Friday, 11 December 2015

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas was a pretty good director...

Welcome to the future. Numbers rule the world. Individuality is supressed. Freedom is non-existent. Robotic drones herd people around an underground city on behalf of a computerised autocracy that operates society like one huge calculator. And the slaves, when not enduring benign platitudes from the powers-that-be, are judged solely on their ability to generate profit.

Art of control: The stark, authoritarian world 
of THX 1138 (Credit: Lucasfilm) 

Sound familiar? If you’re feeling especially cynical, this pessimistic scenario may come close to describing your feelings about 21st century capitalist society. And it was certainly a vision of the future envisaged by Star Wars creator George Lucas back in 1971, when he released his feature film debut THX 1138. A mix of prison break and dystopian sci-fi, the movie stars Robert Duvall as the eponymous protagonist, joining fellow dehumanised baldies LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie) and SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasance)  in a bid for freedom from a world obsessed with efficiency and control.

Robert Duvall and George Lucas 
on the set of THX 1138 (Credit: Lucasfilm)

You can’t blame them either. Their home is a vast subterranean cellar devoid of personality and natural light, where citizens are sedated on prescription drugs to ensure they remain docile, and sex is banned as an act of deviancy. As a piece of futuristic thinking, THX 1138 is a very derivative one though, channelling a few too many Orwellian clichés to ever be truly thought-provoking, and suffering from a flat, underdeveloped storyline.

Yet what it lacks in insight and narrative flair, THX 1138 makes up for in technical excellence and cinematic chutzpah. Lucas’s bold production design, love of visual experimentation and innovative use of sound are striking examples of how you can craft a total cinematic vision from modest resources. Like his characters, you sense the director is striving to break away from conformity in THX 1138, putting his own idiosyncratic stamp on the world in the hope of greater career opportunities.

Recognise the number plate? The customised coupe driven
by Paul LeMat in American Graffiti (Credit: Lucasfilm)

Freedom casts an alluring shadow over Lucas’s next film, the critically lauded and hugely profitable American Graffiti. Lucas’s sophomore effort is set in 1962 in the small Californian town of Modesto, where four young men enjoy a last night of teenage meandering before going their separate ways. In similar fashion to THX 1138, Lucas eschews plot in favour of rich period detail and a loose, freewheeling narrative powered by a joyous soundtrack that swaps computerised trickery with infectious jukebox classics.

It was a combination that hit the bullseye. Cheap to make, coining it in at the box office and nominated for a clutch of Oscars, American Graffiti bristles with potential and beautifully captures the boredom, restlessness and anxieties of adolescence. Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard have their lives ahead of them but still feel trapped inside, caught between familiarity, stagnation and bewildering opportunity. They’re all on the cusp of something for sure, but they’re not sure what, and you can imagine this is how Lucas must have felt himself, as he began to carve out a reputation as a promising young turk at the forefront of the New Hollywood movement.

George Lucas on the set of box-office
smash American Graffiti (Credit:Lucasfilm)

Destiny arrived in 1977, when Lucas made a space adventure about a humble young farm boy searching for his place in the world. Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon, changed the movie landscape, created a merchandising empire that dwarfed the movie’s box office takings and made its creator rich beyond the dreams of avarice. As Luke Skywalker matured from novice to Jedi, Lucas came of age spectacularly too: a classic American success story which Modesto’s teens would have killed for, regardless of the fact that he suffered a nervous breakdown and vowed never to direct again.

Turns out he didn’t need to. In the wake of his triumph, George set up Lucasfilm and its special effects subsidiary Industrial Light and Magic, oversaw two megabucks Star Wars sequels, co-created another runaway franchise about a rugged archaeologist called Indiana Jones, and became one of the wealthiest, respected and most independent of all Hollywood titans.

Legend in the making: Mark Hamill, Lucas
and Harrison Ford (Credit: TCD/VP/LMKMEDIA)

Sadly, Lucas’s new found power and freedom saw his talents as a filmmaker swallowed whole. In 1999 he returned to direction with The Phantom Menace, the first of three lacklustre Star War prequels that feel as soulless and clinical as the calculated regime in THX 1138. In 2012, he cashed in by selling the whole shebang to Disney to the tune of $4 billion, completing a career arc that began with a film about the evil of numbers and ended with his transformation into, well, a numbers man.

It’s easy to be cynical though. To his detractors, Lucas is an ambitious young cineaste who sold out to the Dark Side of corporate America, and now like Anakin Skywalker, remains forever encased in a mask and identity stifling his true self. His fans would suggest otherwise of course, hailing him as a popular hero in the Luke mould, a maverick entertainer who has fulfilled his destiny by channelling his flair for storytelling, innovation and technology into a beacon of creative inspiration for millions. Thanks to Lucas, The Force will always be with us. Yet the raw, provocative energy of THX 1138 remains buried deep underground, a wealth of untapped, rebellious potential that will never again rise to the surface.

The Empire Strikes Cash: Lucas celebrating
his $4 billion deal with Disney (Credit: Disney) 

This article originally appeared in the November-December 2015 edition of Electrolyte, the magazine by and for fans of Birmingham's Electric Cinema.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Critical Condition: the best books about cinema

“Nobody knows anything” is how William Goldman memorably described the movie industry in his 1982 book Adventures in the Screen Trade. In his seminal dissection of Tinseltown, the writer of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid grapples with the search for Hollywood’s Holy Grail: what is the formula for making a blockbuster hit? His conclusion is that it’s impossible to discern, with luck, circumstance and an inscrutable public defying the expectations of the mightiest moguls.

Astute, knowledgeable and sprinkled with gossip, Goldman’s book demystifies the world of film-making, depicting a realm both magical and mercenary where prodigious talents come unstuck hacking their way through a jungle of egomania and ruthlessness in search of box-office gold. It’s a sobering read for any film fan, and set the tone for more recent warts-and-all movie books from fellow insiders like Joe Esterhas and Art Linson.

In the broadest terms, such books promise to uncover the real truth about movies, a goal also pursued by French film critic André Bazin in the 1940s and 50s. His ground-breaking tome What is Cinema? is the antithesis of Goldman’s work, a compilation of academic essays that became a signature text of the European art-house film scene. Whereas Goldman’s effort sprang from the macho negotiations of Californian power lunches, Bazin’s was born amid the introspective, pipe-and-beret huddles of smoky Parisian cafés, where intellectual rigour had far more gravitas than the murky business of money.

Bazin argues the finest movies are those which reflect a director’s personal vision and which strive to achieve ever-greater levels of realism. This paved the way for the auteur theory, a cinematic elitism that classed certain styles of film as inherently better than others. What is Cinema? is a monumental contribution to film discussion, but in its failure to take into account the collaborative nature of movie-making, and its pursuit of definitive answers about what works and what doesn’t, it ultimately falls into the same narrow trap as Goldman.

Hollywood commercialism and European auteurism collide brilliantly in Francois Truffaut’s study of Alfred Hitchcock. The French New Wave director’s record of his eight-day interview with the English maestro is part-critical discussion and part hero-worship, the quality of the conversation enhanced by the two protagonists’ differing sensibilities.

Whereas one is determined to elevate his subject from mere popular entertainer to the pantheon of great artists, the other is more prosaic and never forgets his chief responsibility is to give the audience a good time. The lesson of Hitchcock-Truffaut is that film discussion is inevitably grounded in the personality and cultural background of those participating, and that such viewpoints are exercises in subjectivity that can’t be proved or disproved.

A writer who understands this well is David Thomson, author of the misleadingly-titled Biographical Dictionary of Film. The name implies it’s a vault of factual information, but instead it’s a beautiful door-stop of movie opinion, an unrivalled smorgasbord of informed subjectivity that’s lucid, passionate, and unashamedly selective.

More than any other book, the Dictionary is the one that inspired me to write about films. But it’s also a victim of the vices which plague many film critics: dismissiveness, snootiness and frequent disappearances up the author’s own arse. For all his mesmerising perceptiveness, much of Thomson’s later writings suffer from a long-winded, meandering style that renders his arguments unfocused or obscure.

As with most writing, less is always more. That’s the attitude of French film-maker Robert Bresson, whose Notes on the Cinematographer is a masterpiece of compression. Workmanlike in tone yet profound in its insights, Bresson’s text is as short and understated as his films, a compilation of pithy, Zen-like statements written by the director during his forty-year career.

‘Empty the pond to get the fish’ is my personal favourite, not just because it perfectly encapsulates Bresson’s artistic credo, but because it serves as a welcome antidote to oceans of movie waffle - and remains one of the best descriptions about good writing I’ve ever read.

Bresson may be coolly arrogant (trying to please the public is ‘silly’, he believes) yet in its suggestion that cinema is ‘a voyage of discovery across an unknown planet’, Notes on the Cinematographer makes a nice companion piece to Adventures in the Screen Trade. The American may be defiantly practical, the Frenchmen overly pretentious, but both men share the common struggle of trying to bottle their own blend of cinematic magic and distill this elusive process into words.

And therein lies the problem. No matter how wonderful a movie buff’s prose, it will always pale in comparison to the real deal. To adapt Martin Mull’s quote, writing about films is a bit like dancing about architecture, and will therefore always be an elaborate sideshow to the main attraction.

Still, if the truth about cinema defies language, can you imagine a world where no one writes about the movies at all? Like so many of life’s passions, film writing is a personal journey offering no prize expect the pleasure of the trip itself. And because of that, it’s always going to be a ride worth taking. But then again I would say that, and that is just my opinion. 

This article originally appeared in the September-October 2015 edition of Electrolyte, the magazine by and for fans of Birmingham's Electric Cinema.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Feast of friends: Cinema, cannibalism and social responsibility

“One calls barbarism whatever he is not accustomed to,” wrote Michel de Montaigne in his famous essay Of Cannibals. Eating another person may be taboo in our civilised world, but as the French philosopher suggested back in the sixteenth century, it’s also a question of context, culture and circumstance.

Cannibalism in Brazil: A 1593 engraving by Theodor de Bry (Credit: Library of Congress)

Filmmakers hungry to shock have gorged on this moral relativism, and the spicy dramatic potential inherent in seeing people eat other people. Cannibalism offers a rich diet of homicide, depravity and survival ethics, not to mention the fear that’s haunted everyone since first hearing Little Red Riding Hood as a child. Out there are wolfish predators in human clothing, the story goes, who’ll gobble you up if you’re ever lost in the deep, dark woods. 

Take the Amazon rainforest for example, the setting for unashamed gore-fest Cannibal Holocaust. With the insolence of especially cocky gap year students, four amateur filmmakers make a salacious documentary about local tribes, who respond in kind by dismembering and devouring the invasive upstarts in an act of ritualistic slaughter.

Set menu: Movie-within-a-movie Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

An anthropologist retrieves the footage, setting up a movie-within-a-movie storyline that’s part-horror, part-nature documentary and part-media satire. Unfortunately, with its comic book gore, exploitative casting of real tribes as flesh-feeding maniacs, and juvenile visions of naked ladies writhing in mud while being clubbed to death, Cannibal Holocaust comes across as hypocritical, half-baked and more than a bit rubbish. 

On the same continent, at much higher altitude and with considerably more class, Alive tells the true story of an Argentinian rugby team whose plane crashes in the Andes. At first the survivors feed off each other for emotional support, then literally feed off each other in a bid to stay alive, nibbling on dead passengers to avoid starvation. 

Despite its two-dimensional characters and lacklustre emotional punch, Alive shows how cannibalism isn’t the domain of isolated tribes, but something respectable God-fearing folk are more than capable of in the right conditions. And their decision is vindicated too, with human flesh fuelling Ethan Hawke and Josh Hamilton to achieve a superhuman feat of survival that serves the collective good.
Buffet froid: A slice of Andean self-service in Alive (1993)

Superhuman aptly describes Robert Carlyle’s character in Ravenous. A black comedy horror set in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range in the 1840s, Ravenous channels the myth of the Wendigo, the Algonquin belief that munching on your fellow man imbues you with your victim’s power, leaving you invincible, psychotic and addicted to more. 

Blending zombie, vampire and serial killer tropes into a weird Deliverance-style dish, Ravenous is spiky, good fun and, in its own way, politically acute. Carlyle and co are frontiersmen obsessed with conquest and consumption, and the movie makes a clear connection between humans devouring one another for strength, and an oppressive elite harvesting the resources of others in the name of prosperity.

Appetite for destruction: Robert Carlyle in Ravenous (1999)

Ravenous is about the appetite that builds empires, a greed which makes you stronger at the expense of the exploited, but renders you morally weaker in the long-run. There’s no better modern-day example of this than Dr Hannibal Lector: the educated, sophisticated, cannibalistic serial killer who chews up the psychologically vulnerable in modern-day Baltimore. 

Thomas Harris’s character has brought anthropophagy into the mainstream with wit, panache and amorality, serving up a range of exquisitely sadistic moments, from the closing ‘having a friend for dinner’ line in The Silence of the Lambs to Ray Liotta eating his own brains in Hannibal and Mads Mikkelsen’s sumptuously-depraved lifestyle in the TV show of the same name.

Rich man's diet: Mads Mikkelsen in Hannibal (2013 -)

The latter is a vision of a world that’s sick, icy and humourless, where inhabitants seem frozen in perpetual disgust and the most virtuous teeter on the brink of insanity. Epitomising the mood is Dr Lecter himself, pure psychopathy to Will Graham’s pure empathy. An affluent narcissist obsessed with personal gratification, he’s the ultimate metropolitan predator, a smarmy member of the professional elite hiding his crimes behind a cloak of respectability and refinement. 

Such a bleak power dynamic is flipped gloriously on its head in the charming Delicatessen.  Set in a post-apocalyptic Paris crippled by hyper-austerity, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s  urban fable tells the tale of an opportunistic butcher and all-round capitalist pig who lures people into his premises at the bottom of an apartment block before slicing, dicing and selling them to hard-up tenants.

Human resources: Cannibalism and capitalism in Delicatessen (1991)

The feast is spoiled when the butcher’s trembling leaf of a daughter falls in love with an ex-clown, who together team up with a band of subterranean vegetarians to uproot the status quo. Delicatessen creates a deliciously weird tableau of oddball characters, the best one being the apartment block itself. Forever marinated in a sickly green hue, the dilapidated residence has an ecosystem all of its own, an interdependent biosphere where tenants’ lives are interconnected and subject to dietary karma.

A climactic flood washes away all moral cholesterol in the end, cleansing the place of its I’m-all-right-Jacques mentality and restoring a note of much-needed harmony. There is such a thing as society, says Delicatessen. And one in which we cannibalise it by living selfishly off each other, whether that be literally or figuratively, is something no sane person should be willing to stomach.

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2015 edition of Electrolyte, the magazine by and for fans of Birmingham's Electric Cinema.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Mirror, signal, mayhem: a brief history of the cinematic car chase

The origins of the movie car chase began in the 1890s. That was the decade when mass automobile production began, and when Frederick Lanchester built the UK’s first four-wheeled, petrol-driven car in Birmingham in 1895. Across the channel in France’s second metropolis of Lyon, the Lumière brothers completed the very first motion picture that same year. Since then, cars and movies have evolved at breakneck speed, coalescing in that classic staple of action cinema, the chase.

After decades of back projection, where speed was artificially created from the safety of the studio, the spectacle of vehicular pursuit hit top gear in the late sixties. 1968 was the year of Frank Bullitt, Steve McQueen’s laconic tough-guy cop who pursues two hitmen for ten high-octane minutes through San Francisco’s undulating streets, the same terrain in which a transfixed James Stewart followed Kim Novak in Hitchcock’s Vertigo ten years earlier.

The iceman cometh: Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968)

Yet whereas Stewart’s hypnotised pursuit marked a gradual unravelling of his mind, McQueen forever remains the master of his domain, deftly manoeuvring his Ford Mustang with consummate cool, staying so resolutely phlegmatic you’d think he was heading to Sainsbury’s for the weekly shop. The uncompromising realism of Bullitt’s chase scene is the movie’s perfect metaphor. McQueen is the principled underdog throughout, steering tenaciously across a sleazy metropolitan underbelly of dimly-lit hospitals and grimy hotels. But just like in the chase he keeps coming back, snaring the bad guy and leaving slimeball politician Robert Vaughn floundering in his moral afterburn. 

A year later across the Atlantic, the car chase transformed into a riotous explosion of comedy and colour. The Italian Job is quintessential British sixties cinema, a laddish tale of cockney criminals who leave Swinging London in a roar of Carnaby Street fashion and flag-waving patriotism, revved up to pull the birds and put one over Johnny Foreigner in his own back yard.

Union jacked: The heist car chase in The Italian Job (1969)

In the movie’s climactic chase, the bullion thieves run riot across Italy’s automotive capital Turin, their red, white and blue Minis embarrassing the olive-coloured Carabinieri cars in the home of Fiat, before fleeing to the Alps with the loot. It’s a classic away-win powered by bulldog spirit, with upper class gent Noël Coward, working class upstart Michael Caine and randy IT nerd Benny Hill displaying British ingenuity at its best.

The gang’s future may be left hanging in the balance at the end, but there’s never a real sense of danger in The Italian Job. The same could not be said two years later in The French Connection, where headstrong cop Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) commandeers a Pontiac LeMans and dementedly pursues a crook who’s taken refuge on a speeding New York train.

Whereas The Italian Job is spectacularly calibrated fun, The French Connection is full-throttle chaos, with director William Friedkin shooting the scene at 90 miles per hour withoutpermission amid real, unsuspecting Brooklyn traffic. Ragged and relentless, Doyle’s Pontiac is an extension of its driver’s personality, taking reckless chances in the belief that the end justifies the means. Friedkin became the youngest recipient of a Best Director Oscar for his efforts, but would later regret taking such lunatic gambles in the name of entertainment.

Road to hell: Gene Hackman between takes in The French Connection (1971)

Destruction would be wreaked on an even greater scale in 1980, thanks to the epic police car pile-up and surrealmall scene which light up cult comedy The Blues Brothers. Jake and Elwood are two siblings far too cool for driving school, donning Ray Bans, kicking back to the movie’s sensational soundtrack and letting their Bluesmobile leave a trail of soul-inspired havoc nonchalantly in their wake.

Two fugitives of a different kind used a Ford Thunderbird convertible to break free of society’s shackles in 1991. Thelma and Louise is female emancipation as extended car chase, a brilliant piece of populist cinema and a neat rebuke to mainstream cinema’s predilection for meathead machismo. Finally cornered above Arizona’s Grand Canyon, Thelma and Louise stay true to their new found sense of liberation, calling the cops’ bluff and going out in a blaze of white, reverential glory.

The pursuit of happiness: Thelma and Louise (1991)

Back in Birmingham, the birthplace of the British motor industry, another modern-day hero finds freedom at the wheel. Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is the love-rat construction boss at the centre of Steven Knight’s absorbing one-man show. Locke may not break any speed limits, but it still feels like a chase movie. The eponymous protagonist races down the motorway in his BMW X5 to witness the birth of his illegitimate child, pursued by marital breakdown, a career going tits-up and the imagined spectre of his father goading him through the rear view mirror.

Going solo: Tom Hardy in Locke (2013)

Flawed, insular yet admirably unflappable, Hardy’s Locke is Frank Bullitt reinvented, sharing the same tough-sounding surname, choice knitwear and willingness to risk it all to do the right thing. And it’s this sense of a personal mission that’s the engine behind every great movie car chase.

No matter where they’re going, the characters’ principal journey is always through the landscape of their own heads, whether they’re the hunter or the hunted. And we, as audience and passengers, have no choice but to be swept away in their slipstream – sitting tight, buckling up and enjoying what it means to be truly driven. 

This article originally appeared in the May-June 2015 edition of Electrolyte, the magazine by and for fans of Birmingham's Electric Cinema.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Boys, toys and adolescent joys

What makes a cinematic guilty pleasure? Guilt obviously, the feeling that you shouldn’t be enjoying the movie as much as you do, and that you’ve somehow failed to comply with some abstract code of celluloid decency. This makes secrecy another prerequisite as well. Behind closed doors you’re getting your rocks off, but it’s a personal self-indulgence you’d rather not broadcast to the world.

Eddie Hawkins knows all about the stealth needed for guilty pleasures. As the star criminal in the naff but always watchable Hudson Hawk, he’s the world’s greatest cat burglar, a waist-coated wise-cracker stealing priceless Leonardo artefacts with boyish glee, crooning musical numbers along the way and forever sporting his trademark smirk.

Boys and their toys: Crime caper flop Hudson Hawk (1991)

The public weren’t amused. Hudson Hawk bombed at the box office and was savaged by the critics for its incoherent jumble of surreal farce, childlike heroics, searing violence and laddish humour. Yet I’ll be forever fond of the Hawk, not least for some truly inspired set-pieces and its playful sense of comic abandon. No one seems to know what they’re doing, but they seem to have a great time doing it, and the whole escapade reminds me of immature schoolboys getting carried away by the silliness of their own pranks.

Another group of ne’er do wells with a flair for improvisation are the rapists, murderers and thieves of Fiorina 161, the prison setting for the much-pilloried Alien 3. Deprived of weaponry, this foul-mouthed fraternity of convicts are forced to make do and mend, resorting to a high-stakes game of chase to trap their fellow bald-headed inmate, a predatory alien which explodes from their pet rottweiler’s stomach.

To many, Alien 3 is a dog of a movie, the moment when the franchise crash-lands like the Sulaco’s escape pod, leaving its cast and crew to fumble around in the dark, slowly getting picked off by the weight of expectation and the story’s ill-conceived premise. Like Ripley impregnated with the Queen, Alien 3 feels doomed from the start. But it’s this self-destructive quality (both film and heroine literally go out in a blaze of glory) that I love most about David Fincher’s debut.

Growing pains: David Fincher on the set of Alien 3 (1992)

However much he may have loathed making it, I can’t help but admire the twenty-something director’s balls for taking it on. Fincher rose from the purgatory of Alien 3 like a phoenix from the flames, and the experience became a rite de passage that’s helped make him one of Hollywood’s most accomplished directors.

As one filmmaker bloomed in the nineties, another one slipped into decline. Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers is a guilty pleasure if ever there was one, a movie I love for all the wrong reasons. Intended as a provocative black comedy about our overstimulated society, Stone’s satire is guilty of the very thing it condemns, descending into an orgiastic paean to the adrenaline rush of killing people with firearms.

It is an epic misfire, but a sensational watch. Turbocharged by manic, over-the-top performances, pungent dialogue, staggeringly good editing and audacious cinematography , Natural Born Killers is one of the most visually inventive films of the nineties, so true to the MTV-style pyrotechnics that defined much of that decade’s media output. Yet it’s a style which feels so empty now: showy, without finesse and lacking any genuine feeling.

Deal with the devil: Robert Downey Jr in Natural Born Killers (1994)

Equally shallow is Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct, the finest guilty pleasure movie of them all, where cold-blooded murder fuses with the white heat of orgasm in a ludicrously lurid way. I love this film because its San Francisco setting, blond-brunette dichotomy, overhead staircase shots and theme of sexual obsession remind me so much of Vertigo, my favourite all-time movie, but with sex, violence and pointless car chases tacked on for good measure.

Basic Instinct takes itself very seriously, but in the end it’s as silly and enjoyable as Hudson Hawk. Michael Douglas is brilliant as that classic movie cliché, the-burnt-out-cop-on-the-edge-who-doesn’t-play-by-the-rules-gets-in-over-his-head-and-goes-out-of-control, while Sharon Stone is sublime as the neo-noir femme fatale, the movie’s real alpha male, wielding her sexual charisma and phallic ice pick with cool, masturbatory élan.

Ice Queen: Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct (1992)

All these movies were released between 1991 and 1994, a time when I went from being 13 to 16. It’s a period when you enjoy many things that aren’t good for you, and relish guilty pleasures of the, ahem… private kind. I still remember the thrill of watching the films illicitly as pirate copies too, a susceptible boy looking in on an adult world that I didn’t have the facial hair to access legitimately.

Back then, these films seemed so very grown-up. Now, they feel like the exact opposite. For all their adult themes, they’re jubilantly adolescent in spirit, sacrificing depth for cheap thrills, favouring style over substance and remaining deeply unsure about what they’re trying to be. 

That’s the essence of cinematic guilty pleasures, I suppose: nostalgic treats transporting you back to a confused but carefree time when it felt adventurous and exciting to follow your basic instincts. In public of course, grown-ups will describe adolescents as selfish, stupid and lacking in self-awareness. Secretly though, you can bet they wouldn’t mind relishing that period of their lives all over again. 

This article originally appeared in the March-April 2015 edition of Electrolyte, the magazine by and for fans of Birmingham's Electric Cinema.