Twenty Four Seven

Shane Meadows, 1997

With the decision late last year towards the abolishment of the UK Film Council,  a non-departmental body, that's purpose was to directly fund the production and development of British-based films, and to sustain an active and successful film industry and culture, the future of the UK's output has been brought into question. One director who's work has greatly benefited from funding by the UKFC is Shane Meadows, who's films Somers Town and This Is England have broken the Independent market, and into the mainstream, with the latter even enjoying a spin-off television series last year. Arguably the highest point of Meadow's career so far is the vastly overlooked 1997 drama Twenty Four Seven.

The film, set in a Thatcheresque, working-class town, follows Alan Darcy (Bob Hoskins) as he recruits the local youths into his boxing club, in an attempt to steer them away from criminal behavior, and engage them in something they can be passionate about. This in turn merges the rival gangs together, injecting self-respect into their empty lives, but as the day of the tournament quickly approaches, the stress of home-life, drug abuse and other such realities, come to an almighty climax. Twenty Four Seven seemingly lends alot to Tony Richardson's 1962 British classic The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, not only in it's subject matter which merges a grim view of working-class England, and it's class consciousness, with youth rebellion and escapism, but in it's bold black and white imagery, that became popular in the late 50's/early 60's during the British New Wave trend.

Twenty Four Seven is often paralleled to Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, with it's similar black and white aesthetic, and dramatic content, but whereas Scorsese's picture deals more with the contrast of life in and out of the ring, Twenty Four Seven's use of boxing as a driving force behind the plot is more expendable, choosing to focus upon character development and interaction, more so than any scenes of fighting. A scene in particular, in which Hoskins Waltz's with his aunt to The Blue Danube in a social club is easily comparable to a Raging Bull fight sequence, with it's use of classical music, and razor-sharp editing.

As most director's careers develop, the output of their films tend to lose the originality of their first several features, whether that be due to studio interference or any other means, Shane Meadows is one director who's releases have  retained a unique style and voice throughout his career, and whilst the allure of Hollywood and a mainstream audience may not appeal to him unlike some British directors (Micheal Winterbottom, Danny Boyle, Guy Ritchie to name a few) Meadows joins the ranks of Mike Leigh, Andrea Arnold and Ken Loach, as one of the most exciting and original UK directors working today.
words by danny walker.


Martin Scorsese, 1974

Scorsese is renowned for his two long term actor/director relationships, firstly with Robert De Niro and more recently with Leonardo DiCaprio stepping up to fill his place. One returning performer who has received considerably less attention for their work with the great director is his own mother, Catherine Scorsese. Often playing a character not far removed from her real life persona, Catherine has starred in no fewer than eight of his films (an equal number to De Niro) with speaking roles in everything from Goodfellas and The King of Comedy, to Casino. The roles she has fulfilled often centre around her cooking- whether it be in the back room of the convenience store in Casino or when she cooks a late night meal for Tommy, Henry and Jimmy in Goodfellas. In Italianamerican Catherine and her cooking get to take the starring role as Scorsese documents her cooking them dinner whilst along with Scorsese’s father Charles they tell anecdotes about themselves and their lives, growing up as second generation immigrants in New York’s Little Italy.

All of Scorsese’s trademarks here- the Italian family, Catholicism, New York city. Watching Charles and Catherine’s light hearted bickering you can see where the inspiration for the relationships and mannerisms of the couples in his films emerge from. Whereas Scorsese has tended to focus his narrative films on the darker corners of Italian American life with his mafia pictures and films such as Raging BullItalianamerican is a much more romanticized and sentimental view as his parents recount tales about their own parents romances, their journeys through Italy and spiritual visions they have witnessed, any hardships an immigrant family would have faced at the turn of the 20th century are all but it ignored. Where the documentary truly achieves its strength is from these stories, and Charles and Catherine’s ability to express them so well to the camera. Watching them talk and imagining Scorsese growing up in their home it is easy to see where he will have obtained his talents as a storyteller. 

One of the greatest additions in this 
vérité style documentary comes in the extremely limited closing credits, where after the brief list of names involved with the project comes Catherine’s own recipe for the tomato sauce and meatballs she cooks in the film, it’s a quaint touch on such a nostalgic film (Catherine would even go on to publish her own recipe book, titled The Scorsese Family Cookbook).

So far the only release Italianamerican has seen was on a laserdisc titled Three by Scorsese featuring alongside the best of his short films The Big Shave and his influential documentary American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince (a review of which will one day follow) making it a hard film to obtain. It is a however a must for any Scorsese enthusiast, one of his easiest and most entertaining films to watch and quite possibly his best foray into documentary filmmaking yet.
words by pete bond.


Roman Polanski, 1965

For Roman Polanski the home, usually representative of safety and security, has often been the setting for his own brand of psychological horror. By subverting this idea of the dwelling being sanctimonious and invading the most personal space of his characters, Polanski creates something truly disturbing as there is no escape available from the nightmares tormenting his protagonists. Preceding both of his other ‘apartment’ films, The Tenant and Rosemary’s Baby, is his first English-language film, Repulsion.

Starring Catherine Deneuve (also making her English-language debut) Repulsion is the story of Carol, a beautician who resides in London with her older sister Helen. Whilst Helen appears a well adjusted young woman, Carol is altogether more disturbed possessing an intense paranoid fear of men. This manifests itself in intense hallucinations- in one scene a workman leers at her as she walks past him in the street, that night she envisions him breaking into her room and raping her. As the film progresses Carol’s mental state becomes more and more fractured, with the crumbling walls of her apartment reflecting this mental anxiety, until ultimately her hatred of men leads to her expressing it through violence.

The film was pitched to the studio by Polanski as a way to cash in on the success of the recently released Psycho with which it shares a number of similarities. There is it’s punchy singular word title, it’s blonde female lead in trouble and it’s themes of voyeurism, however whereas Hitchcock used the first person view to show Norman Bates spying on people in their most intimate moments, here Polanski uses it to show Carol looking out of her own personal space at a world of which she is afraid. Another loose Hitchcock connection lies in that the Cinematography was provided by Gilbert Taylor, who would later go on to collaborate with Hitchcock when he made his own return to London with what would become his last great film Frenzy
What Taylor is most renowned for however is his work on Dr. Strangelove. With Repulsion his camerawork is equally great, with extensive use of light and shadow making Carol’s apartment look as divided as her mindset, this is also portrayed through the constant use of reflections, often distorted or obscured. The set design itself is excellent too, as giant cracks suddenly appear and hands burst through the wall and enclose Carol (a scene George Romero would pay homage too in the opening nightmare of Day of the Dead). Deneuve gives what is possibly the performance of her career too, managing to play Carol in a manner which makes her to mistakenly appear shy, as the character she encounters believe she is, whilst giving the viewer an insight into the onset of her madness.

With it’s star power, New York setting, as well as being in colour, Rosemary’s Baby remains Polanski’s most celebrated horror. However a film as it may be, for a significantly more taught and tense film regarding a woman struggling to keep hold of her sanity, Repulsion is the early Polanski film worth watching. Along with aforementioned it rates amongst the directors best, and would serve as interesting watch for anyone who has been impressed by this years big psychological horror, Black Swan.
words by pete bond.