The Night Porter (1974)

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Jules: Is there such a thing as essential human nature, or can we turn ourselves into whatever we think we ought to be, whenever and wherever it suits us? And if we can, are we still human?

David: Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling must decide whether or not they are each literally to die for. Meanwhile a technical anomaly causes the Overlooked team to narrate the film with the second and third acts switched out of order. Hilarity doesn’t quite ensue but perhaps an enhanced perspective is enabled on the movie’s themes of crime, passion, pragmatics and lots of baggage.

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Performance (1970)

performance

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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Æon Flux : The Purge (1995)

aeonpurge

Jules: Our commentary expands to include the small(er) screen in this episode, namely the stellar Æon Flux series of MTV short films from the 1990s. Are we all the self-deluding victims of deterministic circumstance, or can we freely choose between possible outcomes as truly moral agents? We examine the cases brought forward by arch-provocatrix Æon, dictator-for-life Trevor, and gonzo-comedian-psychopath Bambara.

David: We attempt to bring our rational thoughts to bear upon the mind-mangling dream logic of Æon Flux, and observe the absolute power of Trevor Goodchild corrupted by absolute existential quandry. The spidery form of his nemesis-love-idol weaves a web of irony around him and all the while sticky pleasure traps to snare them both abound.

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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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