Video City Staff A-Z of Film: C is For… (pt.3)



C is for Clueless (1995).

I was going to write on Catch 22, thinking I know at least four other members of staff who were clearly gonna grab Clueless, sharp clawed beasts that they are. However, at a recent Video City soiree, I was informed that everyone else had thought the same thing, and I had underestimated their wonderful generosity. I, therefore have been entrusted with the job of having to express the unfathomable amazingness of Amy Heckerling’s masterwork.

Where to begin; When Clueless was released I was 12 years old and oh-so-very discerning. It was a big hit with the Spice Girls crowd at my school and I didn’t think twice about not seeing it. That was a rookie film-snob error. I was a young victim of what some might call ‘Taste’. Thankfully a couple of years later I put an end to that unfortunate personal habit. Then I saw Clueless for the first time.


As someone who mostly finds comedy intensely distressing, this such a great comedy. The script is snappy and smart and packed with hidden gems, perfect for endless repeat viewing. The characters are explosive but also subtly detailed and full of surprises. The costumes are funny and glorious. The soundtrack is non-stop infectious pop hits. Clueless is a brilliant period piece. In an era where leading film makers were looking back in time, Heckerling manages to make incredibly astute observations about the time in which she is living. Observations which in 1995 seemed slick but now that time is behind us become more and more profound.

Most importantly the story is full of hope. Not the fairy-tale, boring-boy-meets-irritating-girl, everything-is-alright-in-the-end, blah-blah-blah hope, but the kind where the fearless optimist comes out on top, the kind that makes the all that Beverly Hills sunshine seem a magical and utterly believable reality … but whatever.




C is for Caravaggio (1986), Derek Jarman’s autobiographical study of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.
‘As a painter and filmmaker, Jarman saw in Caravaggio his own dominant aesthetic interests.’
Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, Caravaggio. (London, UK: BFI, 1999).

Opening with Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) on his deathbed, Jarman’s film evolves via a series of achronological episodes reconstructing the painter’s life – boy to (men and) man – and an imagined love triangle between the artist, his friend and model Ranuccio (Sean Bean) and Ranuccio’s prostitute girlfriend, Lena (Tilda Swinton).


I could spill my innards over this one all day and tomorrow.
Fun as that would doubtless be, I shall  nevertheless spare you my mess by keeping this brief. Caravaggio is one of the most touching – trembling maybe  explorations of the criminal, clinical and heavenly motives that shape our desires and attendant endeavours. Jarman’s stunning imbrication of art (both Caravaggio’s and his own), sex, violence, death, religion and economics is at once hypnotic, erotic, provocative and truly visionary.
This is a great film for great people.
C is also for Clueless (1995).

C is for Clueless
Based on Jane Austen’s Emma, Clueless takes a wonderfully satirical stance on rich American teenagers. Alicia Silverstone, who plays the character of Cher, decides to help those less privileged in the popularity and looks department than herself, with some unexpected results. There’s colourful clothes, a sumptuous soundtrack and driving lessons; what more could you want?

Gracing Our Shelves: Derek (2008)

A documentary on the late, great Derek Jarman (1942-1994), experimental film-maker and artist, a hugely influential and controversial figure in the British art, music and film scene. The documentary is by British artist Isaac Julien who curated the Derek Jarman retrospective at the Serpentine Gallery in 2008, and is written and narrated by long-time Jarman collaborator, friend and muse, Tilda Swinton.

Glitterbug (53 minute film posthumously compiled by friends from super-8  footage shot by Jarman over the course of many years, featuring music by Brian Eno):

Guardian article on the eve of the release of Derek:

Interview with Tilda Swinton on Derek Jarman from 400 Blows:

At Your Own Risk

posted by Dixie Turner

Finally Released on DVD:

On March 19th, Ken Russell’s controversial The Devils is finally being released on DVD. If you’re worried about asking for it and, say, Salo as your evening’s double-bill of choice, rest assured we’re less likely to judge you than if you came to the counter with Friends with Benefits and From Prada to Nada… So come in and grab a copy, if you dare.

Set in 17th Century France, The Devils originally received harsh criticism and an X rating for it’s disturbing violence and strong sexual and religious content.  Based on the book The Devils of Loudon by Aldous Huxley, and featuring sets designed by the young Derek Jarman, the film became notorious for, amongst other things, scenes such as the one in which nuns defile a statue of Christ, and was subsequently banned in Britian and several other countries. However, now we can all feast our eyes on the film the director describes as being about the “degredation of religious principles” and what one early critic described as a “grand fiesta for sadists and perverts.” Now that it’s finally available, we can all make up our own minds, however, if you’re of a particularly Catholic disposition you may want to pluck out your eyes before watching…