90-00: un decennio di cinema britannico

di Aliyah Hussain

The Acid House

The late '90s should be cinematically remembered as the years of the new wave drug movie. In the late '80s and the early '90s, the drug movie was nothing more than a simple comic device… there was no meaning behind the cloud of pot smoke produced by Cheech and Chong. Then, starting in 1996 with the British smash Trainspotting; the drug movie suddenly took on a dual persona of both cautionary tale and comedy of errors. Since Trainspotting, two truly exemplary drug movies have come along… one American and one Scottish. The American is the bizarre Gen-X foray into the surreal, Go. The Scottish is The Acid House.Although only one part of The Acid House directly deals with LSD, the majority of the movie feels as if it were written and directed the drug. Much like Go gave an accurate portrayal of X, The Acid House gives an accurate portrayal of the Super Mario… um… or so I heard.The Acid House is derived from three stories in the collection by the same title. The first story concerns a Scottish slacker who has the day from hell and finds himself in a pub, where he meets God and is consequently turned into a fly by him. After being turned into a fly, his day only gets more bizarre. The second story deals with a nice guy who marries a pregnant whore. I will not embellish on this, as the second story is the worst of the three and has absolutely no place in an otherwise trippy and comic film. The third story concerns yet another slacker who, after dropping acid and being struck by lightning at the exact same time an ambulance containing a pregnant woman is struck by lightning, switches places with a newborn baby.

 You find out very quickly that, although unnecessary to the dialogue in and of itself, the subtitles add a special sense of the surreal to the picture. Director Paul McGuigan knows this is not reality, and he wants to show it to you. To also display that this is not reality, McGuigan uses every single trick in the bizarre cinematography book… nature light, slow motion, fast motion, life from a flies’ eyes, x-rays… you name it, it is probably used in this film. For this the man deserves definite credit. Although there haven’t been many films made that are part of the urban surrealist movement (the literary movement that Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh is a member of), this one by far shows the genre the best. Urban Surrealism is taking the bizarre and trippy of life and making it into a form of effortlessly hip cosmic joke. What separates this movement from America’s Absurdist movement is simple: Urban Surrealism retains its tendencies towards Beatnik expressionism. This is both the saving grace and the curse of Urban Surrealism… that in the end there are morals (or at least messages) to the stories they portray. The Acid House, in placing three stories (one semi-moral, one completely moral, and one completely absurd), gives a general impression as to what the movement of Urban Surrealism is designed to do.




From the moment an expository voiceover—our sun is dying in the not-so-distant future, a crew of astronauts must reignite it with a megaton bomb—concludes with a fiery orb morphing into a giant eye, Danny Boyle’s blast into the void lays its ancestry bare. This is your father’s science fiction, or at least an interstellar-overdrive throwback to the era when Asimov trumped Alien. The latter is referenced as well, but Sunshine’s touchstones are the stalwarts of star-child head-trippery: 2001, Tarkovsky’s Solaris, every other ’70s prog-rock album cover. There’s even a computer with a clipped monotone that goes rogue once “the mission” is jeopardized, leaving the crew scrambling to save their hides.

The danger in channeling those halcyon days when outer space meant inner journeys is that you risk burping up well-meaning cosmic slop like The Fountain. Thankfully, Boyle’s movie avoids getting crushed by its own weighty intellectual ambitions; Sunshine’s best scenes, both of which involve characters embracing the divine ecstasy of oblivion, balance cerebral leanings with expert shocks to the nervous system. But then comes the third act, and the film suddenly drops the transcendental yearning. Who needs metaphysical angst when you can just drag in a megalomaniacal deus ex machina? The decision to switch gears into stalker-flick territory betrays Boyle’s lack of faith in his material and his audience; what starts out as an exploration of the unknown degenerates into a galactic gasbag of cheap thrills. 




Revenge is a dish that couldn't be served much colder in Shane Meadow's unsettling but compelling new film. After a slight loss of form with his spaghetti western spoof Once Upon A Time In The Midlands, Meadows returns to the low-budget, single camera format that previously served him so well and emerges with one of the best films of the year. With talent like this, who says the British film industry is dead?

In a story that is simple but told in a gut-wrenchingly effective way, Paddy Considine stars as Richard, a disaffected soldier who returns to his hometown in Derbyshire intent on avenging a terrible deed that befell his retarded brother some years ago. Those responsible for the crime are a bunch of petty drug dealers, grown men who have never left town and are big fish in a small pond. Richard haunts them, appearing in their houses with uncanny ease, and gradually gets his retribution in several shocking ways. As the film proceeds we slowly find out exactly what happened to his brother (a spot-on performance by Toby Kebbell), and it becomes clear that the gang deserve everything they have coming to them.

Much of Meadows' trademark style is in evidence, notably the almost- improvised dialogue that peppers his script. It's an excellent cast, made up largely of local actors, but it's Considine who shines. He may be the most talented young actor in British film today, having given standout performances in Meadows' own A Room For Romeo Brass, Pawel Pawlikowski's Last Resort and Jim Sheridan's In America. Here he is devastatingly menacing, utterly loopy and hugely watchable. Gary Stretch also acquits himself excellently as the leader of the gang, his ex-boxer's stature and physical self-confidence adding to his bravura.

Meadows has a knack for making his comedic moments blacker than black and revels in life's little absurdities, such as the sight of the hard men of town traveling around in a battered 2CV. There are also several jarring visuals, notably the sight of Considine in a gas mask. While the film does have its moments of blood and guts, the skill is in the way it is portrayed - Meadows and Considine share the screenplay credit - where anticipation builds up the tension several levels. A melancholic and atmospheric soundtrack featuring the likes of Will Oldham also adds much to the overall feel.