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Motion Picture Purgatory – Rick Trembles

Motion Picture Purgatory - Rick Trembles

FAB Press 2004 , 192 pages , £9.99 , PB

Canadian caustic cartoon cinema criticism collection.

Film reviews generally fall into one of two categories – those that have a picture of the film with it and those that don’t. Bucking the trend for nigh on twenty years is Rick Trembles (now that’s gotta be a pseudonym), film columnist for The Montreal Mirror (when he wasn’t being sacked for getting too close to the knuckle). Rick, you see, doesn’t go for the bog standard “thumbs up/thumbs down” stars-out-of-five stuff. Oh no. His reviews are illustrations. That’s right. Comic strips. This means that the reader instantly gets an impression of the film before getting down to the nitty-gritty of actually reading about it.

Salient plot points and occasionally minuscule detail are given equal weight with Rick’s caustic penmanship ridiculing big budget and indie stalwarts with equal vitriol. Despite concentrating on more recent films (as befits a weekly review column) there is time for older works such as Birth of a Nation (1915) or Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising as well as avant-garde, cult, horror and pornography – all of human life is here (provided it’s on film). Occasionally reviewing is abandoned for concept – the Being John Malkovich review is admirably summarised in one illustration, while Pirates of the Caribbean is incomplete because some wretched heathen used their mobile phone loudly in the closing moments. The Passion of the Christ gets the same merciless treatment as The Devil In Miss Jones.

Tremble’s unusual approach to criticism (the cartoon review has been part of Japanese film texts for a while) raises interesting questions about the films discussed and a critic’s interpretation of what’s on screen – each illustration is notably authored by Trembles but displays a vast array of cinematic topics. Often the illustrations go to some length in establishing the minutia of the film, other times the broader picture is shown. Rick’s penchant for alliteration makes for instant billboard reviews – or rather it would if the deletives were (deleted that is) and they were a little less detrimental.

While Trembles does admit to enjoying the odd film there is a sense in which he tortures himself week in week out to review stuff that he utterly despises – venting his spleen (and showing lots of spleens in his frequently gory vignettes) in a way that is half laugh-out-loud hilarious and half, well, a bit mean spirited.

Any Cop?: Opinionated and infuriating but clearly the work of a deranged genius – film reviews for psychos.