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Running Wild

Thoughts on the book by J.G. Ballard
"In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom."
The problem with being prescient is that sooner or later the rest of the world catches up with you, leaving your predictions, once innovative and shocking, entirely out-of-date. It could be argued that such a fate has befallen "Running Wild."
Written by J.G. Ballard as a response to the Hungerford massacre, "Running Wild" outlines, in forensic detail, the peculiarities of a strange killing spree. The entire adult population of a gated, upper-middle-class, suburban enclave along the Thames valley, is dead, their children abducted. Over the course of the book, a psychiatric advisor from Scotland Yard will piece together the various clues and oddities surrounding the case until the shocking truth becomes clear.

Running Wild [J.G. Ballard, 1988]:
When Ballard wrote the book in the late 1980s, the concept of the "spree killing" was something of a rarity in the U…
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American Graffiti

Thoughts on a film directed by George Lucas
Watch it as you might watch a "Star Wars" movie; as an adventure populated by alien cultures and customs that are fascinating to us precisely because they're so different from our own. The past here is not a foreign country, but a distant planet drifting in orbit. The planet Americana.
Against a twilight blue sky, the neon lights of Mel's Drive-In restaurant take on the appearance of a flying saucer. A vast space station giving refuge to weary rebels battling, not across the stars, but along the two-lane blacktop of suburban California. They stop here to refill and refuel, making connections, getting into fights, before climbing back into the leather-lined cockpits of their supercharged land cruisers, to speed away into the night.

American Graffiti [George Lucas, 1973]:
Like Lucas's later film, Star Wars (1977), American Graffiti taps into something mythical. The story, a loosely connected series of character-based vignette…

Shanghai Express

Thoughts on the film by Josef von Sternberg
The history of the cinema is defined by two icons of industrial engineering: the train and the bridge. In the oldest surviving fragment of film, Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge (1888), photographed by the mysterious and enigmatic French film pioneer Louis Le Prince, the bridge itself becomes a symbol. Not just a geographical setting chosen for narrative purposes, but something more significant.
Conventionally, the bridge is a link between places and people, allowing individuals to travel outside of their own location, and to experience something different and new. However, a bridge can also provide a theoretical link between psychological and sociological states, such as the before and after. For Le Prince, hisbridge linked the pre-cinema to the post-cinema worlds, marking the point at which this new medium, as then still in its infancy, connected us to new cultures, ideas and expressions.
After the bridge came the train and with it the journey; …

The Year in Film 2019 - Part Four

Happy as Lazzaro [Alice Rohrwacher, 2018]:
Watched: May 04, 2019
The furious social commentary of the film put me in mind of an old quote attributed to the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard; or more specifically, to Godard's character in his own great masterpiece, First Name, Carmen (1983): "When shit's worth money, the poor won't have assholes."The sentiment reverberates throughout Happy as Lazzaro, where the saintly nature of the central character, held, along with the rest of his fellow villagers, in a perpetual cycle of poverty and subservience, like hostages to their own employers, gives an added weight to the film's condemnation of capitalist exploitation. Like M. Night Shyamalan's much maligned but brilliant The Village (2004), Happy as Lazzaro plays with the perception of time and the idea of characters imprisoned, not by lock and key, but by manipulation; by the intentional withholding of information by those in positions of power. In both films, the subse…

The Year in Film 2019 - Part Three

El patrullero (Highway Patrolman) [Alex Cox, 1991]:
Watched: Mar 17, 2019
If one filmmaker dominated 2019 for me, it was Alex Cox. Earlier in the year I read his 2008 memoir, "X-Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker", and greatly enjoyed its informative and always self-deprecating approach. I purchased two more of Cox's excursions into the literary world, his 2017 book "I am (Not) a Number: Decoding the Prisoner" and 2009's "10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western", and found both to be of a similar value. Inspired by the books I was also watching and re-watching Cox's films. Of those that were new to me, his films The Winner (1996), Revengers Tragedy (2002), Searchers 2.0 (2007) and Bill the Galactic Hero (2014) are either excellent or better than their reputations suggest, however one film stood out as a definite highlight. Filmed in Mexico following Cox's departure from Hollywood, El patrullero – or Hig…