London would be a duller place if the Prince Charles Cinema did not exist.
A few weeks ago, the management were asking what their market position was. I said I thought the cinema filled a gap between the mainstream and art house cinemas. In among some cult commercial films, the Prince Charles screens movies the National Film Theatre seldom if ever shows.
The Prince Charles screens cult, schlock, under-the-radar and often extraordinarily quirky movies. Amid special events like Sing-a-long-a-Grease, the Bugsy Malone Sing-Along, Swear-Along-With-South-Park and a screening of ‘The Die Hard Trilogy’ (they are not including Die Hard 4.0 because they say it is not a ‘real’ Die Hard film…. they will soon be screening the little-heard-of Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie and God Bless America (with free hot dogs) as well as an all-night marathon of Friday the 13th Parts I-VIII.
They also yesterday screened two films extraordinary even by their standards – Iron Sky and The Raid both of which, I suspect, have been held back by titles less vivid than they should be. Iron Sky should, I think, really have been called Nazis From The Dark Side of The Moon… or Space Nazis… because the plot runs thus:
In 1945, some Nazis escaped to the Moon, where they built a giant secret base in the shape of a swastika. Since then, they have been watching us and waiting for the right time to mount an invasion of Earth in their meteor-towing zeppelin-shaped spacecraft and take their revenge. The date is now 2018 and the time is right…
Admittedly I got in for free, but THAT is a movie I would pay good money to see and the strange thing about it is that the visuals and the special effects are excellent, as are the sound, the direction and the acting. And the acting is difficult to pull off, because all the lines are (quite rightly) delivered totally straight-faced, so the acting style has to be in that difficult region between realistic and slightly stylised cartoon – If you have a central Negro character whom the Nazis turn white and a sequence in which the vacuum of space pulls off a female Nazi’s clothes yet she is still somehow able to breathe, there is a credibility risk unless you have everything spot-on.
They get away with lines like (I paraphrase):
“I was black but now I’m white. I went to the dark side of the Moon but now I’m back. And the space Nazis are coming!”
(To a taxi driver) “Take us upState – We need to get back to the Moon”
“The Nazis are the only guys the US managed to beat in a fair fight”
Alright, the last line is not actually so odd; it is the truth (if you exclude the British in 1776).
Iron Sky has its faults – it would be a much better film with less ponderous, less Wagnerian music – oddly from Slovenian avant-garde group Laibach - but it is 93 minutes long and never less than interesting.
It is good clean Nazi fun and has a fair stab at satire with a cynical political PR lady who sees the benefits of having a Nazi invasion of Earth and a not-too-far-removed-from-reality Sarah Palin type female US President in 2018 who says: “All Presidents who start a war in their first term get re-elected”.
With an unsurprisingly complicated production history, it is basically a Finnish film with English and German dialogue (sub-titled) which was shot for an estimated 7.5 million Euros in Australia, Finland, Germany and New York and partly financed by ‘crowd funding’ from fan investors.
Iron Sky is well worth seeing on the big screen – something that is highly unlikely in the UK now, as distributors Revolver are putting it straight to DVD.
The Raid is another film championed by the Prince Charles Cinema though, unlike Iron Sky, it did get a decent UK release.
It is a visceral, staggeringly-violent Indonesian action film directed by Welsh film-maker Gareth Evans (allegedly only 27-years-old) with jaw-dropping martial arts sequences.
I am no martial arts aficionado, but the action is amazing – it showcases the unknown-to-me Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat.
The movie won the Midnight Madness Award at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival and that sounds a pretty well-titled award.
The plot is token – more a MacGuffin than a plot.
A less-than-elite SWAT team mount an attack on the strangely run-down Jakarta tower block base of a crime lord who has rented rooms in the block out to the city’s most dangerous murderers, killers and gangsters… and, inexplicably, to one ordinary good guy and his pregnant wife.
Running 101 minutes, it could usefully have about 10 minutes trimmed off it, but it is astonishingly gripping throughout, especially given that it is simply wall-to-wall violence. Very well edited and with vivid Dolby Stereo, it is like being in a firefight. You have no idea what is going to happen next.
And the violence is relentless.
There are a couple of half-hearted attempts to give the movie depth and a late attempt to create personal sympathy with one of the characters, but this is pointless.
Watching it reminded me of the original reviews of Reservoir Dogs, which said that film was mindlessly violent, staggeringly bloody and was simply violence for the sake of violence.
Reservoir Dogs was not.
The Raid is.
And I loved it.
Director Gareth Evans could be the new Quentin Tarantino.
Uniquely different. That is what you get at the Prince Charles Cinema.
Nazis from the Dark Side of the Moon for 93 minutes and mindless martial art violence from Indonesia for 101 minutes.
Now that is what I call entertainment.