TAKE YOUR PICK
1 Lady Killer (Gremillon, 1937): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 8.40pm
This film, part of the Jean Gremillon season at BFI Southbank, also screens on July 2nd. Full details of the season here.
Chicago Reader review:
It's amazing that a film of this quality should be so completely
unknown. Made in 1937, it's the masterpiece of Jean Gremillon, Jean
Renoir's only serious rival in the prewar French cinema. Difficult to
define stylistically (which is perhaps the secret of its greatness), the
film consists of a series of tonal variations on the theme of the femme fatale,
ranging from romanticism to naturalism to sophisticated comedy. Jean
Gabin is “Gueule d'amour” (“Lover Lips”), a soldier famous in his
garrison town for his way with women; when he meets the mysterious
Mireille Balin (Gabin's costar in Pepe le Moko), he gives up
everything to follow her to Paris. Gremillon seems the master of every
style he attempts, but his genius lies in the smooth linking of those
various styles; the film seems to evolve as it unfolds, changing its
form in imperceptible stages.
Here is an extract.
2 The Serpent and the Rainbow (Craven, 1988): Phoenix Cinema, 10.15pm
This rare screening of Wes Craven's '80s horror movie is hosted by the excellent Cigarette Burns film club. More details on the Facebook page here.
Chicago Reader review:
An unusually ambitious effort from horror movie specialist Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street),
filmed on location in Haiti (as well as the Dominican Republic). This
genuinely frightening 1988 thriller follows the efforts of an
anthropologist (Bill Pullman) sent by a U.S. pharmaceutical company to
find the chemical mixture used in “zombification”—the voodoo practice
that simulates death while leaving the victim alive and conscious.
Depending largely on hallucinations and psychological terror (a la Altered States),
and working from a Richard Maxwell and A.R. Simoun screenplay inspired
by Wade Davis's nonfiction book of the same title, Craven provides more
atmosphere and creepy ideas than fluid storytelling. But it's nice for a
change to see some of the virtues of old-fashioned horror films—moody
dream sequences, unsettling poetic images, and passages that suggest
more than they show—rather than the usual splatter shocks and special
effects (far from absent, but employed with relative economy). Cathy
Tyson plays the hero's Haitian guide—a psychiatrist alert to some of the
cultural ramifications of voodoo—and Zakes Mokae, Paul Winfield, and
Brent Jennings, as other agents of the hero's dark education in
prerevolutionary Haiti, are effective as well.
Here is the trailer.