The Parallax View (1974)

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Jules: If politics is theatre, and the public are the audience, and the affairs of the day are the script, who are the writers, and where do the actors come from? Can the actors perceive the truth they are playing a role in a work they have mistaken to be their own lives? What if they should?

David: Considered part of Alan J. Pakula’s “paranoia trilogy”, along with Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976), The Parallax View is a reporter cum detective story surveying the creation of homegrown chaos agents and fall guys of obscure origin, or what we refer to today as terrorists. This birthplace seems to be a rabbit hole so deep and tortuous that exploring it, you might find yourself turning into the perp without even realising. Can the great conspiratocracy  recruit even its enemies? Are we all in some way doomed to be recruited by a machine that no one is even driving?

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Mad Max Fury Road (2015)

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Jules: Sequel, prequel, reboot, or mashup? Or just the logical conclusion of director George Miller’s deconstruction of genre, gender, and guzzlene?

David: We bookend our survey of 1979’s Mad Max 1 with our overview of the latest 2015 instalment. On Fury Road there’s lot to recognise from our own time. Much of the human degradation in it’s murdered world seems to be with us now, already.

Note this is a post-viewing discussion not a synched commentary.

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Mad Max (1979)

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David: As Mad Max returns to cinemas after 30 years in the wasteland we look back even further to Mad Max’s origins, as well as contexts like seventies oil shocks, road death tolls, bikie gang terror in the media and a director moonlighting as a doctor in an emergency ward.

Jules: The most financially successful low budget genre film (until 1999’s Blair Witch Project) or something more? What does director George Miller deconstruct as he assembles his mythos?

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Performance (1970)

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David: An art movie, a drug movie, Nicolas Roeg’s directing debut, a Mick Jagger acting debut,  a late, post-swinging 60′s bohemian manifesto, but underpinning all that one of the best British gangster flicks around. It features a foulmouthed, thuggish, head kicking turn by the erstwhile toffee nosed James Fox as bovver-boy Chas. Finding himself on the run, Chas comes in for some heavy deconstruction when he chooses the dark cave of a retired rock-star recluse to lay low in. Not an atom of machismo survives. Add mushrooms and flip genre. Tasty.

Jules: The reality-distortion of fame, and its possible relation to the shamanic undercurrents of consensus reality, seem to intersect in this glimpse inside British counterculture. Cammell and Roeg expertly oversee the somehow-mythic triumvirate of Fox, Jagger, and Pallenberg in this postmodern Greek tragedy where normalised sociopathy substitutes for humanistic virtue.

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Demonlover (2002)

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David: We actually fulfil our brief this time and bring you a genuinely overlooked film. Connie Nielsen is a high flying minion of anime porn merchants by day and cat-burglar by night, who wanders out of her depth into a world of corporate play and counter play. She discovers the company ladder that goes all the way to the top also goes all the way to the bottom.

Jules: The best, late period William Gibson film adaptation not actually adapted from a William Gibson novel, Demonlover intersects oblique characters and narratives to produce an aesthetically integrated nightmare of Postmodern fragmentation. When unconscious entities (like corporations, nationalities, and religious movements before them) evolve djinn-like abilities to tempt, trap, and consume their human constituents in the sociopathic pursuit of marketshare, do they signal a future when identity, self-awareness and morality are as irrelevant as ‘junk’ DNA?

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Last Tango in Paris (1972)

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David: Fifty Shades of Grey meets The Wrestler – or is it King Kong? A 48 year old Marlon Brando roams Paris like a rogue silverback. Apparently mourning the recent and mysterious suicide of his wife, he’s roughing up everyone and everything in his path. So indiscriminate and pointless are his outbursts of fury that he evokes his own incarnation as Johnny in the The Wild One. He’s rebelling against whatever you’ve got. Brando’s formidable yet pathetically unstrategic rampage is sweetened only by interludes of semi-consensual sex with ingenue Maria Schneider. The anonymity of their tryst is retained as long as possible, the bare rented apartment where they meet a cocoon against a detritus-ridden world and Brando’s broken life. The infamous butter scene is a minor scandal and not even the final stage of debasement Brando’s character needs to bring Schneider’s to before deciding she has the right stuff and might be his ticket out of existential hell.

Jules: If films are the means by which we collectively countenance the uncomfortable truths of what we are, and how that seems to override who we are, this film is both trauma and therapy. What is the relationship between desire, word, and action, and our collective sense of right and wrong? Last Tango ponders these questions (among others) and – crucially – acts upon them, in ways that sometimes seem lost to today’s cinema.

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Black Narcissus (1947)

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Jules: The clash of cultures, faiths, races, and civilisations entire was hardly ever so agreeable as it is in this 1947, somewhat-forgotten classic. See vertiginous, mountain-perched bordellos revamped to serve as nunneries! See lanky actors in too-short short-shorts attempt to maintain their gravitas whilst riding Shetland ponies! See skin-tinted occidental girls reinvented as oriental firebrands!

David: One ought not to rebel against nature, it seems. Nor the nature of things. A gaggle of nuns embark on a girl’s own Heart of Darkness.

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