ponedjeljak, 29. svibnja 2017.

Chernukha - Russian Necrorealism

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Rusija 1980-ih: Černobil postojanja.

Evgenii Iufit, Aleynikov brothers, Boris Youkhananov, Debil Kondratiev

It’s almost a buzz to type something into Wikipedia these days and find that your search yields no information whatsoever, bar a slightly bewildered auto-reply: Did you mean neorealism? No, not quite: necrorealism.
The slightly grandiose, academic name belies the fact that the movement was actually a small group of experimental-artists from Leningrad (now St Petersburg) who emerged in the 80s under the leadership of the artist/experimental filmmaker, Evgeny Yufit.
Having got their hands on a lavishly illustrated forensic pathology textbook for inspiration, their initial output was comprised of photos of themselves in zombiesque make-up. Then followed performances – recreations of violent deaths using a crash test dummy, a series of brutal-looking staged fights and sadistic torture scenes in suburban forests, abandoned construction sites and in the carriages of suburban trains – events that passersby or passengers were guaranteed to observe with horror. Later they began to use film as medium, and established an underground film studio.
Necrorealism was born out of social protest, a love of excess and black humor. The idea behind it was an interrogation of social beliefs and the glorified Soviet notion of a heroic ultimate sacrifice – ‘death in the name of the Motherland’ – they aimed to subvert the state ideology, and the deification of public figures (just think of Lenin’s embalmed corpse). Instead, they tried to present death in all its horror, absurdity and baseness.
Under perestroika in the 1990s, some necrorealist works were shown in the West. More recently, the majority of these works were shown in London. Now all four floors of the Moscow Museum of Contemporary Art in Ermolayevsky Lane have been devoted to a necrorealist retrospective as part of the fourth Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art.
The stairways of the museum are adorned with vivid, enlarged pictures from the same pathology textbook that so inspired the group. Stylistically, the work and individual approaches are quite disparate. There is a mix of meticulous charts and diagrams explaining the precepts of necrorealism, then large format photographs, some installations, plus a lot of hulking, expressive paintings rendered in a naive or ‘outsider’ style. There are copious quantities of swords, spears and lots of flesh being pierced. It’s almost like looking at the margin in some 14 year old boy’s textbook. Then there are also Yufit’s b&w films, which are projected onto the walls. - http://nonewenemies.net/2011/10/19/necroreality-and-the-eternal-death/

A half naked man builds a wooden swinging hammock and tethers it under tension to a tree. He lies down on it and cuts the tethering rope. The hammock hurtles towards a tree trunk. His head is smashed.
A young boy runs through woodland to a corpse that is half lying in a lake, the boy pushes the corpse in fully and only the boy's head can be seen.
A woman walks slowly through the woodland swinging a pail of water in her wake. Her feet become trapped in a scrambled mass of wire, and she falls. Her head smashes against a rock and a blood curdling clanging of a bell is heard.
Wanton cruelty and murder
These are scenes from a series of films by Russian necrorealist film maker, Evgenii Iufit's. Necrorealism was founded in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, in the 1980s. At this time, Iufit was a student at a Leningrad technical institute and had begun to develop an interest in art and cinema. But film making was controlled by the state via the official cinema organisation, Goskino, and made no room for alternative styles--thus necrorealism was born as an underground movement.
The filmmakers had no money and had to improvise by using crude equipment, despite this, they became united in their stride to create a new genre of film. The ethos of the movement has been described as "an exploration of the liminal state between life and death, in which crazed zombies wander apocalyptic landscapes and commit acts of wanton cruelty, homosexual violence, and murder."1 Iufit's work in particular is characterised by homoeroticism and a blend of black humour and slapstick comedy. - Iles, Andrew.

The Bioaesthetics of Evgenii Iufit

Evgenii Iufit, Bipedalism [Priamokhozhdenie] (2005)

Germinal Death or the Mistmare.
Such an epidemic plague infesting and totally anonymizing death is one of the main traces investigated by the contemporary Russian necrorealist cinema known as Chernukha (blackness), mainly founded by the directors such as Evgenii Iufit, the Aleynikov brothers, Boris Youkhananov, Debil Kondratiev, et al. A radical movement started in Leningrad mainly with an inclination primarily toward the underground counter-culture of the mid 80s in Russia. The desolated landscapes of economic meltdown, lack of horror cinema or a science-fictional future in the collapsing Soviet Union and the Post-Soviet era, intense strife between the necroeconomic terror of survival economy and horror of life, collapse of thermoeconomical markets, and finally, cold-melt process of the necrocratic institutions, all have composed a web of netting heterogeneities, unnatural, unlocalizable and chronologically discontemporized to all politico-economic terrors in recent decades or a dystopian future; in one word, rendering a chaotic geography so terminal that any occidental / oriental discontaminating cultural, economic or social solution has been proved both inapplicable and dangerous not for Russian anonymous labyrinths but for the Eastern and Western countries themselves. Encountered with such an ample pestilential opportunity, the Russian artists started to investigate how the necrocratic regimes rot and their power formations are ungrounded within the shell of institutions, architectonic solids and political survivals but in fact exterior to them; how solidity is not wiped out and sucked into Zero but necrotized and softened to no end, shatters on the virtual surfaces of Zero without being sucked by its vortices, making its own economic grund, a (un)grund whose tectonic expansion is the Zero itself (p/0); and how masculinity does not take the voyage of becoming-woman as its space of becoming but bites itself, appearing as the extreme homophobic/erotic irony of the impossibility of any final deliverance one can anticipate as the satisfying end of masculinity; however, considering and charting all these not as the illustrations of life emptiness (a survivalist or absurdist approach) or mortification as a collective response to social disorders and the problem of subjectivity (a crisis-based reaction), but affirmation (acting as companion) of a non-survival-supporting life whose tentacles crack death open merely as a collective perversion, a philia, which progressively disterminalizes as the end of all becomings or the terminus ad quem of becomings; and is transmuted to a collapsing expanse exhumed, deflowered and scavenged by life (non-survivalist life: unlife), its netting, mazing and bonding philia: a space of becomings, so contagious and epidemic, which as Nick Land puts it, is a "Pest" [9], a "meltdown plague" [10] (similar to Chernobyl Chinese syndrome) which does not serve the fluxional faith of the flux (becoming as fluvius) or pseudo-theological becoming (an unconventionally reductionist and characteristic, Eigentümlichkeit, becoming that is pregnant of some kind of stealth negativity) which Catherine Malabou suspects about Deleuzian becoming [11], but a terminal multiplicity in the form of evaporation, a GAS-becoming where molecules do not play the role of constituting or designing agents of flux-movements any longer; they become the pestilential ungrounding forces, the surface-consuming plagues; whatever they do is ungrounding (exhumation: ex + humus: ground), irreparable and undoable; each molecule becomes a miniature of a mazing earthquake. Such evaporations (Gas-becomings) and ungrounding / anonymizing becomings do not depict a "pure insertion into the cycle of metamorphoses" [12] that rummages through the stealth circulations of pseudo-flux (where flow is appropriated by grund) to locate its temporary (transient) and dynamically appropriated Utopias (the stages or expressions of metamorphing process); for meta-morphosis expresses a movement which, temporarily and dynamically, is appropriated by the ground it traverses to generate a fully dynamic and somehow unlocalizable formation; a non-institutionalized movement but a messenger of grund, a movement forced to transport a form-ation (morphosis), to express the ground dynamically, to disseminate the regulations of ground like fluvial / alluvial processes, irrigation systems fertilizing the ground and hydraulic architectures (as the State war-machines) which Wittfogel investigated in his Oriental Despotism: a Comparative Study of Total Power (1963). In Chernukha, as through the anonymous and undomesticated horizon of Russia with its vertiginous simplicity (or as Sergei Medvedev suggests The North or The_Blank_Space [13]), death as a terminal expanse of coldness and a part of desiring-machine is messed up through the pestilential and wasteful (exorbitant) bonds of epidemic life (philia) which frantically composes new strategies of 'openness to everything' -- by means of its ungrounding strategies, bonds of philia and affirmation -- not merely openness as the plane of being open but rather being lacerated, cracked, butchered and laid open ... then, sewing and scavenging what have been opened through the bonds of philia and the interphyletic labyrinths of life through which becoming runs as a vermiculating, mazing machine or an engineer of labyrinthine inter-dimensionalities. Once death is infected (and infested) by the true satanic horror of life and its opening / affirming strategies or epidemic bonds of philia -- triggered by the auto-collapse of all survival economies and necrocratic regimes -- opening and being opened gruesomely is inexorable; the exhumed and scavenged death is sewn together as the lines of a new becoming (anonymous-until-now) trapped in the interphyletic and pestilential bonds of philia and life; it becomes a germinal death or a becoming(s), disloyal to Zero. To call it germinal death is because it has a germinal intensity within itself; it has been infected and infested with a germinality which can only be diagramed and perceived through the inter-dimensionality and the fathomless epidemic of philia and its openness and not life alone since this germinality which death has been infected with is not the Deleuzian movement from an organized body to 'the body without organs', the vortex of zero or death, for death itself has been laid open (infected, contaminated and butchered) and disterminalized (brought to an ultimate openness) under the constant and progressive ungrounding processes unleashed by the desiring machines or the epidemic / plaguing agents of philia; this germinality is a total and dangerously epidemic Openness, it is not movement but pure openness (in the sense of epidemic), it does not move since it is an absolute ungrounding process of ground or a horizon which makes all lines of tactics (movements) and at the same time, their domestication possible (movements, fluxes or tactical lines can only run and flow in the presence of dimensions, surfaces and other attributes of grund [14]), an openness which infects and attracts, merely radiating openness, its war against closure is purely strategic and not tactical [15] which needs ground as its horizon. However, what makes this germinality, germinal and not something else is that it is a space of becomings and heterogeneities giving rise to the new things (modes of power, entities, etc.) like the germinality that Deleuze diagrams; however the lines of these ungrounded becomings (of this ungrounded germinality) do not envelope a becoming-death as their zero-intensity (extinguishable intensity) or final silence [16] any longer, for, once again, death has been disterminalized, infested and cracked open. Openness bites into death, chews and liquidates it by its enzymes. Germinal death is death transmuted to a new becoming or rather a space of becomings through which death surpasses itself through a brutal opening process; death itself is disterminalized by transmuting to a becoming that is anonymous (and imperceptible) even to zero but not external to it. Death actually happens but merely as a collective perversion (an infested practice with its own anonymous and contaminated intensities) through the epidemic bonds and the interphyletic labyrinths of philia. This is why Russian psychoanalyst Victor Mazin considers Chernukha and necrorealism as the anonymous landscapes of "the mutual contamination of life and death" [17]; or as previously discussed, base-necrophilia. Where even death is infested, then, survival economy (and the necessity of surviving for the organic body) as the base-ground of necrocracy loses all its politico-economic conservatism, mutates into a virulent strategy augmenting the collapse of any stratification process on its holy ground, acts as a camouflaged ungrounding process: solidity becomes virulent and messy; institutions become deterritorializing machines (as in the Post-Soviet space). This is where necrophilia (Chernukha) unleashes itself as a brutal schizotrategy working at the heart of paranoia as an ungrounding force. Through germinal death, the survivalist subject or the avatar of solidity does not try to survive but to soften itself progressively, to become an avatar of the ultimate softness; however, it does not choose or follow the liquidation that flux or conventional destratification processes use to mollify solidity; it installs decay (what is supposed to be a characteristic process of the regime of doom and destruction and the Oedipus race as Deleuze warns) as its softening machine, as a way of replacing surviving with eternal decomposition and rotting processes not on the plane of paranoia but schizotrategy and anti-solidity. Decomposition and decay stop because of the limits that death (or the great void) draws; in germinal death, however, they progress and persist endlessly. Decay appears as a strategic anti-rigidity process working through paranoia, using a brutal and fanatic destratification which is utterly dangerous and somehow disloyal to both schizophrenia and paranoia; what it only cares about is delirial softening. To this extent, desire for germinal death is not geminated on the great silence or the cosmic tides of entropy, but as Nick Land suggests, "Pest." In a transcendental interrogation, if becoming-death is the zero-collapse of all becomings, then what is that Becoming which infects death, demonically possesses it, pervades and infiltrates it, and in a turbulent motion ungrounds death through the epidemic openness of life through which everything is scavenged as an interphyletic wreckage or a maze of the affirming bonds? What is the becoming-infected death (germinal death) which loses its terminality, crosses itself as a becoming and becomes anonymous even to Zero but not external to it, a death cracked open by the affirming strategies of the satanic chemistry of life which allows the survival economies to be grounded as part of mess engineering and its grand strategic design for universal ungrounding? Is it Anonymous-until-Now (incognitum hactenus)? Or a lie or as the ancient Zoroastrians called it, Druj-, the feminine blackening upheaval, a universal ungrounding force or the Mother of Abominations -- Druj- means lie or strategy, the Mother of Abominations (Mistmare) or the life-satan according to Vendidad or the Zoroastrian Anti-Druj Laws -- by whose ungrounding forces, survival is rendered a catastrophic blindness through the dark chemistry of life?
Chernobog, Chernobyl, Chernukha. Call it Chernukha cinema, contemporary Russia, the Mistmare (Mother of Abominations) or germinal death; it ungrounds death to the point that it (death) cannot be charted on the logic and the plane of the Outside; and the Outside as a horizon which renders the outlines of our thoughts, politics and economies and finally horror loses its creative and significant existence. We come to an expanse of juxtaposed death (Non esse apud se) or a dimensional wreckage (a terminal intimacy as in demonic possession) in which death is extra-proximal, assuming a germinal process of its own through life. Death itself becomes a germinal unlife. In such a non-judgmental upheaval, death cannot serve the outside any longer or the other way around; horror leaves the Outside or Baudrillardian Double as its fungal oceans and becomes a cryptogenic process which rises everywhere that philia germinates. The Bataillean eye, the eye of the Outside, is turned inside out; becomes an evaporative eye. The cult of the Eye must be the cult of philia, the Mother of Abominations, Chernukha and the germinal death. Chernukha does not insinuate death as an outsider or the death-outsider as the principle of its horror but frenziedly tries to explore the space in which death is always beside one in a diabolic intimacy of zero-distance and multiplying closeness or more accurately the level of possession (possessing and being possessed: ungrounded), for possession (or demonic infestation) is always the closeness in the absence of measures, scales and judgments (metron), a molecular closeness. This extra-proximal death ('death-beside ...') instead of the death-outsider has been disseminated as the imminent horror of a life whose necrocratic regimes and survival economies are progressively ungrounded, a life rabidly radiating its contagious lines, turning necrocracy to base-necrophilia, transmuting any communication to a strategic affirmation leading to a gruesome and inevitable openness (not 'being open to' as the liberalist and absolutely economical approach to openness but being lacerated, cracked and laid open). The entities, the inter-dimensional entities of this germinal death have already swarmed our popular culture, horror genre, video games, literature, the internet and everyday life, triggered the rise of new cryptogenic (ungrounded) entities and networks of power, disloyal to any grounded(ing) approach or procedure. Chernukha is not noir; it is a creative blackness inviting blindness as its only way of experience. It is beyond judgment.  - Reza Negarestani   http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=396

petak, 26. svibnja 2017.

The Strange World Of Gurney Slade (1960)

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Još 1960.: zasićen fiktivnim svijetom lik bježi u stvarni svijet kako bi otkrio da je stvarnost nadrealna.

“I'm a walking television show. I can't get away from them. Big Brother is watching me, and Big Dad and Big Mum. The whole family's watching me. I'm like a goldfish in a bowl...”
Dissatisfied with his role in a stereotypical television sitcom, Gurney Slade decides to take matters into his own hands: walking off-set and out into the real world, he meets all sorts of strange and interesting people, animals and inanimate objects, each with a life all of their own. But are Gurney’s experiences real, or are they just in his mind..? - www.clivebanks.co.uk/Gurney%20Slade%20Intro.htm

One of television's genuine oddities, The Strange World of Gurney Slade was a whimsical 'comedy of thought' following one ex- (or so he thinks) actor's meandering journey through a fantasy world. On the back of a burgeoning pop career, Anthony Newley was offered free reign to create of a six-part comedy series in collaboration with comedy scriptwriters Sid Green and Dick Hills (who would later write for Morecambe and Wise). The result, to the bemusement of ATV's Lew Grade, was not a series of pop shows, but an off-beat, stream-of-consciousness comedy.
Unusually, the series was shot on film, marking it out from the largely studio-bound, live, theatrical drama of its time. The first episode sees actor Gurney Slade, in protest against a hackneyed sitcom script, abandoning the studio set for the streets of London. What follows is a fantastical journey unlike anything on television by 1960: Lewis Carroll-style linguistic invention, conversations with dustbins and dances with Hoovers, culminating in Gurney's entering a home to find an average TV viewing family (his former acting colleagues) watching his show.
Gurney Slade displays the irreverence to authority - Gurney witnesses a politician desert his duty for a buxom mistress, and reacts with petty acts of rebellion when bothered by a policeman - that would become the province of the youth movements later in the decade. At the same time, it captured the 1960s' youthful spirit, combining images of everyday contemporary life (London street, and the shortie raincoated Gurney himself) with sped-up fantasy sequences consisting of romps in parks with girls, as well as songs - anticipating The Beatles films A Hard Day's Night and Help! (d. Richard Lester, 1964 and 1965). But the series' most lasting legacy remains its theme tune, written by Max Harris; Newley's contemporaneous cover of 'Strawberry Fair' was also a Top-10 hit.
The series is often described as ahead of its time (although for Lew Grade, this might represent an attempt to excuse its sizeable budget and poor reception), and likened to the surrealist comedy of the late-1960s - notably Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74) and Marty Feldman's Marty (1968-69). It also captured the kind of surreal kitsch take on conspiracy drama evoked by The Prisoner (ITV), admittedly more glamorously, in 1967. The first episode provoked enough complaints (and newspaper headlines) to see the series moved from its initial primetime Saturday evening slot to a late night one arguably better suited a younger, more responsive audience.
Catriona Wright

The Strange World of Anthony Newley
“From a certain angle it’s tempting to regard Newley as a rather cheesy showbizzy figure… But look deeper and you’ll discover a genuinely gifted, restlessly creative man who often brought something unexpected into the mainstream.”
It’s September 1963. On a dark street, a smartly-dressed young man stands with a panting sheepdog, peering at a tattered advertising hoarding for a TV show. Addressing the figure pictured on the hoarding, the man says, “Well, it was a noble effort, wasn’t it? You tried. I give you that, you tried. But the public is no man’s fool, you know. The public knows what it wants, and you had no right to even try and suggest something different. Anyway, the public doesn’t like anything… suggestive.”
The man nods down towards the sheepdog. “He thinks you were before your time. Personally, I don’t think we’re ever going to reach the time that you’re in.”
The chap in question is writer/singer/performer Anthony Newley, and the picture he’s addressing is of Gurney Slade, the main character from a 1960 TV show played by, um, Anthony Newley. The above speech is the opening to a special trailer shot to mark a repeat showing of The Strange World of Gurney Slade, which was every bit as left-field and idiosyncratic as the show itself.
From a certain angle it’s tempting to regard Newley as a rather cheesy showbizzy figure, all Las Vegas residencies, guest appearances on Miss World and The Royal Variety Performance and Being Married to Joan Collins. But look deeper and you’ll discover a genuinely gifted, restlessly creative man who often brought something unexpected into the mainstream, an admirable inclination of which Gurney Slade is a fine example.
Born in Hackney in 1931, by the age of 17 Newley was already a star, playing the Artful Dodger to Alec Guinness’ Fagin in David Lean’s 1948 film version of Oliver Twist (with an almond up one nostril, he later claimed, in order to subtly misshape his face). By his late 20s, rather than having befallen the standard obscure fate of the child actor, Newley was still starring in a string of hit films, including Idle on Parade and No Time to Die.
Simultaneously, he’d managed to launch a hugely successful singing career. By 1959 he’d notched up 31 consecutive weeks on the British singles charts and become something of a fixture on television entertainment shows such as ITV’s Saturday Spectacular. One of Newley’s sketches for that particular programme, written by comedy kings Sid Green and Dick Hills, seemed to strike a chord for all concerned. It showed Newley making awkward small-talk with other characters, but with his unguarded private thoughts piped in as a voice-over. Perhaps there was something in this, they thought.
The Strange World of Gurney Slade, first broadcast in late 1960, was the end result, written by Hills and Green in close collaboration with Newley, who effectively co-directed the show with credited producer Alan Tarrant. The first episode opens with Newley sitting in a family kitchen setting, failing to engage with the banter of those around him. In fact, it becomes obvious that he’s missing his cues for lines. Eventually, he grabs his coat and, with a smirk and a small shake of his head, he walks off the set – because a set is what it is. He leaves the studio and starts parading around London with his every unspoken thought heard loud and clear by the viewer. Sometimes his thoughtful flights of fancy are seen to intrude into the real world, too.
Just think of it: Newley had just turned 29 at the time and had proven himself to be a very popular, multi-talented light entertainer. Given the chance to have his own TV show, he plumped for something so unconventional that is still feels genuinely left-field almost sixty years later. What young celebrity would do the same today? That opening scene alone is pretty much a perfect deconstruction of the sitcom genre – which, let’s not forget, was still in its infancy at the time. It’s heady stuff, so was Gurney Slade some act of career hara-kiri, or was Newley a genuinely bold, brave creative figure?
Undoubtedly it’s the latter, as everyone involved in the show seems to have had high hopes for it. But it wasn’t to be. Gurney Slade was probably just too out-there for early-evening ITV viewers in 1960, and Newley’s established fan base didn’t take to it. After the first two episodes, it was shunted unceremoniously from prime time – 8.35pm on Saturday night – into a late-night time slot.
In fact, the series falls into two distinctive halves. The first three episodes are filmed on location and play out on suburban streets, an abandoned airfield and a farm. The latter three are studio-bound and see Gurney Slade interacting with a variety of bizarre characters, ultimately having to stand trial for lacking a sense of humour. The studio episodes are more self-conscious and not quite so satisfying, but they’re never less than unique. At times, it’s far closer to pure stream of consciousness than to your standard TV comedy show. Perhaps the closest frame of reference would be a leading light entertainer experiencing his own personal take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In truth, the show does teeter right on the brink of being self-indulgent nonsense, but it never quite oversteps the mark, and in fact that high-wire act is a large part of its audacious charm.    read more

6 Episode Five

"It's wonderful to be out of my mind again."

The phrase "worst to best" doesn't really apply with Gurney Slade, as there's not really a "worst" episode in the run. This one sees the programme converted into a mock-ironic children's programme, with the show's tradition of Newley miming a piano to start off the catchy theme tune (something absent altogether in the third episode) here begun by one of the kids. The final three episodes of Gurney Slade are pointedly different to the first half of the series, in that they're all shot in a studio, and are all overtly humorous in a way the first three aren't. Characters like Bernie Winters as "Albert" are recognisable attempts to make an audience smile, in a way that the quirky, offbeat and meandering narratives of the first three don't aspire to.
     While still some of the more unique television episodes covered on this site, and even more metatextual, the last three tap more into the recognisable television lexicon, rather than the truly offbeat tales of where it all began. The episode concludes with a trip inside Gurney Slade's mind... while concepts like the "Depression Room" might be played more broadly for laughs than they would be today, you've got to love a series that has the star watch himself performing his top three hit of that year and musing "Funny... I always had the impression that I sang better than that."

5 Episode One

"The golden years of British entertainment! So much for Shakespeare and Sophocles."

The first episode of the series was the only one to get a repeat outside of the 60s, appearing in Channel 4's 1992 series Television Heaven. The opening four minutes, where Gurney walks off the sitcom set and into real life are excellent, as are the final moments where he realises he can't escape from the cameras. Yet what takes place in between is less substantial than what came after, the episode as a whole being light in content. Although over 12 million tuned in to see a successful singer and film star appear in his own television comedy, almost 4 million deserted the show the following week, causing ITV to pull it from the prime time schedule. As an opening episode of Gurney Slade, then it's a good one, albeit not a great one; an episode that requires the suggestion to "stick with it".

4 Episode Six

"They'll all live again, but for me, this is the finish."

In an age where it's almost impossible to find a television programme that doesn't practise self-reflexivity, it's important to remember that Gurney Slade aired over half a century ago. The influence from Six Characters in Search of an Author is felt here, though is met with charming reactions from the characters Slade has created throughout the series. Perhaps the most rewarding is from Anneke Wills who, upon learning that he'd imagined her as an "18 or 19" year-old girl, decides that "I think you're a little too old for me." The final ending is a little saddening, as Gurney expresses his wish to do a second series, only to turn into a lifeless ventriloquist's dummy under the gaze of the real Anthony Newley.

3 Episode Three

"Well, there's a job vacant... if you want it."

While plaudits directed towards the series invariably include "ahead of its time", it must also be acknowledged that it was of its time, too. There's no show on television today that would open with a near four-minute monologue about ants, the star looking idly through grass as he delivers it. Whether this is a good or bad thing is open to personal taste, and Gurney Slade isn't a series that prides itself on excess incident; many of the episodes are sparse in terms of pure content, and episode three is the gentlest of them all.
     Beautifully directed by Newley and Alan Tarrant, the film stock here is so well preserved that the DVD looks as if it was made yesterday, Newley wandering through the countryside talking to animals like some kind of existential Johnny Morris. Highlights here include Newley performing a duet of Greensleeves with a scarecrow, the use of ants to make subtle commentaries on the state of post-war Britain and, most macabre of all, the farmer's wife and hired hand who plot to murder the farmer, almost unnoticed by Newley until it's too late. It's this subversive, sinister undercurrent that makes the third episode rank so high in this list.

2 Episode Four

"Not funny... clever."

The episode where the series stops and deconstructs itself, Gurney placed on trial for making a programme and "They didn't think it was very funny". What makes this episode so astonishing (along with the promo commercials for the series) is that it accurately predicts the audience response to the programme in which they appear. It's almost impossible to believe that the makers of the series were so prescient they were able to project the bewilderment and resentment of the viewing public before the show even aired.
     At this point in the series, it had already been pushed off prime time Saturday night and thrown into a late night slot. Curiosity over the programme saw a repeat in 1963, but it's one that's generally fallen into obscurity, a series that wasn't appreciated by a mainstream audience in a time when niche programming schedules didn't exist. Although critically acclaimed and influential, it's widely forgotten, and episodes like this one uncannily depict why.

1 Episode Two

"Personally I think most people marry the first one that happens to be around."

It's tempting to read too strongly into ficticious programmes and assume that the makers are expressing their own fears on screen, and it must be acknowledged that, while Gurney Slade was Newley's idea, Dick Hills and Sid Green were the credited writers. However, if you were going to psychoanalyse an episode of Gurney Slade, this would be the one. The first episode to feature Anneke Wills (best known as Polly from Doctor Who, and credited here as Annika), Newley began an affair with her after she appeared in the programme, moving in with her while still married to his first of four wives. It's unlikely to be a coincidence that 'Gurney Slade' wears a band on his left ring finger throughout the series, which is transferred to his little finger for just this episode.
     There's much here to support claims Newley had a large part to play in the creation of the Slade character and the series: from the gravestone to lost love, to Gurney wandering the streets, encouraging a man to leave his wife and then taking away his three children. Events lead to an almost sinister conclusion, as a fairy grants Gurney a wish... a wish that turns out to be a deserted wasteland full of dismembered limbs and body parts of female shop dummies, Gurney lamenting that they're not "live ones". He encourages the children to assemble their perfect mother from the parts, before it comes to life and takes the children back. One slight detraction of the programme is the lack of continuity between shots. Look at the scene where Newley meets the fairy in the woods, one hand raised up as he speaks to the fairy, both hands on the pram for the reverse shots. It's a small but notable distraction in an otherwise well-made series.
- http://www.anorakzone.com/gurneysladerank.html

petak, 12. svibnja 2017.

Robert Downey Sr. - Greaser’s Palace (1972)

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Nizovi i nizovi stalnih iznenađenja, s Isusom u glavnoj ambijentalnoj ulozi. Buñuel i Jodorowsky dotaknuti jurećim automobilom.

‘Nearly every event in Greaser’s Palace arrives unexpectedly and unannounced; there are few movies as totally unpredictable as this one. Jesus appears as a song-and-dance man, and has an agent. Characters get shot unexpectedly and repeatedly, and return from the dead with psychedelic stories about the afterlife. A midget and a transvestite live together in a prairie homestead as man and wife. A man tries to rape a wooden Indian. Mariachi music is used as an instrument of torture. The weirdness of this world is underplayed; none of the characters, with an important exception, acknowledge or even notice that anything is even the slightest bit off. This attitude makes some of the events come off even funnier, but it also makes the proposed comedy impure and tainted. Downey never signals to us whether he’s making a joke or not, and so we’re never sure whether we’re supposed to laugh or not. A town is assembled, quietly listening to a woman sing a song about the virtue of chastity. Suddenly, a man starts screaming in pain because a man dressed as a Halloween ghost burns him with a lit cigar. He is dragged by a gang of cowboys out into a dirt road and shot by his father for interrupting the festivities. Is this funny, or disturbing? Who can say? We don’t have a stock emotional response to that kind of scene; we have to make up our reaction on the fly.’ — G. Smalley, 366 Weird Movies

“I’ve made ‘Greaser’s Palace’ sound funnier than it ever is except in little bits and pieces, that is, in gags that have nothing to do with satire or with a send-up of Christian myth. Downey is no Bunüel. He’s not even an Alexandro Jodorowsky, although there are times when ‘Greaser’s Palace’ seems to want to be as intellectually ambitious as ‘El Topo.'”–Vincent Camby, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

“Approaching the life of Christ with a sensibility informed equally by Buñuel and Mad magazine… As a product of an unusually adventurous time in cinema history, Greaser’s Palace has perverse appeal. As a comedy, it’s virtually unwatchable.”–Nathan Rabin, The A.V. Club (DVD)

“…may well be the weirdest film you ever see about the life of Christ, but it may also be the one to which you pay the most attention.”–Chris Holland, Attack of the 50-Foot DVD (DVD)

Robert Downey Sr.’s films are ribald, socially-conscious, highly experimental works that make Richard Lester’s oeuvre seem polite and Godard’s plot-heavy. Though he achieved cult success with 1969’s Putney Swope, some of Downey’s other, more radical works from the period are arguably more interesting, and their revival by way of an Eclipse box set is exceptional news. Up All Night With Robert Downey Sr. brings together five early films which show the director at his unhinged best, and if nothing else should prove a hedge against Downey becoming a mere footnote to his more famous son’s career.
A part of New York’s avant-garde film scene in the 60s, Downey screened his works alongside underground icons Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner and Kenneth Anger. What he shared with his contemporaries was a patent disregard for convention and an ability to make films on the cheap. He cast his friends and family, shot on available locations, and mostly avoided sync sound. The work transcends its technical and budgetary limitations however, owing to Downey’s impudent sensibility. Plot, realism, and good taste all go out the window. His narratives are instead random, surreal, and chock-a-block full of crass humor—call them post-modern picaresques. 

Downey’s first feature, Babo 73 (1964), is case in point. A sui generis political farce, it follows the whimsical adventures of Sandy Studsbury (Taylor Mead), the effete president of the “United Status,” who conducts affairs of state from a beach chair. “I’m morally committed to anyone who’ll vote for me,” he gleefully admits. With the help of his feckless cabinet, Studsbury makes quick work of assassinating prime ministers, bombing Albania, and congratulating himself on his job performance. Filmed in extremely unlikely locations—a crumbling house, a cemetery, a highway median—the picture makes a virtue of abstraction, like an Ionesco play shot through with Beatnik sensibility.
Taylor Mead in Babo 73

Downey’s next and more daring effort was 1966’s Chafed Elbows, the one masterpiece in the set. Composed almost entirely of still photographs, it’s a twisted formal cousin of Chris Marker’s La Jetée, the difference being that Downey’s photos wriggle, writhe and repeat to the rhythm of a bebop beat. It lends the film a cartoon-ish quality that mirrors its “story,” wherein every-doofus Walter Dinsmore (George Morgan) sleeps with his mother, gives birth to some cash, has a nervous breakdown, acts in an underground film, shoots a cop, defenestrates his cousin…and so on. Absurdity is the byword, and no one escapes Downey’s critical eye. Poets, parents, artists and cops are all variously derided as frauds.
Chafed Elbows successfully earned Downey a reputation, and after the curious docu-diversion of 1968’s No More Excuses (the less said, the better), he was able to finance the bigger budget, higher concept, Putney Swope. In it, the eponymous hero (Arnold Johnson) is the sole black employee at an advertising firm who gets promoted to Chairman of the Board by fluke. No sooner does he take over, than he replaces the white staff with black and embarks on a doomed crusade to marry his high ideals with big business. Downey’s first film to observe at least a few tenets of classical form, it’s naturally the one that went over biggest on release. It’s got a groovy, revolutionary spirit, but from a formal perspective it’s not half so daring as his previous work.
Downey went on to direct another cult favorite, the unfortunately not-included Greaser’s Palace (1972), and has had an erratic career ever since. In 1975 he made the nigh inscrutable Moment to Moment (included here in a re-cut form as Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight), then followed it in 1980 with the banal teen comedy Up the Academy. That he never found a solid industry foothold isn’t surprising; originality has never been an asset in Hollywood and Downey’s style is anything but derivative. His early works, nevertheless, retain their freshness, are still vital, and unequivocally those of an unruly American original. -    http://filmmakermagazine.com/46953-up-all-night-with-robert-downey-sr/#.WRWlxGe1vcs