Category Archives: films

Les Vampires (Midnight Movie Monographs)

Yesterday I returned from FantasyCon. From about the halfway point of the convention I started feeling quite overwhelmed – but not in the what-am-I-even-doing-here? sense that I used to feel at such events. This time I was overwhelmed because I felt comfortable, and because the people I was speaking to are no longer intimidating but are my friends, and because those same people are so very, very talented. Each time I looked around at the faces in a reading room, or a panel session, or at the bar, I felt awed at the thought of all the wonderful fiction these people were producing, and even more awed at all the potential still to be tapped.

Also, it was fun.

In the midst of all this, I failed to take stock of the fact that a book I wrote was released at FantasyCon. My non-fiction book about the 1915 French crime serial, Les Vampires, was launched at the PS Publishing event on Friday. I held a copy – briefly – when somebody asked me to sign it. I picked up a copy for myself the next morning, and jammed it in my rucksack along with books I was far more excited about, including novels by Aliya Whiteley and Stephen Volk and collections edited by Dan Coxon and Mark Morris. When I rolled into my hotel room at 2am I picked up the Les Vampires book, smiled, fell asleep.

I was tired on the train home on Sunday. I decided I wouldn’t begin reading any of the books written by my friends; in my addled state I wouldn’t have paid close enough attention. So, with the guilt of vanity, I started flicking through my own book. Then I ended up reading the whole thing. I felt very emotional.

I realised that I’m proud of my book. In published form, I found it easier to enjoy and appreciate than other books I’ve written, perhaps because it’s primarily factual, but also because it’s a response to a film I adore, and because I think my enthusiasm is clear and real and honest.

I still don’t know whether the book would be comprehensible to somebody who hasn’t watched Les Vampires, and the film is over 100 years old, 7 hours long, and is frustratingly difficult to buy on DVD in the UK right now, all of which makes my book hilariously niche. But I think it’s a good book, and I really do like the 10 pieces of weird fiction I wrote and slotted in between the analyses of each episode of the film. I hope the book is noticed and read.

Anyway, to tie in with my overwhelmed and glowy feelings about FantasyCon in general, I feel very grateful that I was allowed to write Les Vampires. Neil Snowdon, founder and editor of the Electric Dreamhouse Press imprint (he even designed the excellent cover of my book!), was indulgent in letting let me spend legitimate time exploring a film I love. He’s been supportive of my work in general and he was responsible for introducing me to many of the writers who are now my friends. I spent several hours with Neil on Saturday, after having met in person only once before, two years previously, and then for only 15 minutes, and we felt like old friends. I hope we’ll continue to collaborate in the future. I hope the Electric Dreamhouse monograph series will continue to grow, and that the books will find readers and recognition.

So. I had a great weekend, and things are great. I have a new book out, and I’m proud of that.

You can find out more about the book here, and you can buy it direct from PS Publishing or from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

And if you haven’t already – and regardless of whether you buy my book – you should watch the film. Les Vampires is utterly wonderful and deserves to be seen.

 

100 films I love right now

I’ve made a top 100 film list. I’ve tried to avoid objectivity or the temptation to pick ‘greatest’ films – instead I’ve tried to capture a snapshot of my tastes right now. I’ve tried not to pay attention to what would be my usual choices or agonise too much over my selection. I use Flickchart, so I had a starting point of a list of pretty much all the films I’ve seen, theoretically in ranked order – but to make this list I’ve cherry-picked only the films that are currently on my mind or that, when I see their titles, I want to rewatch immediately. It’s a skewed list, featuring lots of films I’ve seen for the first time in the last year or so – if I made a similar list next year, I’d guess that more than a quarter of the titles would be different. It’ll be interesting to see whether e.g. A Cottage on Dartmoor or The Swimmer stay with me.

I’ve listed the films in chronological order, which reveals a surprise: 11 of the films in this list were released this century. It’s notable that most of these recent titles are very downbeat and slow-paced – I hadn’t quite realised this is so clearly a factor in my tastes in modern cinema.

The director who appears most is Hitchcock, predictably. There are three by: Ingmar Bergman, Francis Ford Coppola, Luis Buñuel, F.W. Murnau and Nicholas Ray. There are two each by: Buster Keaton, Carl Theodor Dreyer, David Lynch, Henri-Georges Clouzot, Jacques Tourneur, Jerzy Skolimowski, Robert Bresson, Roman Polanski, Thomas Vinterberg, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and Andrei Tarkovsky.

Here’s the full list:

Continue reading 100 films I love right now

‘LES VAMPIRES’ film book to be published in 2018

Another publication announcement! My first non-fiction book will be published in summer 2018 by Electric Dreamhouse Press, the PS Publishing imprint run by editor Neil Snowdon, who was responsible for the terrific Nigel Kneale anthology, We Are The Martians.

While I started work on this project at the start of 2017, I haven’t talked about it at all online – mainly because my imposter syndrome kicked in badly with this project (the impressive list of contributors to the Midnight Movie Monograph series is daunting). But I’ve now delivered a draft and can finally accept that it’s happening…

My book is about the 1915–16 French silent crime serial, LES VAMPIRES, which stars Musidora as the original femme fatale, Irma Vep. As well as details of the production, the historical context and my response to the film, the book will contain 10 new pieces of weird fiction inspired by each of the 10 episodes of the serial.

Before I started writing the book I loved LES VAMPIRES. Now, after watching the 10 episodes countless times (the serial runs to 7 hours in total), it’s become one of my favourite films of all time. Lucky, that – I’ll be watching it many more times before the book is published…

More info in the new year.

What Horror Writers Talk About When They Talk About Love

Recently, James Everington invited me to write a piece for his blog to promote the upcoming publication of his novella, Trying To Be So Quiet (Book Books). The theme is ‘What Horror Writers Talk About When They Talk About Love’. Here’s my article.

GAC-REBEL-WITHOUT-A-CAUSEMy second son is due to be born within the next month, so my response to the theme is related to parental love. My reference points in the article are two of my favourite films, Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955) and Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979). My favourite part of the article is nothing I wrote, but James’ caption of this photo of Sal Mineo and James Dean: ‘Neither of these men is Tim Major’. Thanks for that, James, and thanks for having me on the blog!

Martian canals and borrowed ideas in SF

RCoM poster

I’ve got an article up on the Hodderscape website – it’s about Martian canals, the 1964 film Robinson Crusoe on Mars, and the borrowing of ideas in science fiction. It’s rather a ramble, but the main idea is that even misconceptions can lead to good fictional ideas that are then developed by writer after writer.

You can read the full article here.

Favourite films watched in 2014

Under the SkinAs a consequence of having a one-year-old child, this year I saw only ten films released in 2014. The only essential one was the unsettling and astounding Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer). Next in line were All Is Lost (J.C. Chandor), Frank (Lenny Abrahamson) and Calvary (John Michael McDonagh). Locke (Steven Knight) gave plenty of food for thought, in terms of scripting and character development.

For All MankindBefore my son was born I worried that I’d no longer have the attention span for ‘difficult’ cinema, but I was proved wrong. Being stuck in the house every evening has its benefits! My favourite films that I saw for the first time in 2014 include Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana and Diary of a Chambermaid, both subversive and compelling. For All Mankind (Al Reinert) was a revelation – how had I never seen this NASA Apollo footage before? I was blown away by the formal perfection of Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda). Blue Is the Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche) and Stroszek (Werner Herzog) tie for the most engaging central performances. Hour of the Wolf (Ingmar Bergman) and Hunger (Steve McQueen) were the two films I found most unsettling. Other than For All Mankind, The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer) and The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris) were my favourite documentaries, both exploring the truth via artifice, although Hoop Dreams (Steve James) came close. Alongside Cat People (Jacques Tourneur), my most purely pleasurable film experiences this year were Hammer’s The Abominable Snowman (Val Guest) and The Nanny (Seth Holt).