Interview with the SeventySeven Film Club

SavageWitches_promo-13-920x688

Kris, Mark and Owen run SeventySeven, a Tuesday evening film club held in the basement of the Arts House Cafe.

What is SeventySeven, and how did you start?

Kris: Me and Owen used to do film nights together, and we’d introduce each other to films we were interested in. We’d been doing this for a long time, since 2008, when then the opportunity came to do it publicly at the South Bank club in Bedminster.

Our first screening, The Passion of Joan of Ark (1928) was October 2013, followed by a double bill of Peter Watkins films.

We moved to Stokes Croft in April 2014. South Bank was a great venue, but it felt kind of isolated, so we moved to this more central location in Stokes Croft, where you’re more in the thick of things.

Mark: I’d been aware of SeventySeven for a while. I used to see their film posters in and around Bedminster, and thought it’s something that I should be going along to. At the time, I was screening films myself film for LinkAge in the the South Bank, but it wasn’t until February 2014 that I went to a SeventySeven night.

I remember the first screening I went to was Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses (1969). I turned up at screenings regularly, we talked about films and I ended up getting more and more involved.

fp3

Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

Your programme is one of the most ambitious – and eclectic – in Bristol. How do you choose your films?

Owen: All three of us are into films generally, but each of us has specific areas that we specialise in. Kris is knows way more about silent films than I do. I like really psychedelic British films, 70s American films and crazy Japanese stuff. I also really like European art house.

Mark: It’s quite educational for me. I’ve seen a lot of films myself; when i was at University, I studied art history, but I also did a cinema module. I’ve also liked films since i was a kid – all of us have.

Specifically, I like a lot of French and Italian cinema, but together we have eclectic tastes with varied intellectual interests. Kris has a philosophy background, Owen is a musician, I’m interested in the visual arts, and i think our film choices reflect this.

Kris: Theres no real method to our choices really, other than avoiding the well known stuff.

Bladerunner (1982)  is one of my favourite films, but there’s no real pleasure in showing that. It’s much more of a pleasure to show lesser known films. We’re just interested in showing things we like, and that we think people will like.

Owen: Yeah, big cinemas show that stuff. There are lots of cinemas around Bristol, and we just want to offer something different, we want to have our own thing.

Mark: That’s not to say we’ll never screen something that’s well known. Very occasionally we will. We played Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) this Halloween, for instance. But Kris is right, screening films that are lesser known or obscure, probably for many reasons, unjustly so, is important to us. It’s revelatory, really. You see things and just think, why is this not more talked about?

Blade-Runner-Los-Angeles-Bladerunner (1982)

You’ve screened some very challenging films in the past. Have any of your screenings seen a strong reaction from the audience, positive or negative?

Owen: We screened Peter Watkin’s The War Game (1965), which is a faux nuclear war documentary.That, I think, is one of the most terrifying films I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s like being punched in the face for 45 minutes.

Kris: Another one of our biggest screenings was The Other Side of the Underneath (1972), a feminist film about schizophrenia. It’s an extreme British art house film, which turned out to be really popular.

Kris: we had a group three or four walk out of that. They went to see a Terry Gilliam film at the Cube, which had sold out, so they sent them to us. They left. But to be honest, most films we show aren’t extreme at all. Just the odd one or two.

Mark: It is surprising. This year we showed a film by Marco Ferreri – Le Grande Bouffe (1973), and I was amazed at the number of people that came to that. It’s a fun film, it’s pretty nihilistic – it’s about four men who come together, enjoy the company of these prostitutes and eat themselves to death – but someone walked out of that screening.

There was one  chap who stood up, and just said ‘no’, and walked out. A very nice guy. Actually, we haven’t seen him for a while. In fact, the more i think about it, i don’t think we’ve seen him since Le Grande Bouffe. But that was one of our walkouts. And I like the idea that you can create an environment for lively debate and disagreement.

 

What’s your biggest source of inspiration for your programming?

Kris: Well the internet is really our biggest resource, plus all books and documentaries about film. One thing leads to another, and sometimes films just fall into your lap. You could be looking up one film, and that leads to another film, which leads to something else.

Mark: I go to the Watershed and the Cube a lot, but the biggest resource for me is probably 20th Century Flicks. I’d go once a week and rent maybe a couple of films.

Kris: Second Run is also a great resource. It’s amazing. It leads you from one great film to another.

Owen. And let’s not forget friends.

Mark: Yes word of mouth as well. Kris and Owen have introduced me to a lot, and vice versa.

Owen: That’s been the best experience for me, being part of this film club. Kris has screened old silent films that I might not necessarily have chosen to watch myself, but we’ve screened them and i’ve just been blown away by them.

Do you ever put on film nights outside the Arts House?

Kris: We did three screenings for Scalarama in Cafe Kino. Last year we did a screening of Savage Witches (2012), which was a homage to Dasies (1966), and we did live music for that. Owen played, along with a couple of friends…

Mark: …and this year we screened a film by an Iranian film director who lives in Dublin, Rouzbeh Rashidi, who has own group called The Experimental Film Societyand makes films himself. I’ve been aware of his work for some years, so I emailed him and we ended up showing his 2012 film, He (2012).

Kris – I talked with our friend Angus, who’s a musician, I asked him if he’d mind doing a score to a film called The Goddess, a silent Chinese film from 1934, and he did a live piano score. I think it’s my favourite screening to date. It’s not necessarily the best film we’ve shown, but it was just a great event.

SavageWitches_promo-13-920x688Savage Witches (2012)

Can I have three film recommendations?

Owen: F for Fake (1973, Orson Welles), Punishment Park (1971, Peter Watkins) and Performance (1970, Nicholas Roeg).

Kris: Loss of Sensation (1935, Aleksandr Andrijewski), Hortobágy (1936, George Hoellering) and Evil Speak (1981, Eric Weston).

Mark: Patton (1970, Franklin J. Schaffner), Le Feu Follet (1963, Lous Malle), Who Can Kill a Child (1976, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador) and The House that Screamed (1969, Narciso Ibáñez Serrador). Oh, that’s four. 

An interview with the Hellfire Video Club

bbbmysticspic31

Meet Joe, Matt and Brig, the Cube Microplex’s resident curators of fabulously bizarre monthly film nights in Bristol. 

What’s your history, how did you start?

MATT: I’d been programming stuff at the Cube for a few years and had tried to get a semi regular thing off the ground showing under-loved or obscure films that I thought were worth trying to get people to see. It was kind of a tough sell though, and I wasn’t sure how to ‘market’ it. Then Joe suddenly got in touch…

JOE: I was holding monthly nights at my house with a bunch of friends where we’d watch all sorts of atrocious and weird old films whilst drinking lots of beer. As there was nothing going on like this in Bristol at the time (although unbeknownst to me, SeventySeven film club were screening oddball arthouse things in Bedmo) I decided to try and do it on a larger scale, with The Cube Microplex being the best place I could think of to hold them. When I contacted The Cube, Matt was working there and had been trying to do something similar, so it was a natural fit. The First Hellfire Video Club (HFVC) night was June 2011.

We’re all long-standing record nerds, so a big part of the night for us is playing theme-appropriate music in the bar before/between/after the films to help people adjust their brains in alignment with what we’re screening. Lots of weird Soundtracks, library music, psychedelia and strange synthesiser records.

Altered States 1 (1)

Altered States (1990)

How do you choose which films to screen?

JOE: The three of us running HFVC have all spent our teenage and adult lives hoovering up weird old films so we each have a massive list of potential films to show. We try to keep each month’s films within a certain theme and generally stick to films from the 1960’s – 1980’s, as it’s a period we’re all interested in and there is such a vast amount of totally amazing yet under-seen films within it. Personally, I have no interest in genre films if they have become self-aware or tongue-in-cheek – I’m looking for cinema as outsider art, a personal vision gone wrong, something so lost-in-translation that it becomes mind bending, or a film that seems like it was made by someone who has never seen a film before.

BRIG: By democracy, it’s the British way. We each take it in turns to choose films and sometimes we all agree on a film or two we’d all like to see on the big screen. We’ve each watched thousands of films, so there’s plenty to choose from.

MATT: Some we pretty much all agree on, whereas some months are more our individual ‘subject areas’ – stuff we feel particularly passionate about.

How do you find them?

JOE: Constantly checking out other films by directors and actors we’ve liked other work from, reading a lot of old film books and zines and checking out any recommendations from reliable sources.

BRIG: The internet, the greatest resource on earth. There aren’t many films you can’t find out about from somewhere on the web.

MATT: …though it’s nice to have a go trying! The best thing about this is no matter how much you think you’ve exhausted it you’ll always find new stuff you’ve never heard of. There’s really so much out there waiting to be exhumed. The deeper you dig the more you’ll find.

What’s been your most popular film? Have you ever done repeat screenings?

JOE: Our busiest night was definitely our screening of Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (1982) AKA: Turkish Star Wars! Probably because of those last two words I suspect – it was great fun, everyone really got into it! But often other nights will be very busy that we hadn’t expected, our Czech New Wave night was rammed!

BRIG: I remember Zardoz (1974) was packed to the brim. Well worth it to see Sean Connery in a nappy for 105 minutes on the big screen.

MATT: It’s kind of unpredictable, which is great. We’ve never done a repeat screening, though. There are so many other films to show!

What’s the weirdest film you’ve ever screened?

JOE: That’s very subjective! The Boxer’s Omen (1983) is one of the most overtly brain-smooshing films in existence, but we then again we have also screened a low-budget Canadian horror called Things (1989) that is so badly made and brutally mundane that it has a deeply weird vibe, to an almost psychedelic degree…

BRIG: We’ve shown plenty of slightly odd films, but most of the truly weirdest films I’ve ever seen are pretty unwatchable, and would struggle to keep most people in a cinema for 90 minutes or more. The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973) was a pretty bizarre two hours of wonderful phantasmagorical imagery with no real plot.

MATT: Yep, Things is pretty fucked. It’s like waking up inside someone else’s deeply disturbed mind, and not being able to get out. You can never recreate that kind of weirdness. It just IS. You either go with it or just feel as though you’re being assaulted.

Has a screening ever upset?

JOE: I recall someone walking out of our screening of Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) – and it hadn’t even got going properly yet!

BRIG: Several films have offended the odd person here or there. Particularly films from the 1970s where boundaries were pushed further than before or since. I remember a 1970s Spanish horror film ruffling a few feathers as a family were strung up like animals in an abattoir to be cut up by a maniac hell bent on revenge. Some people are so easily offended.

MATT: Someone also got upset at the spaghetti western night because the audience were laughing at the dubbing. That was kind of unexpected. I could understand where they were coming from in a way. It’s so subjective…watching things with an audience is such a radically different experience to viewing at home. Depends what you’re used to. I guess he felt the general amusement was insulting to something he felt was serious, or at least seriously intentioned. Personally I find I can laugh at something’s ‘idiosyncrasies’ without feeling as though it diminishes it’s worth as a film. In fact I love the fact they co-exist. Ideas of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are reductive! You can have both!

Boxer's Omen (10)

Boxer’s Omen (1983)

Do you ever screen your films outside of The Cube?

MATT: We did a couple of screening at Supernormal festival, which is an amazing, small (but perfectly formed) artist run festival in Oxfordshire. There was a nice build up effect, where people just wandered in, watched a bit, then would wander off and return 10/15 minutes later having convinced others to come and check out the ensuing oddness.

We may try and do some more DJ/visuals sets In the future. We’ve built up a pretty choice selection of crazed visuals, and we tend to buy way more wonked out records than would be considered healthy.

Do you ever go to the multiplex?

JOE: I’m not averse to it – but can’t stand big showy CGI/ superhero films. A small baby has prevented me from going anywhere of late though….

BRIG: It’s been at least a decade since I set foot in a multiplex. Why pay to watch mindless modern Hollywood crap when you’ve got plenty of great old films to watch at home?

MATT: Occasionally. Contemporary films rarely step out of line though. And you have to step out of line to get to somewhere truly great, for the most part.

Any special plans for the future?

JOE: It’s our 5th birthday next summer so we’ll have to do something big for that!

MATT: I’d definitely like to do more DJ/visuals sets. Maybe at a few festivals. I’m wondering about an all-nighter for our ‘anniversary’ (or just maybe an all-dayer, we’re no spring chickens after all).

Top 3 films?

JOEBoxer’s Omen (1983), Holy Mountain (1973), The Conversation (1974)

BRIGSweet Movie (1974) Seconds (1966), They Might Be Giants (1971)

MATTMessiah of Evil (1972), Go, Go Second Time Virgin (1969), Christina, Princesse de L’erotisme (1971)

ypZPzUqd_400x400

Hellfire Video Club is held monthly at the Cube Microplex, Dove St South, Bristol.
Follow them on @HellfireVC and on Facebook
Georgina Guthrie interviews the Hellfire Video Club for the Bristol Film Critics Circle.