Friday, 26 November 2010

Machete: The Grindhouse Endures

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Lovers of trash/B-movie/exploitation/whatevs cinema will notice a stirring down below today, as Robert Rodriquez's guts-and-girls opus Machete finally opens in the UK. It's the director's second overt homage to the piss-soaked grindhouse era and the kid brother to Planet Terror, the zombie flick that formed half of his and Tarantino's sadly ill-fated Grindhouse project, and the same excursion that teased Machete into being as a faux trailer.

While Grindhouse fizzled out - to the point that the recent release of the as-God-intended version was met with little more than curiosity - the fleapit aesthetic of the 42nd Street scene has endured, from the loving homage of Black Dynamite through to the hot-curry-eating-endurance contests offered by A Serbian Film and the torture porn films - fittingly including the I Spit On Your Grave remake - and documentaries such as Jake West's recent Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide and Elijah Drenner's excellent American Grindhouse. Though remake nostalgia is ever-present in cinemas, this ongoing exploitation chic offers a different, less commercially driven and arguably more legitimate thrust - a hankering for primal film-making and a shift away from the multiplex-aimed slick production process. Obviously, it's fucking stupid to argue that we don't live in an era when the mainstream isn't offering classics in its own right, perhaps rather it's that the exploitation scene had a mad spontenaity which afforded directors and producers who often didn't have a clue what they were doing the chance to create happy accidents, a tone that is perhaps less apparent today, and a sense of discovery that is missing in the internet age; though the grindhouse's obvious rep is for setting the tempo on sex and violence, it was also way ahead of the curve by giving the fringe cinema of Europe and Asia a platform - would Bruce Lee have broken through if Jimmy Wang Yu hadn't become a grindhouse fave first? Would Blair Witch exist without Deodato's cannibal flicks' faux-docu framing?

The release of Machete, and the upcoming Hobo With A Shotgun - another fake trailer to make the conversion to a feature - and the rash of midnight movie schedules at festivals around the world show that the need to hang around on the periphery of acceptability and love of unfettered film-making endures. Now, all we need to do is persuade Edgar Wright to make his Don't! trailer into a feature...

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