Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Forgotten Films of Childhood: The magic of IMDB Need To Know.

So, as of today my small but essential list of Enigmatic Films That I Saw Once But Can't Find (For Love Nor Money) has been resolved; IMDB's Need To Know section, for those cinephiles out there who are both wise and all-knowing, and endowed with a remarkable willingness to spend time answering the questions of idiots like me who dare to call themselves film buffs without putting the hours in.

About six months ago I asked about two films I saw late at night when I was about 11 or 12, something like that. As a fan of controversial films, and satirical films, I felt I couldn't ignore the niggle anymore, so I stopped googling myself and just asked IMDB. Within about an hour the Overlords of the Internet Movie Database gave me the answers.

Today I asked about the only other film I've wanted to find again but found impossible to find despite it being a fairly specific story - all I could remember was that it was about a war / revolution country, European I thought but not a country, I was, ahem... all that familiar with culturally. I could remember it was about an important man in the resistance movement having to go into hiding with his family, and they build a life in the bowels of a house, protected by a friend on the outside. But the friend is corrupt, and doesn't tell them when everything settles outside, instead keeping them in hiding for years, maybe decades for his personal gain, while the familial community continue to wait hopefully to be able to emerge. Instead of a dramatic story about war and violence, it was more about the family, the lost time through misdirected faith and trust they placed in their friend. Or so I remember.

Within four hours someone told me it's 'Underground' by Emir Kusturica. 

Seems all those times I just tried to google my way to it should have been enough, seen as it's won the Palme d'Or. Clearly I must have been googling all the wrong things.

Here's a clip from the film, though since I haven't seen this film in way over a decade, I have no idea if this is a huge spoiler or a mini spoiler...

The other films were less revered (or for that matter, censured) that Underground, and rightly so.

The first was about an American god fearing town with no money who agree to all give up smoking as one, and to get through their withdrawal they compensate with lots of sex. Or that's what I remembered; it turned out it's a rather scathing but poorly thought out satire with a sideplot about the tobacco company giving a prize for this trying to sabotage them so they won't win, and people die at the end at the closing day presentation.

The second was a rape revenge film, and basically instigated my obsession until my 20's with rape revenge films. It was about a nice, sweet teacher who goes on a date with a supposedly nice guy, until they get to his place and he proceeds to force her into bed via the barrel of a gun. He enjoys telling
her, while still holding the gun, the extent to which she enjoyed it, and then as she starts to slink away thinking it's all over, he decides they should go again. After that she toughens up, with a montage of several cliches of a woman toughening up (she don't take no shit from her male students anymore, she cuts her long beautiful hair to a short cut, stops dressing pretty) but then one of these toughening up motifs takes over the story - she starts learning to use a handgun herself, and when she knows what she's doing, she returns to her rapist, terrorises him, repeats back at him all the things he said to her, how much he's enjoying it all, and then she shoots him in the kneecaps. Either the last scene or thescene before the last scene was the guy in the Hospital being advised by a doctor, focused on his face as he thinks about how he got there. Turned out it's called Handgun and stars Kathleen Sullivan, but it's seems pretty hard to get now; the direct and simplistic narrative really impressed and it shaped my initial awareness of the concept of gender inequality and public perception of sexual violence. And yeah, I loved the fact it was about a woman deciding what she thought was a fitting retribution for her violator when society let her down, and proactively making that happen. But then again I was, like 11 at the time - it didn't seem to make much of an impact generally, and I've never met anyone else who knew about it. The only film I've ever seen that had the same tone, the same sort of character was probably Hard Candy - defiantly driven, willing to break unequal law in order to contribute to redressing the balance, violent and vicious but controlled and precise. You rarely see films about women getting their own back, exploiting the same attitudes to the law and perception of blame that the male characters' do, but without desolving into an uncontrollable mess when the plan needs to be executed with a level head and steady hand. I'll probably never get to see it again though, so I guess I'll never figure out if it was any good...

Either way, now I've filled in these gaps, I feel kind of disappointed. I think I enjoyed my little enigmas and it feels like I'm losing something precious. Hopefully it'll pass. Hopefully when I get my hands on Underground I'll discover it's as thought provoking as I think I remember it.

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