Tag Archives: event

PPH presents Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest | How it went down

On Thursday 27 September, Permanent Plastic Helmet held our second screening event at London’s lovely Clapham Picturehouse. Following July’s packed screening of Spike Lee’s classic Do The Right Thing, we kept the vibe nice and retro with a rare showing of Michael Rapaport’s superb hip-hop doc Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (courtesy of top UK indie distributor Soda Pictures).

Here’s a photographic record of how the sold-out event went down. (All photography ©Yves Salmon)

The Clapham Picturehouse, Venn St., London

Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed and Phife Dawg next to some thug in a penguin suit

Top billing

Looking after our guests with free pizza and snacks

Ticketholders begin to gather in the bar. The classic 90s hip-hop playlist gets underway

Board illustrated by Clapham Picturehouse’s Ben Collison with Jo Calderwood

The expectant crowds assemble

Ashley Clark (aka PPH, aka the person writing all of this) checks that his mic is on. It isn’t.

The crowd (almost all of whom are awake) listen intently…

The flattering low-angle shot can only mean one thing… it’s raffle time! We had CD’s, DVDs, champagne, and a Picturehouse membership up for grabs.

The sold-out crowd continues to enjoy themselves.

The film plays…

…and everyone goes home happy, though not before heading back to the…

Drinks and more drinks

Thanks to everybody who came to what was a fantastic event with a great buzz about it. We’re busy planning our next event and you’ll be the first to know when it’s confirmed.

PPH presents: Beats Rhymes and Life | Here’s the poster!

Now only two weeks away, our screening of Michael Rapaport’s cracking hip hop doc Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest at the Clapham Picturehouse is starting to cause some serious excitement around these parts. Join us on Thursday September 27 for the big event.

You can – and how will you live with yourself if you don’t? – book tickets by following this link. Our last event (a screening of Do The Right Thing) was a sell-out so book now to avoid disappointment.

If you’re on Facebook, you can also use our event page to tell us you’re coming. Spread the word!

Here’s a running order:

7.30 Join us in the bar for food and drink, soundtracked by classic 90s hip-hop

8.30 Intro and prize giveaway

8.45 Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest starts

10.15 More drinks in the bar!

To whet your appetite further, here’s the lovely event poster; a joint effort between Soda Pictures and designer Piccia Neri.

Cruisin’ for abusin’ – Al Pacino’s sleaziest movie


By Ashley Clark

At London’s ICA on Sunday 15 December, film critics Anton Bitel, Katherine McLaughlin and Martyn Conterio host a rare screening of William Friedkin’s Cruising, in double-bill with Interior. Leather Bar., a new film by James Franco and Travis Matthews which ‘re-imagines’ the 40 minutes of explicit material cut from Friedkin’s original film. If you thought Friedkin’s Killer Joe was a nasty piece of work, wait ’til you cop a load of his 1980 film maudit…

[Editor’s note: This article discusses the plot in full, and thus assumes that the reader has either seen the film, or doesn’t mind knowing what happens beforehand.]

Perhaps unsurprisingly, William Friedkin’s S&M serial killer thriller caused a storm of controversy upon release in 1980. If Friedkin had tested the mettle of the general public – and the MPAA – with the crucifix-as-preteen-sex-toy shenanigans of The Exorcist in 1973, he pushed his luck too far with Cruising. In this case, it was a combination of the film’s content – Friedkin reportedly had to make 50 cuts to get an R rating – and the widespread belief that he’d crafted a distasteful work virulent with homophobia, both explicit and implicit, that doomed the film.

In Cruising, Al Pacino plays cop Steve Burns, assigned by his grizzled captain (Paul Sorvino aiming for ‘world weary’, instead achieving ‘quite tired’) to go undercover in New York’s leather bars to hunt down a killer targeting the community. Without further ado, he kisses his girlfriend (Karen Allen) goodbye, dons a pair of chaps and enthusiastically sets on his way. Before long, Burns, simultaneously fascinated and repelled by what he sees (including a hellish fisting session), is in turmoil over his own sexuality and finds himself unable to make much headway on the case. Following a fevered sojourn through an unremittingly seedy landscape, the killer – or at least one killer – is found, before an ambiguous coda suggests that Burns may have murderous tendencies.

A significant proportion of the New York gay community, outraged in their perception of the film’s attitude toward homosexuality, pilloried the shoot to such an extent that much of the sound was destroyed by vocal protest, resulting in the need for dialogue to be overdubbed. In addition to such public opprobrium, Cruising was widely panned by critics unimpressed by its grim hodgepodge of sex, violence and confusing narrative. To add the proverbial icing to the cake, the film secured a Golden Raspberry nomination for worst film of the year – amusingly, it was pipped by Can’t Stop the Music, a bizarre mock-doc about the formation of gay scene legends The Village People, starring Steve Guttenberg!

Is Cruising homophobic? Well, Friedkin argued that in focusing on an absolute extreme of a particular subculture, what he portrayed was not representative of the wider gay experience; moreover, he simply wanted to use the ‘scene’ as a backdrop to a murder mystery. This suggestion carries some dubious merit, but is undercut by the film’s cynical ambiguity, and its propagation of some horribly simplistic psychology which intimates that gay = problem.

The lanky, be-mulleted, leather-clad killer (Richard Cox) is revealed to have had a troubled relationship with his father, and his mantra, presumably directed at Daddy, is a robotically whispered “You made me do this”. In addition to such weak pop psychology, a further misstep is the presence of Burns’ chipper gay roommate Ted (Don Scardino) who exhibits, as suggested by the A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin, “a sitcom perkiness [which] clashes with the brooding intensity of the rest of the film”. The innocent Ted meets the most horrific death of all – a veritable bloodbath. He is punished, presumably for being gay rather than just perky, but we’re never really sure by whom – the nature and circumstance of his death is completely at odds with the others that occur. If it is Burns, who at one point darkly intones to his girlfriend “There’s a lot you don’t know about me”, then Burns is really no more than the archaic stereotype of a gay man so consumed by self-loathing that he is driven to acts of destruction. If it isn’t, then it might have been Ted’s petulant, possessive boyfriend (a nicely piquant turn from The Warriors’ James Remar) or indeed anyone, suggesting an irresistible, widespread malaise within the community – gay murderers everywhere! There is no redemption here, just prurience and misery. Accordingly, Friedkin cannot honestly have been surprised at the negative reaction to his film.


Yet Cruising, despite its myriad flaws, does have certain elements to recommend it. Cinematographer James Contner, who originally wanted to shoot in black and white, does a fantastic job of rendering an oppressive, dread-fuelled atmosphere through a near-monochrome palette of steely blues, greys and blacks. Contributing to the nightmarish vibe is a genuinely odd score from Phil Spector’s ex-right hand man Jack Nitschze, which runs the gamut from dirty proto-house, to twangy, skittering flamenco-jazz that sounds like the duelling banjos kid from Deliverance channelling the spirit of ’70s Miles Davis. Production designer Bruce Weintraub has a field day in populating the landscape with phallic symbols; there are dicks, real and signified, everywhere.

Credit must also go to Pacino for his frazzled, twitchy performance. Permanently covered in a thin film of sweat, with eyes darting askance, he fully convinces as a man increasingly out of his depth and troubled by rumblings of sexual confusion, or at the very least a man terrified his acting career is about to disappear down the toilet. It is truly startling to see a mainstream actor turn up in such an unceasingly sleazy film, and debatable whether a leading man of today would take on such a role (Ryan Gosling was arguably similarly game in Nicolas Winding Refn’s torrid – and comparably horrible – Only God Forgives). Pacino brought some ‘method’ to the party, too. Hilariously, production was delayed because he turned up to the first day’s shoot with, in the words of Friedkin, a “gay” haircut that “didn’t work out”.

In any discussion of Cruising, it would be a crime not to mention the cornucopia of unintentional hilarity on display, which frequently undermines the intense tone the production team carefully assemble. Some of the dialogue – much of it delivered by Sorvino – simply must be heard to be believed: “He intends to flop on the beach and turn nut brown”, “Ever been porked? Ever had a man smoke your pole?”, and the deathlessly serious “You’re my partner… we’re up to our ass in this!” are particular highlights. Then there’s the moment for which Cruising should, above all else, be immortalised: a mountain-sized black cop, dressed in nothing but a jockstrap, cowboy hat and boots, strides unannounced into an interrogation room to send Burns flying with the mother of all dry slaps. It is utterly inexplicable, and yet somehow perfect for a film which constantly treads the thin line between unpleasantness and ridiculousness.

Cruising, with its rum subject matter, dangerously ambiguous messaging and snapshot of a lost (pre-AIDS epidemic) subculture, is a rare example of post-New Hollywood risk-taking at its most discomfiting, and Friedkin at his most anti-social. Ultimately, we’ll never see the likes of it again, which is a shame, because there isn’t a single Al Pacino film released in the last 15 years that couldn’t have been improved by a spot of light fisting.

5 reasons to come and see Do The Right Thing

In case you’ve missed our occasional blogging and tweeting about the matter, we’re screening Spike Lee’s classic Do The Right Thing at London’s Clapham Picturehouse on Thursday 5 July (that’s tomorrow to you and me, or today if you’re reading this tomorrow. Or perhaps yesterday, in which case you may as well close the page). Anyway, in case you were undecided about whether or not to come along, we’ve put together 5 reasons to convince you to part with your cash.

1. There will be pizza

Sal of Sal’s famous pizzeria is unable to attend the screening for obvious reasons (number one being that he’s a fictional character), but we’re keeping his spirit alive via the medium of his pride and joy. Ticketholders will get some free pizza to munch on, though rumours of “extra mouzarella on that muh’fucker an’ shit” are unconfirmed.

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2. We’re screening it in 35mm

Back in the day, any time you went to a cinema you’d be seeing your film of choice on a celluloid print. However, in recent times, for reasons both economic and access-based, exhibitors have increasingly tended to show films digitally (Won’t go into detail here, but this is a good read). We’ve pushed the boat out to source a genuine 35mm print from Universal, so you can appreciate Ernest Dickerson’s stunning cinematography in all its glory.

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3. You’ll need all the style tips you can get for our wondrous London summer

If When it stops raining in this godforsaken town, you’ll be looking for new threads. Look no further for inspiration than Ruth E. Carter’s costumes for the film. Here’s a little excerpt from a piece I wrote about the film’s style for the great website Clothes on Film: “Carter’s contribution is vital in three key areas: establishing a sense of place and adding depth to the characters, supporting the film’s themes, and contributing to a bold onscreen representation of blackness which, as suggested by Ed Guerrero, ‘challenges and erodes the skin-colour hierarchy of Hollywood’s classic optical hegemony'”. If that’s a bit academic, I’ll put it straight: the clothes are fucking cool.

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4. It’s not only Spike’s best film, but one of the best of the ’80s

Spike’s third film marked the flowering of a major, major talent. An epic cocktail of drama, comedy, style, music and politics, Do The Right Thing wowed audiences and critics alike, and proved the major catalyst in the black American cinema boom of the early 1990s (think Boyz N The Hood, Menace II Society, Juice, Fresh, Spike’s subsequent joints). Watch it now and you’ll be stunned by how it doesn’t seem to have dated at all (save for the occasional haircut). It’s also difficult to think of another film with so many amazing, unforgettable characters: Radio Raheem, Da Mayor, Mookie, Senor Love Daddy, Pino, Sweet Dick Willie, Tina, the list goes on. What’s more, Lee’s new film Red Hook Summer (US release August, UK release TBC) sees the director return to Brooklyn for a pseudo-sequel – Mookie’s even rumoured to have a small cameo. This is a great chance to prepare yourself.

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5. Because… well, because FIGHT THE POWER, innit?

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You can book tickets online by following this link, over the phone on 0871 902 5727, or buy on the door to save yourself a booking fee.

Permanent Plastic Helmet presents Do The Right Thing | Update – here’s the poster!

We’re starting to get very excited about our special summer screening of Spike Lee’s classic joint Do The Right Thing at South London’s lovely Clapham Picturehouse cinema on Thursday 5 July. You can book tickets by following this link.

If you’re on Facebook, you can also use our event page to tell us you’re coming. Spread the word!

Here’s a running order:

7.30 Join us in the bar for drinks, soundtracked by classic 80s hip-hop and soul

8.45 Intro and prize giveaway

9.00 Do The Right Thing starts

And here is the beautiful poster, designed by the outrageously talented Piccia Neri.

See you on the 5th.

Screening announcement: Do The Right Thing @ Clapham Picturehouse, Thursday 5 July, 20:45

I’m delighted to be able to announce today the confirmation of Permanent Plastic Helmet’s first ever screening event. We’re showing a 35mm print of Spike Lee’s classic Do The Right Thing at south London’s lovely Clapham Picturehouse. It takes place on what’s sure to be the hottest day of the year – Thursday 5 July 2012 – at 20:45, so you’re strongly advised to clear your diaries forthwith. You do not want to miss this one.

The reasons for this screening? Firstly, the first week of July marks PPH’s 2 ½ birthday, and we thought it was time for a celebration. Secondly, it’s a fantastic, funny, complex, thrilling film which just gets better with age and is as relevant now as it was upon its release 23 years ago. The eagle eyed among you (or anyone who’s read our ‘about’ page) will know that the blog is named after a line spoken by Samuel L Jackson in the film. It’s safe to say we’re big fans.

Keep your eyes peeled in the next couple of weeks for more exciting info about the event. We’re working on some pretty cool things. Updates will be posted both on the blog and on our Twitter page (@PPlasticHelmet).