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last update 23.Jul.11
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Horror of Darkness
dir Anthony Page
scr John Hopkins; prd James MacTaggart
with Alfred Lynch, Glenda Jackson, Nicol Williamson, Catherine Clouzot, Wallas Eaton
lynch and williamson release UK 10.Mar.65
65/UK BBC 1h09

london l&g film fest
horror of darkness Originally broadcast on BBC television's The Wednesday Play, this ominously titled drama gets increasingly forceful as it progresses, vividly exploring the complex inner life of three people who are connected in a disturbing way.

In London, struggling artist Peter (Lynch) lives with his chirpy, clever wife Cathy (Jackson). Their ordered life is interrupted by a surprise visit from old friend Robin (Williamson), but the happy reunion is short-lived, as Robin invites himself to stay, noses around, sabotages Peter's work, disrupts their routine and brings some big issues to the surface. Robin has come to London because he's published a short story and has a play going into production. Is Peter envious of his success? Or is something else going on here?

Skilfully shot and edited in an urgent style, director Page mixes long, handheld takes with the raw edge of live, stage-style performances, as if it were shot in front of a stunned-silent studio audience. It's also edited in an effectively jarring way that jumps into scenes without warning. The result is intimate and edgy, with telling dialog and razor-sharp characters. As these three people who perhaps know each other too well circle around each other, all kinds of tensions emerge. Even amid lively, humorous interaction, there's a growing undercurrent of something important and unsaid.

When things finally begin to come out, it all gets rather gloomy and unsettling, mainly because everyone tries to carry on as if everything is normal. The smart script keeps us guessing about the true nature of what's going on, although the sexual tension grows progressively more provocative as Robin expresses his love for both Peter and Cathy in very different ways. And the way they reply is even more potent, exploring both social conventions and middle-class repression.

Stunningly revelatory performances are packed with subtext and glimpses of the bigger issues as well as their back-story. It not only feels bracingly current, but the cast and crew create some seriously shocking moments, both with cut-glass comedy and bursts of raw anger and emotion. The dialog is outrageously incisive, and each scene is cleverly directed and played to perfection by the gifted cast. The dynamic between these three people is seriously intense, and we feel it vividly. Especially as the story takes some dark, moving turns.

PG strong themes
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Taxi Zum Klo
aka: Taxi to the Loo
dir-scr Frank Ripploh
prd Frank Ripploh, Horst Schier, Laurens Straub
with Frank Ripploh, Bernd Broaderup, Orpha Termin, Peter Fahrni, Dieter Godde, Klaus Schnee, Bernd Kroger, Markus Voigtlander, Irmgard Lademacher, Gregor Becker, Marguerite Dupont, Eberhard Freudenthal
broaderup and ripploh release Ger 9.Jan.81,
UK 22.Apr.11
80/Germany 1h34
taxi zum klo With echoes of the 1978 UK film Nighthawks, this milestone movie traces the increasingly messy life of a Berlin schoolteacher who cruises for sex after hours. And it has relevant things to say about relationships today.

At age 30, Frank (Ripploh) has carefully separated his two lives: by day as a primary teacher and by night as a gay man addicted to random sex. When he meets Bernd (Broaderup), he finally falls in love, but this doesn't stop his desire for new men and new experiences, leading to a fetishistic encounter with a garage mechanic (Fahrni). But Bernd isn't sure he can cope with Frank's wanton ways, which will of course eventually affect his work in the classroom.

Filmmaker-actor Ripploh portrays this story in such a remarkably honest way that it can't help but take us aback. We've rarely seen such a blunt, graphic portrayal of gay life on screen, and even though it was made in pre-Aids, pre-reunification Berlin, the film feels strikingly current today. Issues of fidelity, sexuality transmitted diseases and confused desire run strongly through the story. And the main theme is whether we can ever be happy with someone who wants us to change ourselves for them.

As an actor, Ripploh brings a scruffy charm to Frank, an unapologetically promiscuous man who enjoys his life and manages to maintain a balance by the skin of his teeth. His scenes with Broaderup are surprisingly sweet, even when Frank gets darkly grumpy about how old-fashioned Bernd is. And it's remarkably clear that for him these random sexual encounters in public toilets are merely exploratory. But they are also the things that make his lifestyle unsustainable.

Shot with a gritty authenticity that's more documentary than drama, and free from any real narrative, the film's true heart is Frank's internal struggle to fit Bernd into his world. Along the way, Ripploh captures real-life humour in every scene, plus a wickedly funny sense of editing that keeps us laughing. This is a dryly hilarious and deeply engaging film for audiences who aren't put off by graphic depictions of sexuality. And it's so astutely observant that it barely feels dated at all.

18 themes, language, strong sexuality, drugs
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Totally F***ed Up
dir Gregg Araki
prd Gregg Araki, Andrea Sperling
with James Duval, Roko Belic, Gilbert Luna, Lance May, Susan Behshid, Jenee Gill, Alan Boyce, Michael Costanza, Craig Gilmore, Robert McHenry, Brad Minnich, Nicole Dillenberg
duval release US Oct.93 nyff,
UK 13.Jan.95
reissue UK 8.Aug.11 dvd
93/US 1h18

totally f***ed up Opening with a news story about high suicide rates among gay teens, Araki's notorious film gets a timely re-release nearly 20 years after it was made. And while fashion and music tastes have changed, the film feels eerily current now.

Andy (Duval) is an aimless 18-year-old, hanging out with his friends. Sex is always on their mind, but they have vastly different opinions about it, and they use drugs to add spark to most evenings. Deric and Steven (May and Luna) are in love, but Steven has a secret. Tommy (Belic) is looking for Mr Right, or at least Mr Right Now. Michele and Patricia (Behshid and Gill) want to have children and ask the boys for help. And then Andy meets a guy (Boyce) he actually likes. But nothing goes as expected.

Araki tells the story as a series of vignettes frequently punctuated by to-camera video clips and jaded titles ("lifestyles of the bored and disenfranchised" or "the young and the hopeless"). Some of this feels rather forced, and some of the deliberately wacky touches are merely gimmicky. But it's consistently telling and often jaggedly funny, and the multi-strand plot is packed with offhanded humour and honest emotion, as well as an approach to sexuality that refuses to indulge in cliches.

The cast members bring a raw authenticity to the characters. There are only a few moments that feel scripted; for the most part we feel like we're watching real young people struggling with the discovery that life is nothing like it is in the movies. The often shirtless young men add a youthful physicality that's never gratuitous. And we really feel their reactions to the events that quietly change their lives forever.

The film has a realistic, earthy vibe that sharply depicts the meandering lives of these teens, constantly turning our expectations on their head. Along the way, Araki drops in some extremely pointed comments that remind us how little has changed over the past two decades (including still-piercing gags about Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson). And rampant homophobia - whether in a throwaway remark, a preacher's rant, a violent physical attack - still causes young people to question their existence.

18 themes, language, sexuality, violence, drugs
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