06 June, 2010

Fantasy in Academia & Lizard in a Woman’s Skin: FFW2010 Day 1

A 60°F June morning was a far from allegorical setting for the launch of the 9th Fantastic Films Weekend on Friday, but nevertheless, here we are on the last day of what has been a great weekend with some fantastic turn-outs for our film selections.

I only managed to make it to a splattering of events, but I had resident horror fan and dedicated FFW attendee Sarah Crowther acting as reconnoiter – more from Sarah later.

The main event on Friday was the Fantasma symposium of speakers discussing everything from Italian Horror to British Sex Films. Mark Goodall from Bradford University introduced the event which he organised in partnership with the National Media Museum, due to the recognition of a growing community interested in and treating the subject seriously.

First up was Ian Hunter, who talked on the subject of British Sex Films – an apt subject as we welcomed veteran director of said genre, Stanley Long, to FFW2010 earlier on today. Despite once being described as having “no redeeming features whatsoever”, Hunter pointed to the genre’s importance, as it was sex films which propped up the British film industry during its collapse in the 1970s.

Ian talked us through the key genres, and showed how, like horror films, they responded to changing social trends, for example, the emerging discourse of a consumerist attitude toward sex, and how they often played out a conflict between an older repressed, and younger permissive generations.

From the carnal to the incorporeal, the next guest was David Robinson talking on his paper The Infected Idyll: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, a film which is showing tonight.

David spoke about the film in terms of the cultural anxieties of the age, all of which are hinted at in the “crass juxtaposition” of the opening scene, and concluded with a reading of the film which posits an enduring conflict between urban and rural. The film although set in England, is European, and is evidently worth seeing for the confused geography and variety of regional accents alone!

I ducked out just before Russ Hunter took centre stage with his whistle stop tour of Italian horror films, which I’m not sorry I missed since he had apparently chosen some particularly gory clips to entertain us with just before lunch! I also missed Gail-Nina Anderson’s Dracula’s Cape. But not to worry – all the talks will be available as podcasts to listen to or download from our podcasts page on Wednesday.

Last speaker of the day, and star of the event in my book, was Jeremy Dyson. I’m only really familiar with Dyson’s work on The League of Gentlemen, as I’m sure most of you are, but what a sweet-natured and engaging man he is!

In Shadows and Fog, Jeremy considered the feelings evoked by watching horror and fantasy cinema from childhood, and explored the question of how terror sensations are created within cinema and television productions, when they are often so difficult to articulate. What is it that makes I Walked With a Zombie chill-inducing, while LOTR: The Return of the King leaves him cold? Obviously the answer doesn’t lie with special effects and a huge budget, instead “what you need to get this sensation is a space between what’s being shown and what’s being represented.”

Dyson took some questions from the crowd, and the use of CGI came up on more than one occasion. On this subject, Dyson was enthusiastic.

“I think we’re living in amazing times. It has to be looked back on as a golden age…we have incredible resources, but you can be swamped with choice. This is the challenge now, how you navigate that [choice]. It would be foolish to be luddite about it.”

Fantasma concluded with a screening of Secret Rites, and this was only one of a few films on offer on Friday, as the symposium was the focus for Day 1. I asked our resident horror geek, about what she had seen, and Giallo being Sarah’s favourite genre, top of the list was always going to be Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.

“Lizard in a Woman's Skin is the film that nearly caused the incarceration of its director, Lucio Fulci. The notorious director only escaped jail time thanks to the testimony of his special effects artists who produced the mannequins of the film's gore-soaked dead dogs that the court had believed to be real. Ironically, Lizard is one of Fulci's less visceral films, instead a psychadelic trip into giallo as a woman struggles to separate dream and reality following a gruesome murder. A busy house at the Museum certainly enjoyed the Festival's first foray into Fulci - and can look out for more from the horror maestro at future fests.”

More fantastic films in the next post, along with a video clip of the scintillating screentalk from Michael Armstrong.

Don’t forget that podcasts of all the talks will be available on the National Media Museum’s podcasts page from Wednesday, and are yours to download and listen to at your leisure.


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