Bastards of the Party, The Relic and Marat/Sade
Playing catch-up here at LERNER INTERNATIONAL—
Today we’ve got one dopey pic, and two very political movies of genius—
Gotta counteract the downtime from being a Victim of the Economy…
Bastards of the Party (2006; Cle Sloan) is more than just a documentary about gangs, this is an epic look at the systematic and policy-driven repression of black people in modern Los Angeles.
An excellent, excellent film that is as much a memoir as a documentary, as the film (intelligently compiled by a leader of the Los Angeles-based Bloods gang) presents a unique insight from a viewpoint hardly ever consulted by the mainstream media: the gangbangers themselves.
Fantastic footage and perceptive opinions, especially from City of Quartz author/historian Mike Davis, shows how all attempts at African-American-Los Angelino self-determination are thwarted and subverted by authority, especially a corrupt L.A.P.D. and then racist J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.
Bastards of the Party belongs on the shelf next to Los Angeles Plays Itself and the works of James Ellroy as a “true,” warts-and-all sociopolitical chronicle of the City of Angels beyond Chamber of Commerce propaganda.
The Relic (1997; Peter Hyams) is an old-school monster movie, like the type made in the 1940s, where a “cursed” archeological artifact unleashes a hideous monster, with a museum in Chicago standing in for an isolated Victorian “Old Dark House.”
It’s a fast-paced and fun B-movie gussied up with an “A”-budget (which could essentially be the description of all of director Hyams’ films), so we get well-done gore and monster effects—even if the script has some lapses in logic. The Relic is fun time-waster, but hardly essential.
The flick is notable for its proto-X-Files dynamic: a tough but very superstitious cop is teamed up with a no-nonsense scientist to defeat the hungry critter—as well as its beast, a chimera-like were-mutant, which has a nice Lovecraftian vibe about it, especially with all the references to “Old Gods.”
Speaking of Peter Hyams (who also doubles as his own cinematographer—a job he extended to his son’s film, the underrated Universal Soldier: Regeneration), he’s a director who hasn’t gotten enough love, in my opinion, even if it’s the love for B-movie action director, like Al Adamson or Phil Karlson.
His Capricorn One, about a faked mission to Mars, is a blast: a non-stop action/conspiracy thriller that some would say was bonkers, but I say was ahead of its time.
And while nobody admits to liking it, Hyams’ 2010 was a big hit on release, and meanwhile, the director’s “High Noon in Space,” Outland, has garnered a serious cult following.
Marat/Sade (1966; Peter Brook) is another addition to the Best Old Films Discovered this year.
The film is very intellectual, very political, very experimental and very “theatrical,” and I loved it.
Performed by the some of the UK’s top thespians, including Patrick Magee and the riveting Glenda Jackson (love her!), Marat/Sade has the imprisoned Marquis de Sade staging sections of The French Revolution in an insane asylum as performed by the inmates, and all the psychosis that that implies. The film is very much like a grim Ken Russell film, in fact, with bourgeois bugaboos like “taste” and “decency” chucked out the window. But that makes all the more invigorating as the contentious politics are shoved into your face.
The film itself is timeless since it’s all about Class War—and if you don’t think the socio-political turmoil (bloodbath) that accompanied The French Revolution has nothing to do with today, you’re an idiot. One character shouts into the camera, “When will you learn to stand up?!?” and it means just as much now as then.