Now in Rep Cinema: Brain Damage, The Shining, Jaws, Bill Cunningham New York
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Now in Rep Cinema: Brain Damage, The Shining, Jaws, Bill Cunningham New York

Each week, Now in Rep Cinema compiles the best repertory and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.

  mm_underground_sm.jpg   Jaws
The Underground
Thursday June 9, 7 p.m.
  mm_bloor_sm.jpg   The Shining
The Bloor
Thursday June 9, 9:05 p.m.
  mm_fox_sm.jpg   Bill Cunningham New York
The Fox (2236 Queen Street East)
Friday June 10 through Sunday June 12, 7 p.m
  mm_lightbox_sm.jpg   Brain Damage
TIFF Lightbox
Saturday June 11, 11 p.m.

Brain Damage
TIFF Lightbox (350 King Street West)
Saturday June 11, 11 p.m.

mm_lightbox.jpg Like all good movies, Frank Henenlotter’s Brain Damage opens on an elderly couple ecstatically preparing a supper of animal brains for some unseen creature that apparently lives in their bathtub. Also, like all good movies, it builds into a frenzy of sex, carnage, and psychedelia. So yes, it is a nice fit for TIFF’s new Best of Midnight Madness program. Though by no means the granddaddy of exploitation or anything (let’s save that title for Roger Corman or Herschell Gordon Lewis or, if you want to get real snooty, Herk Harvey), Henenlotter’s the kind of filmmaker who gained traction in the early and mid-’80s, during the VHS boom. He’s precisely the kind of filmmaker who helped stoke a second generation of cult film-going (or, considering the home video format, maybe “film-viewing” is more appropriate). As a result, it’s kind of weird watching his films on anything but the small screen. But it’s also entirely welcome.
Like Henlotter’s break-out feature, Basket Case (1982), Brain Damage stews up raunchiness, over-the-top violence, and a good deal of macabre humour. But whereas Basket Case follows some naive kid stalking the New York City streets with his evil conjoined twin brother in a basket under his arm, Brain Dead follows some naive kid stalking the New York City streets with a weird parasitic worm that secretes a kind of serotonin-blasting organic MDMA stuck to his neck. While not quite as splattery as something like J. Michael Muro’s squalid gutter punk classic Street Trash (1987), Brain Damage is a quintessential urban-exploitation flick.
With its depiction of the pre-Giuliani Big Apple as a network of back alleys, crummy apartments, junkyards, and punk clubs, Brain Damage plays out a bit like Taxi Driver. But with more a bit more brain eating. It’s also a pretty nifty allegory for drug addiction in the ‘80s, right down to watching our addled hero (Rick Hearst) sweating it out in a squalid hotel room. (Sure, it may not ring as subtle, but it’s more deftly handled than, say, Requiem for a Dream.) But, maybe best of all, Brain Damage boasts the single best (with the ostensible exception of “Come with me if you want to live”) pick-up line of ‘80s cinema: “You’re fucked up, aren’t you? Wanna dance?”

Also Unspooling…

mm_underground_sm.jpg The Underground (186 Spadina Avenue)
Thursday June 9, 7 p.m.

The original and still the best (sorry, Orca the Killer Whale), Speilberg’s stay-outta-the-water classic proves just how adept he once was at melding SFX with human drama. We’re sorry to say it, but he pulls of the monster movie stuff much better here than he did with Jurassic Park, as much as we love Jurassic Park. It’s also a great movie to watch while getting drunk on a boat and comparing scars.

The Shining
mm_bloor_sm.jpg The Bloor (506 Bloor Street West)
Thursday June 9, 9:05 p.m..

Never not scary, and also one of the best films every made about the male condition, The Shining is the perfect film to creep all those happy summer vibes right out of you. Did you know Stanley Kubrick cast Shelly Duvall in the lead because he thought she was a bit, well, rough around the edges, and wanted the audience to secretly root for her death? It’s cruel. But it’s true. And it kind of works.

Bill Cunningham New York
mm_fox_sm.jpg The Fox (2236 Queen Street East)
Friday June 10 through Sunday June 12, 7 p.m.

We don’t give a rip about fashion. But nonetheless, we were pretty bowled over by this doc about the New York Times photographer and father of “street fashion” when we saw it a few weeks back. (We wrote: “[D]irector Press makes Cunningham feel so outstandingly, effervescently alive that it’s hard not be infected by his pure gusto.”) It played in a pretty limited release then, but it’s now going into second run. Put on something half-decent and check it out.

Illustrations by Clayton Hanmer/Torontoist.