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Thursday, March 31, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Operation Screenshot (Films of the 2010s) David O. Russell's The Fighter (2010)
Thanks so much to David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg for making, what I consider, the finest American film so far in this young decade.
Friday, March 25, 2011
A Moon in the Gutter Q&A with Author Daniel Ekeroth
As some of you know, I recently had the great pleasure to add Daniel Ekeroth's new book Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema to my film reference library. The title has already become a favorite of mine and today I am thrilled to include Daniel in my ongoing Q&A series at Moon in the Gutter. Daniel is an extremely talented writer and musician and I really appreciate him participating in this. Leave some comments if you like and, most importantly, order a copy of Bazillion Points' Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema!
Daniel, Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this Q&A for my readers here. Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema has already become one of the essential film reference books in my collection, so it’s a pleasure to have you participate in this. Can you start out by telling us a bit about yourself and where you are from?
I guess I’m just your typical 30-something who basically refused to grow up properly and decided to dedicate my life to popular (and, sometimes, un-popular) culture. I was born in Uppsala in 1972, and have since moved around all over Sweden to explore a little bit of everything. I spent seven years at the university, earning a master in Film Theory—something that most certainly didn’t open many work options. So I try to cope by writing books, freelance as a journalist and play in the rock bands Iron Lamb, Tyrant and Usurpress. At the moment I travel a lot, between my bases in Oslo, Stockholm, Eskilstuna and New York. I live cheap but I have a great time—all of the time!
As a musician and a film-lover, I was wondering if you could talk about some of your earliest influences in both fields. Who were the artists and works that first sparked your interest in the both fields?
Music has always been in my life, since my dad was a musician and music lover in general. The first artists I got into were The Beatles and Harry Nilsson, but the first band I found on my own was Kiss, when I picked up the “Destroyer” album in 1977. Since then I’ve been a metalhead at heart, even though I listen to all kinds of stuff. With films it was harder, since my parents were dead against the VCR, and the two national TV channels in Sweden at the time hardly ever showed anything interesting. Luckily, the father of a friend in school opened one of the first video stores in Sweden, so we could go there and take home all the cassettes for free. And back in those days, all that you could get was low budget genre films since the major studios seemed to stay away from this new technology. So the first films I really got into were mainly Italian genre pictures, such as “Alien 2 on Earth”, “Caliber 9” and “House by the Cemetery”. In retrospect, I grew up in the very best of times and I am eternally grateful for those formative years.
Tell us a bit about our acclaimed first book Swedish Death Metal and your career as a musician.
That book is basically about the death metal movement I grew up in during the late 80’s—wonderful and magical times. Up until that point metal music had kind of been out of reach, bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Metallica were like unobtainable gods. But death metal was a very underground teenager movement, and you suddenly realised that you could actually make music yourself. The book started out as a list of demos I had lost, but eventually turned into this monster project about the entire Swedish movement. I am very happy about it, since it captured a part of my life before I forgot too much about it! My own music career started out in several punk and progressive bands in the late 80’s, but I never really got anywhere until 1995. That year I joined Diskonto and Dellamorte, released lots of albums and toured the world. I later continued in Insision, and today I play in Iron Lamb, Tyrant and Usurpress now. I play because I like it, and to be in a band generally cost more money than you earn. Still, I have been able to travel the world for free in the process—I would never have gotten to Thailand or Australia if it wasn’t for my bands. Being in a band is great when you get older—you see your friends, do what you love to do and travel a lot, instead of just turning boring and grumpy!
I am always fascinated by connections between music and cinema. As a musician who has an obvious passion for film, can you talk a bit how film influences your music?
The lyrics are often inspired by films, especially back in the days when I played death metal. You know, gore, horror, terror, evil…all the gruesome stuff. We sampled a lot of films too, but you really can’t do much of that anymore since you’ll risk getting sued. Today I listen a lot to soundtracks of genre movies of the 60’s and 70’s—there sure are a lot of cool bass lines to pick up there. We have also been inspired by film posters while making album covers and artwork. I love the film poster artwork of past decades; they are true pieces of art.
Onto Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema. I imagine it took quite a while to put it together. How did you initially come up with the idea for it and can you detail some of the research you had to do?
I wrote a Swedish version of it years ago, since I realised nobody had written about this stuff. Back then it was hard to find some of the films, and information was scarce since the internet hadn’t really developed yet. So I went to all my film collecting friends to gather information and track down copies of movies, which sure was time consuming. When we started to work on the English version, we revisited all the films and rewrote the whole book, incorporating everything I had learned over the last eight years. We also added a lot of films I missed the first time around, and got hold of some lost gems. But it basically came down to the same method once again—to keep in touch with film collectors.
For readers in the United States, this book will be a goldmine of cinematic discovery, but we will have to really do some searching for many of the titles you cover. I was curious as to the availability of many of the rarer titles in the book in Sweden. Were there any titles in particular that were difficult to track down and what do you think is the typical attitude that the average Swedish film fan has towards many of these films?
Some of the films have never been released, so you had to find a collector who had taped it from TV or got hold of it through the national archive of films. “Månguden” was impossible to find ten years ago, but was released on DVD last year so things are changing. Some films are yet to be found, though, such as “Silent Chase” and “Fränder”, and I just had to write about them based on the information at hand. During the last years many sensationsfilms have been released on DVD through Klubb Super 8, so it is far easier to get much of this stuff today than when I started the project. Even if you don’t understand Swedish, you should pick up some of this stuff! Even though the general public doesn’t even know that the movies exist, the sensationsfilms of the 70’s are held in high esteem by Swedish film fans, and a title like “Breaking Point” is like the holy grail of exploitation cinema.
I loved your top ten list of essential works at the end of the book. I don’t want to give that away for readers who haven’t seen it yet, but I was hoping you might share a couple of favorites here as an ideal starting point.
You should start with “Thriller – A cruel Picture”, since it is the epitome of Swedish sensationsfilms. It’s available in English and easy to get hold of. Then you should move on to the crime films “Smutsiga Fingrar” and “Mannen på Taket”, before you dive into sex with “Jag en Kvinna 2” and “Jorden Runt med Fanny Hill”. After that, check out some of Mats Helge Olsson’s action films (preferably “The Ninja Mission” and “Blood Tracks...), and end with “Stockholmsnatt” and “Sökarna”. By then you have learned the basics, and can feel free to explore the rest. Once you feel secure enough, you should track down “Breaking Point”. After that, you won’t be yourself anymore!
I think it is fair to say that the wonderful Christina Lindberg is the greatest icon of Swedish Sensationsfilms. Who are some of your other personal favorite figures you cover in the book?
She is the reigning queen for sure, but you should also check out the three Maries: Liljedahl, Ekorre and Forså. A personal favourite is also Diana Kjaer, whose lustful eyes are mesmerizing. Among male icons, Heinz Hopf and Ulf Brunnberg are the kings. When it comes to directors, you really shouldn’t miss the incredible films of Bo A Vibenius, Mac Ahlberg and Arne Mattsson—the latter probably have the most entries of all directors in the book. And as the true maverick director of Swedish sensationfilms, you have the hilarious Mats Helge Olsson.
Were there any films in particular that you came across in your research that really caught you off guard and became favorites?
I had seen most of the best stuff already, such as the eye-opener “Breaking Point”. Still, I hadn’t seen “Kameleonterna” when I started out, and that sure became a favourite. Some movies that I revisited turned out to be better than I remember them, like the Jokull-Western “Korpen Flyger.” I also saw all the Mats Helge Olsson pictures I had missed, and though they aren’t masterpieces in any sense you really have to see them to believe them!
I’m guessing you don’t sit around watching Swedish Sensationsfilms all day. Are there any other particular genres and filmmakers you admire and what are your thoughts on the state of world cinema in general these days?
I have always been, and still am, obsessed with Italian genre cinema. I actually moved to Italy for a year just to pick up films and get to know the language. I pick up all the titles that are released on Blu-Ray these days, along with too many DVD’s. I don’t really care for new films, something is definitely lacking for me in modern cinema. Still, I enjoyed “Let the Right One In” so I hope some films like that can create a new field of moody thrillers. The best film of the last decade is “Team America: World Police”, and I really would like those guys to make another puppet film!
I wish you all the best of luck with Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema. It’s a fantastic book and it deserves a lot of success. What’s next for you and can we hopefully look for another book from you sometime in the future?
I guess I have found some kind of field for myself as a documenter of weird Swedish culture, so I’ll just have to find something else to continue that path with. It might be music, it might be film…it might even be board games! I just have to open myself for all the strange things that have been going on around me once again.
Thanks again Daniel. This has been a real treat and, once again, I appreciate you taking the time to participate in this.
Ok, thank you for the interview and good luck with all your work in the future.
I’ll be in NYC for the last two weeks of May, so if anyone wants to hook up for beers and a chat about dirty Swedish films, I’m game!
Terrific Dainel and thanks again!
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Elizabeth Taylor: Ten Personal Favorites
While the news perhaps wasn't a surprise, I felt a profound sense of sadness yesterday when I heard that Elizabeth Taylor had passed away at the age of 79. As many have already noted, we have lost the last truly great star of Hollywood's golden era. Of course, other great icons are thankfully still with us but I think anyone would be hard pressed to name someone who equaled Taylor's monumental stature. Yesterday I thought a lot about my own memories of Taylor, her life and her great humanitarian work. Most of all though I thought of the great cinematic legacy she left us, so today it seemed fitting to try and list my ten favorite films Taylor appeared in. I realize many are making similar lists today but they will all be different, which is a tribute to a truly great career. So here in chronological order are my ten favorite films that the glorious Elizabeth Taylor appeared in.
1. A Place in the Sun (1951): While I enjoy many of her early roles, for me Elizabeth Taylor truly came into her own as Angela Vickers in George Stevens’ remarkable A Place in the Sun. Based on Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, A Place in the Sun is one of the great works from the fifties and Taylor is unforgettable opposite a never more beautiful Montgomery Clift. Stevens’ film has lost none of its power in the last sixty years and there has still never been an onscreen couple that generated the kind of heat and passion Taylor and Clift do here.
2. Giant (1956): I think Taylor was mostly wasted in the five years following her breakthrough performance in A Place in the Sun, so it’s a major tribute again to George Stevens that he saw fit to cast her in the pivotal role as the feisty and headstrong Leslie Benedict in this epic adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel. Taylor is tremendous in the role and proves very moving opposite both her legendary co-stars, Rock Hudson and James Dean. Taylor’s sporadic scenes with Dean are especially mind-blowing and it is amazing to watch two actors with such different styles working so well together.
3. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): Director Richard Brooks had already worked with Taylor once, on the disappointing Last Time I Saw Paris(1954), when their paths crossed again for this striking big-screen version of Tennessee Williams’ landmark play. The whole cast, which includes Paul Newman, Burl Ives and Judith Anderson, give exemplary performances but its Taylor as ‘Maggie the Cat’ that really stands out. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Taylor here is the way her performances manages to make what was a sanitized version of Williams’ play still extremely provocative.
4. Suddenly Last Summer (1958): Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s adaptation of another Tennessee Williams play received a lot of critical disdain upon its initial release but in hindsight it is one of the key works of the fifties. A haunting and quite strange work scripted by Gore Vidal and starring Taylor along with Katherine Hepburn and a shattered Montgomery Clift, Suddenly Last Summer is quite an impressive achievement and I don’t think Taylor was ever more beautiful than she was here.
5. The Sandpiper (1965): Sure it’s incredibly corny and sure it’s overly melodramatic, but I absolutely love Vincente Minnelli’s beautiful The Sandpiper. From Milton R. Krasner’s gorgeous California location photography to Johnny Mandel’s exquisite score, The Sandpiper is one of the last great classic studio films of the sixties. Also, of the many films they made together, this is my favorite pairing of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
6. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966): In my opinion. Taylor didn’t deserve the first Oscar she won, for Butterfield 8 (1960), but she absolutely did for her astonishing performance opposite Richard Burton in Mike Nichol’s ferocious film version of Edward Albee’s play.
7. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967): Elizabeth put up her salary so her favorite co-star Montgomery Clift could act with her again in this mesmerizing John Huston film. Tragically Clift passed away before he could film a scene, leading the way for Marlon Brando to come in and give one of his defining performances. Another film that received a critically beating that can now ne looked back on as one of the great works of the period.
8. Boom! (1968): Joseph Losey’s whacked out film version of Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore has to be seen to be believed. I’ll let Kimberly Linberg’s excellent tribute over at Cinebeats sum up my feelings for this remarkable film that again matched up the unbeatable team Burton and Taylor.
9. Under Milk Wood (1972): A great and extremely undervalued version of Dylan Thomas’ wonderful play directed by Andrew Sinclair. Taylor is again joined by Richard Burton, as well as Peter O’Toole, for this very striking and rather sweet film.
10. The Driver’s Seat (1974): I will admit that I have only seen this film, from Italian director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi, once many years ago but I remember being quite struck by it and floored by Taylor’s performance. Griffi was an interesting director, he would helm the terrific Laura Antonelli film The Divine Nymph right after The Driver’s Seat, and it is a testament to how daring Taylor was that she would have made a work like this at this point in her career.
Of course, this list is just a small sampling of a truly amazing career. Share some of your favorites if you would like in the comments section...
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