Dir. Michael Ninn, 1995
81 min, English.
To succinctly describe Latex would be to simply call it "stylish" but it is truly so much more than that.
In this fascinating piece of work, Ninn expertly elevates what would otherwise be a wholly unremarkable adult work into something vastly more intellectually stimulating, with the issues of voyeurism, violence, and projected fantasies mapped onto the bodies of others in full focus, blurring the line between high and low culture
Turning the lens back on the viewer-as-voyeur, one of the first lines stated in this film is "I know you're watching me." From there we see that our characters reside in an authoritarian police state, where our protagonist's tale is recounted in flashback detailing his escape from a state mental hospital. Incarcerated for possessing the ability to see the darkest, fantasies locked away and suppressed within the minds of anyone he touches, he has been deemed a threat to the state's authority.
Thematically, in a work that deals with fantasy, inscrutable detail is paid to set design, including the CGI-work that although dated, blends perfectly in the constructed fantasy Ninn provides. In this construction, no explicit sexual contact is ever depicted, with shots more often depicting close-ups of eyes, hands, shoes, clothing, and the set itself, all from numerous angles, repeated, recut and remixed to create a feeling of catharsis. Simultaneously, the soundtrack consists of recorded audio tracks edited into a cacophony of distorted dialog, sound, and music joined with the moving image to create a sensory barrage that questions the complicity of the viewer in successfully completing the construction as a voyueristic participant.
Be advised: No one under 18 will be admitted to this screening.
Mother Joan of the Angels
Dir. Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1964
110 minutes, Polish with English subtitles.
Lurking in the walls of a remote convent in the Polish countryside are demons in the guise of nuns. Posessed, the nuns, led by the eponymous Mother Superior, create a world of frenetic chaos, horror, and drama. Brilliantly handled this piece is devoid of any camp or exploitative thrill, a class apart from the typical "demonic possession" film.
Dir. Jesus Franco, 1987
99 minutes, English.
A plastic surgeon, his wife, and his sister are attacked by a disgruntled former patient wielding a glass full of acid. The patient throws the glass at the doctor, but misses, hitting his wife instead and ruining her complexion. Scarred, she retreats into isolation while the good doctor plots to find a way to restore her beauty, a la face transplant. Capturing several suitable subjects for unwilling donation, Franco's work does not come up short on indulgent imagery, best read as the ultimate video nasty version of Franju's classic Eyes Without a Face, making explicit reference to its iconic imagery with greater visual transgression and a garishly 80's visual sensibility, completing his referential Dr. Orloff series.
Dir. Joan Micklin Silver, 1975
89 min, Yiddish with English subtitles
Set in 1896, the Lower East Side tenements buzz with life as immigrants try to eke out a piece of the American Dream for themselves. Carol Kane plays Gitl, a Russian Jew, immigrating to titular Hester Street with her son to join her husband, who has become Americanized and fascinated with another. Gitl struggles with integrating, clinging to her heritage and struggling to make sense of the new world and the state of her marriage. Largely in Yiddish, this film reconstructs the lives of immigrants of the era with stunning accuracy, with Kane's magnificent portrayal garnering her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress.
Dir. Yasuzo Masumura, 1964
92 minutes, Japanese with English subtitles.
Love, seduction, obsession, dependence, jealousy, betrayal, doubt.
A wealthy housewife, Sonoko, in a marriage of convenience to a salaryman husband, meets and takes an interest in another woman, Mitsuko. The two quickly become lovers, but the affair arouses the suspicions of their respective men. Under Mitsuko's spell Sonoko and Mitsuko's fiancé develop a love triangle quickly overwhelmed by jealousy, doubt, blood oaths, and a obsessive paranoia. The lovers live in polite hostility, driven by constant obsession and paranoia ending in tragedy.
Dir. Paul Morissey, 1970
110 min, English
Joe (Joe Dallesandro) and Holly (Holly Woodlawn) are just two kids living downtown, among the filth and rubbish. Joe's got a bad heroin habit and Holly wants a better, maybe more glamorous life for them. Making the best of things is their way of life on the Lower East Side. Joe, cast for being a hunk can't act to save his life, but in a part written specially for her by Andy Warhol, Holly Woodlawn shines as a glamorous garbage woman in the campy, sexy, gritty, blue flick.
Dir. John Waters, 1974
89 minutes, English
One of John Waters' best films, he not only holds a flame to the American obsession with fame, glamour, and celebrity, he douses the whole obsession in kerosene and sets a torch to it!
Troubled teen runaway Dawn Davenport has big plans for herself, she's better than all those stupid people at school and her parents and you too! We follow her life decade by decade as she falls in and out of petty crime, becomes a low-class high-fashion model, and even starts a burgeoning performance art career renowned the world over. Glamorously campy and outstandingly satirical, it's a great feel-good film for anyone who's ever wanted to be famous.
Belladonna of Sadness
Dir. Eiichi Yamamoto, 1973
86 min, Japanese with English subtitles
Absolutely beautiful, with visually stunning animation, bewitching is a perfect way to describe this tale of a beautiful woman ruined and banished from her village, who takes a pact with the devil to gain magical abilities. Previously out of print, the absolute gem was recently restored and deserves to be seen.
Dir. Bob Balaban, 1989
81 minutes, English
Growing suspicious of his parents' insistence on finishing his dinner loaded with mystery meat, young Michael begins to suspect his quirky parents just might be cannibals. A horrifying black comedy styled like something from a McCarthy era family sitcom, the sometimes strange, sometimes terrifying visuals almost feel akin to Lynch's Blue Velvet, a subverted version of classic Americana sure to delight and disgust.
Romy & Michele's High School Reunion
Dir. David Mirkin, 1997.
92 minutes, English.
In a decade of powerbroker women and proving to the world that women can truly have it all, there were Romy and Michelle, the antithesis to the powerbroker businesswoman archetype to emerge in the 80s and 90s. Best friends living in LA trying to make the rent and look good doing it, they decide against their better judgement to go to their high school reunion and shove their success in everyone's face. The catch? They're dreams of making it big still haven't panned out. Deciding to fake it till they make it, they hit the road and make everyone eat it in an outrageous female buddy comedy dripping with one liners and an outstanding cast.
The Living End
Dir. Gregg Araki, 1992
81 min, English
Part of the New Queer Cinema movement, we follow the chaotic, nihilistic, self-indulgent lives of two gay men. One is a hustler. One is a film critic. Both are HIV positive. Rejected by the world at large, they carry the motto "Fuck the World" as a shield, driving aimlessly, looking for meaning, in an audacious and free-wheeling film from the center of the AIDS crisis, that by its end climaxes in an atypical maturity from Araki.