‘Bespredel’ in Russian would seem to mean ‘lawlessness’… but also ‘limitless’ or ‘anything goes’. “What is [bespredel]?” the prison’s top bespredelshchik and string-puller, The Prince, is asked. “[Bespredel] is a trap,” he replies. I hope that helps. (more…)
Posted on November 6th, 2017 at 9:13 pm. Updated on August 28th, 2019 at 7:57 pm.
I can be a wee bit mistrustful, I know. As soon as I finished watching this movie, based on the life of Yevgenia (or Eugenia) Ginzburg, I sought out her true life story to see if it matched the film version. There are some differences between the two, it seems, and some of which I get; after all, you want people to watch the movie. (more…)
Posted on October 9th, 2017 at 9:12 pm. Updated on October 9th, 2017 at 9:12 pm.
Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (‘the law of the weakest’) is celebrated for (or rather enjoys a reputation for) its unrelenting grimness. And for good reason. If you looked in the dictionary and it said: gr?m a. harsh, joyless, pixotish – you probably wouldn’t baulk… provided that you didn’t know that Pixote is sometimes translated as PeeWee, which doesn’t sound quite so grim.
Posted on October 5th, 2017 at 8:19 pm. Updated on October 5th, 2017 at 8:19 pm.
‘Locked up in a Turkish prison’ has been the most reliable shorthand description of the horror of being a foreigner locked up abroad (or of any worst imaginable horror, really), probably since Midnight Express (1978). But the ordeal of Briton Billy Moore in A Prayer Before Dawn might have a few people viewing Thai prisons as the new high water mark. Or low water mark.
Posted on August 12th, 2017 at 8:55 pm. Updated on August 29th, 2019 at 8:49 pm.
Who would think that getting a bunch of murderers involved in a prison production of Sondheim’s musical adaptation of Sweeney Todd – the vengeful, serial murdering barber – would be a good idea? Why not get the local chapter of Sexaholics Anonymous to make up the chorus of Don Giovanni as well? But not only is this the basis of this BBC production, it appears – extraordinarily – that it was inspired by just such a production in which its director, Francesca Joseph, was involved. (more…)
Posted on June 22nd, 2017 at 10:01 pm. Updated on July 17th, 2017 at 10:20 pm.
Don’t be fooled. Although this is set in a gulag, it’s far from a movie about prison life, or labour camp life. It’s a film about one man’s passion for trains – steam trains, with a touch of romance thrown in. And a bit of concussion. ‘Concussion’ in the broadest sense imaginable, so that at times it is used interchangeably with shell shock. (more…)
Posted on December 8th, 2016 at 8:26 pm. Updated on August 28th, 2019 at 7:58 pm.
“I never realised how much I took freedom for granted until it was taken away.” So says ex-cop, ex-prisoner and narrator Gillian Kaites (Melanie Coll), explaining her lust for freedom. Don’t expect anything deeper. (more…)
Posted on November 1st, 2016 at 9:45 am. Updated on November 1st, 2016 at 11:02 am.
Inside the first 20-odd minutes one prisoner gets shot dead after holding a toy gun at a guard who was about to rape her, a prisoner with whom the Warden is having a sexual relationship is killed by other prisoners for being a snitch, an African-American prisoner is sliced up by prisoners in an all-white cellblock, and the Warden and Guard Captain are separately implicated in corrupt drug activity. And there’s a shower scene. This film is not afraid of action. Or cliché. Or exploitation. (more…)
Posted on October 16th, 2016 at 2:19 pm. Updated on October 16th, 2016 at 2:19 pm.
Red Heat has an (undeserved) reputation as an exploitative Women in Prison film. Not surprising, perhaps, given that’s how it’s marketed these days. But its standout feature is not sleaze, but the same sort of xenophobia that characterises prison films like Midnight Express (1978) and In Hell (2003). Who would have thought? (more…)
Posted on September 6th, 2016 at 9:02 pm. Updated on September 6th, 2016 at 9:02 pm.
An odd, boring film. Oddly boring. On the basis of a number of reviewers bemoaning the lack of lesbian sex and shower scenes, I thought that this might be a women’s prison movie with something to say. It isn’t and doesn’t. It does, however, aim to educate, giving a helpful rundown on the prisoners’ day and explaining various aspects of prison life – such as that the reception process is known as ‘red fall’ because inmates used to wear red clothing, and that prison food is known as ‘Mossou chow’, a mossou being the bowl from which the food is eaten. These are useful pieces of information. But all this illumination is interrupted by several less edifying and rather tedious sex scenes where the gratuitous wearing of underwear and draped bedclothes adds substantially to the degree of difficulty. And very little else happens in the rest of the film. (more…)
Posted on June 18th, 2016 at 8:57 pm. Updated on June 26th, 2016 at 1:57 pm.