My entire childhood was eroded by occasional exposure to Australian cinema like ‘Long Weekend’ and ‘Patrick,’ but even beyond those intentional attempts to chill the viewer, even TV shows like ‘The Sullivans’ every weekday lunchtime would bring me down with that curiously Antipode breed of budget, overcast televisual misery, despite the country’s oft-glorious weather. The UK and Canada can create grim films, but Australia seemed to master it. Even when they’re not trying to bring me down, their film and television output has a drabness that’s tough to beat.
So when they’re trying to make something deliberately depressing, they deliver. Having just finished watching ‘Snowtown,’ based on the squalid mid-late 1990’s case of inter-community serial slaughter by a group led by John Bunting, I’ve not seen such a sobering depiction of psychosis in many years, and I’ve seen pretty much every downbeat, brutal movie ever. Australia triumphs in the matey psycho, who’ll cook you breakfast, ask how you’re feeling, then pressure you into slaying a household pet. Every minute of ‘Snowtown’ is sheer doom, where everybody’s a potential deviant, but some are willing to deviate beyond all comprehension. Daniel Henshall’s turn as John is a perfect performance, with no theatrical twitches and stares — just a conscious evil and unnerving charisma that amasses accomplices. Nobody explains why he does what he does (something that even the equally bleak ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ offered the viewer), and the musical cues crank up the troubling atmosphere.
The prolonged strangulation scene is still embedded in my psyche, yet for all the monstrous behaviour and miserable shack-like cluster of outer-Adelaide residences that make up the film’s backdrop, the cinematography’s beautiful, giving the inhumanity on display an eloquence of its own. As a carefully crafted character study, it’s notable that Bunting still remains an enigma – offering no answers channels the essence of the case. The best killer films aren’t about carefully laid traps, ‘CSI’ style apprehension and transparent motive. They simply remain queasily ambiguous. ‘Snowtown’ is a solid accompaniment to 1998’s profile of murderous behaviour and alpha males, ‘The Boys,’ another Australian film based on a significant true crime (the John Travers gang and the Anita Cobby case) that’s still a cause of outrage. I recommend ‘The Boys’ for a feel bad viewing session that pre-empts incarceration with classic Australian prison films like ‘Ghosts of the Civil Dead,’ ‘Everynight…Everynight’ and ‘Stir.’ Just make sure that you’ve got the ‘Seinfeld’ box set on deck to restore your sanity afterwards.
If those films aren’t enough to erode your sanity, 1983’s ‘Angst’ is the greatest portrayal of murderous insanity ever made. 1979’s ‘Vengeance is Mine’ is a strong portrayal of a remorseless maniac, Japan-style, but Gerald Kargl’s Austrian vision is mind-boggling yet, due to distribution issues, often unseen. You’ll get no fuel to unleash the ‘LOL’s or smiley faces on social media in Kargl’s film, but what you get is a film that’s two decades ahead of its time from a technical standpoint. The antithesis of documentary style filming, ‘Angst’ is a dizzying box of tricks, soundtracked by Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze in a synthesised style that makes it doubly unsettling. Based on the Werner Kniesek case (and from accounts, it seems fairly faithful), it’s about the pure pleasure of killing, and no ‘Saw’ or straight to DVD ‘Hostel’ sequel can maintain that sense of terror. Erwin Leder’s eyes alone beat any special effect, but that sweaty intensity and primal but inept killing techniques, twinned with the innovative, nightmarish set pieces, make it a lost classic.
It’s odd that Kargl’s IMDB profile ends with this film, but director of photography, co-writer and editor Zbigniew Rybczynski went on to pioneer HD techniques. If you’re a Gasper Noé fan, ‘Angst’s hyperactive camera and use of sonics will help you understand how his style was developed — this is one of his personal favourites. While there’s barely any dialogue to accompany the plot, the killer’s narration needs subtitles, and sadly, Barrel Entertainment, who promised a DVD for half a decade, went bankrupt a year or so ago. Not a pleasant experience, but a necessary one for fans of cinema. Just don’t come crying to me with tales of subsequent trauma. ‘Snowtown,’ ‘The Boys’ and ‘Angst’ — a perfect trinity of murderous misery.
On a lighter, very different, note, I’ve been trying to hunt the mysterious Boyz II Men Jordan XI and tux award show moment, but I can’t find it. Was it a gig? Why is there no video footage? Maybe it’s an apocryphal thing, but I’m certain that I saw a shot once. What I did find in my hunt was a picture of the Boyz in matching white suits and 2000 white/chrome Jordan IVs at a BET bash in May of that year. It’s hard to get hyped on any celebrity wearing retro Jordans (though the internet says differently), but I say that the cutoff is the stray black/cement IIIs on the cover of ‘The Blueprint’ in 2001.
The UK is killing it at the moment. Most football related attempts to be down crumble because, unless you’re a visiting rapper, there’s not much that’s cool about wearing a football shirt and beyond all the fancy stuff, Umbro’s never been a cool brand — it’s a utilitarian one that was affordable without fear of a playground beat down (unless you wore Umbro trainers, then you deserved what you got). But the hard-wearing twill of the drill top was the budget wear of choice in and outside of my school. I’m glad that team Palace have acknowledged that in their Umbro and Palace collaboration that includes a trill looking drill top that brings back that appeal. I like the idea of a Trill Top.
On a Palace affiliated note, Slam City Skates releases the ‘City of Rats’ DVD next week and you need it in your life, because, unlike the days of skate VHS bare-bones, there’s an abundance of extras too. It’s still mind-boggling that this is the first ever full-length Slam City skate video, but it’s okay, because it only took them 25 years to get it sorted. Big.
Graffiti magazines are a different breed nowadays compared to the things I’d overspend on at Tower Records or the ‘zines I’d send an SAE off for only to get nothing in return (maybe they thought I was “the man” or maybe they were just lazy), but truly iconic publications have been few and far between. That’s because graf kids make the ‘Maximum Rocknroll’ readership sound level-headed by comparison, and one man’s masterpiece is another twenty people’s “sellout shit.” The internet was pretty much made for the art form, with internet fame being as fleeting as moving trains, and ‘Crack & Shine’ and ‘Also Known As’ gave destruction a certain gloss that set a new precedent. I’m looking forward to seeing the paper spinoff of Hurtyoubad, ‘Hurtyoubad Journal’ which has been in development for a while promising, “A graffiti publication with no graffiti.” This will be the cause of much anonymous commenting and hipster allegations, but will be an excellent read. And seeing as it’s coming via Topsafe, it should look pretty too.
The Diggers With Gratitude team are holding it down for that peculiarly British breed of rap nerdery (and there’s plenty of crossover between our love of skate and rap, with more experts per person in those topics than many other nations) with their issues of lost tracks by the kind of characters you may have briefly checked for in their day but promptly forgotten. For the DWG team, that enthusiasm never died. To paraphrase Ice-T from ‘Colors’ — it just multiplied. Now they’ve gone and put out Latee of the Flavor Unit’s unreleased 1992/3 recordings on the ‘Who Rips the Sound?’ EP. But now they’ve all sold out, so you’re going to have to hope for a second volume of their reissue work compiled on a CD at some point in the near future.
And if that mix of plugging, serial killer films, skate stuff and Boyz II Men wasn’t an odd enough mix for you, here’s an interview I did for my buddies at Sneakersnstuff about Stockholm and Baltimore’s sports footwear scenes.
And shouts to ‘i-D’ magazine, Kate Moss and Alisdair McLennan for this: