Going to the cinema is expensive, buying DVDs is expensive, renting movies is expensive and torrenting is illegal (and, more importantly, doesn’t guarantee good quality sound and image). Luckily, films sometimes appear on TV. Here’s the best one this week.
Sunday 17th February
ITV4: 11.45pm – 1.45am
This week’s pick was an absolute pitch struggle between one of my favourite movies of all time, and one of the most criminally overlooked ever made. On the one hand was Mad Max 2, a film that is one of – if not the – greatest sequel ever made. Yet, in the words of famous Country singer Randy Travis, ‘on the other hand’, there was Brazilian masterpiece Black God, White Devil (Deus e o Diabo na Terra do Sol).
Following on from the low budget Mad Max, this sequel has more grit, an increased budget and enough action to keep a narcoleptic from falling asleep. In fact, given that Mad Max 2 propelled Mel Gibson’s career into Hollywood overdrive, you’ll be hard-pushed to see it on the TV schedules. Yet for some reason I can’t quite fathom, ITV have a tendency to play the cringe-worthy Beyond the Thunderdome so often you have to wonder if Tina Turner is personally in charge of scheduling the films for the network.
Back before we all found out Gibson was quite fluent in racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia (indeed, I have the vaguest hope that the past decade of bigotry was all just method-style preparation for a starring role as Hitler – after all, hope springs eternal) he was a charismatic and simply captivating male lead. When he’s on screen, you can’t help but be drawn to the man.
Put simply, the story follows our reluctant hero helping a group of settlers who are beset by a gang of marauding bikers in the aftermath of an almost-apocalyptic third world war, all in the manner of a classic loner-frontier Western. Interestingly, the hunger for oil in the film only becomes more prescient as time goes by. On show is brilliant cinematography, comic book visuals that still pop with life, a thumping, dystopic soundtrack by Brian May (the Aussie composer, not the be-permed guitarist from Queen) and a kind of sinewy self-knowing macho energy that’s sadly missing from mainstream films in the past years (this last decade has seen ‘macho’ somehow become a byword for thumping your chest and being casually homophobic, yes 300, I’m looking at you).
Now, over on Film 4 on Thursday morning (1.10am – 3.45am) is the exquisite and simply incredible Brazilian masterpiece that is Black God, White Devil. Simply by virtue of a coin flip, this narrowly missed out on the spot as a Pick of the Week, but that in no way suggests it’s not deserving of the title. Only available on DVD since 2008, this is a true gem for anyone interested in World Cinema and if you watch one film this week, make it this.
Set in the 1940s, Black God, White Devil is an epic film that follows anti-hero Manuel as he kills his exploitative boss, and then flees with his wife across the plains. Manuel soon finds himself under the sway of a messianic preacher and self-proclaimed saint who actively supports ritualistic violence. Following some rather disturbing scenes, the couple then move on and become embroiled with a gang of ruthless revolutionaries who use their doctrine to murder and rob from rich and poor alike. On it goes until Manuel learns that his destiny is his own hands. A hefty dose of stark imagery and social portent: just right for a graveyard timeslot.
Such is its rarity; I couldn’t actually find a trailer for the film with English subtitles, so here it is in glorious Portuguese. Perfectly timed for the award season, I will actually use this as a deft example of why award ceremonies are pointless: this epic film lost at Cannes to the most vapid dog turd of a musical that has ever been defecated out of the bowels of the French film industry. Let me introduce you to 1964 Palme d’Or winning Les parapluies de Cherbourg (click the link and if you can sit through the whole thing you have my respect and sympathy). Recitative singing (taking dialogue and singing it) is just one of the worst excesses of the genre. Now if you take what is often the most excruciating part of any musical and stretch that insipid rubbish over an hour and a half you get what I like to call ‘a reason to throw a brick at the telly’. Rant over.
This was written by Robert James Taylor. He is, for all intents and purposes, a human.