La Tour Eiffel – the view from the top

Still processing pictures and some video from the brilliant Paris trip; there’s about 300-odd pictures up on the Woolamaloo Flickr already (there you can click on the ‘all sizes’ button to see the full size versions, handy for detail on some of the aerial shots of the city) and I still have a number to sort and upload. Today though I uploaded some video clips I shot from the top of the Eiffel Tower. We walked up the first two levels – you can take stairs or the lift up the legs, so we opted to walk up just because hey, we can say we did! Final segment is by lift only and they run up the main central spire of the tower. The views, as you can imagine, are amazing – the whole of the City of Light spread out below you. The first one, looking north, is more than a little windy!

When we got to the west facing side we noticed a football match going on at a sports ground below – from this height it looked like a Subutteo game! Talk about grandstand seating…

Out of the wind on the south facing side looking down into the Parc des Champs and the Ecole Militaire with the Montparnasse Tower in the distance (an ugly modern building which most Parisians hate, but apparently gives great views of the Eiffel Tower from the top of it and if you are in it you don’t see the ugliness of the modern tower, which is very out of keeping with the rest of its area), then pan round towards the Latin Quarter and Les Jardins de Luxembourg (which our hotel was next to) and the Pantheon (which has more than a passing resemblance to the front of St Paul’s):

And of course a quick view looking Eastwards along the Seine towards Les Invalides and further in the distance Notre Dame:

Continental Comics

While I was in Paris I took the opportunity of browsing in some bookstores and bouquinistes (the rare and second hand booksellers with the lockups by the Seine) for some bandes dessinée (French comics, basically). Unlike the English language book world comics and graphic novels are taken more seriously as culture and art; we cover a tiny bit of the European scene on the FPI blog but what gets translated into English and republished for the UK and US markets is pretty limited compared to what actually gets published in Europe so I decided I would have a look at some BD while I was there, my basic and rusty French not withstanding and ended up writing an article out of it for the FPI blog last weekend, which I’m repeating below:

Apologies to Wim for appropriating his usual title for this post (normal continental correspondent service from Belgium will be resumed shortly), but I’m just back from a terrific break in Paris where, as well as the usual tourist pastimes of marvelling at the motoring madness that is the Circus Maximus around the Arc de Triomphe (the greatest free show in the City of Light) or wondering if it was permissible to push very loud and irritating backpackers off the Eiffel Tower, I managed to have a couple of little browses through some bandes dessinée. Sadly the first dedicated comics shop – Super Hero Libraire – was closed when we passed it (unlike the UK French shops don’t always stick to the regular 9 to 6 sort of hours every day, but many are open into the evening, so its worth checking hours if there is a specific store you want to catch) and it was too far from our hotel to make a return visit feasible.

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(French one volume edition of V For Vendetta and a big dollop of Wolverine – did you know Logan spoke French?)

But this is France and unlike Britain you can find BD pretty much wherever books are sold – even the famous bouquinistes with their distinctive green lock-ups along the banks of the Seine often feature both BD albums and old comics issues, although since some of these may be rare rather than simply second hand you have to watch the prices. I came across a multi-volume series collecting V for Vendetta en Français and was quite tempted to pick them up, but at just shy of 20 Euros per volume it was just too pricey.

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(one of the windows of the Super Hero Librairie; in the bottom left shelf you can see Chroniques Birmanes which Wim reviewed here last week)

Still, the bouquinistes are something any book lover will want to enjoy, whether you are looking for BD, paperback novels or any other literature; actually on a spring day simply browsing among them as the barges move along the Seine, the simple pleasure of rummaging through used books combined with being outdoors and sightseeing. One stand in particular had an interesting mix of French BD and English language titles, so you’d see second-hand Bilal albums next to a rack of old Daredevil issues. As with second hand and antiquarian bookstore here though, the bouquinistes choose their opening hours according to arcane signs among the stars and from a formula calculated using an ancient equation worked out by Diderot, so it is pure luck which ones will be open or closed when you go past at any time of day or evening, but hey, if you’re there its as good as an excuse as any for a walk long the banks of the Seine without feeling like a total tourist.

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(some of the bouquinistes by the Seine, near Notre Dame)

In the bouquiniste stands, the comics stores and the mainstream bookshops it is also common to come across English language titles translated into French – the aforementioned V Pour Vendetta, of course, but quite a diverse selection, even in mainstream bookstores (some of which had graphic novel sections almost half as big as you’d find in specialist comics stores here, and that’s just adult BD, not counting the younger reader’s material). Even in the land where comics are considered the Ninth Art you’re still going to find the ‘underwear perverts’ as Boing Boing refers to superheroes, translated and nestling among the slimmer, hardback BD albums – as with any comics store its hard not to spot some X-Men titles.

Kirkman and Adlard’s excellent, Romero-influenced zombie series The Walking Dead seemed popular too and I spotted several large paperback translated collections cropping up in a number of places. There’s something fascinating about leafing through the pages of something you’ve read but now in another language (and this seems universal – plenty of the many tourists who come to Edinburgh like to pick up Tolkien in bookstores here, for example, to read in English having read it in French, German etc). In one of the many bookstores between the Saint Michel and Latin Quarter areas I also came across a very handsome, thick collection of Eddie Campbell’s early work. You’ll appreciate the irony that if I want to track down most of that work by an acclaimed British artist at home I’d have to go second hand because it’s currently out of print, yet in France I can find a very fine-looking collection in an ordinary bookstore. Then again the French probably appreciate it more; “Monsieur Campbell, sacre bleu, ‘e is a true artiste de BD.” (and of course, they are right). And I noticed quite a few artists familiar to me via their translated works which have come out from Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, NBM, First Second and Fantagraphics over the years, from Trondheim to Zograf.

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(just some of the BD on offer in Gibert Jeune in the Saint Michel area of Paris)

Of course while you’re there you want to have a look at some European titles. Now my French is pretty basic and those school lessons seem a long time ago, but one of the advantages the comics form offers is (usually) less actual text to comprehend (or not!) and the visual aide of sequential pictures, so even when your command of French is less than stellar there’s a lot of extra context to give you a hand. It doesn’t make the medium completely accessible and bypass the linguistic barriers (unless it is a ‘silent’ strip), but if you have even a small grasp of the language a comic is going to be a much easier way to try and interact a bit more with another tongue.

That shouldn’t be surprising to us; after all we first encourage the comprehension of written language and structure in children using picture books. And living as I do in Edinburgh, as awash with visitors as Paris, I’ve seen a number of adult tourists deliberately picking up Asterix and Tintin in English to take home because it is a great way to try and get more into another language, so I thought I’d take a similar tact and ended up coming home with some Jodorowsky – Les Technopères, with fabulous science fiction art from Zoran Janjetov which made it worth picking up just to admire – and on spotting a recent collection (just published by Air Libre/Dupuis in January) by this year’s Grand Prix winners at Angoulême, Dupuy and Berberain, Un Peau Avant la Fortune, I thought that would be worth a bash too.

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(cover to Dupuy and Berberian’s recently published Un Peau Avant la Fortune, published Air Libre/Dupuis and (c) Dupuy and Berberian)

To be honest I could easily have blown more money picking up several more, but since I don’t know how well I will cope with them it seemed prudent to limit myself (and spend the remaining money on wine). But language aside it is hard to resist when you are faced with shelf upon shelf of BD, everything from the funny books to tales of daring Resistance heroines in wartime Paris (one book I randomly picked up had a scene with the Resistance heroine set on one of the Seine bridges I had just passed over to get to that very bookstore, sadly I can’t remember the title now), science fiction, biographical… Even if you aren’t going to buy yourself some, if you find yourself visiting France its still enjoyable for any comics fan to have a good browse through the BD section; its always good to try something different in your reading, as we’ve said here on more than one occasion (and will doubtless say again, because its true and there is so much out there just waiting to be read).

There is another way for those of us with only a limited grasp of the language to buy into the French BD experience a little more though, and it is much cheaper than buying new hardback albums – the journals. Paris is awash with newsstands and as in any city the railway and metro stations and the airports also have plenty of stores where among the newspapers, movie mags and copies of Elle (I was vaguely disappointed the French version of Elle wasn’t called ‘her’) you are likely to find several magazines and journals dedicated to BD and some specialising in manga. Of course the language barrier is still there, but if you are interested but wary because of the language a mag is a lot cheaper to buy and try than books – it’s also a good way of introducing yourself to different comics creators.

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I settled on BoDoï – “explorateur de bandes dessinées” – which has a special edition celebrating 35 years of the Grands Prix at Angoulême. For 7.50 Euros (about five pounds, slightly pricey for a mag, but it does have a lot of colour art) I got a special edition which offered up some 40 artists, with two or three pages each of art and a short bio/interview (in French, naturellement). And just check some of the artists covered here – Robert Crumb, Enki Bilal, Morris, José Muñoz, François Schuiten, Trondheim, Hugo Pratt, Moebius, Will Eisner, Jaques Tardi, Jean-Claude Forest, Jaques Lob, Neal Adams, Max Cabanes, Uderzo… That has to be worth a fiver of any comics fan’s money, surely?

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(an excerpt from Mister I, (c) Lewis Trondheim)

The art and themes on offer are as varied as the artists – Philippe Vuillemin riffs nicely on the old joke – old jokes seem to be universal, I’m pleased to note – about the young polar bear (I won’t ruin the punchline in case you’ve never heard it), Georges Wolinski offers up a take on psychotherapy which would work in almost any Western culture (especially if you’re a Woody Allen fan), Lewis Trondheim’s Mister I makes a welcome appearance with a wordless tale (so it was only the bio/interview I had to struggle to read!) and we get a quick visit to Eisner’s Dropsie Avenue.

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(Rendezvous a Paris by the one and only Enki Bilal)

Personal standouts for me came from Bilal, who I’ve always admired for his beautiful, imaginative science-fiction artwork. In this case it is just a couple of wordless pages, including one spectacular full page splash set above the Eiffel Tower. Jaques Tardi has four pages first created for the magazine L’Aisne set during the carnage of the Great War which are highly effective and moving. Even if you don’t speak word one of French I think you would still grasp the scenes of French infantrymen suffering and the word “boucherie!” repeated, larger and bolder each time until it is screaming “BOUCHERIE!” at the reader while below a smug General Nivelle stands in front of a charnel house of bones of fallen soldiers. Actually looking at a couple of the frames in Tardi’s piece I’m moved to wonder if they influenced the trench scenes in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement.
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(two pages from Jaques Tardi’s segment, these are from “la BD du Avril 16″ and although very different in style seem to me to be every bit as powerful and moving as the superb art Joe Colquhoun created for Charley’s War; originally published in L’Aisne magazine and (c) Jacque Tardi)

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Max Cabanes’ Francis Cabrel, les Beaux Dessins, inspired by a song by Francis Cabrel, showcases some beautiful artwork; again, if you can’t read the language you can just admire the luscious art of two lovers amid the trees. François Schuiten (with Benoît Peeters) has two utterly gorgeous pages, Hommage à Winsor McCay (I think you can translate the meaning of that yourselves!), paying tribute to the immortal Little Nemo (I just keep turning back to those pages and looking at the, superb), while back in the world of black and white there’s a great extract from Superdupont by Jacques Lob with artwork by the great Neal Adams; you just have to love the Superman clone meeting his French counterpart Superdupont in his vest, paunch and beret, a Reagan-esque president and something spooky going on at a vineyard (hence the need for the French hero).

So, if you are lucky enough to be going to France on holiday, keep your eyes open – even if you only have basic French there are still comics delights to be had; as a wise comics character once declared, “there’s treasure everywhere!” There are a number of comics jewels in this special issue and I will try to share some more scans from it over the coming days because they are too good to keep to myself.

More of the Louvre

Since blogger is grudgingly and slowly letting me upload some pics tonight, some more pics from Paris, still sticking with the Louvre theme:

I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid which now functions as the entrance to the Louvre, descending down into the pyramid to a vast space with the ticket desks, information and entrances to the various wings of what is probably the world’s most famous museum. Turn the other way and walk through the Jardin de Tuileries and you come out into a square leading your eyes up a line straight to the Champs Elysees and L’Arc de Triomphe.

heading into one of the wings with some of the Louvre’s astonishing amount of Classical material

Which includes the world’s original supermodel, The Venus de Milo. Who I believe is now romantically linked with Paul McCartney 🙂

La Joconde – the Mona Lisa, smiling for the many tourists. While photography seemed to be fine in most of the Louvre they did ask – as is the usual case in any gallery – not to use cameras in the rooms with the paintings, probably because so many idiots don’t know how to switch off their flash which damages them. Despite the fact I rarely use the flash I still kept my camera in my pocket for this wing, despite masses of tourists – especially the many Japanese – merrily ignoring the rule and firing camera flashes off right in front of the paintings which made me want to slap them round the head, bloody idiots. There were so many the curators didn’t even try to stop them. I broke my rule and did take one painting pic for this (no flash so I don’t feel to guilty) as people were standing right there in front of curators snapping away.

One of the things I really liked in the wings with the paintings was the fact that several artists had been allowed to set up their easels to paint their own versions of some of the works, something I found to be rather satisfying to see. Actually La Joconde wasn’t the most impressive painting there, famous as she is – the best work I saw (and there were many we didn’t have time to see properly, it is vast) was one that annoyingly I can’t remember the name of, but it reminded me of one of the Venetian paintings I raved about on here a few years back when there was an exhibition on at the Royal Scottish Academy. I wish I could remember the name or artist, but like a couple of the works I saw there it leapt out the frame at me, the colours, especially the blues, so amazingly bright and vibrant it was like the artist had painted Mediterannean sunlight right into the canvas, still pouring out of the painting centuries later.

In the Richelieu wing there was this terrific open space, essentially a sculpture garden indoors, with this amazing glass and steel roof (like a smaller version of the brilliant one now on top of the British Museum in London) shielding us from the elements so it felt like being outside but sheltered. Natural light floods this space and its twin further along the wing (these are the ones in the video clips from the other day) and a lot of artists were making the most of the light to sketch some of the friezes and sculptures; I’d imagine the statues would afford a great class in how to portray human anatomy and form and what a terrific space to draw in. Or take pictures in.

I love this space, I think I could sit here for ages

Inside the glass pyramid – I love the spiral staircase with no visible means of support (not even thin suspended wires); the column it is wrapped round is actually a lift. Its open at the top and the entire column sinks down – it doesn’t telescope down, the entire structure actually slides down into the floor, very cool!

As usual click the pics to see the larger version on the Woolamaloo Flickr stream (only 184 in the Paris set so far, still a ton to add; no doubt many more Paris pics and vids to come!)

And more Paris

I’m still beavering away processing and uploading pics of the Paris trip to my Flickr site – 184 up and I still have a ton to go, not even got as far as the Eiffel Tower pics yet. I was going to post a few of the ones I had one on here but blogger is arseing around and for some reason just not uploading images, although it seems happy to post video… So until it lets me put some more pics up and I get round to doing more pics on Flickr, here’s another short video panorama of the Louvre, this time taken from the gardens between the wings and the famous Tullieres. As it turns round you get to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance over the top of one wing of the Louvre.

Darn it, I miss Paris, although it has to be said when you live in a city like Edinburgh having to leave Paris to go home isn’t quite such a blow. I was suffering some withdrawal pangs though so towards the end of last week I wandered down to Haymarket not too far from me and into La March Francais, a French deli/cafe which fills up wine bottle right from the barrels and corks them then and there for a very reasonable rate and then parked my Magnificent Celtic Arse – or perhaps Le Derriere Celtic tre Magnifique – down for coffee and a read of my BD (Bandes Dessinee, basically comics and graphic novels) journal and felt much better. Why aren’t I extremely rich so I could just keep an apartment in Paris and flit back and forth between there and Edinburgh whenever I felt like it? Real life, pah! Mind you, if I did I would need to import some Linda McCartney’s since trying to eat veggie in Paris is a nightmare…

Spring time in Paris

Just back from the most fantastic long weekend in the City of Light, a place I’ve known in literature, art, photography and cinema for years but never actually been to. Standing on the Pont Neuf, the location for Les Amants de Pont Neuf, the French film where I first saw (and fell in love with) Juliette Binoche gave me such a rush (just the first of many French film actresses I’ve fallen in love with, French cinema has a habit of producing the most engaging leading ladies, from Catherine Deneuve to Audrey Tautou). Turning round as I walked along the Seine past all the little green lock-ups of the bouquinistes selling rare and second hand books, art prints and bande dessinee right there in the open air I can see the towers of Notre Dame, the edge of the Ile de la Cite, the Louvre and then suddenly a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. And for some reason it isn’t until you finally see the Tower that you really, really feel like your are in Paris. And its a wonderful feeling. You’re in Paris, its spring time and the sun is out and suddenly life is good…

More to come on Paris soon, I’m still kind of processing it all; late yesterday night I saw my last glimpse of the city from the air as we took off, the whole of Paris sparkling in the night and there was the Eiffel Tower, seen from the plane as we soared up into the night above France, glowing in the Parisian skyline, the great searchlight rotating on the top. An hour and a half later (and some nice red wine, merci Air France) descending through some clouds which clear to show the dark, night-time waters of the Forth and on the left Edinburgh lit up in the night and the Castle from the air, seemingly floating with the dark Castle Rock invisible from our height at night, only the floodlit battlements visible. I flew over the Eiffel Tower and Edinburgh Castle all lit up in the darkness within an hour and a half or so, even the simple act of the flight home was brilliant.

Two of the most beautiful cities in the world and I’m lucky enough that one of them is my home… More later and pics and vid to come, but I’ve only just started working on those and realised I took more than 2 gigs of images… Well, wouldn’t you? And now I’m trying to get out of the habit of saying ‘bonjour’, ‘merci’ and ‘au revoir’ in any shop or bar I walk into… Missing Paris already…

French comic art auction to help the homeless

Marko Ajdarc of the Brazilian comics site Neorama dos Quadrinhos sent us a good item to put up on the FPI blog and since it involves A) good European comics art and B) raising money for a good cause I thought I’d repeat it on here too. 95 press cartoonists and comics artist are contributing their work to auction to raise money for the homeless charity Droit au Logement in France. Some of the top bandes dessinées artist are involved, with names like Bilal and Jacque Tardi (who did the poster for it).

I found it interesting that this came at a similar time to the ‘red tent‘ happening in Paris, where les Enfants de Don Quichotte (how could I resist a story with a name like that?) distributed red tents to the homeless so a tent village sprang up, rapidly covered by the European media and shaming Parisian authorities into acknowledging the problem. You can look through the art on offer in the auction here.


No, not the dodgy use of the word in Iraq but the Real Deal – Paris celebrates the 60th anniversary of the liberation. Certainly a great event to celebrate, not least because of the bravery in liberating the City of Light but also because the German commander refused to follow Hitler’s demand to fight a useless battle so this ancient city escaped much of the destruction that other European city’s suffered. However, along with many other British people – not to mention Americans, Canadians and an awful lot of others – I am more than a little disgusted at the way the official version of events has airbrushed the Allies out of the history so it now reads that ‘France liberated France’.

This is not new – it is a form of revisionism that began right after the liberation when De Gaulle, showing his normal gratitude to the people who had sheltered him for years and equipped the Free French forces he commanded, declared to the Parisians that the French had liberated themselves. Presumably this was because of the desperate desire to overcome the shame of their rapid defeat four years previously and the even more shameful collaboration by many, including many in the government, with the occupying Nazi forces (although many brave Maquis risked capture, torture and death to fight on – supplied of course by the Allies and organised by British Intelligence). Well, it makes a change from Hollywood airbrushing everyone but the American GIs from the war. Did I imagine it, or did we actually fight that war here? I’m sure someone once told me the British had a pretty important role in the fight against fascism (nothing big, we just stood off the entire might of Nazi Germany by ourselves for whole year without breaking, but hey, why mention it?). Perhaps I imagined it.

Rather curious behaviour from one of the EU nation’s who is often the loudest in calling for more integration in European brotherhood

Pretentious? Moi?

Well, I have on occasion been accused of certain Frasier Crane behaviourisms. But no, I’m not talking about me, but about the truly dreadful movie I saw on Monday evening as part of the Film Festival: Process. A film so bad that even the sex scene with Beatrice Dallé and two guys failed to engage my enthusiasm (arthouse and therefore uncut, like a porn, but rather un-erotic, unlike a porno) – and you have to remember that for men my age Beatrice Dallé will always be a sex goddess because of her role in Betty Blue, possibly the mainstream film release with the hottest shagging scene ever (the opening few minutes – ‘I had known Betty for three weeks. The forecast was for storms.’).

The film, Process, is supposedly following an actress who has had a breakdown and embarks on a sequence of extreme experiences – her ‘process’ – before committing suicide. Things did not start well. As a crowd of cinephiles sat reeking of dampness in the Filmhouse auditorium on a soaking wet night the producer came forward to explain to us all before the film began that due to a mix-up we had the French version, sans subtitles. However as the film had only a few lines of dialogue this shouldn’t be a major problem, but he would explain a couple of scenes with dialogue just so we knew what was going on. He proceeds to outline several key scenes in the film before we see it, prompting one audience member to shout ‘can we just see the film?!?!?!?’ – and rightly so. Subtitle problem aside I don’t want someone telling me the key scenes (including some of the final ones) before I watch the movie. Hell, I don’t even like to read the text on a work of art in a gallery until I have had a chance to look at the piece myself and place my own interpretation on it.

The film is non-linear and is, frankly, a bloody mess. In fact, if the producer had not told us about some of the scenes I wouldn’t have known what the hell was going on, and I’m not exactly a person who struggles in the language of cinema (the cynical may think they deliberately engineered the non-titled print so they could explain this badly edited film). The non-linear chronology of the scenes would have been fine if there was sufficient anchorage to let the audience know what was going on. Instead we had effectively a pile of montages, overlapping scenes which were largely disconnected. I realise this may be to suggest the mental state of Dallé’s character, but as we have no emotion or characterisation it is impossible to give a damn what is going on. Some of the images are nice to look at, but the entirety looks very like the effort a 2nd year art student with more pretensions than skill would produce. It raids the French cinema cliché cupboard. Everyone is immaculately dressed, lives in designer apartments and smokes and pouts in silence, or with only the plinky piano accompaniment. And the frequent flashing up on the screen of the Process logo just re-enforces my impression of a dreadful student film. Truly awful and exactly the sort of pretentious and interminably tedious film you should avoid at all costs. Also exactly the sort of film where the makers will no doubt react defensively and say ‘you don’t understand it’, which is the defence of many poor artists. I do understand it – it’s just so badly put together and awfully edited that is utterly awful. Doesn’t help that in one scene in the designer home with the floor-to-ceiling windows framing our heroine (the director obviously wants to be Michael Mann here) you can clearly see the reflection of the camera crew. And free tip to the director: if you are attempting to show a specific ‘process’ the character has decided to go through deliberately, regardless of whether it is eating powdered glass or degrading, dehumanised sex, you need to show the choices and reasons, not just the scenes of the actions – how is the viewer to know she has chosen these? And as for the frequently over-long single-takes – have you never heard of the Miracle of Metonymy? Avoid.

Far finer was the low-budget horror Skinned Deep by Gabriel Bartalos. Made over a fair old length of time by Gabe and a bunch of friends whenever they had the time and the money this is, at it’s heart, an old-fashioned horror of the type I adored back in the original video boom of the early 80s, before asshole MP David Alton rode the popular tabloid folk devil of ‘evil video nasty made kids kill’ sensationalism to censor them into extinction. The all-American suburban family on holiday driving across the land break down in rural America. Now all of us know that this is trouble because Rural America is full of cannibalistic, chainsaw-wielding in-bred families (this may be part of the classical rural-urban binary opposition mythology, except in Missouri where it’s all true) and so will end in tears. The ultra-sweet old lady who runs the local diner – how lovely and polite, if a little backward. Come back to her home for dinner? ARE YOU CRAZY?!?!?! Of course our nice family are and soon we are being introduced to her family – Brain (dungarees wearing hick with, well giant brain; Plates (a plate-throwing deadly dwarf!) and the Surgeon General with his huge metal jaws. And an oldster gang of Hell’s Angels called the Ancient Ones who get involved later on (including SF fan legend Forrest J. ‘Forrey’ Ackerman).

Yep, it doesn’t take itself too seriously – this is a labour of love. Gruesome and mutilating love perhaps, but love nonetheless. It’s the proper old horror which actually has HORROR in it, as opposed to the toothless ‘horror’ films we’ve been fed by Hollywood studios masquerading as ‘independents’ and giving us post-modernist, slick films which pretend to be horror but are barely thrillers and so tame to those of us who grew up watching I Spit on Your Grave, Cannibal Ferrox, The Hills Have Eyes etc (and grew up to hardly mass-murder anyone at all, thank you Mr Alton – gee, think maybe it wasn’t the movies which twisted us kids?). Made by begging, borrowing or stealing this is a hugely fun film, following in the fine footsteps of Sam Raimi, both in some filmic touches but also in the way it was made (Sam working with friends, selling is car to raise money etc) or Romero when he made Night of the Living Dead (give me some money and you can be a zombie!). Take the word of an old gore hound – those of you who loved Evil Dead and the others of its ilk will love this. Horror and humour well mixed and with plenty of nods to other films and to the dedicated horror audience.

Better was to come though. There was a Q&A afterwards, as is common in the Film Fest. Gabe regaled the audience in the lovely Cameo cinema with tales of how the film came together over a couple of years (the branding session at the start is apparently real) and how the actor playing Brain didn’t hold it against him when they shot the scene of him streaking down a busy New York street. Alas, as underground movie-makers they had no film permit, they just drove to a location, quick shoot, grab him back in the truck and off to the next. Except as he streaked along one street he was nicked by the local coppers and huckled off to the clink! Trust me, if you only see one movie with an inbred, murderous hick with a giant external brain streaking joyously down a NY street, make it Skinned Deep. I joined a few others and the very friendly and extremely approachable Gabe in the Cameo bar afterwards and had a good old chat with him. He’s a lovely bloke who basically has the philosophy of making the film you want to see yourself, not one which will ‘make your name’ or whatever, which I respect enormously. He’s worked with Tom Savini and a host of others (including Warwick ‘Willow’ Davis who stars as Plates – a wonderfully funny but nasty camp turn played straight). No British distribution deal yet, so you’ll have to watch for film fests around the country to have a chance of seeing it. Hopefully it will get a deal and a DVD release – it deserves to be a cult hit. There is a section on the film on this website here.

Gabe talking at the Cameo after the screening of Skinned Deep

Afterwards I was somewhat hungry after all the exploding heads, removal of limbs etc and ambled across the road to a nearby café for a late lunch. A gorgeously bright Sunday afternoon, sitting at a table outside a nice café, idly flicking through the Sunday papers, sipping coffee, munching on a lightly toasted Panini and basically watching the world going past – a very simple yet very great pleasure. Good movie, chat with a really nice director and a relaxing lunch. Sometimes life is a pleasure. Finished it off with a nice ramble round some second hand stores and picked up a cool Blues anthology for four quid, with Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson on it.

Tuesday night saw Gordon and myself off to watch another almost home-made movie – the ultra low-budget ($7000!) SF film Primer. A bunch of geek engineers (who obviously buy their clothes at the same store as Dilbert) tinkering with gadgets in their spare time in a garage (Linus, I’m thinking on you here, for some reason!). Two of them finish tinkering with a device – unsure as to what exactly they have built and what application is may have if they sell it they experiment. Eventually they discover that the machine is having a temporal effect of some sort. How could they use it? What effects would it have? Okay, so some images are not the best – evening scenes are grainy because they didn’t have access to the right equipment for night shooting and some indoor scenes have everyone in a blue or yellow-tinged light because the chum shooting obviously hasn’t been trained on how to use the white balance settings on the camera – but for a movie, again shot over a fair old period of time by mates, made for $7k it’s impressive, if sometimes confusing (but anything to do with temporal tinkering always is confusing).