Carnival: Party-Starters and Party-Poopers

With carnival weekend upon us, some may laugh with unfettered joy, whilst others contemplate whether adding a dial combination lock to their front door is going to far…

If you are of the former persuasion, here are a few Carnival-inspired pick-me-up type film suggestions to get you/keep you in the mood:



2da70df2_orpheusfront1 Made in 1959 and filmed in Brazil by French director, Marcel Camus, Black Orpheus re-frames the ancient Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice amongst the favelas and Carnaval of Rio.



18771126A dizzying documentary with some of the jumpiest, most beautiful music you could hope to clap your ears on… An intimate exploration and exposition of gypsy music and life through some of their greatest performers. If you want to set your own soundtrack to Carnival, here’s a good place to start.


MPW-16403If gypsy music isn’t quite your thing, jump on board the wild Festival Express train, carrying some of the greatest performers of the 60s and 70s rock music scene as they endeavour to tour Canada.



Fierce and beautiful documentary on the New York voguing scene and drag balls of the 80s. Show Madonna how it’s done with your post-viewing moves…


TourneePosterVivacious little film with actor and director, Mathieu Amalric, playing the manager of a team of American burlesque dancers on tour in Paris. Watch this with your feathers on, and then venture out to join the rest of London’s fabulous peacocks.


tears_of_the_black_tigerThai Technicolor-style western. What else do you need?



If you are one of those people for whom Carnival makes you feel:


then how about something a bit more soothing? Why not go on retreat..?


e933481537a818e35445d9c716054f76.medium_448x337Documentary on monastic life inside the Grande Chartreuse in France.



Wheel_of_time_posterWerner Herzog documentary on the mandala ritual in Tibetan Buddhism.


BARAKA-Arrow-FilmsThe ultimate in bliss-out viewing. Watch with your backpack filled and ready to go.



posted by Dixie Turner



Video City A-Z of Film – Staff Picks: B Films (But Not Necessarily ‘B-Films’…) (Pt.2)


B is for Ballast (2008)

B is regretfully not for Billy Brown, “Hero” of Vincent Gallo’s 1998 Buffalo 66, but rather for Lance Hammer’s 2008 debut feature Ballast.

Ballast, which came out on DVD last year, is set in and inspired by the Mississippi Delta, a dreary and downtrodden area of the American south. The region has a distinct cultural heritage and is considered the birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll, with numerous Delta Blues and jazz musicians influencing the early pioneers of the genre.

Today, and shown bleakly through Ballast, this cultural vibrancy is gone. The Delta brought business to it because of the land’s rich fertility, bringing a large slave population with it. Now that the soil is depleted and the production of cotton in the area no longer economically viable, the business has left and the communities raised there have been left without modern infrastructure and without care for their well-being. Houses left to rot, racial inequality in public schools and lack of employment opportunity, leave the area unable to function as a community and care for itself.

Ballast is not a political film, nor is it a film that begs its audience to weep for the characters it portrays. It’s opening half hour feels like the beginnings of a The Wire-esque gangland thriller, chronicling a young man’s descent into crime, but through its sparse language and naturalistic performances, the pace soon decelerates as we watch the family at the films’ centre try to deal with the death of one of its’ members. Over the films’ 96 minutes we are subsumed into British cinematographer Lol Crawley’s stunning photography and the gentle unravelling of the films’ narrative, which upon completion leaves you uncertain of both the family and the regions future. Akin to Debra Granik’s 2010 Winter’s bone, it is an unrelenting portrayal of poverty in rural America, told through deeply affecting visuals and performances of real power.



B is for… Bad Lieutenant (2009)

Don’t be misled by the title. This isn’t a remake or a sequel to Abel Ferrara’s 1992 film but it is one of the most waywardly enjoyable films you’re ever likely to see.

Bad Lieutenant could have been yet another corrupt cop flick with a hip hop villain (in this case Xhibit) and a pair of out of favour leading men – Nic Cage and the increasingly wide-faced Val Kilmer. Fortunately Herzog fills it with delirious ideas and lose energy to create a bizarre journey into the ecstatic truth of evil.

Cage is back to his best here, giving the most beautifully unhinged central performance since Christopher Walken in Donald Cammell’s Wild Side (search it out).

Herzog’s instinct is key to this film’s success and Cage commits fully to become his modern-day Klaus Kinski.

This film is no masterpiece – many parts don’t gel and the plot isn’t up to much – but who cares about plot when Herzog delivers a perfect antidote to Hollywood blandness. Bad Lieutenant wallows in personal lunacy with unflinching, gob-smacking, brilliance. One line to whet your appetite:

“What are those iguanas doing on my fucking coffee table?!”



B is for Black Orpheus (1959)

Black Orpheus  – set at the carnival in Rio; an amazing combination of music, colours and tragedy. Based on the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, it won an Academy Award in 1960 for Best Foreign Language Film.

Watch the original not the remake!