This Is She

The time felt about right for another short movie. Short movies are interesting for various reasons, either because they’re made by people learning the trade or because we’re dealing with a story that works better in a shorter frame. At its worst, a short movie feels flat because it doesn’t satisfy: the story isn’t worked out correctly, resulting in movies that are too dense (trying to tell too much in a couple of minutes) or fleeting (there’s not enough to make an interesting movie out of it). At its best, shorter movies have the ability to stay with you for longer than full-feature movies do. Shorter movies either show a certain fact or 567011672_1280x720event and explore it (as with the recently shown Blood Pulls A Gun) or they take one specific event (in this case the sudden arrival of a spot on the wall) and build up the movie with the effects, action and reaction – focusing almost entirely on that. Besides that, things happen that prompt questions. We don’t get too many details of the young woman: we hear her parents on the phone, there is a back story hinted at during those calls, there’s a man who suddenly pops up, we see a glimpse of her job when she arrives home from work, … but the main focus here is the spot.

Looking for a movie to post on the Avenue, we browsed through several others, but too often we didn’t feel satisfied enough or there was too much adoration for iconic filmmakers. Channeling your heroes isn’t bad in itself, but it should never get in the way of this-is-she-stillthe short. It’s not good to watch a film and catch yourself thinking “Hmm, I wonder how many movies by Lynch and Godard they must’ve watched” rather than paying attention to the film itself. Having said that, it’s true that we started watching This Is She while thinking of Repulsion, but before too long, This is she moves into completely different territory. Or in other words, it becomes a work of its own.

The protagonist is played by Grace Rex. The Avenue computers, who like the internet, never forget told us that we’d already done a search on “Grace Rex” and, unlike a lot of the internet, our computers weren’t wrong: she gave a memorable performance during an episode of Blindspot. In the case of This is she, Grace is more than just the leading actress, she also wrote the story. The director is Tarik Karam, who has been a second unit director on Extremely Loud & Terribly Close and The Reader and so far helmed a couple of shorts and a documentary himself.

So there you go, the story of a young woman who discovers a spot on the wall. That’s all you need to know about this film. Enjoy!

THIS IS SHE from Grace Rex on Vimeo.

Telephone tracks

telehpone-562825

Today, we don’t pay tribute to a movie or a book, but to one of the most used and least appreciated inventions of our modern age: the telephone. And we’ll do this by playing you five tracks about this humble yet torturous device. Because a telephone is more than a tool for one person to connect to another person. Today we talk about the calling, the wanting to be called, the anxiety you have while waiting and the weird calls – and some novelty songs too.

For those of you who thought we’d kick off with Blondie‘s Call me, you’re wrong.

… because that other track by Blondie is much more appropriate for this selection. Yes, you can call Blondie all day, but “Hanging” talks about that lump in your throat when you’ve mustered enough courage to grab that phone and you’re waiting for the other person to pick up. Oh pick up, please…

LIL LOUIS & THE WORLD – I called u (but you weren’t there)

But maybe (s)he isn’t there. And sometimes that’s a good thing, as proven in this track by Lil Louis, who gets a less than lovely call from his former girlfriend. Lil Louis may be only remembered for the late 80s track where he used the sound of a female orgasm (French kiss, if you’ve forgotten), a track we really hated. Whereas we did like “I called you”, but that never became as much of a hit. Shows you how much we understand about the world.

GREEN VELVET – Answering Machine
See, if every time you pick up your phone, you hear this sort of stalkerish abuse, one understands why you’d buy an answering machine. Like Green Velvet did in 1997 and he was kind enough to upload the neverending torrent of good news he could listen to. Or to summarize nearly five minutes in one sentence: “I don’t need this shit.”

ANDREAS DORAU – Das Telefon Sagt Du
Is this selection becoming too gloomy? Let’s hurry over to Germany then for Andreas Dorau‘s wonderful anthem about the telephone. If anything, it will change the way you listen to the phone’s sound forever. Isn’t the pre-dial sound much like “Du” (or the English translation “you”)? Try it, then try to forget it. Can’t do it, eh? Add to this powerful lyrics: “Everyone knows this sound / ‘BT’ sends it through your phone / this signal means ‘free’ / and that’s how it makes me feel.” Then, in full ego-boosting mode (possibly channelling Snow White), Andreas asks its phone the name of that dashing young gentleman (Du/you) and, why stop when everything’s going great, his next question is who’s the dream of every woman. And again, that lovely telephone praises Dorau’s ego.
Probably best known for the 90s tracks “Girls in love” (which isn’t as sweet as the title suggests: it’s about a 16-year-old girl who commits suicide when her boyfriend cheats on her), “Das Telefon sagt du” isn’t the first or only novelty hit by Dorau (at which point we’d like to stress we really really love this sort of novelty tracks and we don’t mean it in any condescending way). In the early 80s Dorau, together with the Marinas, celebrated the arrival of spaceman “Fred vom Jupiter” (of which we’ve picked the extended version – more Fred!).

This is not the original video of “Das Telefon” (we’re not even sure there was one), but this video by Borja Martín may be the quirkiest thing you’ll see all day.

HELENA VONDRACKOVA – Ruf mich an
And finally, Ruf mich an, a song – we must admit – we only discovered while browsing YouTube in search for a decent finale. The year is 1969 and the almighty video hadn’t been invented. Sure, you had scopitones and even in those days shows devoted to teenagers liked to insert some video footage of a band who was touring the region (sadly, never at the time of recording). So what they did was have the band over and record them playing their single in whichever setting was available, peculiar and out of the ordinary. Hence, the footage you sometimes find on YouTube of the likes of Sonny & Cher etc. in a circus tent, in a stable or – in case the producers were less creative – in a dark room. Because, apparently, nothing screamed “1960s teenager” as much as putting your favourite artists in a stable and making them perform their latest hit.
We of the Avenue Kurtodrome were already aware of this phenomenon, so we didn’t blink an eye when Helena Vondráčková started singing to us from between a flock of camels (even though Camel #1 looked as if (s)he’d preferred Black Sabbath). Helena singing “Call me, doesn’t matter how, where or when” while sitting on a horse? Sure, why not? However, 85 seconds into the video, Helena is no longer the focus of the song: suddenly – settle down, David C. – a pig is swinging itself into the screen and Helena decides nothing is more fun than swinging along. Remember all those people talking about the “swinging sixties”? We had no idea this is what they meant…

Democratische 99 (2010)

Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed that 2010 was the only year without either a list with the best 99 tracks of said year or a quick mention of who would’ve won had there be a full list. In 2010 the Kurtodrome site launched Radio Kurtodrome (°31 July 2010 – +31 Jan 2016) and was too busy trying to work out the kinks and buttons of a radio station to compile a list. Which didn’t mean there was no favourite…

Intros may be long, but we’re not fooling anyone. You will have noticed the link below before you’ve read this sentence. You know it’s Amatorski‘s Come Home. You just don’t know why. Well, for one, it’s a Belgian band and, contrary to public opinion, we were never against a bit of sticking it up for the motherland. Also, this was the first single by Amatorski and we can all name millions of bands who had a poorer launch. Furthermore, there’s this nostalgic flair of a couple during a war sending each other letters and the choir-like ending to the track which kicks in just after two minutes. In 2016 we may wonder whether we like Come Home more than Soldier, but don’t let afterthoughts spoil a party. After all, Come Home must have struck a nerve or else it wouldn’t have been used in countless TV shows, several commercials and received an update when becoming the soundtrack of the BBC series The Missing.

Ladies and gentlemen, without regrets, our best track of 2010 was:

Which brings us to some honourable mentions (in alphabetical order):
BALTHAZAR – Fifteen floors
BEACH HOUSE – Norway
CRYSTAL CASTLES FEAT. ROBERT SMITH – Not in love
DEERHUNTER – He would have laughed
DUM DUM GIRLS – Jail la la
AGNES OBEL – Riverside
WARPAINT – Untertow

Best of Radio Kurtodrome: Song of the Year 2012

No list this year for an obvious reason (same as why this blog went on immediate hiatus for 25 months and I’m sure I’ll write about it one day, but this is not that day), but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any good songs. So, in anticipation of this year’s Best of list, here’s the top 3 of 2012.

1. TEEN – Electric

2. JESCA HOOP – Born To

3. CRYSTAL CASTLES – Kerosene


(Check out that site for more excellent combinations of Crystal Castles with cult videos)

School for Unclaimed Girls

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that The Smashing Bird I Used To Know is finally out on dvd. The bad news: it’s released under its alternative title School for Unclaimed Girls.

I also found an American poster with the alternative film title and it shows exactly why the movie only got a 3.9 rating on the IMDb site. Watch the poster (or the trailer) and you’ll expect a raunchy movie with jailbait girls fighting each other with pillow cases whenever they’re not making out with each other.

That’s not the sort of movie this is. The movie was directed by Robert Hartford-Davis, who – according to me and apparently only me – managed to make movies that were genuine dramas as much as they were sleaze. You’ll have to look hard to see a naked girl in this movie (but discerning voyeurs may be pleased to know that sometimes bras get unhooked too), but if you don’t mind a bit of story while you wait for the next sleazy scene, you won’t be disappointed. (Unless you’re American and watched the poster and/or trailer prior to watching the movie. By the way, don’t watch the trailer before the movie. Not only does it give you the wrong idea of the sort of movie you’re about to watch, you’ll also watch the final scene of the movie. Talk about an anti-climax! But don’t despair, the clip DV will show you is spoiler-free.)

Robert Hartford-Davis is the director of The Yellow Teddybears, a similar combination of sleaze and drama. I’ve always found it a highly underrated movie, even though I will confess it’s slightly dated. He also directed a.o. The Fiend, a horror movie about a mad cult. If you stay up late (we’re talking about 3am) you might just catch it on the BBC from time to time. Those two movies made me discover Hartford-Davis, a director unjustly forgotten in the annals of British cinema. The Smashing Bird I Used To Know and Corruption (a sleazy movie – “This is not a woman’s picture! No women will be allowed in alone!” the tagline boasted – where Peter Cushing is a doctor who doesn’t mind murdering women to restore the badly-burnt face of his fiancee) were the two Hartford-Davis movies people wanted to see but couldn’t. Well, for The Smashing Bird, things have changed: the dvd is out there.

As you can judge by yourself, the British dvd release has a much tamer feel to it than the American poster you can see on your left. Even though the tagline “Where the initiation rites are wrong… very wrong!” seems to have been lifted from another movie. That, or I must’ve fallen asleep during the initiation rite scenes, because I can’t remember that being part of the movie.
Speaking of which, the school isn’t really a “perfumed zoo for teenage she-cats” but a remand home Nicki (Madeline Hinde) is sent to after attacking her mother’s lover. Nicki is under the impression she murdered the man, but that’s not true: in her mind the images of the man and her dead father have mingled. Nicki’s father died seven years earlier on a merry-go-round. Nicki was unwilling to be on the ride, her father tried to ease her mind but made a nasty fall and died immediately. It was an accident, but the nine-year-old girl was under the impression she was responsible.

Now this may not seem like the sort of movie to get a tagline like “One step up from the gutter and one kiss away from jail!”, but don’t despair… we did find ourselves a lesbian girl, madly in love with Sarah (I didn’t expect to see Maureen Lipman in this movie) and extremely jealous of Nicki because Sarah doesn’t mind hanging out with her.

Anyway, back to the beginning of the story, why did Nicki attack her mother’s lover? Because this Harry Spenton (Patrick Mower) had come to take the place of her beloved father? No. You may be forgiven for thinking that as Nicki isn’t exactly portrayed as the most stable girl in the world at the beginning of the movie, but one day Nicki comes home after a fall from her horse and she’s all dirty and wounded. As she goes into the bathroom to take care of her body, Spenton follows her and tries to seduce her. When this doesn’t go exactly as planned, his next approach is a bit more violent.
That Nicki feels responsible for the attack is easily explained (according to the school’s psychiatrist): there’s nothing in that girl but guilt, she claims.

All of which makes the story somewhat believable, unlike most sleaze movies whose scripts seemed to have been written on Post-It notes. Actually, to coin the phrase “sleaze” to this movie seems as a bit of an insult, but at the time most of Hartford-Davis’s movies were regarded as exploitation films. Times have definitely changed.

Which is why I’m surprised the movie still has an 18+ certificate. I can only assume they kept the original rating for the movie. Either that or they were afraid all the girls who saw this movie wanted to get into a boarding school and become a lesbian, like the one girl in this movie.
Speaking of the girls from the movie… I must confess my first idea was that Hinde looked too old to play teenage Nicki but the IMDb confirmed the actress was only 19 when she played the role (two years older than Nicki).

As for the dvd release itself: the movie is shown in a neat updated version. The colours look good and so does the sound. Apart from the scenes that were dubbed in the studio afterwards (like the scene in the laundromat): those scenes – luckily, they’re a minority – sound flat and unconvincing sound and the dialogue doesn’t always match the mouth movements.
Extra-wise you’ll have to do with a trailer (which you best stay away from until you’ve seen the movie), a couple of stills and the highly informative “Also Available” section, which has the dvd poster and a short description of three movies (incl. The Honeymoon Killers). Yes, a description. They didn’t even put the trailers on the disc.

Not that it matters: the disc is quite cheap (you can get it for £3 or £4, quite a bargain for a movie that was nearly impossible to find. And though it may not be the director’s best movie (I would say those were The Black Torment, The Fiend andThe Yellow Teddybears), it’s still above average and proof sleaze and drama could marry.

By the way, trivia-lovers may want to watch the scene right after Spenton is released from the hospital. Behind him is a poster for a movie. It’s Corruption by one Robert Hartford-Davis. Now there’s a coincidence!

And now, as a treat, the first four minutes of The Smashing Bird I Used To Know, thanks to YouTube:

Johnny Hamlet (Quella Sporca Storia Nel West)

Amongst the ideas you may have never expected to be turned into a movie, Enzo G. Castellari is proud to present you Johnny Hamlet, Shakespeare’s famous play served with an Italian western sauce.
If not anything else, it’s definitely quite different. But is it any good?

The idea was penned by Sergio Corbucci, director of a.o. Django and The Great Silence.
Preoccupied with directing too many movies himself, Corbucci couldn’t find enough time to make this idea into a movie. And that’s where Castellari stepped in.

Before we can discuss the movie further, let’s have a look at the various names of this film: the original title is Quella Sporca Storia Nel West.
The English title mixes the names of the main character and the character’s source and so we end up with Johnny Hamlet.
The German version is called Django – Die Totengräber warten schon. Never mind that this film isn’t related to Django or that there’s only one gravedigger in the film (and that he isn’t exactly waiting). You have to understand that in Germany it was apparently mandatory by law for every Italian western to be released as Django.
Django was of course a popular character and even the Italian producers tried to stick the name in as many westerns as possible: take Pochi Dollari per Django.
Castellari claims he was hired as a second-hand director for Pochi Dollari per Django (Some Dollars for Django), a Django rip-off that was going to be realized by Leon Klimovsky.  Castellari’s description of Klimovsky says it all: “A real gentleman, but I couldn’t see him turn out a great movie.”
Castellari helped the man and – as westerns were so popular at the time there were at least 300 made per year – did good enough a job for him to asked as a director for a western: Vado… l’ammazzo e torno (Any Gun Can Play). Soon afterwards he heard about Corbucci’s idea to turn Hamlet into a western… when Corbucci backed out Castellari stepped in.

Though the travelling circus company begin the movie with “To be or not to be”, Johnny Hamlet isn’t a faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. Hamlet is called Johnny, for instance and Ophelia is not Hamlet’s girlfriend (Ophelia is part of the circus, Hamlet’s girlfriend is called Emily). However, certain names have made the transition: Hamlet’s uncle Claudius became Claude, there’s Horaz (Horatio) and Hamlet’s mother is Gertie, an acceptable abbreviation of Gertrude.

That not everything is strictly followed is a good thing: the basic idea (Claudius killing his brother, Hamlet avenging his father) is kept, but other plotlines have been changed. The effect is that you can’t always guess what’ll happen next and who will kill who.

Castellari can be a good director and you can see Johnny Hamlet was early in his career: you see the director’s enthusiasm in a lot of scenes. The camera swings nicely, sets are colourfully decorated… Castellari wanted to show the world he wanted to become a good director.
Of course, adapting Shakespeare is also a bit problematic: most people know the original and will have to agree that, if they kept a bit more of the original play, the movie could’ve been even better. Now it ends up at 7 out of 10 and it’s an entertaining spaghetti western, with a few nods to Hamlet.

But it is an beautifully made and entertaining film, so you won’t be disappointed when you choose to spend your evening watching Quella Sporca Storia Nel West.

Copyright: italiansoundtracks.comDVD Review

How do I look?
Koch Media have done a nice job with this film: visually the movie looks quite stunning, especially if you compare the images to those of the trailers. A lot of work has gone into this and we’re more than happy to forgive the release the occasional visual line or crack in the audio. You’d have a tough time finding more than a handful, anyway.

The DVD release itself looks nice: its yellow draws immediate attention and I was almost able to find this DVD in the dark. If you take the DVD out of the cardboard box you’ll find the DVD presented as a book, with the film’s title on the cover and a Shakespeare quote on the back. “Sein oder Nichtsein, das ist hier die Frage: Ob’s edler in Gemüt, die Pfeil und Schleudern des wütenden Geschicks zu dulden oder, …” and then another 20 lines of Hamlet in German.

Language options, the more the merrier
You can choose between watching this movie in German or the original Italian track.
The German track is incomplete as the movie used to be cut. The scenes that were cut before are presented in Italian with German subtitles.
If you select the Italian track you can opt between German and English subtitles. A recent visit to Xploited Cinema told me that there were no English subs despite what it says on the box. Weirdly enough, the DVD I own does have English subs but doesn’t mention it on the cover. I don’t know if there’s a new version (not likely though) or if Xploited made an error here. Anyway, I’ve just seen the film and with English subtitles.

Any extras on the side?
Which brings us to the extras: the most interesting extra is a 34 minute long documentary, Strange Stories from the West. It’s mainly an interview with director Castellari and it sheds some light on the man’s career. Castellari’s interview is interrupted for an interview with Francesco de Masi (who’s responsible for the soundtrack). Afterwards, Mr Django himself, Franco Nero, comes to tell us why he wasn’t in this movie.

A nice release can’t do without the original trailer and we find two here: a German and the original Italian. Not understanding a benign word of Italian, I can’t tell you what the Italian blurb was, but I can tell you someone let his child loose on the trailer. Almost every scene presented in this 3 minute long trailer has been coloured in by a hyperactive toddler without taste. Never did drugs, but would like to know what a bad trip feels like? The Italian trailer will help you out!
The German trailer shows the same scenes, but without the insane colour schemes. Though it does draw a bit too much attention to the German title Django – Die Totengräber Warten Schon. Best line: “Though there are many Django movies there’s only a few by Corbucci and only one Django – Die Totengräber Warten Schon.” Hey, it wasn’t our idea you’d rename every Italian film Django, my German friends, so don’t blame us!

Wolfgang Luley wrote a 4-page booklet for the release. Actually, that’s one page for the cover, one page for a giant picture and only two pages of text in German, but it’s a bit informative, so we won’t make too much of a fuss about it.

And finally, a selection of 149 pictures (stills, covers and artwork) close the extras section.

Koch Media have done a nice job on this release. There’s enough extras to make you happy and most of them were relevant and don’t feel like they’re dragged out of some vault as filler material. And, unless you’re allergic to the colour yellow, the release looks nice too.

Overall review:
FILM – 7/10
EXTRAS – 9/10

Quella Sporca Storia Nel West (Johnny Hamlet / Django – Die Totengräber Warten Schon)
Italy, 1968
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Based on an idea by Sergio Corbucci
Cast: Andrea Giordana (Johnny), Gilbert Roland (Dazio aka Horaz), Horst Frank (Claudio aka Claude), Manuel Serrano (Santana), Françoise Prévost (Gertie), Ennio Girolami (Ross), Ignazo Spalla (Guild), Gabriella Grimaldi (Emily / Ophelia)

The DVD has been released by Koch Media (Germany) and is a Region 2 release.

Wanted

I’m pretty sure thousands of fans would like to blow me to smithereens for the following sentence, but here we go: halfway through the movie I was ready to rate Wanted higher than The Dark Knight. And that’s when the plot went cuckoo.

Here’s my thing: I hate movies like The Bourne Ultimatum which pretend to be the thinking man’s Bond. If such movies are any part of the thinking man, it’s probably his anus. If you have seen the movie, you may remember Bourne being chased on a motorbike, happening to see the little block of wood that allows him to jump, glide and drive off a free man. Credible? I think not!

Over to Wanted then where a man manage to improve the long jump record by 77 metres and an inch whilst killing off half a dozen assassins. Too bad for him his opponent had planned this and shoots a bullet through the man’s head from a building at least five blocks away. Credible? Who cares!

Yes, the one and only solution to keeping your action movie credible (apart from only using credible stuff, but who does that these days) is chucking all the credibility out of the picture in the very first minute. Though director Bekmambetov still managed to alienate me with plot lines even he’ll confess aren’t the most ingenious. The Fraternity, an organization led by Morgan Freeman (champagne by the way, it’s the 500th time Morgan gets to play almost the same role with the same lines), uses a cover-up so implausible it’s only there for one scene (the scene where James McAvoy tests his skills). Apart from that… erm, so that’s how Fate has been communicating for 1000 years? Really??

But yes, every scene in this movie seems to have only one of two functions: either it’s an action scene or it’s a scene that helps to lead up to the next action scene. And the action scenes are flabbergasting. It took me to the train chase to get my regular feeling of “oh yes, action scenes, how boring”: I’m pretty sure no train conductor will get the brainless idea of using the emergency brakes when the train is speeding over a narrow ridge between seemingly endless mountains. But hey, it’s action.

On the plus side, Wanted isn’t as brainless as it looks. There are several hints throughout the film that’ll make sense once you’ve seen the finale. (Look at me, all proud I spotted a hint noone else of my group seemed to have noticed…) Only that should give this film a score of 7/10. Sadly, the explosions can’t cover up the emptiness of the plot and the fact that Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie are only there because Fate likes typecasting. Erm, we need an action babe with lots of tattoos and Asia Argento isn’t available. Anyone an idea?

Verdict: 5 out of 10

P.S. And, as part of our Rappers Acting In Movies double bill, we went from Common in Wanted to The X-Files: I Want To Believe. Tomorrow you’ll get to read my analysis of that film, which will mark the 100th post on Avenue Kurtodrome.