Friday, June 24, 2016

075. African Safari and 076. Going Steady

Jump to Going Steady (1979)

075. African Safari aka Rivers of Fire and Ice (1968)
Director: Ronald E. Shanin
Writer: Ronald E. Shanin
From: Cult Cinema

A documentary about Ronald Shanin’s years-long journey through Central Africa capturing animals for American zoos and museums.

Before I realized this was a documentary, I was really anxious about it. A 1968 film from these sets called African Safari could very quickly become very uncomfortable, an assumption that wasn’t helped by the fact that the companion piece on the disc is called Indian Paint. This could have been a white savior/evil natives adventure story, and to the film’s credit, I did not get that at all.

Well, did not get most of that.

There’s no plot because it’s basically just home movies from Shanin’s time in Central Africa. There’s no mention of specific places or times so there’s no sense of where or when anything’s happening. All we get are vignettes of him dealing with this animal or that animal, this natural phenomenon or that natural phenomenon, and the natives.

Yeah, it’s the last part that’s problematic.

He refers to each tribal/ethnic group by name, but never explains who they are nor does he spend any extended time with any one group. We get more time with cheetah cubs than we do with any village. The problem is that Shanin tends to present the locals the same way he presents the animals. When he does mention particular cultural traits (one group files their teeth to points, another uses specific forms of face paint, etc.), it’s always with a tone of amused contempt. “Look at the silly things these natives do and believe. Ho ho ho, how ridiculous to not be white and have the same culture as me.”

I’m not criticizing him for highlighting cultural practices or being confused or surprised by them. Instead it’s that condescending tone and turning people who he’s living with, working with, and sometimes watching die into buffoonish spectacle. Yes, had he not included details about the people, the absence would be palpable, but it would have sidestepped that issue and turned this into exclusively a nature documentary. Instead, he treats the locals as though they themselves are just another part of that nature documentary. Actual line: “A unique thing about pygmies is that, without exception, all the women have masculine faces.” That’s not out of context, that’s the entirety of what he says. What are we supposed to do with that?

Outside of the contempt, it’s a relatively bland nature documentary. It has footage that ranges from lovely to amazing, especially the volcano footage at the end, all narrated with sub-dad-joke-level humor, and that’s why it’s not a recommend. The movie’s not spectacular and that’s where the bar is for a nature documentary. I mean, the BBC’s Planet Earth exists, so this has to have something more, and it doesn’t. It’s not even in the public domain which is the one way it would be useful. This is a treasure trove of stock footage, but, unfortunately, it’s all locked down so no one gets anything of any use from it for another, at least, 47 years.

076. Going Steady aka Yotzim Kavua(1979)
Director: Boaz Davidson
Writers: Boaz Davidson and Eli Tavor with English dialogue by Ken Globus
From: Cult Cinema; Drive-In

A coming-of-age comedy about three young men in 1950's Tel Aviv trying to sort out their love lives.

I hated this movie. I seriously fucking hated this movie. Watching it had me alternating between cringing and seething. After watching it, I told my friend Faradaye Rage that I had found a worse film than Cavegirl and he was shocked.

The story initially is about three friends, Benny, Johnny, and Bobby, scheming to get laid, and they're just creeps. I mean, they're lying to the women around them, trying to pick up girls when they have girls that they're dating who are currently on their way to meet them. They look at women not as people, but as something to screw.

Which isn't a problem in and of itself—feel free to tell a story about people who don't get it or are crappy or have reprehensible ideals. That's fine. When the movie embraces that philosophy as well, though, that's a problem and that's the problem with this movie.

The main story is about Benny trying to start and then maintain a relationship with Tammy. It's supposed to be cute: all the things he does to try to get her attention and wear her down to the point where she agrees to go out with him, but the clue is in that phrasing. “Wear her down” means she says “no.” A lot. Like a lot a lot. She literally says, “aren't you tired of following me?” He's a creep.

But they get together anyway and it's a fine little teen romance. He's a creep, though, so he keeps trying to push things further than she's comfortable with and she keeps rebuffing him which culminates in him shouting at her because she won't let him feel her up. So he dumps her. But it's true love, not abuse, so they get back together. In the interim, Benny and his friends try to rape a girl.

Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that bit of madcap comedy. Bobby is the player of the group and is hooking up with a girl. He suggests a gangbang to Benny and Johnny who decide to join. He hasn't, by the way, suggested it to the girl. He sneaks Benny and Johnny into the room with the intention of switching out with them while he's having sex. When she finds out—after Johnny starts raping her—she freaks out and tells them to leave. Bobby tells the guys to wait and that he'll talk her into it, but then her biker boyfriend shows up so they all have to run. Hilarious, right?

And this is the whole movie. These three guys aren't charming, they're creeps and it's really hard to watch for that reason. I mean, you can't even say the three have each other's backs. Bobby tells Tammy that Benny, as soon as they broke up, slept with Johnny's girlfriend (he didn't, but so what). So Tammy dumps Benny again which leads to a final sequence where it's clear these three friends would stab each other in the back at a moment's notice.

In the end, Benny finds out Tammy still loves him so he runs over to her house at 6:30 in the morning demanding to see her. She won't come out (cause he's a creep and it's 6:30 in the morning) so he breaks the window of a car, lays on the horn, and then climbs on the roof of a house to fake his suicide. This finally brings her out and it's all, *WOMP WOMP*, “what Benny won't do for love,” instead of “this is why Benny's in jail.”

This isn't “political correctness gone mad,” by the way, Benny's an annoying fucking creep, a stalker, a potential rapist, and that the movie poses him as the “nice guy” tells you everything you need to know. The movie's interesting as a time capsule, not because it's an honest representation of what life was like, but because it shows what people thought was okay when they made it. Apart from that, though, the final product is a real horrorshow and I do not, in any way, recommend it to anyone.

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