April 2006

Pervert!

Pervert! poster Russ Meyer once said: “What the public wants are big laughs and big tits and lots of ‘em. Lucky for me that’s like I like, too.” It appears that writer Mike Davis and director Jonathan Yudis are very much on the same wavelength.

Pervert! starts with James (Sean Andrews) driving through the desert to spend the summer with his estranged father, Hezekiah (Darrell Sandeen). On arrival, he discovers that his dear old dad is now living with the rather lovely Cheryl (Mary Carey), who takes quite a liking to James.

This is quite a turn up since James hasn’t had a lot of luck with women until now. But, of course, the good times can’t last forever and when the bodies start to pile up, James is forced to accept that there is a serial killer on the loose and take matters into his own hands…

This is not the most complex plot in the world and, quite frankly, if you’re looking for depth you really are in the wrong place. What Pervert! offers is plenty of jokes, a smattering of splatter and lots of breasts, all packaged within an amiably silly atmosphere. And, on this promise, the film delivers superbly.

The characters are a broadly drawn collection of clichés and stereotypes and the acting isn’t the strongest I’ve ever seen. But far from being a problem, this adds to the gloriously campy nature of the film. And this is a deliberately campy film clearly made by people who both know and love the genre in which they have chosen to work.

The mood of the film is underlined perfectly by the soundtrack which – with its often silly effects and occasionally ominous tone - would be perfectly at home on a feature length cartoon. As such, it adds much, both to the sense of fun of the film and to the general air of unreality that permeate the proceedings.

And in keeping with the sensibility of the film, the action and the dialogue are way over the top and often tacky. And this is deliberate. This type of film is inherently silly and the creative team behind Pervert! have embraced this silliness and played the film for laughs throughout.

Pervert! is packed with jokes, which are linked together with a series of sight gags. And breasts. Not every joke works, but they come so thick and fast that for every gag that falls flat, there are always several more on the way. And breasts.

It’s a wonderfully silly sex comedy and a glorious tribute to the exploitation films of Russ Meyer that not only understands Meyer’s sense of fun, his disregard for authority and his sly subversiveness but brings it all, fully formed, into the 21st century.

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta V for Vendetta starts by providing a bit of British history. In 1605 a group of Catholic plotters planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament. They failed and, on 5th November, Guy Fawkes was caught underneath the House of Lords with gunpowder, matches and touchpaper. Fawkes was arrested and, in 1606, executed.

The film itself is set in the near future. America has collapsed into civil war and, in Britain, power hungry politician, Adam Sutler (John Hurt) has cashed in on a terrorist crisis to turn the country into an authoritarian dictatorship with heavy religious overtones.

Evey (Natalie Portman), an assistant at the government controlled television station and aspiring actress, is out after curfew when she runs into trouble in the form of a gang of thugs. She realises that she’s in much bigger trouble than she initially thought when it turns out that these thugs are part of Sutler’s secret police.

Enter V (Hugo Weaving), a Guy Fawkes masked hero, and Evey is saved. But it’s not over yet because V is also a terrorist with a penchant for explosives. And Evey, whether she likes it or not, is now involved in his campaign…

V for Vendetta is probably the first truly memorable film to be released in 2006. Unsurprisingly, given that the film was written by the Wachowski brothers and that director James McTeigue was previously the assistant director on the Matrix films, the set pieces are spectacular. But what really held the film together for me was the relationship between V and Evey. It’s this relationship that imbues the film - which could easily have become yet another special effects driven extravaganza - with a level of humanity that is essential to both the story and the ideas that underlie it.

Of course, the other thing that sets this film apart is that it is a very political film and one that explores a number of ideas, several of which are not only very true but also in dire need of airing.

The underlying premise of the film is that in times of crisis - whether its real or perceived - politicians respond to the pressure to “do something” by passing poorly considered laws that chip away at established liberties, often without having any real effect on the perceived crisis. And once these liberties are lost, become very difficult - if not impossible - to recover.

The proof of this can be seen in the US in the case of the Patriot Act and in Britain with the government’s attempts to introduce ID cards, extend the limit for detention without charge and the frighteningly vague anti-terrorism legislation.

The character of Adam Sutler is also well worth discussing. Not only for the depiction of the way in which an unscrupulous politician can exploit a moral crisis for his own aims, but for the way that religious belief can be exploited to justify any act.

And this, of course, brings us to V. V is unquestionably a terrorist; he’s driven by a desire for vengeance and is seeking to violently overthrow the existing government. And this, of course, raises the rather uncomfortable question of how much our definition of terrorism is defined by perspective.

V for Vendetta is an adaptation of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd and, visually, its comic book roots are apparent. That said, the look of the film is a little more generic than that of the book – where Lloyd envisioned a grimly dystopian future London, McTeigues London is much like the modern city. This, I think, adds to the strength of the film by bringing the events that much closer to home.

This is probably the most faithful adaptation of any of Alan Moore’s work to date, which isn’t really saying a great deal when you consider what has gone before. The major themes and story elements from the original although there are differences – most significantly in that the original story was an outraged reaction to the unyielding Thatcherism of ‘80s Britain while the film version unashamedly introduces a post 9/11 sensibility. These changes, however, do work not only in storytelling terms (apart from a couple of stumbles), but also in terms of retaining the relevance of the original in the present day.

V for Vendetta is, unashamedly, an action film. But it’s an action film with something to say, about moral panics, creeping authoritarianism, about the power of symbols and about individual resistance.

The film throws up questions rather than answers, but these are questions that need to be asked and for this reason, if no other, it is a film that is well worth seeing.

It helps, of course, that the action parts of the film are all suitably spectacular.