Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Cinema of Death|
Director: 5 Films of Underground Cinema
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Cult Epics proudly presents UNDERGROUND CINEMA. — Underground Cinema first appeared in the 1960s with groundbreaking works by filmmakers as Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol, whose films dealt with provocative su... more »
Uneven, but ultimately poor collection
Steward Willons | Illinois | 06/29/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This set was a major disappointment. Cult Epics usually releases rare, hand-picked cinematic oddities - unusual films that are interesting and artistic. I was assuming this would follow, but I was sadly mistaken. Lets look at the films one-by-one:
Pig - I realize that the presence of Rozz Williams carries heavy significance to some, so I want to disclose that I don't know much about him, his music, or the circumstances surrounding his untimely death. I can see that the film is personal for him, but not knowing much about the man, I understand that some parts were lost on me. However, I am very familiar with both surrealism and the "cinema of transgression", so I will comment from that perspective.
My biggest complain is, who the heck is Nico B. and why does he dredge up faux transgression in 1995, more than ten years after the innovative filmmakers he so liberally copies? Richard Kern, Lydia Lunch, Nick Zedd, and others found a unique aesthetic with their super 8 cameras and subversive subject matter. It was incredibly powerful and influential in its time, so why is Nico B attempting to film in their style, as if it were still the 80s?
There are some interesting images and overall, it's got some cool things going for it. I just wonder why Rozz didn't work with someone with a better vision for the film. What if E. Elias Merhidge (Begotten) and Williams had made the film? Wow - how amazingly mind-bending would that have been?
Hollywood Babylon - Lets stay with Nico B for now. Hollywood Babylon is about five minutes of grainy footage of the "Museum of Death", which appears to be a small shrine to dead Hollywood stars - anyone who died under unusual circumstances. Along the way we see some classic dead bodies such as Marilyn Monroe's infamous morgue picture. What's the point exactly? I have no idea.
I'll grudgingly give Nico B the benefit of the doubt and assume the footage is intentionally grainy for some aesthetic reason, but what is the purpose? To make the film itself look like a grim "found" object of death? It would work if he was showing grainy footage of actual dead bodies, but he's just taking us on what can only be called "a 'creepy' survey of a 'creepy' museum". This is definitely the most worthless thing on the disc. At least it's short.
Le Poem - This features a real human autopsy, but I want to believe it's for something more than shock value. The reading of Rimbaud's "The Drunken Boat" tells the spectator to view the body in a poetic sense - that is to say, as a symbol. If we invoke the Lacanian symbolic order, we have a range of tools for examining the pathology of this human, once like us, full of life, now dead. It's an interesting "mirror" in which to examine our own mortality. Unfortunately, photographers such as Joel Peter Witkin have been doing this for years to much greater effect. Since Borkowski's cinematography is so uninteresting, there's really no benefit. Perhaps the Rimbaud poem adds another level - that's neither here nor there - but the film is not as effective as it should be. We are never pressed to engage in any meaningful examination of the dead man. It seems that Borkowski thought that the very presence of a corpse would be sufficient, but I believe, even by 1986, it's audience was so jaded as to feel nothing from a film this tame.
Dislandia - This film actually feels a lot like "Begotten", but it's visuals are not nearly as creative. Merhidge is a gifted director who possesses a singular ability to photograph the otherworldly. I cannot say the same for Viveros, the director here. He's clearly trying for surrealism borrowing heavily from Dali, but it feels very derivative. I'm all for borrowing from the past, but it must be in a thoughtful way, not like a simple transplantation. The film runs slightly longer than the rest and becomes tiresome at the mid point due to repetition and lack of visual interest.
To be fair, there are a couple striking images, but nothing to make it worth sitting and watching for the duration. If you take into account the fact that this film was made in 2005, you must scratch your head in disbelief that people out there are still making this type of film. I'm a huge fan of art film, but I really hate this type of posturing - it gives the true art film a bad name.
Adoration - This film *almost* justifies the cost of the DVD. Olivier Smolders is quite an interesting character. Incidentally, I'm eagerly anticipating the release of some of his work by Cult Epics (this bomb of a release notwithstanding, they make great DVDs). Finally, a film in this collection has the sense to play with some robust cinematic concepts. The most obvious is the familiar debate concerning passive spectatorship, voyeurism, and the mutual guilt of those that watch. Smolders uses both image and sound creatively to both make the spectator aware of the cinematic medium and to position the camera itself as a partner in crime - it watches but does nothing. The sound consists only of what the main character expressly records - a woman reading a poem. Pieces of this poem are repeated at intervals such to change their meaning by re-juxtaposition of increasingly disturbing imagery.
The film is short like the rest, so I can't exactly recommend buying the set just for this one film, but it IS worth checking out. Cult Epics throws in some post cards on thick, glossy paper. Those who own the Arrabal collection know what I'm talking about. I'm not sure why they chose this particular medium for a "bonus feature", but they are kind of nice.
Overall - Since most of these films are intentionally fuzzy, grainy, and distressed, video quality is not really applicable. Similarly, the sound quality varies from film to film. I must say that I'm disappointed Cult Epics would release a DVD full of content this weak. Maybe I'm too cynical, but I half-way believe that they released this set in a limited edition because so few people would actually want to buy it. While I'm glad I saw Adoration, I wouldn't buy the set again.
This set is uneven, but leaning towards the negative."
A collection of unrealted shorts under a misleading title
James Bowles | Memphis, TN | 05/13/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I was interested in this primarily because I collect Cult Epics films and purchased it on blind hope that I would enjoy it. It consists of 5 short films: Adoration, Dislandia, Pig, Hollywood Babylon, and Le Poeme. It also has Director intros and 5 postcards with a still from each film. I have to say that I am overall disappointed with the collection. First off, Pig, this title had already been release by Cult Epics in a much nicer set with extras that are not included here. But the movie itself is great for Rozz Williams fans or people just into the student film, symbolic type cinema. Dislandia I hated, I don't know if I missed something but there just wasn't any art to it for me. Hollywood Babylon is a tribute, and consists of Nico B. panning a camera on some museum pictures. I don't know what I was supposed to see in that. Le Poeme was interesting, not much in the way of a movie, but more of an expression. Now as for the last, which they have on the disc as the first, Adoration. This one I loved, it was great as a short film, as an artistic piece, and in terms of cinematography. I recommend you save it for last. I won't go much into what each of the films is about because the only thing you might get out of most of these films is just seeing them without knowing what to expect.
So in short, I recommend this primarily to collectors due to its low production quantities and the fact that it's individually numbered. As far as people looking for artistic cinema or a gore fest as the title might suggest, I think you'd be dissapointed."
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 09/17/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Cinema of Death" is a hard DVD to review. A collection of five pieces of what could be called "video art"; they are all black and white (except for the last one) surrealistic scenes involving disturbing imagery themed on death and pain. The films are often intentionally grainy, often lacking anything like a story, and reminded me of a mix between the famous "curse video" from the film Ring and the original film in the Japanese The Guinea Pig series.
I could not imagine watching these as straight films. There might be people interested in doing this, but the lack of storytelling, the focus on blending imagery with sound, and the surrealistic savagery simply cannot hold my attention for the length of each piece, about 20 minutes, with some shorter and some longer. What I did find is that they work perfectly as a sort of moving wallpaper, something to run in the background at a Goth/techno club or during a Halloween party. The bizarre and disturbing nature, the lack of cohesive storyline, all provide an atmosphere that enhances another activity. On that hand, "Cinema of Death" works very well, and it is from that viewpoint that I am reviewing the DVD.
"Adoration" is the first piece, and is sort of a one-act play about famous Japanese cannibal Sagawa Issei who invited Dutch student Renée Hartevelt to his house for a literary conversation, then shot her in the neck and spent the next two days indulging in necrophilia and cannibalism with her corpse.
"Dislandia" is a free-form surrealism piece involving a young girl, papier-mâché masks and a variety of other disturbing imagery. For some reason, this segment reminded me of the game Lunch Money.
"Pig" shows Christian Death front man Rozz Williams in a wordless bondage and piercing show that is the most realistic, and thus the most difficult to watch.
"Hollywood Babylon" is a grainy tour through the California Museum of Death, housing photos from Kenneth Anger's famous book Hollywood Babylon, including Marilyn Monroe's autopsy photograph.
"Le Poem" reads Rimbaud's "The Drunken Boat" over the top of an actual autopsy.
As far as the DVD goes, there are some interesting special features where the various directors introduce their films, and what their intentions where while shooting.
People looking for a gore-fest aren't going to be too happy with "Cinema of Death", even with the very real "human as meat" scene from "Le Poem". It is much more of an "artistic" style, although I use the term loosely. I still think it makes a great background movie, and can wrench a few squirms out of party goers not expecting to see a penis piercing and a dead man's eyelids being cut off."