Category Archives: Eurocrime

Celluloid Apocalypse’s mini-festival of seventies Italian crime cinema

The Italian Connection poster 2The Melbourne based purveyor of boutique VHS, Celluloid Apocalypse, is about to unleash upon the world its special VHS edition of Mike Malloy’s excellent documentary, Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Movies that Ruled the 70s. The documentary is a fascinating examination of the wave of Italian ‘poliziotteschi’ films that reached the height of its popularity in the mid-1970s, in response to the success of films like The French Connection (1971), The Godfather (1972) and the Dirty Harry films.

The films are fast past paced, ultra violent, ultra hard boiled and, at first glance, appear to yet another in the cycle of Italian rip-offs of successful American crime films, in much the same was as Spaghetti Westerns riffed off the popularity of the US Western. But while these films were cheaply made and quickly produced, for the most part they are far more interesting and sophisticated than simple knock offs.

While they utilised, and sometimes just plain copied, the standard tropes of seventies Hollywood crime film, they also interrogated uniquely Italian issues, including political dominance of organised crime, the wave of politically inspired terrorism characterised the country’s so-called ‘years of lead’, and the changing nature of society and gender relations in Italy. Another fascinating aspect is the fact that in addition to their Italian stars, many of these films boast performances by well known American and British actors who took the roles after their domestic film careers had began to decline.… Read more

Mid-summer reading report back

Total ChaosAs has become my practice, it’s time for my annual mid-summer reading report back – short reviews of some of the books I have read so far over the summer holidays. Without further introduction, in no particular order they are as follows:

Total Chaos, Jean-Claude Izzo

I’d never heard of Jean-Claude Izzo, the founder of the ‘Mediterranean noir movement’, until a friend recommended him to me after the attacks in Paris last November. My friend claimed not only were his books good crime reads, they provided a unique insight into the Islamic community in France. I wasn’t disappointed. Total Chaos, the first of Izzo’s so-called ‘Marseilles trilogy’, combines crime fiction smarts with a fascinating examination of immigrant politics in the French port city.

Fabio Montale grew up on the streets of Marseilles with two close childhood friends, Ugo and Manu. Fabio become a cop whose career is going nowhere as a result of his unfashionable focus on preventing crime rather than just cracking heads. Ugo and Manu became criminals. When his two friends are killed in violent circumstances, Fabio investigates what led to their deaths. He discovers his friends where bound up in a complex web of criminal power plays that involve organised crime, the National Front and veterans of France’s various imperial entanglements abroad.… Read more

MIFF reportback #3: Phoenix

phoenix-2Sometimes I wonder whether it’ll ever be safe to venture back into the cinema without having to watch yet another incredibly complex, supposedly sexually transgressive, domestic wannabe neo-noir that looks and feels like another variation on Gone Girl. Which is what I really liked about the 2014 German thriller, Phoenix, part of the 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). It was none of those things.

There is no artifice or unnecessarily complexity in the plot of Phoenix. It is just a solid, engaging, almost pitch perfect historical thriller that also makes some interesting observations about the nature of memory and collective historical amnesia in the face of great tragedies like the Holocaust.

Nelly (Nina Hass) is a former singer and concentration camp survivor. The war has left her damaged, physically via a gunshot wound to her head, and psychologically due the trauma of what she has experienced. She is brought back to post-war West Berlin under the protection of her friend, Lene (Nina Kunzendorf). Lene organises for Nelly to have facial reconstruction surgery, after which the plan is for Nelly to put her financial affairs in order – she is heir to a substantial amount of money – and the two of them to travel to Palestine to help establish a homeland for the Jews.… Read more

Mid-summer reading report back: Perfidia, Japanese tattoos, eighties sleaze

Perfidia

Summer in Melbourne is usually the one time of the year I can be guaranteed to get a fair amount of personal reading done. As has become my annual practice, a short report back on the books I have got through is in order.

Perfidia, James Ellroy

I need to preface my comments on Perfidia by stressing I am a massive Ellroy fan. I have read all of his books – ALL of them – many more than once. I even liked The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s A Rover, the two books that most divided readers. So, it is with a heavy heart that I say Perfidia is very disappointing. The long awaited prelude to Ellroy’s LA Quintet, Perfidia takes place in Los Angeles over 23 days in December 1941, a period in which American went from being at piece to the attack on Pearl Harbour and the country being at war.

The focal point of the book is the brutal murder on the eve of Pearl Harbour of a Japanese family. The killings have all the hallmarks of traditional Japanese ritual deaths. Drawn into the murder investigation are future LAPD chief William H Parker, the meanest crime fiction cop ever created, Dudley Smith, a brilliant young Japanese police forensic scientist, and Kay Lake, a woman with a major thing for bad men.… Read more

My top fiction and non-fiction reads of 2014

Time for me to present Pulp Curry readers with the list of my best reads for 2014. As is customary, I will start off by admitting, yet again, I feel I have not read nearly as much as I should have. My reading this year has been dominated by books for work, including material for freelance articles and the various literary festival panels I’ve been involved in. A considerable amount of my attention has also been directed to reading related to the non-fiction book I have been co-editing, Beat Girls, Love Tribes and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980, which is scheduled to be published in October 2015.

With all that said, here’s the top ten books I read in 2014. I’ve split my list in two this year – fiction and non-fiction.

My top fiction reads are as follows:

escape-dominique-manotti

Escape, Dominique Manotti 

I have long been interested in the political history in Italy in the seventies and eighties, the so-called ‘years of lead’, when left wing paramilitary groups and right wing extremists in the military and police were locked in a shadowy, violent conflict. Dominique Manotti’s Escape is set in the late eighties and deals with the aftermath of that conflict. Filippo is a common street hood that shares a prison cell with Carlos, a charismatic former Red Brigade member.… Read more