Synapse to Cintax
In the instantaneous arena of the blogosphere, this post would likely be considered by the naysayers as ‘old news;’ by now they’ve already been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, incinerated it and threatened to sprinkle the ashes endearingly over my next post. And then tweeted about it. Cheers naysayers.
Instantaneousness sucks anyhow. Besides, Thursday before last was a bloody good night. This saw the next instalment of the Jameson Cult Film Club with a chance to re-watch Gareth Edwards’ stupendously good feature-debut Monsters set against the intriguing backdrop of the Royal College of Surgeons. That got me thinking of another screening I recently went along to – for Julia’s Eyes – which was of that discomforting ilk of film genre that was worth shoehorning into this article. And it helped give it a snappy title. Natch.
Back to my date at the RCS for now and Monsters is a film that completely defies its relatively tiny budget. I always delight in telling people part of a conversation that a friend overheard when leaving a showing last year; “It’s called Monsters but, tell me, where were the bloody monsters?! Rubbish.” Proof if any were needed that when a film goes completely against someone’s expectations it always throws out some interesting polemics. Something that director Gareth Edwards – along with his editor on Monsters, Colin Goudie – alluded to during the Q&A which kicked off the night’s proceedings. At its heart, the film resembles a surprisingly romantic and heartfelt road movie and inspirations were drawn from the likes of Lost in Translation and Before Sunrise rather than oft-cited extraterrestrial fare like Cloverfield and District 9. On a Sci-Fi tip though, it shares something with, say, Serenity in the sense that, while the environment and surroundings add resonance (e.g. real-life road signs adjusted in post-production to mark the presence of the creatures), the on-screen relationships don’t become lost in them.
What more did I learn from the Q&A? Well, aside from a reminder that he is lined-up to direct Godzilla, Edwards is unpretentious and self-effacing. He’s also not one to knowingly self-promote having already predicted a big ol’ chunk of the audience wouldn’t even like the film anyway.
Apparently the venue was also turned into an ‘infected zone’ for the evening. Ok – tad twee in my book and I always wonder if someone in a parallel universe might kick off with one of the actors dressed in guerrilla-garb pointing a fake rifle in their face. He was wearing a beret – who knows what sort of Frank Spencer-hued flashbacks such actions might induce? I digress. Afterwards we were ushered towards the Hunterian Museum which contains all manner of pickled anatomical parts. Incredible, yes, although perhaps not my preferred environment in which to sup a cocktail. Remember that scene in Alien: Resurrection when the gaggle of Jean-Pierre Jeunet regulars step into a lab with failed attempts to clone Ripley sitting in jars of formaldehyde? Like that. Well, a bit anyway.
Owing to a production credit from Guillermo Del Toro, this naturally stands it in good stead. This is particularly so as The Orphanage (which he also produced) is deeply impressive with a gut-wrenchingly sad denouement. Unfortunately, this effort isn’t nearly as good as one would hope; it’s overlong and, as such, it never generates the sort of momentum to hold massive interest. The problem being that when it does lead to its not-quite-as-interesting-as-it-could-be conclusion, it’s easy to switch off.
Quick synopsis: Belén Rueda (lead of The Orphanage whose performance is, again, considerably impressive and believable) stars as the eponymous Julia who suffers from a degenerative condition which basically means she is slowly going blind. Her twin sister dies in mysterious circumstances (not a major spoiler as it happens right at the start) and she starts to investigate. That’s all I’m giving away plot-wise and, although the exploited eyesight-impaired genre (blinxploitation anyone?) has been harnessed before in films like Blink, The Eye and Wait Until Dark, it begins promisingly. Throw in a dash of Argento and a few slightly unexpected (but welcome) slasher moments (3 of the more highly gruesome variety) and you get the idea. That said there are several parts of the plot that are illogical or else forgotten about and even the very end sequence (more wistful talk about seeing the universe, geddit, ‘cos she’s blind) is ponderous. It’s a shame for a film that looks so good (a delayed-flashbulb sequence towards the end) and has so many talented people on-board. If it weren’t so drawn out it might well have more impact although the shocks are predictable and the ‘ghost’-cum-murderer-lurking-in-the-shadows figure is disappointingly conventional when it is ultimately revealed.
My next (self-imposed) task is to wade through Alejandro Jodorowsky’s complete filmography. Call it a surrealist hiatus or a rather ill-thought through plan. If I happen not to go insane by the end of it I should have a piece real soon. But if you don’t hear from me in a while then you might just know why.
To check out films in unique settings à la Monsters go to: