Teasing Threads – The Pleasure of Forgotten Movies: Richard Loncraine’s ‘The Haunting of Julia’

Chris Palazzolo wonders why The Haunting of Julia, directed by Richard Loncraine, 1978, is a forgotten movie.

Image result for the haunting of julia images

I’m a lazy consumer of popular culture. It’s rare that I’ll read introductions to books or watch the special features of dvds. I like to take things straight off the shelves with the (probably self-serving) argument that if a book or a movie doesn’t contain everything it needs to be understood, but requires secondary sources to fill in gaps, then that’s a weakness in it. I am however ready to make inquiries into mysteriously neglected movies. I can’t think of anything more unloved than Richard Loncraine’s gothic masterpiece The Haunting of Julia (aka, Full Circle). By ‘inquiries’ what I mean is a cursory thumb flick through compilations of old reviews, or an idle google, and what I’ve found is that there’s very little written about this movie apart from a handful of dismissive reviews at the time of its release in 1978. I saw it originally on late night tv, under the title Full Circle, back in the 1980s. It’s only available on tv formatted vhs, and now an even more deteriorated looking upload on Youtube. It’s never been released on dvd so I’ve never seen this movie in its proper aspect ratio. I still associate it with enigmatic shots where sometimes only an actor’s hand can be seen while their disembodied voice comes from off-screen. The little I’ve gleaned from my ‘inquiries’ is that Loncraine became dangerously ill while making it (anorexia nervosa), and Mia Farrow, its star, hated working on it so much she completely disowned it. This film hasn’t just been forgotten, it’s been renounced.

For reasons that are partly superstitious I wouldn’t want to see this film in its ‘proper’ restored state. In fact I wonder if there ever was such a state. I think the vhs copy (the Youtube upload is just the vhs version, and it’s pretty dire) is its proper state. If the television formatting lopped off parts of shots then that was meant to happen. Its hideous beauty is in the butchery on its hide; as the evil in its imagery visits butchery upon a number of human hides, its own tormented condition is its punishment. I need to be careful when I think about this movie. My mind runs into its big molecular close-ups like water runs into blotting paper; the faces of Farrow, and Tom Conti and Kier Dullea; the ‘englishness’ of the faces of the supporting cast (repertory faces of middle class British television) loom in shots of gaseous volume. All of the spaces the human figures move through – rooms and stairways, streets and parks – are full of this gassy ambience. This makes the human figures, and their faces and their minds look like molecularising shadows, permanently on the point of dissolution; it spiritualises them. This sense is heightened by a soundtrack where almost all the incidental sounds are muted to the point of silence. The score is a sickly obsessive music-box theme which overlays everything with an air of unspeakable sorrow. All of these elements serve to electrify its horror set-pieces with supernatural malice.

The spirit world represented here is of the British spiritualist type. Like its dimensional sibling, British naturalism, it conceives of the spirit world as subject to ‘rational’ laws (which have nothing to do with Christian eschatology); laws of supernatural selection. The properly British posture towards these laws is contemplation and humble inquiry, but otherwise laissez-faire. The evil that resides in the house at the centre of the story serves the same function in the supernatural world as a funnel web serves in the natural – to snare prey. The old spiritualist warns Farrow to leave the house. But she doesn’t. There’s nothing more to be done for the poor girl; she’s too weakened by grief at the death of her daughter and the evil seeps into the open wound of her mourning like poison. The narrative’s sickly obsession on this poisoning however is Gothic, and the Gothic is Christian – a medieval Christianity of eternal damnation, of the sorrow of eternal damnation; a sorrow so abject it becomes Horror. But the Gothic (as a literary and artistic conceit) is also post-Christian. Its imagery of sickness, madness and death is of the aftermath of Christian belief. Eternal damnation still causes terror, but belief in the God that rationalises such punishment is no longer possible. It’s the supernatural world that dispenses punishments on the mortal, but in a morally arbitrary (natural selective) kind of way. These punishments are evil because they have no other purpose than the extermination of life. Evil is pure appetite and the meek is its no longer blessed prey.

 – Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world. His novel, Scene and Circles, is available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419

Teasing Threads – Three Classical Westerns: 3. John Ford’s ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’

The third and final of Chris Palazzolo’s little series Three Classical Westerns is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, directed by John Ford, 1962

Image result for the man who shot liberty valance imagesJohn Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance gets a regular outing on Gem, which is interesting in itself because I’m old enough to remember when Australia only had three tv channels, 2, 7 and 9, and while Westerns were often played as weekend matinees, I don’t ever recall this one getting a run. Someone programming for Gem must really like this movie because it seems to get played every six months or so.

The two things I noticed about this movie when I first saw it (only a couple of years ago) were the date of its release, 1962, and its stagey and unrealistic look. 1962 was a time when revisionist westerns began to appear. Movies such as Ford’s The Searchers (1959) and Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country (1962) made verisimilitude to the gritty realities of 19th century American frontier life, and the expressionistic portrayal of a western ‘psychology’ (racism and misogyny) the benchmarks of value for the genre. The studio bound sets and flat lighting of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance gives it the look of a throwback to an earlier stage of the genre; a time when studios would release a western a week. John Ford’s own career begun in that era, so he knew how to knock ‘em up and churn ‘em out. But this is a late John Ford, so the style is not accidental. Neither the authentic recreation of life conditions of the old west, nor the inner lives of its characters is the purpose of this movie. This is because it is a parable of the beginnings of American democracy in which each of the characters signifies a principle of that democracy.

The obtuse style of the movie is like the smooth opaque surface of a nut. A nut is a protected seed. That seed is the pre-democratic society of a small Texan town which is both tyrannised and protected by the gun; the gun of the bandit Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), and the gun of the farmer Tom Donavan (John Wayne). These two gunslingers are the shiny hard shell of the nut – shiny, because everyone can see where the power lies – hard, because there’s no arguing with it; might is right and that’s that. The demos of the town is in proto form, all crammed together unable to move and flourish. There’s a town Marshall, but he’s a coward who won’t dare take on Valance; there’s a drunken newspaper man who doesn’t dare write articles about Valance, and then there’s the townspeople whose only protection from Valance is Donavan. But Donavan will only take on Valance if his own interests are affected. If, as a farmer, his interests usually align with those of the town then that’s lucky for the town, otherwise he won’t stick his neck out for nobody. In other words the protection Donavan offers is as arbitrary as the beatings Valance dishes out. If the whole thing is closed into a nut of lethal might an external force with the hardness of a hammer is needed to split it open and allow the seed of American democracy to germinate.

This hammer, paradoxically, is the newly arrived pacifist lawyer Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) who refuses to be cowed by Valance’s gun or respect Donavan’s gun. Stoddard’s naked willpower is the hammer. His crazy brave principles which includes refusing to defend himself means certain death until Donavan takes a step outside of his self-interest, kills Valance and spirals off into ruinous obscurity. Once the shell is broken all the elements of the demos – the law, the press, the legislature (Stoddard becomes a senator for Texas) – separate and grow. They start to constellate and flower, stabilising in that dynamic relativity we now know as representative democracy. Some of the loveliest scenes in the movie are the town hall rallies as newly emboldened citizens deliver their rambling pitch for the vote amid raucous bunting and vaudeville. The violence that marked the origin of this democracy becomes legend, separated from fact (everyone believes Stoddard shot Valance), while the question as to why Donavan stuck his neck out on that occasion remains the deepest private mystery for Stoddard. Whatever Donavan’s motive was (and to me it is obvious: Stoddard was the bravest man he ever met, he couldn’t bear to see him shot down in cold blood) his action marked the original separation of powers – an armed yeoman ceding to the democrat his place in the sun in order to serve as executioner from the shadows.

    – Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world. His novel, Scene and Circles, is available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419

Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’

Chris Palazzolo is so charmed by Only Lovers Left Alive (directed by Jim Jarmusch, 2013) he’s written a little blurb for it.

 In the second decade of the 21st century, what city would you choose to live in if you were a vampire? Jim Jarmusch has the answer in Only Lovers Left Alive. Tangier and Detroit. Husband and wife vampires, Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) are at the stage of their marriage (1000 years, give or take a century or two) where they don’t need to be together all the time, but can go and pursue their own interests at opposite ends of the earth fully trusting each other’s love and loyalty. Each has their favourite city which they choose to live in. Eve lives in Tangier, city of refuge on the southern Mediterranean for 2500 years, and in modern times, port of call and meeting place for generations of European, Middle Eastern, and American artists, intellectuals, poets and spies. There she lives the  life of an aristocratic ex-pat, collecting curios and hanging out with other vampire ex-pats like Elizabethan playwright and spy Christopher Marlowe (reports of his murder in 1593 were greatly exaggerated). Adam lives in the post-industrial ghost city of Detroit, home of the US car industry and Motown records. There, in a Rockefeller era three story house in a neighbourhood of abandoned houses, he is left alone to compose grunge dirges for independent record labels. He is effortlessly the best of his peers in that scene, because, of course he has no peers; he’s been composing funeral music since the 16th century (he even collaborated with Schubert) and the fuzzy guitars and industrial percussion of grunge music just happens to be to his taste.

Life for these vampires is fun. They are old enough to have learnt how to do everything perfectly and to know exactly what they want to do. They are not troubled by the doubts that afflict the mortal. The only necessity in their lives is a regular supply of quality blood, which has to be sourced from medical outlets because, in the 21st century killing people is just too much trouble. Should that supply be interrupted though, well, what choice do they have? In the meantime life is forever leisure, doing what you want to do, staying up all night, and sleeping all day. Naturally they become the philosophers, leaders of taste for mortals (zombies as they call humans) sensitive and patient enough to listen because they never shout. Best of all they can live wherever they want to, wherever they think real beauty and style survives. And beauty and style must always have a bit of suffering and neglect in it.

Jim Jarmusch is the poet of the regional city. Throughout his career his cool/dorky characters have struck their hip postures in once legendary small American cities, increasingly overshadowed by the relentless New York focus of US popular culture; cities like Memphis, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, St Louis and Detroit. His vampires are paragons of good taste. They would never be so vulgar as to settle in Los Angeles or New York, self-promoting, celebrity obsessed theme parks of mediated urbanity. Real beauty, real style, is quietly industrious; it doesn’t care whether you notice it or not, because it knows it’s the best and doesn’t have to loudly assert itself. This is the wisdom of the undead. They have long long pasts, but they are the future too.

   – Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world. His novel, Scene and Circles, is available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419

Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: On going to see Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Allied’

Chris Palazzolo finally gets to go to the pictures!

It’s rare that I see movies at the cinema these days, which is odd because I live a twenty minute walk away from the Hoyts cinemas at the Carousel Shopping Centre. Never in my life have cinemas been so accessible to me. However a combination of curmugeonly middle age and the demands of young children means I just can’t be bothered making the time to see some portentious franchise that’s just going to bore me. If I’m going to go through the difficult logistical exercise of ensuring my house is orderly and kids are fed and ready for bed (thus taking the pressure off my wife who is a full-time accountant) so I can spare a couple of hours to myself, then the movie has to be worth it – it has to be grown-up, and it has to be original (the vagueness of these criteria should give the reader an indication of just how fussy I am).

The other night I went to see Robert Zemeckis’s WW2 melodrama Allied. I didn’t have high expectations of this movie, but then I knew very little about it because I generally don’t take much notice of reviews. Nonetheless as I walked to the shopping centre I felt those lovely belly flutters that I’ve always associated with going to see a movie. On entering the shopping centre at 9pm (session time 9.15) that excitement was compounded by an uncanny sense of anachronism, of being in a space so familiar to me (I’m at this shopping centre almost every day for groceries) but after most of it is closed. Only the concourse, and the cafes and restaurants in that concourse, that lead to the cinemas upstairs, is open. The dusk of all those closed shops presses on this fluorescent lit concourse as if the shopping centre is asleep and the twenty cinemas upstairs are its dreaming cortex.

I felt nervous as I bought my ticket. I can’t explain why, but to make the feeling more acute I bought a coffee. I waited outside the cinema while two bored young ushers swept the popcorn and coke cups from the seats and aisles. Only one other couple was waiting with me. Having worked in video shops for 15 years I can attest to the peculiar light the glamour of cinema sheds on the shabby commercial reality of its retail arms; it both heightens the shabbiness while at the same time thralling it with a charge of its glamour (more than a few times over those years I was stopped on the street by customers who recognised me without recognising me asking me if I was on television. ‘No, I’m the video shop guy,’ I’d inform them). I’m always conscious, particularly in these (now not so) new suburban cinema megaplexes of the creaking beams and boards under the worn red carpet of the entrance passage, the fading and grubby seats (which are still very comfy), and the stale smells of the day’s patrons. But I’m a still a sucker for that big screen. If the film is good I’ll think about nothing else for the next two hours.

Allied was great. Of course the historian in me picked out all sorts of errors – were the Germans area bombing British cities on the scale depicted in the movie at that stage of the war (1943)? I don’t think they were. Would Ultra (British Intelligence) have helped the French Resistance with a high profile assassination when they knew what German reprisals were like? I don’t think they would’ve. The cultural theorist in me wondered whether movies like this help us to remember the Second World War or contribute to its forgetting? Do they just hasten the process of turning Nazis into simulacra locked away permanently from our times by their loving recreation of Nazi iconography of the 1930s and 40s? And is it an ontological void that Baudrillard says opens up beneath the simulacra, because that which is simulated no longer exists, only its simulation exists? And that into this void steps some young Western intellectuals who now do Nazi salutes on the web as a kind of situationist political tool, because the reality of Nazism, the DNA of Nazism, slavery and extermination for all peoples who are not white Aryans, is itself just part of the simulation? I couldn’t answer these questions. I’m just a househusband who doesn’t know about any of these big things, except that I love a good weepie. I shed a tear at the end. Any film that can make me react like that is a great film.

 – Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world. His novel, Scene and Circles, is available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419

This Is The Review You Are Looking For: Perry Lam reviews ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

Star Wars has always been reliant on formula, what started out as a fusion of old samurai movies and Joseph Campbell myth making eventually (and this depends on who you ask) transforms or degenerates into a grand family opera told through time, space and the occasional teasing of creepy incestuous romance. Through seven massive franchise films, Star Wars has, for better and for worse, enforced the standard of blockbuster filmmaking. The Original Trilogy trailblazed in terms of cinematic storytelling, Lucas wanted to create something to ‘inspire the young’ and fight the then ailing studio system. With his use of mythic archetypes and borrowing heavily on Akira Kurosawa’s cinematic technique, Lucas created a series of films that reinvented cinema as not an artform but as a form of casual entertainment.

What was trailblazing eventually became the beaten, established path. With the prequels Lucas turns the franchise into effects driven spectacles, throwing the script to the wind, proving that story does not really matter in the grander scheme of marketing, merchandising and commercial interests. The transition from Original to prequel trilogies is ironic, what started out as a Rebel Alliance, bring the cinematic arts to mass audiences became the Galactic Empire, a commercial brand whose sole motivation is total market domination. George Lucas became the studio he fought so hard against. He has become, the Galactic Empire.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

With the sale to Disney, the films that are released thus far seem more interested in serving as a ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation for the franchise. Specifically, much of Disney’s cinematic and aesthetic style owes more to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, than any other entry in the series. The emphasis on nostalgia, the use of desert locales, the ‘used future’ aesthetic and the narrowing down of lightsaber and Force users to two or less. These creative choices are all evident in The Force Awakens and in Rogue One. But as a film, Rogue One offers a few more surprises up its own sleeves.

Rogue One takes place between Episode 3 and Episode 4, with the Jedi wiped out, the Galactic Empire has risen to power, enforcing its tyranny across the galaxy. To further establish the Empire’s dominance, an ambitious Imperial Military Director, Orson Krennic leads the construction of the Death Star, a planet killing superweapon.

With the Death Star close to completion, it is up to a grizzled and war weary team of Rebel soldiers to steal the schematic plans of the superweapon, in order to find a way to defeat it and bring freedom back to the galaxy. Essentially, this is Death Star: The Origin Story.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Death Star Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

One of the great surprises of Rogue One is its willingness to break the franchise’s rules. Firstly, the film takes the series out of the saga of the Skywalker family and into the greasy hands and mudcaked boots of the regular joes and janes of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. By removing the familial and religious ‘Good vs Evil’ dynamic, we are left with compelling and previously unexplored shades of grey to both sides of the Galactic Civil War. Characters do what it takes to turn the tide of the conflict, at any cost. There is no ‘hate leads to suffering’ philosophical musings here, the only hate is between both sides and the only suffering is what each side subject to the other.

Previous entries in the series dealt in absolutes, Rebels are the good guys and the Empire are the bad, yet Rogue One is bold enough to roster both sides with horrible, broken people who probably have problems sleeping at night. Our two protagonists are cut from this tattered, bloodsoaked cloth, the stoic Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), wakes up to one too many traumatic dreams of childhood abandonment, and the serious and but no less dashing Han Solo surrogate, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), not only shoots first but when we are first introduced to him, shoots people in the back too. Yavin 4 is as big a hive for scum and villainy as Mos Eisley Cantina.

Supporting characters are also filled out by intriguing and distinctly non Star Wars flavoured archetypes, adding new dimensions to the film and the overall mythos. The protocol droid K-2SO is a welcomed addition to the iconic line up of droids in the franchise, he is C3PO with the attitude of a scruffy-looking nerf herder, quipping and smart-assing his way through the narrative. K2 sets itself apart from the squeaky clean, kid appealing franchise icons that R2D2 and C3PO has become.

Substituted for that iconic droid duo, we are given a human alternative instead, in the form of the blind warrior monk Chirrut Emwe (Donnie Yen) and heavy weapons specialist Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen). While the gruff and no-nonsense Baze is badass in his own right, blowing away stormtroopers with his blaster rifle, it is Chirrut who wows the crowd with his intergalactic kung fu, constant sutra-like chanting, and that one joke related to his visual impairment. Yen’s Chirrut opens a new door for the Star Wars universe. Through him, we finally have an understanding of what The Force really means to the rest of the galaxy, it is a religion, to be accepted or rejected.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Felicity Jones) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

And I have not gone the villains themselves, the baddies aren’t exactly evil. As in the case with the lead villain, Director Orson Krennic. Played with snarly ambition by the great Ben Mendelsohn, Krennic is every middle management exec paranoid about his superiors taking credit for his own work, which in a twisted sense, makes him the most relatable character in the film. I would be pissed if someone takes credit for my work too.

Krennic may be the chief antagonist, but iconic villains in the form of Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader do flank him in the narrative, though their appearance does at times weaken Krennic’s role as villainous authority and come across as fan service. It is justifiable though, as both have functions within the story. Grand Moff Tarkin’s appearance serves to highlight his role in Episode 4 and turns Krennic’s story arc into one of corporate and organizational infighting, this adds an interesting wrinkle to the Empire, who usually comes across as a faceless unit simply out to do the most evil thing possible.

Darth Vader, on the other hand, is something we REALLY need to talk about. While his appearance is brief, it re-establishes the character as one of the preeminent villains in film history. We always did hear either through the films or from other Star Wars media of Vader’s terrifying reputation, and skills in combat. But we have never actually seen him in action. Rogue One unleashes the Jedi formerly known as Anakin Skywalker and I’ll damn sure say it, he isn’t ‘just’ someone to be ‘feared, he isn’t ‘just intimidating’. This is Darth Vader in his absolute prime, he is genuinely terrifying. His single minute appearance transforms the film from a war movie into a slasher flick, as he mows down his opponents with supernatural ease and unchecked brutality. Anakin Skywalker is dead but Darth Vader is back.

As great as the characters are and as interesting as this new Star Wars universe is, the narrative does take a while to get going, to blame is the multiple set ups and character introductions. While they are absolutely necessary for the third act to function, there is also too much unnecessary traveling between planets that are redundant to the main plot. To be blunt, the main Death Star plans story arc does not actually get going until the end of the second act, much of the plot development in the first two is reserved to character establishment. That said, the greatness of the third act is because of the two acts that came before.


You will notice the narrative and tonal shift of the finale. It is not much a gradual change as it is stepping off a cliff.  The finale is one of the best for a blockbuster in recent memory. A non-stop, all or nothing pitched battle between the Rebels and the Empire, winner takes all. It showcases the extraordinary difficulty that the Rebels have, when confronting the might of the Empire head to head. The battle scenes get ugly and unflinching as we are in the thick of it, storming the beachheads of Scarif with the ragtag Rebels, or accompanying Y-Wing bombers on their attack run, trying desperately to delay inevitable defeat against a superior opponent. It is more Apocalypse Now than Star Wars.

The final battle itself is a thing to behold, we have never seen the Rebels fight this hard. We read the opening crawl of Episode 4, we know this is their first major victory, we know spies managed to get their hands on the Death Star plans. What we do not know is how much of a cruel, relentless struggle this is. Culminating in an ending that, once you catch a glimpse of the back of the familiar curved white Rebel Soldier helmet and a nostalgic looking white starship corridor, it will make you wonder “Are they really going to do that?”. Yes, they did.

However, I do not agree that it is the darkest entry in the franchise, sure a lot of bad stuff happens and it is significantly darker for a Star Wars film but it is nowhere near the nihilism that was displayed in 2005’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Back then, your standard Star Wars protagonist could be a paranoid, selfish man who ends up murdering children, strangling his pregnant wife (who later dies in childbirth), and engaging his friend/mentor in a duel to the death that ends up with said protagonist having all his limbs chopped off before burning in a river of lava, and no one would bat an eyelid. Of course, you can’t do that now, its 2016.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Donnie Yen) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

With that said, blaster bolts still fly and the body count is racked up, as the characters you are invested in are forced into a desperate fight to the survive against wave after wave of Imperial troops. Much credit has to go to the writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, as well as director Gareth Edwards, for framing the Rebel cause as a courageous but ultimately hopeless one, with no reward other than a thermal detonator blast to the face.

Gareth Edwards is an inspired choice as director, having had previous experience playing around with the concept of scale in Monsters and Godzilla, we are now seeing the peaking of a young director. The Death Star looks monstrously grotesque in Rogue One, as Star Destroyers are dwarfed by the superweapon’s sheer mass. Edwards even manages to make establishing shots look cool. The opening shot of an Imperial transport vessel floating above the rings of a planet is gorgeous and novel in its approach to establishing locales.

The aesthetics of the film is perhaps its strongest point. Use of handheld cinematography accentuates the overall mise-en-scene, making us feel like we are right there with the rest of the Rogue One team. But it is the production design that gets to shine, the gritty ‘boots on the ground’ aesthetic is on full display here. Massive fallen statues of Jedi knights pepper the surface of the Jedi world of Jedha, Stormtroopers are no longer squeaky clean, their armor caked in grease and grit of countless skirmishes. These are details that are usually unnecessary but this meticulousness is what gives the film its deep immersion, a stand out sequence would be Jyn Erso’s escape from an Imperial prison transport on a miserable looking planet, this is the first time the Stormtroopers look bored and fed up with their jobs. And they got every reason to, even their dented and dirtied helmets tell their story before a single line of dialogue is uttered.


The one aspect of the film that leaves us wanting however, is the generic score. Now, Star Wars is one of the most aurally defined fictional universes, but the score plays it too safe, relying on old motifs and the previous work of John Williams’ to define itself. Which clashes with the entire creative motivation of the film, with jaw dropping , previously unseen visuals of the Star Wars universe, including a scene where a Star Destroyer is literally chopped in half, it is disappointing that Michael Giacchino is unable to conjure up any orchestral magic to match the originality that permeates the rest of the film.

As a film reviewer, I would rather judge a film on its own merits but with Rogue One, its success lies with how it affects the film it chronologically precedes, Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. To judge this movie as a standalone does not appreciate what it has done, which is singlehandedly upping the ante and the importance of various plot points in the other films in the franchise. Bear in mind, this was supposed to be a ‘side story’ with no bearing on the events of the main saga. Yet Rogue One, with its compelling characters, intricate cinematography, production design and an absolute cracker of a third act, proves that being a side story does not mean you can’t be the main event.



**** and a half/5

One of the best films of the year and definitely the best blockbuster of 2016. With a great cast of characters, spellbinding production design and a killer final act, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story adds much needed originality and value into the events of Star Wars mythos, and in doing so surpasses most of the films it was supposed to play second fiddle to.



If you like this, you should watch:

Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope- This should be first on your list after watching Rogue One, the blend is seamless and astonishing to behold, I cannot believe how both films work in storytelling so well.

Flashpoint- The plot may be thin but this film features Donnie Yen’s best choreographed fight scenes, and a viciously executed German suplex that has been emulated in Hollywood productions like Deadpool.

Monsters- Gareth Edwards low budget feature film debut. It is the epitome of sci fi indie filmmaking.

The Hidden Fortress- Akira Kurosawa is a tremendous influence on New Hollywood era filmmakers. And The Hidden Fortress is Star Wars’ greatest reference in terms of storytelling.

Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: Ruben Ostlund’s ‘Force Majeure’

Chris Palazzolo examines the genealogy of the cigarette in Force Majeure, directed by Ruben Ostlund, 2014

Image result for force majeure images The cigarette Johannes Bah Kuhnke smokes on the walk down the mountain road at the end of Ruben Ostlund’s Force Majeure would have to be one of the most well-earned in the history of cinema. This may seem like an exaggeration, especially when one considers the long relationship the cinema has had with the cigarette. From Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame lighting each other’s cigarettes in In A Lonely Place, to the ANZACs in Gallipoli sharing a last fag before running into a hail of Turkish lead, or the gitane the teenage collaborator splutters on as he turns the Jewish boy over to the German soldiers in Au revoir, les enfants, to the thousand packets that Robert De Niro smokes in Casino, the cigarette would have to be one of cinema’s most complex and mysterious motifs, comparable, in the amount of meaning it generates, to that of the gun. Just from these four examples I’ve chosen one can see the range of attributes it signifies – sophistication, mortality, villainy, and will. To say that the one smoked in Force Majeure is the most well-earned is definitely a bold claim. I will hold to it though because it has against it something that none of those other examples had against them – the hostility of contemporary ‘healthy living’ discourses, and the progressive ‘bricking up’ by the modern state all legal avenues for its consumption.

Force Majeure is about faultlines; glacial faults which open up a faultline in an apparently stable marriage. When a Swedish family, holidaying in the French Alps, think an avalanche is about to hit them, the husband panics and runs, leaving his wife and kids behind. The shock of the near miss and the husband’s apparent cowardice, causes a crisis in the family; the wife wonders whether she loves her husband anymore; the husband suffers crushing shame and the horrible prospect of loneliness, the kids worry that their parents are going to divorce. The psychodrama is like a series of continuing aftershocks as the husband and wife flail about in increasingly irresponsible attempts to overcome the awful ambivalence that’s opened up between them like a crevasse. By the end of the holiday a sort of reconciliation has taken place between them (though not the adventure of being in the mountains), and when the tourists are forced to walk part way down the mountain, the husband lights up the cigarette in question, much to the surprise of his children.

This cigarette, lit on the mountainside, signifies the origins of the faultline in the couple’s marriage. It does this in the same way that Rosebud signified the lost childhood of Charles Kane in Citizen Kane; that is as a thing that was present when the faultline-causing event happened, and whose disappearance after that event is in some sense causal. Semiotics would call this kind of sign an Index. An index is a sign that signifies its object by direct connection to it. The American philosopher Charles Peirce used the example of a weather vane which signifies wind direction by being blown by the wind. In Force Majeure the faultline in the marriage is something that was lost signified by one of those lost things appearing again now that the fault has opened up. The avalanche is the catalyst for opening the fault but the faultline was already there, and I think the inference can be made that the husband gave up smoking when he got married. This ‘little sacrifice’ came to signify all the rough edges of bachelorhood that were planed off in order for him to become the smooth family man he appears to be at the start of the film. A lingering dissatisfaction that lay latent during his marriage led him to forget his family at that split second of crisis. After all the bickering of the following days, the anguish, the joyless skiing, the discussions on the hero complex, and then an amazing third act in which the mountain has one more surprise to humble the mortals, the husband lights up his first cigarette since his bucks’ night. By redistributing snow on the side of a mountain, force majeure has redistributed power in a marriage.

 – Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world.

The official trailer for Force Majeure

Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: On regional writing.

Chris Palazzolo continues his musings on Regionality.

Image result for shoppers imagesIn my last column I chucked a few ideas around for a theory of Regional Reading. I proposed this kind of reading as a tactical response to technological changes in the structure of media and publishing, that is to say, technology’s white-anting of the nexus of authority, aesthetics and capital in those industries, and the now quite conceivable extinction of The Book and The Movie (through hyper-production). I concluded with a few words on how I write these columns, and I would like to continue where I left off under the subject heading Regional Writing.

As I’ve already stated, I write these columns in a café in my local shopping centre. But this is not the whole story. I actually only write the first draft here. The subsequent drafts I work over in the following evenings at home, after my kids have gone to bed and the house is quiet. It usually takes me three drafts before I’m ready to post, each session requiring approximately three hours of ‘writing labour’ (thinking and typing). For the sake of brevity I’ll focus on the first session (the café-shopping centre draft) because the fact that prior to it taking place no draft existed at all (the ‘something from nothing’ moment) makes it the best session to illustrate Regionality on the act of creation.

Traditional readings start from the assumption that the Author has placed a meaning inside their piece of writing (a column, an essay, a book). That meaning is the idea that was in the Author’s mind as they wrote; its existence preceded the writing of the piece, and the writing serves to give it expression – the reader’s duty is to find out what it is. Now I can’t speak for every writer, but if the truth be known, I only have vague and jumbled ideas when I sit at this table and switch on my laptop, and sometimes I don’t have any at all. Most of the time, the ideas only start to form as I write, and they’re usually highly contingent on the line I write first. It’s as if ideas coincide with the act of writing, in the same way I form ideas in conversation with another person I’ve just bumped into. The ideas are as contingent on what the other person says (which I can never completely anticipate, even if it is some polite chat about the weather) as those that precede my own utterance. Utterance and idea are in dialogue in other words and no psychology or linguistics has ever been able to say which comes first. Writing and ideas are the same; they are in dialogue with each other, and with my Region.

I described Regionality as a continuous proximity. It is also zones of proximity, graduated distances which become less and less proximate, but no matter how far away they are share with my Region the world. This is what I meant when I said Regionality is the world; the world is everywhere and always continually less and less and more and more proximate; the world mixes in through all the zones of all the regions. The café table where I sit is my immediate zone. My perceptions of what goes on in my zone are open and fluid, but zones are formed by the shape my region takes, that is to say the built environment which segments the region; zones it. Zones are not just physical, they’re reinforced by government, council and commercial laws; I sit in the café, the café is a business, I’m obliged to buy something (sometimes I’ll start with tea and sometimes black coffee). I watch the people in the next zone, the shopping centre concourse, who are obliged (by zonal regulation) to keep walking past. Dressed in colourful manufactures, they’re engaged in the same benign activities as millions of other people all around the world; purchasing and consuming goods from far away zones of (less benign) production. Their passing presences, as they continue into further away zones, or come and sit in the café near me, hold my attention, distract me, and sometimes, in glancing ways, are strung into the dialogue of writing and ideas. There are all sorts of things going on like this, and the whole hubbub is in my pieces. A good reading should be able to hear it all.

I write about books and movies, or I call books and movies into existence in my writing, for the sake of coherence. The raw experience of Regionality is like a private language, utterly relative to everyone else’s regions. Books and movies are still (thankfully) part of a shared language where we can be understood, and engaged in a dialogue of exciting ideas. The excitement for me is pulling together out of my teeming region, something with form and meaning, something which depends for its existence on other existents, but which has never existed before, until now.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world. His novel, Scene and Circles, is available from https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419

Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: On regional reading

Chris Palazzolo looks at one way of seeing through the contemporary murk

Novels and narrative films are easy things to analyse because they are (or have been) customarily presented to us as singular objects. In the case of the novel, the objective form is the Book (authored, published, commodified) and in the case of the narrative film (an automated audio-visual spectacle of a definite duration), a Movie. With the internet now demonstrating what the much scoffed-at deconstructionists warned us about 50 years ago – that the ‘object’ status of the Book and Movie are historically contingent things, and that the age of the ‘text,’ which is neither objective nor singular, is now upon us, analysts are going to have to deal with a whole spooky realm of ‘regional’ readings – where defining a ‘region’ of text and calling that ‘region’ a novel, or a movie, is an act of will on the part of the reader. The collapse of the traditional model of book publishing and selling, and the feverish fractalising of electronic media means that commercial culture is going to be of less and less help in this regard; it’s embracing the ‘age of the text’ with planet enveloping enthusiasm.

Should we be afraid of these developments? After all, just over a century ago there were no such things as movies, and the Book as we know it now has really only been with us for a century and a half (sure, there are ‘books’ from the middle ages, but they were extremely rare things, and many of those the creations of monastic curators rather than single authors). Even up to the end of the nineteenth century the most common form of storytelling was poetic and verbal and the most common form of publishing, pamphlets and serials. Even our conception of criticism and analysis – of unlocking meaning from a single objective movie or book (including contemporary reviews which reduce criticism to whether something is good or bad) has only been with us for a century. But with the sense that our civilisation is threatened from all kinds of forces (political, economic and environmental) it’s natural that many readers would find the current situation alarming. How can we evaluate, that is to say determine what is worthy by virtue of its inspiration, its genius, and so validate what we regard as the best in our civilisation – how can we say anything is better than anything else – if there are no longer any reliable Objects for us to single out and study? The whole purpose of reading seems redundant. All we can do now is flit across surfaces and surrender our minds to memes.

But perhaps there are plenty of masterpieces out there. They’re just not only from the great metropolitan centres of cultural production anymore. Perhaps the finest films of these times are ‘home movies,’ made with an artfulness and delicacy that we don’t have the critical tools to appreciate yet, uploaded onto Youtube? Perhaps the greatest novels of the twenty first century are not being published by the presses of New York or London; they’re to be found in that continent sized slush-pile of online self-published manuscripts? It’s impossible for us to know because the enormity of the change (to say nothing of the amount of the stuff) makes all of it look like dross. We can’t get a critical purchase on it because the scale and speed that it accumulates makes all our intellectual tools seem so feeble.

The 21st century is the century of the regions and the first direct threat to the West’s metropolitan hegemony since the Second World War. All of the big macro events of the last two decades, from the catastrophe of the Middle East to Brexit in Europe and Trumpism in the US are in critical ways the ‘revenge’ of the regions on the metropolitan centres of the West where so much of the world’s capital and prestige has accumulated. These events mark the beginnings of a global adjustment so to speak, and terrible crimes are already being committed because of it. We are all involved in it, no matter where we live; everyplace in the world is now as important as any other. That’s why I propose the concept of ‘regional reading,’ as a way to get a perspective on things. I mean regional to be understood in its geopolitical usage, but also in its existential usage, that is to say a kind of continuous proximity that bears on any kind of individual activity. And I mean reading to be understood, not as the opposite of writing, but as a kind of writing – an activity that calls meaning and form into existence. I write my Teasing Threads posts in a café in my local shopping centre, so that café bears on, or contributes to, the writing. It’s not just my mental labour that produces them, but all the things going on in my region also have an input; the café, the course of shoppers walking by, the gratifying sounds of other people’s kids chucking tantrums, etc. All of it colours and inflects what I write, sometimes even changes its direction altogether. The concept of text is much more useful in this regard than the closed concepts of books and movies. But if I choose to call books and movies into existence in the middle of the shopping centre, that’s because I’m a fifty year old guy and I love books and movies. The greatest works of art give a vantage point on the world, and as the world is regional only a regional reading can see the world.



By way of a post-script I would like to take the opportunity to promote my novel Scene and Circles. I’m doing this here on the flimsy pretext of regionality. It is a very regional novel, both in its subject matter and its literary status (an online slushpile masterpiece). But I’d love to see it as a proper book one day.  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449419



– Chris Palazzolo



Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world.


Teasing Threads – Sundry Film and Literary Criticism: Woody Allen’s ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’

Chris Palazzolo loses his job and discovers SBS on Demand where he finds You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, directed by Woody Allen, 2010

With the closure of the last video store in the world, Network Video Roleystone, I find myself deprived of my regular supply of free dvds (I even got a bill from the debt collector, $44 in overdues – some thanks for 15 years working in video shops!) I’m now at the mercy of online streaming services such as YouTube and SBS On Demand. It is fun though looking up the SBS catalogue. In recent months I’ve caught up with the John Carpenter/Kurt Russel season, a beautifully cleaned up Scanners (I realise how dirty looking the dvd version was now), Cross of Iron, The Bicycle Thieves, even a Charlie Chaplin from 1921. The movie I’m going to comment on now is Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. I actually saw this movie originally on dvd, but I notice SBS screened it this week so that seems like a good enough reason to comment. It’s the funniest movie I’ve seen in years.

Naomi Watts is the dissatisfied wife of an obscure American writer (Josh Brolin). Her and Brolin live in a very nice part of London because they’re being bankrolled by Watts’ mother (Gemma Jones) who is herself having a nervous breakdown because her husband (Anthony Hopkins), in a mid-life panic, has dumped her and run off with a prostitute half his age. Watts keeps her mother functioning by hiring a fake clairvoyant to tell her mother things she wants to hear (hence the title of the film). In the meantime, as their own marriage crumbles, her and Brolin each make disastrous attempts at extra-marital affairs, while Brolin, desperate to regain the recognition (and advances) he got early in his career, pinches the work of another writer who he thinks has been killed in a car accident. Nothing goes to plan. Each character (with the exception of the completely delusional mother) have a uniquely tailored fate awaiting them. It’s like a stacked deck of cards which, in perfect closure, comes up four Jokers in the final hand.

The writing for this ensemble is extremely tight, in fact there is so little give in its symmetries that it almost resembles a theorem. It’s as if some evil scientist, using narrative film as his crucible, is testing out reactions to combinations of certain personality types to demonstrate results he always knew were going to occur. The types are Woody Allen favourites – attractive, well-educated middle class westerners, undone by their own mendacities and sense of entitlement. The reactions are quite a thing to behold. They shed an unpleasant light not just on the principles but on everyone and everything around them – Watts’ boss (Antonio Banderas) trawling his female employees for the cheapest mistress; Brolin’s lover (Freida Pinto) so dumb she dumps her very promising fiancé to run off the with the older American writer who is in fact a fraud; Hopkins’ young wife (Lucy Punch) playing up with the gym boys after Hopkins has bankrupted himself keeping her in furs; the venerable London publishing house rejecting Brolin’s own work (because it’s about ‘intellectuals’) and publishing instead some prurient crap about a paedophile because that’s what’s marketable to the debased tabloid tastes of the British reading public.

This is comedy in the haute mode. It observes with aristocratic strictness all the rules of classical composition; cuts never occur unless they have to, camera movements and close-ups are rare, long takes and medium shots rule, and actors are expected to work (no hiding fluffed lines with flashy jump cuts and vulgar camera movements); serenity, good manners, and architectural balance all turned to a lofty and malicious wit. There is no wastage, no untied threads; every element of the composition comes together in the end with a completely satisfying (that is to say, completely cringeworthy) clap.

Schadenfreund is the schtick. The guilty pleasure we get watching people who resemble us doing stupid things and suffering spectacular humiliations that leave not a shred of dignity intact. The characters are not in any way profound; they are figments of our own social terrors. The pleasure is like that of a pagan ceremony; we watch the characters constructed like effigies out of ricks, we watch the match lit underneath them and each become a bush of flame.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and was, until recently, manager of one of the last video shops in the world.

New Shoots Poetry Prize banner 2

Teasing Threads – Three Classical Westerns: 2. Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Ride the High Country’

The second of Chris Palazzolo’s Three Classical Westerns is Ride the High Country, directed by Sam Peckinpah, 1962

Image result for ride the high country imageIn Sam Peckinpah’s 1962 western Ride the High Country, the two old gunslingers employed by a bank to transport gold from a mountain mining town speak the dry-eyed wisdom of high-plains lore; the young buck they hire as a hand brawls and wenches but quickly learns right from wrong after a couple of knuckle sandwiches; the girl who flees her abusive father accompanying them into the mountains in order to meet her fiancé soon works out she’s safest behind the shoulder of one of the gunslingers when the fists fly and the guns are cocked; and when the fiancé turns out to be the wrong kind of ‘family man’ only the gunslingers can save the girl from a horrible fate. Here we have the architecture of the classical western; masculine wisdom and strength presiding over two kinds of untamed nature; one petulant and naïve, but with a little bit of physical persuasion learning that only law and order promises life and love and permanence; the other corrupt and ‘fallen,’ fit only for eradication either by imprisonment or death.

But Ride the High Country signals the end of the classical western, and, Like John Ford’s The Searchers, the transition into the revisionist westerns of the 1960s. It does this by a dangerous flip-flopping of two hierarchical elements which radically alters the classical codes. First of all, the gold which the team is to transport, and which should be the main plotline, turns out to be little more than a pretext; the object of a somewhat half-hearted subplot where one of the gunslingers plans to rob his old friend, and the young hand has to decide who’s side he’s on. What becomes the main plot, that is to say the object of most of the subsequent actions and motivating lusts has nothing to do with the gold, but in fact centres on the girl. In a shocking sequence which can only be described as a malignant overcoding of the classical western’s ‘romance code,’ the girl is married in the mining town’s brothel with the prostitutes as her bridesmaids, and then passed among her new husband’s five brothers. If a pack rape is averted by the timely intervention of the gunslingers, the classical form is under pressure for the rest of the movie because the overcode has sent the narrative scudding off in a completely unexpected direction.

In the classical form, romance and sex is subordinate to economics and law, which themselves are modes of epic balances (seasons and generation). This is true of films such as High Noon, My Darling Clementine, and 3.10 to Yuma. The woman is a fickle element whose function is to test the moral sturdiness of the male protagonists.  Her sexual capital (beauty, youth, spirit), like other forms of wealth such as gold, may be crucial to the narration but is ultimately controlled and renounced before the manly business of the shootout restores law and righteousness into the epic cycles. These codes are reasserted at the end of Ride the High Country too. Manly honour is restored in death for most of the males including the brothers. But the depravity of the marriage sequence sends such a shock through the rest of the film it’s as if one of the elements mutates into a monster leading everything chasing off in the wrong direction. It reveals a ‘fallen’ world where history has pulled apart the human from eternal cycles and left us with commodity markets, divisions of labour, and the evil that breeds in degradation and greed. The classicism is kept intact by the steady nerves and agnostic wit of the old-timers. Their conflict (over the gold) serves to test their claims to wisdom and authority. But like a pair of Don Quixotes their knightly virtues seem destined to pass away with them. The motivations of the brothers (sex slavery) are so perverted they rattle through the last act like evil horses pulling a covered wagon so fast it starts to fall to pieces. Realising the horror they’ve let loose, the filmmakers desperately attempt to lash the collapsing thing together with ropes and occy-straps long enough to have the brothers suddenly marching like toy soldiers to a glorious death we just can’t believe in.

– Chris Palazzolo


Teasing Threads is Chris Palazzolo, novelist and poet, editor at Regime Books in Perth, radio host on 6EBA FM North Perth, and manager of one of the last video shops in the world – Network Video, Roleystone.

New Shoots Poetry Prize banner 2