Friday, 28 January 2011

Double Bill Mini Musings: Eternal Panic of the Nasty Mind...

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:
I'm years late to the party on this one, sure, but I got there in the end and I really dug it. I wasn't much into the likes of Being John Malkovich (same writer - Charlie Kaufman), and I was half-annoyed-by-and-half-enjoyed Be Kind Rewind (same director - Michel Gondry), but Spotless Mind really drew me in. The central idea of wiping painful memories is consistently interesting and explored in such a way that you can follow it as well as explore it on your own, and it's not deliberately obtuse either, which is nice.

Most of impressive of all however was how they were able to represent memories on screen - how memories look, how they feel, how they leap from one-thing-to-another, and how they might look whilst they're being erased. I really enjoyed it and I found it to be really quite touching at the same time. A most rewarding watch.

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape:
It's no surprise that Jake West produced this impressively realised doc on the 1980s moral panic that struck the UK - as you can see the influence of these grue-and-grot flicks (some genuinely impressive, others utterly rubbish) on his past works.

The 'grubby old videotape' aesthetic is a lovely bit of visual flair added to proceedings - and impressively realised in fact - it was most convincing, including at one point bring up that old familiar friend 'the tracking bar'. Filled with notable writers and academics, and even some filmmakers, with a passion for these so-called video nasties, it's a thoroughly informative piece and took me back to 1999 when the BBFC experienced a seismic shift in its attitude to these kinds of movies - at the time I was in my early-to-mid-teens, and this sudden onslaught of video nasties was a joy to behold for me. In a way I got to experience, at least partly, what the talking heads in this documentary got to experience back in the early 1980s.

It's shocking to believe the whole video nasty nonsense took hold, but on the other hand it's entirely believable. Anyone who dared to question the 'common thoughts of the established order' was chastised and berated, and even bullied ... something which we now have in relation to Climate Change, sourced from the apoplectic rage of those who fanatatically believe in one way and one way only, and anyone who dares question or seek alternate routes is a heathen. Such an extreme approach to anything - be it horror movies, or Climate Change, or whatever socio-political panic/concern/issue you fancy - is entirely inappropriate, downright frightening, and a case of taking two steps back with every step forward.

Furthermore it's incredible how the legislation came to be - through 'research' that was ineffective and ultimately stolen and warped by an apparent egomaniac, and through a process of de-contextualised 'montages of mayhem' splattered across the eyes of MPs who probably only knew of horror as that produced by Hammer in the 1950s through 70s, or even Universal in the 1930s ... what was even more incredibly, as discovered last year, was that the resultant Video Recordings Act was never actually a law. It wasn't enacted correctly - but now it has been.

The documentary sticks closely to the main period of contention - namely the early 1980s - but at one brief point there is mention of the utterly tragic and totally horrific murder of James Bulger in 1993, which again resulted in cries of "Ban These Sadist Videos" from reactionary tabloids. It's a shame they didn't explore this a little further, and it's incredible that the filmmakers didn't analyse the collapse of the video nasties era in 1999 when the BBFC experience a major shake-up, resulting in a torrent of previously banned and/or heavily cut horrors were unleashed upon the public (who were either excited genre fans (such as myself), or everyone else who wasn't particularly fussed). So it was quite disappointing that they didn't follow the story all the way through to the end.

Also, it was disappointing that they focused solely on Conservative MPs of the time - now, sure, the Conservatives were running the country at the time, but as pointed out briefly at around an hour into the film, the legislation received no opposition and went on the books with all-party support. What's more, it almost seems as if just the Daily Mail (and Mary Whitehouse) was banging on about these "video nasties", when surely there was a far wider discourse across tabloids of all political hues going on. So that was a bit annoying - the realisation that the proceedings leading up to the VRA seemingly received no opposition in Parliament - from any political party - was quite something, and it would have been nice if library material featuring MPs of different hues discussing the video nasties issue.

However, despite a couple of gripes, it's a great documentary (and an entertainingly stylish one at that) - a must-see for any horror genre and/or "video nasty" fan - and I highly recommend you check it out. It's still astonishing that the MP who was essentially the 'MP guide' for the anti-nasties movement once said that these movies would detrimentally affect dogs!

In addition to all this are trailers (with detailed introductions) for the various films which featured on the DPP's list of 72 titles (39 of which became "the final 39" for which those supplying them could face harsh fines or even jail). It's an impressive package all round, so if you're into your 'grue and grot' cinema then it's a definite must-buy.

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