As we enter the home straight of our PiFan 2012 preview coverage - the festival kicks off in just over a week's time! - there is still so much left to dig through, highlight and generally drool over ahead of 19th July. Today it's my turn to scour the Strange Homage and Forbidden Zone sections of the programme, as well as champion two of the festival's special programmes - namely their retrospectives of Nicolas Winding Refn and the late, great Ken Russell.
Strange Homage - Dubbed the festival's "special tribute to the cineastes", this collection of five incredibly diverse films includes new works from Miike Takashi and Patrice Leconte, as well as my most anticipated documentary of the year. Here are some of the highlights:
Ace Attorney (Miike Takashi - Japan - 2012)
The latest from the prolific and increasingly eclectic director is a big screen adaptation of the much-loved courtroom video game. Veering closer to Yatterman than 13 Assassins, this is a brightly-coloured, ridiculously bequiffed and apparently hugely entertaining romp.
Room 237 (Rodney Ascher - USA - 2012)
Qute possibly my most-anticipated film of the entire festival. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is rightly regarded as one of the greatest horror movies ever made, but who knew that the film was rife with political subtext and cunningly disguised allegory? Documentarian Rodney Ascher reveals all.
The Suicide Shop 3D (Patrice Leconte - France/Canada/Belgium - 2012)
To the best of my knowledge this is Leconte's first foray into animation, but looks to be a winner. Imagine a world so miserable that the best business in town sells you the rope to hang yourself with. But when the proprietor becomes a father, he's filled with an overwhelming joie de vivre!
Forbidden Zone - PiFan's signature section is always worth checking out, with an aim to shock and titilate the most warped-minded of cinephiles. Here are a few titles I'll be checking out:
Chillerama (Adam Rifkin/Tim Sullivan/Adam Green/Joe Lynch - USA - 2011)
A horror movie anthology that pays hommage to 1950s drive-in flicks sees stories as ghoulishly diverse as The Diary of Anne Frankenstein play back-to-back with I Was A Teenage Werebear, from four of the most promising young directors currently working in the genre. Sure to be great midnight-movie fun.
Inbred (Alex Chandon - Germany/UK - 2011)
Playing like an underage version of John Boorman's Deliverance on the Yorkshire moors, Chandon's film sees a group of young offenders on a community service weekend square off against a group of local inbred kids, with events quickly escalating from the abusive to the blood-splattered.
Clip (Maja Milos - Serbia - 2012)
Written and directed by actress turned filmmaker Milos, this is the story of a confused, self-hating teen who leads typically debauched and confused life. When she falls for a young man seemingly less interested than she is, they begin a torrid, extreme and abusive sexual relationship.
In addition to these, PiFan has programmed a wide array of special programmes and retrospectives, but two inparticular caught my eye:
Fanta Masters - Nicolas Winding Refn
While there is barely a discerning film lover left who has not seen Refn's wonderfully minimalist LA noir, Drive, the Danish director had already enjoyed a decade of success in his homeland creating a variety of gritty urban thrillers, all of which will be screening at this year's festival and none of which - I must confess - I have ever seen. While the series also includes Fear X and his 2006 documentary, Gambler, I'll definitely try to catch:
The Pusher Trilogy (1996/2004/2005)
The films on which Refn made his name in the film world, and the first of their kind in Denmark. These stories of struggling small-time gangsters in Copenhagen were huge financial successes both at home and overseas, launching the career not only of their director but also a number of the cast, particularly Mads Mikkelsen.
I know that ScreenAnarchy overlord Todd Brown is a big fan of Refn's work and this film in particular. On discovering that his girlfriend is pregnant, Leo experiencing a crippling sense of self-loathing that only wild expressions of violence can hope to silence.
The Man Has No Fear: Ken Russell
One of Britain's most controversial and enduring filmmakers, the recently deceased Ken Russell angered and delighted audiences in equal mesaure during a career that spanned 50 years. While it would have been enlightening to see some of the directors final works, which he famously filmed in his own back yard due to lack of funding, and there are notable exclusions in the programme, most notably his best film, 1971's The Devils, PiFan 2012 nevertheless brings four of his greatest works to the big screen in a celebration of Russell's irreverence and talent. Women In Love, Crimes of Passion and Gothic are all well worth checking out, but for me the unmissable entry in this programme is:
Altered States (USA - 1980)
William Hurt plays an American scientist who takes a journey into the depths of his own psyche with the help of mind-bending drugs and an isolation chamber in this rare venture into science-fiction for Russell. Worth catching in all its 35mm glory for its hallucinogenic visuals alone, which were a huge influence on a number of contemporary filmmakers, such as Gaspar Noe (Enter The Void) and Panos Cosmatos (Beyond The Black Rainbow).
For more information about these films and the rest of the fest, check out the official PiFan 2012 website via the link below.