Just released from prison after 15 years and living alone in a high capacity apartment building, Carl is anxious to finally go onto a date after a long time of solitude. Mild-mannered and quiet, he manages to strike up a date with an uncultivated young woman named Abby who takes a strange, if not alluring, interest in Carl’s humble lifestyle, but when his estranged mother, Aileen, arrives back into his life, Carl’s seemingly perfect date comes crashing down into millions of pieces and old feelings of hate and urges for substance return to a warping fold. The lust and youthfulness he feels for Abby is replaced with fear and anger as reality bends on the verge of breaking as the past and present collide to an unfathomable finale.
The first thought that pops up about director Rupert Jones’ 2016 film, “Kaleidoscope,” is to instantly relate this film to the Dutch sex wave film, Wim Verstappen’s “Blue Movie,” because of a major structural similarity that’s important to both films, is essentially an inanimate character, and is a looming presence despite the “Blue Movie” being an erotic film and “Kaleidoscope” a suspenseful psychological thriller. Both movies feature a monolithic motel-esque apartment building complex in which both house the feature character, a former inmate, and the complex becomes part of the story where as Michael in “Blue Movie” runs his pornographic business and Carl interacts with the building as an obstacle to hurdle or a contributing factor to his problem. “Kaleidoscope” marks Rupert Jones’ sophomore feature directorial and his debut as the credited writer that lightly placed notes of hinting at a Roman Polanski picture.
Toby Jones is sorely an underrated actor. The versatile supporting English actor has been underused since non-fictional performance of Truman Capote in “Infamous” that was crudely undermined by the late Seymour Hoffman’s titular role in “Capote” of nearly the same year more than a decade ago. However, Jones maintains a presence both in Hollywood and the indie circuit with the latter honing in on a film about a man with severe mother issues and Jones nails a browbeaten and tortured soul performance perfectly. The mother issues come courtesy of “Hot Fuzz’s” Anne Reid as a intrusive and sickly, yet superior matriarch to Carl’s whimpering passiveness. Reid’s somehow manages to pull off being manipulative and sweet in one single persona and bespoke the relationship between mother and son with the mixing water and oil. In the middle of Carl and his mother’s love-hate dynamic is a third person of an unequivocally different persona, making a trifecta of clashing personalties. Abby, played by Sinead Matthews (“A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life”), brings a little jovial pleasantry to a dark cerebral tale. Rounding out the cast is Karl Johnson, Joseph Kloska, and Cecilia Noble.
So how does a child’s toy factor into Carl’s descent into madness? The cylinder device creates optical illusions, usually in a colorful spectrum and mirroring pattern that refract when spun in a circular motion and looking at a light source to illuminate the effect. The experience is fantastical and Carl, browbeaten by not only the criminal system, but also by his family, uses it as a means of escape, an allegorical path of avoiding darkness in his life and a way to advert the melancholy that is his existence. Even his date with Abby is a gloomily skewed as she has ulterior motives to further push Carl to a metaphorical breaking point. Yet, he’s at peace with his assumed childhood toy in the handful of scenes he’s using it which recalls the image of his father; a joyful moment that’s ironically the sore point of most of his tribulations. The Kaleidoscope could also symbolize seamless duality as Carl has difficult establishing what’s real and grasping the hardline of time. Rupert Jones subverts linear and conventional storytelling magnificently to not only put Carl in a twisted world, but also throwing the viewer into chaos along with him.
Sparky Pictures and IFC Midnight presents Rupert Jones’ psychological asphyxiation thriller and Stigma Films production of “Kaleidoscope” onto UK region 2, PAL DVD home video. The DVD image is presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, on a DVD9 and the digital quality, like always, is a unfathomable well of picturesque with crisply defined shades of black combined with some variant lighting techniques to tell Carl’s current mood. “Kaleidoscope” touches more on the natural skin and coloring, but does use some dry yellow tinting and some visual effects to embark on the once penitentiary patron’s mental break journey. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio mix has multi-channel sensitivity utilizing all channels to jar the senses even more and to, seemingly, weaponize Mike Prestwood Smith’s chaotic score to take the state even further. Dialogue has supremacy and clarity. Bonus features includes a standard array of extras in the cast and crew commentary, trailer, photo gallery, and storyboards. “Kaleidoscope,” like in the toy’s changing patterns, shatters hope only to rejoin it back together to then shatters it again in Rupert Jones’ heated and confrontational tale of mirthless character and taxing parental abuse affecting one soul’s chances of normalcy and redemption into society even in the face of societal kickbacks.
After years with struggling with fame, Susan finds solace in an idyllic and solitude Netherlands’ farmhouse near the waterfront. Her peaceful lodging transforms in a youth hostel as she welcomes three refuge women – Sandra, Olga, and Julie – and one man – Albert – into her life and in exchange for a place to stay, Susan embraces the company after her entanglement with loneliness. Despite Sandra and Olga’s sex-crazed psychopathy and an unhinged Albert’s voyeuristic habits, Susan has been able to maintain an even keel quality of life. That’s until the handsome Anton shows up. His arrival stirs the nest of sexual desires and has Susan questioning her reclusive lifestyle. Anton’s presence also riles up Piet, a crazed women living in a shed on the outskirts of the farmhouse. To make matters more complex, Anton becomes mixed into a murder mystery involving a dead American. Was it the mischievous sexual delinquents Sandra and Olga? Or did the wild Piet finally snap her moral conscious?
During the height of the 70’s sexual revolution, the Dutch seize the opportunity to piggyback their own free love films. Pim de la Parra’s 1978 “My Nights with Susan, Sandra, Olga, & Julie is an epitome example of the Dutch sex wave genre that shares the tantalizing groping, succulent squeezing, fornicating spooning, and …well, you get the idea. Originally titled as the longwinded My Nights with Susan, Olga, Albert, Julie, Piet, & Sandra (whew), this film is the last production of Pim de la Parra’s Scorpio Films from a script co-authored between Parra, Harry Kumel from Belgium, David Kaufman from America, Charles Gormley from Scotland, and Carel Donck from the Netherlands in a melting pot of cultural creativity. “My Nights with Susan, Sandra, Olga, & Julie” sizzles the screen with nudity in characters just walking around or riding on a child’s rocking horse stark naked that’s ostensibly organic for a story beginning with cold blooded, arbitrary murder.
Before partying the circumstantial matron of a youth hostel, Netherlands’ Willeke van Ammelrooy was Eva in “Frank & Eva,” another film by Pim de la Parra. She was also Alicia in “Blue Movie” director Wim Verstappen’s “Alicia” and also played Mira in Fons Rademakers’ “Mira.” As the evidence provides, Ammelrooy is very experienced as the leading lady role, portraying three titular characters from 1971-1974 by post-humorously acclaimed Netherland directors. Yet again, Ammelrooy plays a titular character in Susan, a country cloistered luminary seeking to be a forgotten face, but Ammelrooy steely performance of a woman pretending not to be hiding secrets is a fascinating insight into a character’s personal shielding; however, when Anton, “Wet Dreams’” Hans van der Gragt, their hot and cold dynamic creates a formidable hard love rigidity influenced by forces internal to Susan and external forces from those her immediate life at the farmhouse. Olga and Sandra have more intoxicating behaviors that run the story amok and what’s more interesting about the actresses, Franulka Heyermans and Marja de Heer, is that they’re amateur actresses according to Pim de la Parra. Cold and, yet, lively, Heyermans and Heer have mountainous ration and serve Parra genuinely. Marieke van Leeuwen, Serge-Henri Valcke, Jerry Brouer, and Nelly Frijda round out the small cast.
Pim de la Parra’s influences stem heavily from Alfred Hitchcock. The filmmaker implements voyeurism and the wrongfully accused that are essential to the Hitchcockian style. I also find it hard to believe that on the first day of shooting on Hitchcock’s birthday, August 13, that Pim de la Parra’s first scenes are that of birds on a beach. Coincidence or a little salute to the master of suspense, either way, the now retired filmmaker unifies a harrowing score with birds and a beach to not only by respects to Hitchcock, but also sets the tone of the film of an erotic thriller with blotches of dark comedy strewn in.
Cult Epics proudly releases “My Nights with Susan, Sandra, Olga, & Julie” onto a new high definition two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set. Presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, in a 1080p transfer from the original 35mm print, preserved by the Eye Film Institute in Amsterdam. The original print is nearly pristine with a palatable amount of stock grain and with only a minor amount of film wear. No observations of border enhancing or sharpening that would dilute the bona fide quality. The Dutch DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track nicely accompaniments the film with depth and range and the Dutch dialogue upfront and present and the very Hitchcock-esque soundtrack by Elisabeth Lutyens (“The Skull”) provided a perfect suspense drive score in her last composer post. Supplements includes an introduction by Pim de la Parra, poster and photo video gallery, Scorpio Films’ shorts that includes “Heart Beat Fresco,” “Joop,” and “Joop Strikes Again,” and Scorpio Films’ theatrical trailers. Cult Epic’s region 1 DVD and the all region Blu-ray release favors another Dutch sex wave cinema flavor with just modernization of an intertwinement of erotically charged lust and lives with repulsive and deadly temperaments and with Pim de la Parra at the helm, you’re going to get primo framing and angles sure to captivate.
After spending five years in incarceration for being convicted of having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl, the now 25-year-old Michael has been released and is in the hands of a parole officer, Eddie. Eddie arranges housing for Michael in an apartment block, providing some pocket cash and job prospects to get the reserved demeanor parolee back on his feet and reintegrate him back into society that has radically changed in his favor in half a decade. Though having these advantages at his fingertips to start a new life, non-violent sexual urges still race through Michael’s blood and Eddie has nested him right smack in the middle of many young women with hefty promiscuous appetites. Michael must try to keep up the tiresome façade of clean living when Eddie’s sudden pops up as he continues his sexual escapades through the likes of married women, threesomes, and kinky block flat neighbors.
Viva la revolucion! Or should I say, “Lang leve de revolutie” in this censor ban breaking Dutch sex-comedy, “Blue Movie,” from breakthrough writer-director Wim Verstappen alongside cowriter Charles Gormley. Verstappen and Gormley’s experience on the 1971 feature forms a long time collaboration through an immense body of work of films in the 1970’s including “Dakota,” “Alicia,” and “Don’t Worry Too Much.” Masked an adult romance, “Blue Movie” exploits sex to be the symbolism of choice when exhibiting the Netherlands antiquated view on censorship that bogged down their local film industry and led a bold, new Dutch filmmaking expanse that goes onto dismantling the Dutch Censorship board.
Michael is a cool cucumber, who just step one foot free out of prison. On parole and looking to restart his life again from the generous assistance by a parole-like officer, Michael is set up an a apartment block with a view of the land, but the ex-con looks inward, at his neighbors, his beautiful, succulent, and promiscuous flat mates that hone in the fresh meat. Hugo Metsers captures Micheal’s essence, a gentle ex-con, even when Metsers’ sporting thick, under-jowl mutton chops. Then there’s Eddie, whose in a parole officer type position, yet tries eagerly to be puritanical guardian angel on Michael’s sordid shoulder. Seemingly part of some foundation that helps ex-cons get back on their feet, as I assume this to be a Netherlands’ societal reform program of sorts, Eddie solicits his steer clear and keep your nose clean advice, randomly checks in at all times of the day, and even makes furniture purchases for Michael’s bare flat. Eddie’s nose is so intrusive, he oversteps his position in an attempt to sweet talk a building tenant on Michael’s behalf, right out outside the parolee’s flat door. Helmert Woudenberg, another actor in Wim Verstappen’s cache of talent, does annoyingly helpful well. Woudenberg, who later had a role in Dick Maas’s “Amsterdamned,” portrays Eddie’s antiquated beliefs on Netherlands sex culture with such poised conviction that the character does feel like a lonely satellite cut off from progressing mothership. The women characters are extremely important in Blue Movie because they’re key to Michael’s motivation to not be only rooster in the hen house but to help him find actual love and while not one actress plays opposite to Michael, Ine Veen’s Julia stands out as the pivotal moment in Michael’s stagnant and sleazy stint. Julia is beautiful and coy as she’s casually noted to Michael upon their first exchange that she rather listen than to talk, but Julia comes with baggage – a child. The only child in Verstappen’s film is the main obstacle in Michael’s conquering of the opposite sex in the entire apartment block. He even backs out of a date with Julia upon seeing her tending to the child’s need first, transferring his needs into being very brash and childlike, but once Michael sustains and profits from his transient lifestyle, an obvious void is left unfulfilled until Julia strolls back into his life. Veen’s blue eyes are striking and could be theorized why this movie is titled “Blue Movie” as she’s truly the object of his affection. Ursula Blauth (“Sex is Not for Virgins”), Kees Brusse, Carry Tefsen (“Diary of a Hooker”), Marijke Boonstra (“Obsessions”), Monique Smal, and Mimi Kok from “De mantel del Liefe” costar.
While Verstappen’s film was an influential piece during the Netherland’s anti-censorship and freedom of expression movement that allow creativity and taboo material to flow less restrictively, the filmmaker, or rather Jan De Bont, was a technically careless cinematographer. Sure, “Blue Movie” was on produced on micro-budget shot in a cramped location that’s very intimate and authentic for the material, but Verstappen and Bont let slide various goofs in the final cut, such as boom mic shadows, the boom mic itself, and, I believe, the director’s hand going in and out of frame twice in one scene. Along with the crew and equipment mishaps, the script or scheduling shooting has perplexing timing issues that defy the natural order of passing time. Michael goes through a series of events in, what is assumed, his initial weeks at the apartment block and even the jump between having elicit affairs with a married women and being the third party of group sex in a romping montage have plausible time possibilities. Yet, Michael’s story teleports into his money-making scheme of selling the sexual lifestyles of the rich and horny. There was no brainstorm light bulb that sudden illuminates his status from no job bed wanderer to the CEO of variety sex shows staged in his 2 bed, 1 bath flat.
From the company that delivered “Frank & Eva,” Cult Epics presents another Netherlands film, “Blue Movie,” onto a Blu-ray/DVD combo release. Shot in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio, aka Academy Ratio, the original negative has remained virtually unvarnished and Cult Epics presents a new high definition restoration and transfer by the Eye Film Institute. Natural grain looks great. The coloring remains stable throughout and the hues border the natural and just below slightly too brilliant – Ine Veen’s blue eyes could be made a case. The Dutch and German Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is, again, a fine transfer with clear dialogue and not a pinch of pops or crackles. The optional English subtitles are well synched without translational error. Bonus material includes pre-debut film interview with director Wim Verstappen, interview with producer Pim de la Parra at the Sex Wave Festival, interview with Hugo Metsers Jr. about his father later in life and his erotically charged moment on the first time he saw his father’s film, Eye Film Institute featurette, “Blue Movie” HD poster and photo video gallery, and the original Scorpio Films trailer of the film. Wim Verstappen pioneered the Dutch Sex Wave with “Blue Movie,” a controversial artistic brief rendition of the Netherlands’s breakneck cultural upgrade to a more fluid and modern lifestyles and cinema sauté.