All posts by Gregory J. Smalley (366weirdmovies)

Gregory J. Smalley founded 366 Weird Movies in 2008 and has served as editor-in-chief since that time. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and his film writing has appeared online in Pop Matters and The Spool.

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: SHE IS CONANN (2023)

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DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , Claire Duburcq, Christa Théret, Sandra Parfait, , Nathalie Richard,

PLOT: Waking in the afterlife, Conann the barbarian recalls various stages of her life, and her relationship with the dog-faced demon who guides her destiny.

Still from She Is Conann (2023)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: She Is Conann lives up to its high weird premise—six gender-flipped incarnations of pulp hero Conan(n) the Barbarian—and then some. At this point, it seems likely that anything Mandico sets his hand to will merit candidacy.

COMMENTS: Bertand Mandico loves women. He cast women in all the male roles for The Wild Boys, then set his sophomore feature After Blue on an all-female planet, and now creates a distaff version of Robert E. Howard’s pulp warrior. There are a tiny number roles in Conann; the only major one is played by a female (and at least one female character is played by a male). Mandico also could be accused of having (or exploiting) a lesbian fetish, although it seems the main reason his women have sex with other women is because there aren’t many men around. But there isn’t much sex in Conann (although there is some graphic kissing). Mandico’s casting of actresses in typically male roles has become his auteurial signature, analogous to the non-acting that populated ‘ early movies. The feminine skew is simply part of his worldview.

Conann is essentially an anthology film, a fragmented hero’s journey, with each individual incarnation of the barbarian capable of standing alone: most kill the previous decade’s Conann, directly or indirectly, before embarking on their own story. The first two Conanns inhabit what is basically a high fantasy world, though one where the all-female barbarian tribes wear modified gorilla costumes with wicked nipple hooks. But the story expands after that, seeing Conann take a job as a contemporary stuntwoman, then a fascist officer, and then finally as a post-apocalyptic patroness of the arts. Conann’s character changes—you could argue she becomes increasingly barbaric—but what really ties everything together is Elina Löwensohn‘s demonic Rainier, who strides through the film nudging an obscure prophecy along, frequently taking flash photographs of Conann’s exploits for posterity. Her dog mask is surprisingly effective, leaving room for her eyes to hint at some sinister intelligence, but muzzling her overall expressiveness so that he/she remains mysterious.

The movie plays out entirely on indoor theatrical sets—mist-shrouded barbarian wildernesses, a sleazy urban snake pit where a wall of Conann’s apartment hangs in the air unfinished, a tin-foil-lined Hell. Shot mostly in black and white, it occasionally shifts to soft, faded color. There is an unusual amount of squirm-inducing (though black and white) gore, and more than one example of the ultimate act of barbarity, cannibalism. These elements distance the film from the tasteful art-house circuit, while the experimental plot and portentous dialogue (“You’ve killed Europe! You can’t do that!”) alienates the average genre audience member. In his “incoherent” manner, Mandico discombobulates the viewer between masculine and feminine, monochrome and color, melodrama and farce, art and trash. For most, his technique is off-putting; for us, it’s invigorating,

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The lo-fi production design is often wondrous, the midnight-movie vibe is fetching, but the film is ultimately probably too much of a good/weird thing to sustain its running time — although, for the French writer-director’s fans, such excess is the key to his success.”–Tim Grierson, Screen Daily (festival screening)

She Is Conann
  • Standard Edition

WHAT’S COMING: “THE 366 WEIRD MOVIES GUIDE”

It’s been whispered around these parts for a while, but, as I look over proofs, I finally feel like the time is finally ripe to make an official in-print announcement:

The Big Book, “The 366 Weird Movies Guide,” is coming. Yes, you’ll soon finally have a physical record of the 366 Weirdest Movies ever made to put on your bookshelf! Something physical and tangible, that will last long after this Internet site has dissipated into the ether.

We don’t have a firm date, except to say the book will arrive in the 2024 calendar year, courtesy of film publishing specialist Bear Manor Media.

The text of the “Guide” does not simply repeat the already published web content. Many of the reviews are entirely new, written by a different contributor than the one who wrote the original. In other cases, the entries are condensed and perfected versions of the originals, with the fat cut out to leave a punchier, more powerful statement about what makes that particular movie a weird classic.

The “Guide” will be available in two formats: either split into two volumes in sturdy hardcover, or in one convenient (if thick) softcover book. Copies will be available for purchase from major retailers, and a smaller number directly from us (I’ll even autograph those, upon request).

We would appreciate it if you would purchase it. It was years in the making.

We’ll drop more nuggets of info as the project develops.

After the book is published, I had originally considered radically revising and redesigning this website. The problem is, that’s a time-consuming process, and instead I would prefer to move on to my next major project: a work of fiction, although one with a weird movie spin. So, for the the time being, the website will remain as you see it before you, with new content and reviews (and Apocrypha!) continuing to accrue.

We also plan to continue Pod 366 for the foreseeable future, and to expand its scope and reach with more guests, platforms, and digital doo-dads (a theme song? A sponsor?)

So that’s where we’re at. The “366 Weird Movies Guide” is the culmination of a large and exhaustive process that has personally brought me much gratification. I hope it will bring readers a smaller, but not inconsiderable, amount of pleasure.

Thanks for indulging us wit this self-serving announcement, and see you tomorrow for the latest episode of Pod 366, where we’ll talk to some of the team behind the telepathic handkerchief horror-comedy Hanky Panky (2023).