Alex’s Top Vintage Film Discoveries Of 2014

So with 2014 now well and truly over it’s time to look back at the film discovery highlights from the year. What I’ve compiled here is a list of my top vintage film discoveries, these are older films which I watched for the first time last year, so take a read and I hope you find something that makes you want to track one, or more, of these films down.

So in no particular order at all here we go!

Blonde Death (1984) – The sole film output of noted author James Robert Baker, Blonde Death is a finger in the eye to the norms of 80s suburban life and was produced by the influential but short lived EZTV. It’s a raw blast of cinematic anger, think what you’d get if John Waters had made a Shot On Video film and you’d be close. The copy I watched had a constant flicker all the way through it, which gave me a terrible headache, probably the perfect way to watch this extremely angry film. Plus it’s got wall-to-wall Angry Samoans on the soundtrack!

You Can’t Stop The Murders (2003) – “Small-town police fear for their lives after a set of serial murders with a Village People connection.” I nearly fell off my chair when I read that, seriously, do you need to know anything else? Well OK, to be truthful the film doesn’t quite live up to that synopsis, but it tries really hard, plus it’s Australian and it’s got an early appearance by Jason Clarke.  We had a great time watching this one and it’s got a very weird ending. So far it’s the sole directional output of Anthony Mir.

Split (1989) – Continuing the theme of one time directors here’s the sole output from scientist and mathematician Chris Shaw, “Split”. A film I enjoyed so much that we dedicated a Duke night to it during 2014. A strange futuristic vision of Big Brother corporations, surveillance, time travel and anything else that the film can hold, Split is a true one off, unique in its world vision and trippy as hell in places. I not sure that anyone at our screening enjoyed it, but they sure as hell remember watching it.

Two Men In Manhattan (1959) – What would happen if one of the coolest directors in the world made a super cool film dedicated to one of the coolest cities on Earth? That’s what we have here, Jean-Pierre Melville’s tribute to all things American and all things cool feels like he just hit the town with a few friends and a camera and went out to shoot anything and everything that summed up his perception of cool. Seriously the film feels like it exists just to make you want to step in and join in the coolness, you’d have to be wearing a hat and trench coat though.

Knights Electric (1980) – Probably my favourite find of 2014, this obscure Punk and New Wave short film washed up on my desk by a very strange route. Missing out on buying a 35MM lead me to track down the director and ask if there was any way to get a copy of the film, 48-hours later he’s sent me a DVD of it for free! This short went out in cinemas as the supporting feature to Inseminoid and features a gang of punks on the rampage in a seaside town. I’ve watched this so many times this year; it’s perfect in so many ways.

Nomad Riders (1984) – Absolutely wild revenge film from the mid-80s, opens with our hero in a glider as his wife and child are killed on the ground by a wild biker gang, then things just crazier and nastier as the film goes on. Add in an unexpected, but very good, electronic score and you’ve got a mean, nasty and essential 82-minute watch on your hands.

Flyin’ Cut Sleeves (1993) – Very obscure but totally amazing documentary looking at the New York street gangs of the 1970s. I never get tired of seeing how bad things got in NY during the 60s and 70s, this documentary takes original footage shot at the time and intermixes it with early 90s footage of those featured in the film, looking back at how their lives and how the communities have changed. A powerful and intimate look at a time long gone.

Lefty: Memory Of A Dead Man In Brooklyn (1978) – I really can’t get enough of any New York films as here’s another similar documentary looking at New York street gangs. This time it’s a German TV crew and what sets this one apart is the incredible access they’ve been able to get with the gangs, following them around the city and just letting things happen as the day goes by, ending incredibly with the film crew on the streets in the middle of a full blown riot. Don’t let the all-German narration put you off, this is an essential watch for any NY fans.

Berlin Express (1948) – One of my favourite themes in films is when a group of strangers have to band together to overcome a greater evil. This thriller features a multi-national cast who meet up on a train then band together to stop villainous goings on in post-war Berlin. It might feel a bit forced in parts, but this great thriller is put together with expert care by Jacques Tourneur and was the first American film to shoot on the streets of bomb ravaged Berlin after the war.

The Astrologer (1975) – Here’s a real one-off, the fine folks at AGFA have the only surviving print of this beyond-obscure 1970s oddity, a tale of a side-show Astrologer who really does have strange powers, who sets off into some very odd adventures which don’t seem to make any sense. It’s the sort of film where you have no idea what’s coming next and simply seems to have been made up as they went along. It also gets the award for best line of the year:

“You’re not an astrologer, you’re an asshole!”


My Top New Films Of 2014 were: Snowpiercer, The Duke Of Burgundy and Nightcrawler.

My Top TV Shows Of 2014 were: The Leftovers, True Detective, Hannibal and Siberia.

So that wraps up 2014, we’re already hitting it hard in 2015 and we’d love to see you at the Duke through the year!

Evrim Ersoy’s Top Duke Discoveries Of 2014

What better way to start the New Year than with a list of Top Duke Discoveries – these are pulled from across the entire watching spectrum – there are no rules, no limits, no release date limitations – these are simply my favourite films I saw this year all across 2014.

Whiplash: I don’t think there are enough words in the English language for me to be able to do justice to the experience of watching ‘Whiplash’ – it’s a kind of exhilaration, a constructive perfection that I have not seen for years. Anyone with any love for film should make sure to watch this on the biggest, loudest screen that they can catch it on.

Blind: The nuances of ‘Blind’ are mesmerizing – switching between fantasy and reality and carefully intertwining the stories of a blind woman trapped within her own head and the construct world she has created, this emotionally astute and darkly funny film manages to achieve an emotional honesty which I have not yet encountered since the astonishing ‘Vanishing Waves’.

I Am Here: Perhaps one of the most daring films of 2014, this astonishing film features a standout performance by Kim Basinger who brings an incredibly delicate vulnerability to the role of Maria – a succesfull businesswoman with a particular obsession. Asking some of the most difficult questions on-screen this or any year, ‘I Am Here’ succeeds despite its occasional failings – a flawed masterpiece if there was ever one.

Street Wars: The less I say about this 1992 gem the better as there might be a Duke surprise for everyone in store. But let me just put this out there: of all the boys-in-the-hood gang films I’ve seen across the course of my film-discovering life, none has had the swagger and the daring of Jamaa Fanaka’s epic which delights and surprises in every turn with outlandish characters, brilliant action scenes and a sense of rebellion that touches the viewer even after all this time.

When Animals Dream: Gentle and melancholy, this incredible effort from director Jonas Alexander Arnby blends the gentle horror of classic Universal monster movies with an updated treaty on female sexuality and small-town oppression. A love story, an exploration of puberty and an out-and-out horror film, this incredible effort deserves to be seen more widely.

Eat Your Bones: Of all the films about masculinity in 2014, none could match the swagger and honesty of ‘Mange Tes Morts’ – set within a gypsy community in Northern France, this incredible outing blends documentary cinema with the best of classic gangster films and captures a world so familiar and yet foreign that it’s impossible not to be mesmerized. The final confrontation left me breathless and hopefully will capture audiences elsewhere in a similar fashion.

The Treatment: The closest to the hard-nosed thrillers of 80’s that any film has ever come, ‘The Treatment’ ; on surface; is a classic police thriller – but its dark corners are many and its unflinching handling of the central concept is incredibly brave and daring. Perhaps the staging is by the numbers and the resolution of the case a little clichéd – and yet it’s hard not to be taken in by the brilliant acting and the sense of dread and tension that director Hans Herbots builds from the first scene and does not let go until the very final, dreadful, heart-breaking frame. You will not see a better thriller this year.

Petit Quinquin: Let’s be honest, I’m not a fan of Bruno Dumont and his over-composed and very slow approach to filmmaking but in his first T.V. outing he has managed to create one of the out-and-out masterpieces of the year. Funny AND incredibly astute this tale of an investigation into a series of Northern France is blessed with outstanding performances and an ever-darkening mood which draws the audience right in. Unmissable whenever it airs anywhere, it’s even worth tracking down on the big screen just to appreciate the majesty of the cinematography.

Magical Girl: Carlos Vermut’s tale of unpleasant things happening to odd people is finely judged, brilliantly executed and incredibly hard-to-watch. The material is familiar, yes, but the result is so outlandish it’s hard not to be impressed by his building on the brilliant debut of ‘Diamond Flash’. A director to watch if there was ever one.

The Raid 2: Look, it ended and I wanted to be thrown against objects and run around screaming. It’s the best adrenalined ride I’ve ever encountered. The car chase scene alone puts everything else within the genre to shame. Just – let’s accept it – Gareth Evans has discovered the fountain of fighting and the rest of us will have to look on whilst he brings together sequences technically impressive and visually arresting beyond imagination.

La French: It’s familiar, it’s predictable, it’s totally stuff we’ve seen before – and yet… who cares when the end result is so absolutely brilliant? Blessed with mesmerizing performances from the two leads, this gorgeous and utterly wonderful gangster epic treads familiar territory with such confidence that you’d have to be cinematically blind not to be impressed. I love ‘La French’ and I want to forever live in its sun-drenched, blood-soaked vision of 70’s Marseille. There.

Wild Tales: The funniest film of the year by a wide margin. The last 20 minutes alone is worth the price of admission but that’s not enough for director Damián Szifrón who invents even more outrageous scenarios with a speed hitherto unknown in comedy films. Sheer marvel and bloody funny.

The World of Kanako: No other film can match the outrageous madness of director Tetsuya Nakashima‘s story of awful people doing awful things to each other. Fantastically nasty and wonderfuly ugly, this has to be the best neo-noir that has hit our screen for a long, long time.

Norway: Flawed? Yes. Repetitive? Sometimes. But damn if it’s not also engrossing, funny and absolutely mesmerising to watch. Blessed with a killer soundtrack and an ending which demands to be played loud, ‘Norway‘ is the best Greek-disco-vampire story that I’ve ever seen.