In a bi-monthly collaboration with Berlin Community Radio, The Berlin Film Journal brings The Kino Connection, a radio show to guide you through a weird and wonderful maze of film soundtracks, twisting and turning on the points of links that would otherwise have remained hidden. Listen to the podcast (just there ↓) and hear Elle taking us through the music, giving us the themes and the links; masterminding the operation as we explore the films she pulls up for us.
We’re taking a look at eccentric families this week. All of us like to boast a little eccentricity in our families from time to time, as a gentle reprieve from the grinding homogeneity of daily life or to bring to light how different we think of ourselves. Some of us do genuinely have a touch of madness in our families and are significantly better for it. The films Elle has picked for us this week, however, make our own ticks and peculiarities pale quietly into the background as we take ten steps through a world of introspective chaos, where murder, terror, sperm, a herd of buffalo, the apocalypse and love are all vying, like an impatient child, for our undivided attention.
First up is The Stories We Tell (2012), Sarah Polley’s experimental documentary portrait, ostensibly of her mother Dianne who died in 1990, but revealing much about herself and her family in the process. It is an intimate film, nuanced and well punctuated, and tackles the conflict between truth and memory, and more specifically the insecurity of her paternity as she questions her family and those who were close (how close?) to her mother.
Artist: Timber Timbre
Track: Demon Host
Second on our list is Almost Famous (2000) a movie of teenage rebellion, America, journalism and rock music but most importantly for us today, the urge of William Miller and his sister to escape the clutches of an overbearing mother. As progressive as she may well be (not that progressive), she can’t tap in to whatever it was that made the road of the 1970s so appealing and William’s adventure upon it is funny, sexy, and accompanied in part by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Artist: The Beach Boys
Track: Feel Flows
Number 3 is Richard Kelly’s doom ridden riddle Donnie Darko. This is a film laden with surrealist eccentricity, most of it embodied by the demented rabbit of Jake Gyllenhaal’s (Donnie) subconscious which proves to us that as happy as the family may seem, something’s not quite right. The advent of the apocalypse, announced by the uninvited arrival of a jet engine in their house, upsets the suburban family life of the Darko family something chronic. Maggie Gyllenhaal also stars as Donnie’s sister, which lends itself to our theme as well.
Artist: Echo and The Bunnymen
Track: The Killing Moon
Fourth is pre-pirates Gore Verbinski “thriller” The Ring. Like pornography, decent horror is hard to define but you know when you see it. In watching The Ring I remain ignorant. It is the story of an evil, greasy little girl who, after tormenting her adoptive parents (and their horses) and surviving the attempt on her life, climbs out of the television to kill anyone who watches her home video. It’s a good looking movie but comes across as an indictment of adoption and children generally, and I doubt I’m the only one who thinks someone should have pushed Aiden down the well too.
Artist: Hans Zimmer
Halfway. The Lion King. You know this one, the uncle murders the father and is avenged by the son, who beforehand in terrified exile finds another set of parents in a meerkat and a warthog (essentially Hamlet). I had to watch The Lion King again the other day with a very young person, and not being a member of the Classic Disney fetishisation movement which draws most of its support from my age group (pack it in Buzzfeed, eh?) I didn’t enjoy it that much. Still, I was at a student demonstration once and things were getting a little hairy until someone, a propos of nothing, lifted his backpack in the air and christened it, singing what’s now recognised as the jungle’s call to prayer. Everyone laughed and it saved us all a lot of trouble; what else is family for?
Artist: Hans Zimmer
Track: This Land
At 6 is the brilliant The Kids are Alright.Julianne Moore and Annette Benning star in this postmodern family comedy as a lesbian couple with children from the same sperm donor. The two children, Laser (…) and Joni become obsessed with their paternity and the arrival of cool guy Paul (Mark Ruffalo) onto the scene does a fair amount to all involved, as he wedges himself right in the middle of the mothers’ shared mid-life crisis.
Artist: Fever Ray
Track: When I Grow Up
Seventh is Boyz ‘N The Hood, from 1991. Here is a film of importance: a drastic look into the life of a young man whose parents know the dangers inherent to young black men, deliberately impoverished by the brutalities of white America. Raised by his father Furious (what a name), Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is taught the importance of independence of thought on the one hand, and the shared identity of struggle on the other, as his friends’ lives follow an almost inescapably violent path which ends in tragedy and justifies the caution and protection of his Father.
Artist: Monie Love
Track: Work It Out
Jonathan Lynn’s The Whole Nine Yards is our eighth film. Oz (Matthew Perry), a dentist trapped in a toxic marriage with the daughter (Rosanna Arquette) of his deceased ex-partner, is unable to get a divorce because of her father’s embezzling – a decent warning to anyone tempted to marry into the firm. But fantasies of having her removed could well be realised as Jimmy The Tulip (Bruce Willis) – hitman weirdo – moves in next door. Of course it’s not that simple, but regardless of everyone’s preoccupation with murder this farce is the funniest film on this week’s list.
Artist: Charlie Mingus
Igby Goes Down (2002) comes in at nine. What is it with American names? An adolescent’s wet dream of a film, this Catcher in the Rye inspired tale of rich boy social struggle nails the vicious insanity of some families. His overbearing mother (Susan Sarandon) is joined by Igby’s Godfather (Jeff Goldblum) – a smooth talking creep with a taste for young girls – in disturbing the boy’s sense of familial security almost as much as his father in the insane asylum. His fascistic brother doesn’t help things much either.
Track: Ibuki Reconstruction
Last is Stepmom by Chris Columbus. “Mommy, if you want me to hate her, I will” says little boy Ben. Well, I mean. Parenting, eh? Columbus’ film follows Jackie (Sarandon) , whose ex-husband’s new girlfriend Isabel (Julia Roberts) is trusted to look after her children, to the obvious displeasure of Jackie. The second act comes, relationships change and tensions ease as death comes to linger over Jackie and is affected by that maternal sense of eternity which keeps you safe when your parents disappear.
Artist: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Track: Aint’ no Mountain High Enough