (Tony Scott, 1983) - Review
It may look like a product of the eighties, but the late Tony Scott takes lush pop video aesthetics, a fog machine and David Bowie and makes one of the most dreamlike mainstream horror films you could ever get.

Incubus (Leslie Stevens, 1966) - Review
When not covering Pulp's Common People or playing Captain Kirk, William Shatner wanders into an incredible, Ingmar Bergman like supernatural horror being tempted by succubus whilst he has a near incestuous relationship with his loving sister. While speaking entirely in Esperanto. 

Long Weekend (Colin Eggleston, 1978) - Review
Is is really a coincidence or is the woodlands after us? What's obvious is that both of us despise each other in the middle of this during our vacation...

Lucy (Luc Besson, 2014) - Review
Scarlett Johansson becomes able to use all 100% of her mind. A Luc Besson action film that suddenly becomes Akira (1988) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1967) in the finale with more empty bullet cases left on the ground afterwards.

Medea (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1969) - Review
One of many interpretations of classical mythology by the legendary Italian director, full of political critique of commercialism but still retaining the mysticism of the myths.

Midori (Hiroshi Harada 1992) - Review
The notorious and once impossible to find animated adaptation of an equally notorious period Ero-guro manga, where an innocent teenage girl finds herself in a carnival freak show in twenties Japan, suffering all manner of psychological and physical torment. So strange, you can only see it in its native country if a full carnival is set up with the screening the centerpiece.

Nekromantik (Jörg Buttgereit, 1987) - Review
The notorious film known for its transgressive use of necrophilia. What it actually turns out to be is a strange breakup drama by way of taboo breaking and dream sequences on an uber-low budget.

Night of the Hunted, The (Jean Rollin, 1980) - Review
Jean Rollin spins a tale incredibly different from his usual obsessions - a Cronenberg-like tale of a woman who loses all her memories and a conspiracy involving a tower block full of people like her with the same affliction.

R is for Removed (Srdjan Spasojevic, 2012) - Review
From the anthology film The ABCs of Death. The director of A Serbian Film (2010) depicts a man whose flesh is used to make film celluloid and his desire to escape the isolated hospital room he's forever stuck in.

Ring - Kanzenban (Chisui Takigawa, 1995) - Review
Just when you thought this franchise started with Hideo Nakata's 1998 feature film, you discover a TV movie with softcore sex, a sexed up antagonist, peculiar and pointlessly added plot twists, and a trippy cursed video existed beforehand. Somehow in being the more ridiculous and least marketable take on the story its more faithful to the original source material.

Sadist With Red Teeth, The (Jean Louis Van Belle, 1970) - Review
One man believes he is a vampire, and as his doctors push him into becoming one, the director above this plays with the content like a mischievous child.

Santa Sangre (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1989) - Review
Jodorowsky's psychodrama about a man who has to act as the arms of his mother, violent and as dynamic as a carnival.

Scanners (David Cronenberg, 1981) - Review
Cronenberg's almost dreamlike sci-fi thriller about psychics and Michael Ironside chewing scenery like boss.

Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966) - Review
A paranoid, sobering sci-fi drama that came out-of-nowhere from the Hollywood studios, where a man is offered the chance to becoming Rock Hudson but still finds his life meaningless. 

Shivers of the Vampires (Jean Rollin, 1971) - Review
A newly married couple meet the wife's cousins only to discover a nest of vampires. One of the many films French cult director Jean Rollin that'll end up on the Abstract List.

Spasmo (Umberto Lenzi, 1974) - Review
Lenzi's giallo film is a little off compared to its peers. Female mannequins are abruptly appearing around the Italian countryside in mock murder positions whilst Robert Hoffmann wonders why an assassin he killed during an adulterous night with a woman has suddenly vanished without trace from the hotel bathroom floor.

Taxidermia (György Pálfi, 2006) - Review
Following three generations of men in a single family, Hungarian director Pálfi by way of porn inserts, vomiting, taxidermy, speed eating and various taboos tackles the history of his country from World War II, the era of communism and the era after communism.

Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1992) - Review
Tsukamoto's divisive first sequel to Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) which may have more virtue than it has credit for.

Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959) - Review
The greatest film ever made according to Sight & Sound magazine, also an eerie metaphor for perception corrupting one's mind in a melodrama Hitchcock potboiler.

Visitor, The (Giulio Paradisi (as Michael J. Paradise), 1979) - Review
The world is threatened by a young girl, armed with a pet bird and potent psychic powers, and a shady group of businessmen, and its down to the director of The Maltese Falcon (1941) and Franco Nero in a cameo as Space Christ to stop them. Cue exploding basketballs, ice skating accidents, and enough New Age stream of consciousness dialogue to cause one's head to spin.

Zardoz (John Boorman, 1974) - Review
The one and only infamous film from the director of Deliverance (1972) who got to make whatever film he wanted after that one did so well. What he gave us was Sean Connery in orange bikini briefs overcoming a giant floating stone head, New Age dialogue, a psychic and bored intelligentsia and Charlotte Rampling demonstrating his ability to get an erection in front of a large crowd. Some may be surprised by how low it is on the Abstract List, but that says for me how high the bar is for a movie  to get up the rankings if this is at the bottom.

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