Mob Rule

Blog by Ray Philp | 03 Jul 2009

You scratch our backs, we’ll scratch yours - that’s how it works at The Skinny. You pick up your monthly copy (for the price of ‘on the house’, may we remind you), and we faithfully provide you with 24-carat quality information. We’re singing (Tweeting?) like canaries about great bands far and wide. We’re ratting out a whole mob of great films, smoking every last one of them out of their coastal safehouses. We surprise even ourselves with our kind and benevolent acts of giving. But information comes at a cost, my au fait friends. Deep within the seedy, pallid underbelly of Leith, and scattered across the deepest and darkest crevices of Great Junction Street, reside our various lookouts and stool pigeons, all of whom are tweaking to dish out some pain should they catch any one of you’s guys browsing, even glancing in the general direction, of a rival publication. Turf war, despite its paperwork-free perks, is getting harder, which doesn’t help when the competition is stiffer than a Marlon Brando case of lockjaw. Heavy-set, monobrowed goons are not as readily available as they once were, and our regular suppliers - Scumbags ‘R Us - are in receivership. And what few remain of the hired help roam the kebab-strewn cobbles of the Grassmarket, harassing bemused passers-by for spare fags and damp, lingering hugs. Having resigned ourselves to reverting to our more legitimate guise, we’re all heading to see Public Enemies to reminisce on the golden age of stick-ups, shakedowns, scathing one star reviews, and another chance to see Christian Bale get Joe Pesci on our sorry asses.

Having said that, I’m not entirely convinced Michael Mann’s latest slab of adroit bombast will satisfy my innate need to wallow in expertly choreographed displays of kicking the cream out of some unfortunate chap’s Jacobs crackers. Oh, where art thou, generic John Woo action thriller? Well, perhaps ‘generic’ is a tad unfair - Red Cliff, screening at the Belmont, is set in China 208 AD, so at least some effort has been made to deviate from the familiar backdrop of neon bathed Tokyo sleaze - otherwise, you can rest assured that there shall remain plenty of typically enigmatic shots, as our ever pensive hero Zhou Yu (Tony Leung Ciu Wai) gazes earnestly into the wind, pondering how to maintain one’s dignity when suspended from a wire and wearing a tatty Ming dynasty dressing gown. Cheer up son; there’s a good chance that the good guys don’t die in this film.

No such luck if you’re among the cast of characters of Katyn, screening at both the Dundee Contemporary Arts and the Edinburgh Filmhouse. Olive drab and undulating suffering are the order of the day in this utterly harrowing Andrzej Wajda WWII flick, whereby four Polish families are all touched by the tragedy of Stalinism at its most evil. The brutal execution of tens of thousands of Polish men, the majority of which were young army officers, promptly confirmed Stalin’s reputation as a genocidal twonk to rank alongside fellow facial haired fascists Hitler and Genghis Khan.

Holocaust of any sort is, frankly, not a subject to be taken lightly: unless we’re talking about the nuclear kind, of course. One of Stanley Kubrick’s more light-hearted offerings, Dr. Strangelove, pokes an evergreen finger of fun at Cold War paranoia from a jaunty angle of deep seated sarcasm, with considerable help from Peter Sellers, whose thespian talents allowed him the luxury of three different roles in the same film. Enacting nuclear war on the skimpy pretext of the threat of a fluoridated water supply, Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is the warmongering villain of the piece, pitting his dimmed wits against his immediate subordinate, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Sellers). Quickly arriving at the conclusion that General Ripper is a nutjob with an irrational fear of communism and Colgate, Captain Mandrake and various others attempt to thwart a stand-off that escalates to stratospheric proportions. Catch this one at the Glasgow Film Theatre from 4th July for your pleasure.

Another contemptible autocrat, Julius Caesar, was infamous for indulging in a bit of foreplay with relatives, and so it has ever been that the considerably thorny issue of incest has remained the dubious preserve of 'Living' documentaries and Jeremy Kyle reunion specials. With that in mind, Delta, screening at the Cameo, and its morally precarious subject matter has given itself quite a challenge to win over our sympathies. Shot in Hungary and Romania, Kornel Mundruczo’s serene cinematography provides the backdrop for our protagonist Mihail (Felix Lajko), a drifter who returns home to his family after a lengthy time away. Shortly thereafter, he is introduced to a stepsister Fauna (Orsolya Toth) whom he has never met, and they soon embark on an affair in isolation, setting up home on the remote expanses of the Danube River. Despite its controversial nature, the film’s real focus lies in the townspeople’s spiteful reaction to the couple’s affair, examining complex issues of the limits of collective moral indignation.