The project began with the intention of providing filmgoers with a comprehensive and objective guide to the plotlines of overlooked examples of British narrative cinema. Along the way, however, readers began to demand in-depth information about the plots of a wide variety of movies, and so the project has expanded to include examples from European and U.S. cinema. Editor-in-chief: A. Mellors.

In Transporter 3 (2008), Jason Statham plays Frank Martin, a sensitive Swiss composer who falls in love with a soulful Ukrainian scrubber while retracing the journey across central Europe made by Patrick Leigh-Fermor in Between the Woods and the Water. There are various setbacks, with Frank on a steep learning-curve when his once-reliable Audi needs constant ad-hoc repairs, but the experience is enriching and forms the inspiration for the choral work In Terra Pax as well as a number of smaller chamber pieces. (includes strong language and casual violence)

Escape to Athena (1979): A parchment discovered by antiques expert Otto Hecht (Roger Moore: The Man Who Haunted Himself; Cannonball Run) in Saint-Remy-de-Provence reveals that Nostradamus predicted the destruction of the Cradle of Civilization by a mysterious entity called the Eurozone. With the outbreak of World War II, Hecht finds himself Commandant of a prison camp at Corinth, not far from the remains of the mysterious site of Eleusis. When he realizes that the Reich, personified by the evil Major Volkmann (Anthony Valentine: Space 1999; Lovejoy), is fuelled by nordic myths anathema to the southern ritual tradition he has vowed to preserve, Hecht enlists the help of American raconteur Charlie del Mar (Elliot Gould, The Long Goodbye; Friends) and former monk Zeno (Telly Savalas: Kojak; Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham) to rescue Hellenism from misinterpretation by occult Nazi exegetes, knowing that if the light from Eleusis were ever to become identified with a debased Aryan version of Olympianism the future of the Mediterranean would be spiritual and economic ruin. (contains ham acting)

Jean de Florette (1986). Complacent but devious homeowner Peter Meyler (Yves Montand) is kicking his heels in provincial seclusion when reunited with his nephew, an aspiring troglodyte known only to the local peasantry as ‘Amour-joie’ (Daniel Auteuil). The two determine to buy up as much land and property nearby as possible in order to create a vast gite empire and hire out carefully distressed farmhouses to film companies. When in their desperation to acquire the next-door mas, they kill its owner Bosco, who unbeknownst to them has bequeathed the property to Jean (Gerard Depardieu), a hunchbacked city worker eager to escape to the country. Finding that the little farmhouse is light and airy and definitely has the wow-factor – in spite of Amour-joie’s attempts at sabotage – Jean instals his wife and daughter and sets about modernizing the place. But his dreams of self-sufficiency are shattered when the climate turns out to be less idyllic than expected: the constant rain is coupled strangely with drought. Jean finds that he can neither fill his cistern nor discover the spring rumoured to be hidden on his land, from which he had hoped to produce a premier brand of bottled water called Manon des Sources. Condemned to sit inside watching endless repeats of ‘Chasse au marche’ and ‘Joindre le geste a la parole’ while the rain/drought lays waste his crops, his sunny disposition fades and he begins to let his deformity get on his nerves. In a fit of paranoia he chokes to death on a croissant, leaving his wife and daughter to capitulate to the plans of Meyler and his sidekick. As Amour-joie discloses the spring he had known about all along, he splashes about shouting ‘ring of fire, turn about’, and ‘Is that the absolute death?!’ Based on the novels of Maurice ‘Newport’ Pagnell, the film takes much of itsrationale from the U.S. cartoon series Wacky Races (1968) and has interesting thematic links with the East German children?s classic Das singende klingende Baumchen (1957).

Twilight (2008). Seventeen year old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart: Jumper; The Cake Eaters) has trouble fitting-in with the fake-tan culture of Romford and decides to live with her father in the rainy outpost of Pathetic Fallacy, Oregon, where she immediately finds herself in high school surrounded by grungy indie kids more like herself but without the same degree of emo-inwardness. There are other outsiders, too: Jacob (Taylor Lautner: Duck Dodgers; Cheaper by the Dozen 2), a supposed Indian with that preppy Downs Syndrome look Americans find handsome, who cannot attend the school because he is forced to spend all his time in a gymnasium, and the mysterious Cullens, who lope about the school corridors looking miserable and wearing designer clothes. Realizing in a way she can’t admit to herself that she can only find happiness with a boy who understands the nothingness at the heart of her being and is really pale, Bella is strangely drawn to the taciturn, gorgeous Edward (Robert Pattinson: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), and by a miracle of fate or is it destiny finds herself paired with him in a woodwork lesson. Their conversation is limited, and would ordinarily, if this was, like, a date, have been a total bummer, but Bella sees beyond this into Edward’s puce-coloured eyes and begins to sense that her future lies in a gothic-lite utopia filtered through Muse and Linkin Park. What she doesn’t know at this point is that Edward is a vampire whose desire to feast on her is tempered by the fact that, like everyone in his family except for Rosalie (who is vegan), he has become a vegetarian, and his extreme pallor is caused by an exclusive diet of kohlrabi and radishes. Unlike normal vampires, who live in dark old castles shunning daylight, Volvo dealer Carlisle Cullen has installed his family in a Scandinavian modernist house with picture windows, insisting they embrace a zero-balanced lifestyle and eat only food from the kitchen garden or the local growers’ co-operative. Even so, Edward is torn apart – a little bit like a non-wimpy guy who restrains himself from using words like ‘tail’, ‘ass’, ‘flange’, etc. because he knows it makes him into a knobhead – torn apart by his need to knock-off Bella and the nobler feelings that allow him to be saintly and dangerous at the same time, thus realizing Bella?s teenage dream for a boyfriend who will reconcile soulfulness with nocturnal emissions. “You are my personal brand of heroin,” he tells her, invoking a dark, junkie side to his character while obviating the need for illegal substances. Out for a drive in his new C30, Edward rescues Bella from a gang of chavs and whisks her back to the house, where he plays her Debussy and runs up and down trees. Everything is perfect, except that the house smells of cabbage, and Bella gets confuzzled. Then a lot of other stuff happens including the preppy Indian guy turning into a friendly werewolf and the threat from a bunch of carnivorous vampires, Laurent, Victoria, and James, who try to serve-up Bella as dish of the day. Finally, Edward decides to man-up, fights off the evil vampires, and sucks out the venom that would otherwise de-humanize Bella, and the two lovers decide to be together forever but knowing that forever cannot mean the same thing in the human world and the supernatural world.

Dark Places (1973). Maverick newsreader Andrew Marr croaks in a lunatic asylum, but not before he is able to bequeath his family pile to Edward Foster (Robert Hardy), a man who looks exactly like him but to whom he is not related. Foster leaves the funny farm having listened to the old man raving about someone called Alta, who turns out to have been an au pair at the house, Marr’s Bottom, and is believed to have been killed many years ago in suspicious circs along with Marr?s wife and their little boy and girl. Foster is warned by a local cab driver that no one will go near Marr?s Bottom because bad things happen there, etc., but he is so keen to claim his prize that he ignores superstition and promptly falls through the timber bridge at the entrance to the property. Patched-up by Dr. Mandeville (Christopher Lee) and befriended by executor John Prescott (Herbert Lom), he soon enters a strange world of innuendo presided over by Mandeville’s sister, Sarah (Joan Collins), a conniving slapper who offers to help him clean-up the house in order (it seems) to have her way with him. In reality, like Prescott, she and her brother know there is a fortune concealed somewhere in the house, which they are determined to find before the hapless Foster can stumble across it. But Foster learns from the bank that Marr must have been flush and starts searching for the money, at which point he is visited by the apparition of Alta (Jane Birkin), taunted by poltergeist children, and begins to be possessed by Marr’s spirit, causing him to stomp about in that odd sideways movement familiar from All Creatures Great and Small and stare into the middle distance as if preparing to report the news. On a country walk with the limpet-like Mandeville and Prescott, the picture goes all wide-angled, so we know something peculiar is happening to Foster?s mind, but as yet it’s not serious enough to go fish-eyed. Back at the house, pieces of black crepe paper in the shape of bats fly out of the wall and hover about as if they are on wires. Foster suffers flashbacks revealing bit-by-bit that Marr planned to leave his wife and children for the winsome Alta and killed them upon finding that the mentally-deranged brats have dispatched her with a machete. Unfortunately for Sarah, a crucial flashback occurs as she embraces Foster, and he strangles her while re-enacting Victoria’s (Jean Marsh) death. Mandeville barges in and reveals that Foster was in fact an inmate, not a visitor, at the asylum and must be a nutter. The news is greeted with a pick-axe through the heart. Hard on his heels comes Prescott, who has alerted the police, and Foster is quickly taken into custody, though not until we get another good look at the pick-axed body of Mandeville. Foster had been on the verge of locating the stash, and its hiding-place discloses the skeletal remains of Alta, Victoria, and the kids. Was Marr’s Bottom really haunted by them, or was Foster a convenient psychopath open to suggestion? Cunningly, the ‘dark places’ of the title refer to the village, the house, Joan Collins’s nether regions, the concealed bodies, and the deranged minds of most of the characters. The real mystery of this film, though, is how anyone came to the conclusion that Alta, Victoria, and the children were murdered, when their bodies were left undiscovered behind the wall in a bedroom cupboard. And it never occurred to anyone that fruitcake Marr might have been the culprit rather than a victim. The most plausible denouement would have been that Foster turns out to be the evil son, who has escaped being cutlassed along with his sister, and has returned in disguise to claim his inheritance. But then if he’d escaped everyone would have known about the murders and Marr would have suspected Foster of being his son because he is a dead ringer. This must have looked like a plot cul-de-sac, so the doppelganger story is kept for uncanny effect though unfortunately it makes even less diegetic sense because like I’ve said no one would have been able to insinuate about the deaths because they’d have had no idea what happened. (contains nuts).

Anthony Mellors has recently completed ‘Autopsia: Olson, Themis, Pausanias’, which will appear in the next issue of Modernism / Modernity, and an introduction to the economics of aesthetic crisis. He is the author of Late Modernist Poetics from Pound to Prynne(Manchester University Press, 2005), which has just been issued in a new paperback edition. His poetry includes A Pastoral (Oxford: 1992; reprinted in Exact Change Yearbook (Exact Change / Carcanet, 1995) ) and The Gordon Brown Sonnets (Verisimilitude, 2009). He is currently working on a long sequence of 24-line poems, Bent Out of Shape, parts of which have appeared in the final issue of Great Works( and in the Spring 2011 issue of Poetry Wales.


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