FILM FESTIVAL DOUBLE FEATURE: SUN DON’T SHINE (2012)/TCHOUPITPOULAS (2012)

Taking a trip to your local film festival is a good way to recalibrate your sense of weirdness. The sparsely attended showings will remind you that to the average movie patron, any film that doesn’t feature either 1. a car chase, 2, a robot chase, or 3. Adam Sandler probably qualifies as “weird.” So, although the two films commented on below may not qualify as weird by our bizarre standards, it’s good to remember that they are as extraordinary a pair of oddities as the average moviegoer might be accidentally exposed to.

Still from Shine (2012)Writer/director Amy Seimetz reveals that Sun Don’t Shine was based on a recurring nightmare, combined with her fever dream recollections of the subtle insanity engendered by south Florida humidity. The scenario sees fragile Crystal () and macho beau Leo (Kentucker Audley) on the lam heading for the Everglades in a clunker with a bad radiator, fleeing troubles which aren’t immediately disclosed but which you will easily guess. There are a few moments, when the story shifts to see things from anti-heroine Crystal’s distorted perspective (which seems equally informed by insecurity and sunstroke) that Sun seems about to take off into nightmare territory. But we always quickly return to reality and to the movie’s core, the uncomfortable co-dependent relationship between sullen Leo and wispy Crystal. The movie seems afraid to push itself past the merely uncomfortable and into the full depths of insanity, at least until a final “too little too late” moment of madness. In that, perhaps the script is only playing to its strengths. Seimetz is excellent at creating a believable dynamic between the troubled lovebirds; there’s a barroom scene where Crystal is boring her man with a story about pilfered lipstick to the point where he has to get up and walk away as if to say “I love you, but if you yap on for one more second we’ll be talking about your fat lip instead of your lipstick.” She follows him into the men’s room and wins him back with persistent affection. It’s a very real scene, but the problem is almost the entire film is made up of such supplemental moments. A movie can have so much character Continue reading FILM FESTIVAL DOUBLE FEATURE: SUN DON’T SHINE (2012)/TCHOUPITPOULAS (2012)

CAPSULE: THE TALE OF THE FLOATING WORLD (2001)

DIRECTED BY: Alain Escalle

FEATURING: Yûko Nakamura, Ryôya Kobayashi, Kakuya Ohashi

PLOT: A surrealistic montage set in motion by a tidal wave and incorporating a samurai battle.

Still from The Tale of the Floating World (2001)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Simply put, length. Floating World is a tidal wave of creativity, but at a little less 1/3 the running time it would need to be at least three times as notable or weird to take a slot on the List away from a full-fledged feature film.

COMMENTS: Although organized around the concept of a remembrances of Japan’s past as dreamed by a survivor of Hirsohima (we gathered this from the director’s notes, and presume it’s explained by the narrator’s brief untranslated comments that start the film), Floating World works on a vaguer level as a surreal tribute to European Japanophilia. Nipponese iconography—cranes, geishas, samurai—suffuses the film like sunlight through a rice paper print. A scene of a robed woman stumbling through a snowbound forest looks like a visual quotation from Kwaidan. Plenty of strangeness accompanies us in our journey though this dream of the Rising Sun: calligraphic characters turn into ants and crawls off the page during an eclipse, ashen nude zombies dance, and a samurai duel with flashing blades in a watercolor blur. The circa 2001 CGI is cheap and clunky looking: the aqua tsunami looks painted on the film, for example, and a sinking Buddha head is obviously superimposed on a separate shot of brackish water. Given the context you could hardly say the unreality of the imagery counts as a negative, however; the shots work exquisitely as a series of stills. Floating World works both as a demo reel for director Escalle’s visual effects skills and as an art installation of its own. Cécile Le Prado’s ornamental Oriental score contributes to the stony feeling of smoking opium while staring at a Japanese woodcutting hung on the wall.

The title refers to the Japanese concept of the “Floating World”—a hedonistic, secular world of fleeting pleasures and beauty for its own sake exemplified by geishas and kabuki theater—which flourished in the classical Edo period. “Ukiyo-e” or “pictures of the floating world” were a genre of woodcuttings depicting scenes of Edo-era Japan. The 18th century novelist Asai Ryō wrote a work entitled “Tales of the Floating World” about a Buddhist monk who finds enlightenment through debauchery. Dating back to Impressionism, French artists have had such a longstanding infatuation with Ukiyo-e that it’s given birth to a subgenre of painting known as “Japonisme.”

CONTENT WARNING: The Tale of the Floating World contains (tastefully presented) sex and nudity, and parts would not be considered “safe for work.”

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

No reviews located.

(This movie was nominated for review by Irene, who cited the film’s synopsis: “An evocative and surrealistic view of Japan and the atomic bomb. An imaginary story, both cruel and childlike.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Japanophiles (particularly Edo-era Japanophiles) will want to tune into this channel Monday to watch Alain Escalle’s impressive 2011 short feature “The Tale of the Floating World” (preemptive content warning/teaser: this film contains dancing nude zombies). On Tuesday we’ll nod to the 2012 festival circuit with short reviews of the Florida noir Sun Don’t Shine and the dreamy nighttime New Orleans doc Tchoupitoulas. Wednesday gets weirder as we look at ‘s sexy psychedelic/feminist (and banned) feature Daisies, made in 1966 Czechoslovakia.  On Thursday we examine the decidedly non-psychedelic/non-feminist (42nd Street hit) Shanty Tramp, made in America one year later. That crazy lineup should keep you all entertained for another week.

Are people just getting too normal? For the second week in a row, we’re having trouble coming up with a worthy winner for our Weirdest Search Term of the Week contest. We’ll start out our survey of this week’s pathetic candidates with “american sexy lovely boy and girl living in together movies.com,” which illustrates a recurring feature we’ve always found somewhat odd: there is a species of searcher out there who always adds “.com” to the end of every query they type (as if to say “I want information about american sexy lovely boy and girl living in together movies, but not if it comes from a ‘.org’ domain.”) We follow that one with this search for “movie bad boy bubby (1993) monkey pron,” which sounds to us like the search of someone who’s really interested in monkey porn but wants to pretend they’re looking for something more socially acceptable. Without much to go on in terms of true weirdness, we picked “sexe video purple very weird girl wtih….” as our Weirdest Search Term of the Week. It left us wanting more: just what is it that the searcher hopes to find videos of very weird purple girls having sex with? He just leaves us hanging…

Here’s the ridiculously-long-and-ever-growing reader-suggested review queue: “The Tale of the Floating World” (next week!); “My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117″; The Hour-glass Sanatorium [Saanatorium pod klepsidra] (out of print in Region 1, but we’ll keep looking); Liquid Sky Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/8/2012

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

SCREENINGS (Cinefamily, Los Angeles, June 8-14):

Celine and Julie Go Boating [Celine et Julie Vont en Bateau ] (1974): This fabled but seldom-seen French surrealist comedy about the fantasy lives of two Parisian women is available for viewing (in a newly restored 35mm print) by lucky Los Angelinos. A restoration followed by a tour sometimes indicates that a DVD release is imminent. Keep your fingers crossed… Celine and Julie Go Boating at Cinefamily.

FILM FESTIVALS: FLYOVER FILM FESTIVAL (June 7-10, Louisville, KY):

A blip on the festival circuit—it’s not called “Flyover” because major movies stop there—but worth noting because special guest “366weirdmovies” will personally be in attendance at several screenings. Anyone who misses their connecting flight and finds him or herself stranded in Louisville, KY this weekend will want to look for him (he’ll be sporting his stylish 366 Weird Movies t-shirt) at the following events:

  • Sun Don’t Shine – They’re keeping a tight lid on the plot of this road-trip dark romance described as “cryptic” and “eerily poetic,” but it did fare well at the SWSX festival. Director Amy Seimetz (who had a small role in Wristcutters: A Love Story) says the idea came from a recurring nightmare. Screening June 8.
  • Tchoupitoulas – Documentary following three wide-eyed young brothers stuck in New Orleans one night has been described as dreamlike and even (occasionally) surreal. Screening Jun 10.
  • The UnknownRead our capsule review. Louisville native Tod Browning‘s perverse melodrama about an “armless” knife thrower in love with a woman who can’t abide the touch of a man gets a new live soundtrack by dark ambient rockers Seluah. Screening June 9.

Flyover Film Festival official site.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

Mr Bean Possessed by Depe [Mr. Bean Kesurupan Depe] (2012?): Is big-time comedy star Rowan Atkinson (“Mr. Bean”) about to be cut into an Indonesian horror comedy starring alongside a Malaysian pop idol? The Jakarta Post seems to think so. And this blog reported that “world secretly actor” Atkinson was seen in Jakarta, and that during the “filming of the movie, Mr Bean guarded 25 bodyguards”(!) Don’t write the idea off: soon-to-be-legendary Indonesian producer K.K. Dheeraj (The Menstruating Ghost of Puncak) already convinced retired porn star Sasha Grey to phone in a performance to be inserted into a horror comedy. This is just the next step in his plan to dominate popular world cinema. We just have to see some of Dheeraj’s work for ourselves sometime!

NEW ON DVD:

Yellow Submarine (1968): Animated Beatles travel to Pepperland in a yellow submarine to defeat Blue Meanies in this druggy “children’s” film where “nothing is real.” This extras-packed release is an extremely welcome restoration of a movie that has been out of print for many years. Buy Yellow Submarine.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Natural Born Killers (1994)/Any Given Sunday (1999)/JFK (1991): Obviously, the ultraviolent hallucinogenic satire Killers is the main draw for our readers in this Oliver Stone triple features. If you like the other two not-very-weird films, this bargain offering may be a better option than a standalone Killers Blu. Buy Natural Born Killers/Any Given Sunday/JFK [Blu-ray].

Yellow Submarine (1968): See description in DVD above. Buy Yellow Submarine [Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

The Naughty Stewardesses (1975): In the mood for a naughty softcore comic farce about sexy Seventies stewardesses? Would you change your mind if I told you it was directed by Al (Dracula vs. Frankenstein) Adamson? We probably would have passed on recommending this to you except that Bill Gibron of DVD Verdict described the plot as “so surreal that Salvador Dali’s estate is suing for copyright infringement.” Watch The Naughty Stewardesses free on YouTube.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

CHILD BRIDE (1938)

Do not be alarmed! The loud thud you are getting ready to hear is merely the sound of your jaw dropping to the floor while watching Child Bride (1938). And before the credits roll, you will know that you have truly entered a twilight zone from the gutter cinema of yesteryear.

Of course, in 1938 movies were deep in the law of the Hays Code, and the only films which managed to subvert Will Hays’ dos-and-don’ts-list were the exploitation features. That is because they contained an “educational, moral message” for the masses.

Child Bride was a government funded film which begins it’s sermon with: “These child marriages must be stopped!” Predictably, the film then wallows in its own tawdry agenda. Written and directed by the rightfully forgotten hack, Harry Reiver, Child Bride is a ripe candidate for one to the most disturbing examples of unintentional weirdness.

“Here is a page from the Book of Life… in Thunderhead Mountain. We do not aim to ridicule the back yonder folk, but if our story abolishes their child marriages, then it will have served its purpose.” If the music from Deliverance (1972) starts coming to mind, then take it as a warning: Be afraid. Be very afraid. The only thing missing is the horror horn and fear flasher from Chamber of Horrors (1966).

Still Child Bride (1938)Ma and Pa Colton (Dorothy Carroll & George Humphreys) don’t like no child marriage. They even have a book lying on their front porch saying it’s a crime, which is a tad ironic since their eleven year-old Jennie (Shirley Mills) does lotsa provocative stretching and shows plenty o’ leg in her homemade miniskirt, cut up to her crotch (the ‘dress’ looks like it was cut with lopsided scissors), while doing her early morning chores before trotting off to school.

Jennie’s sort-of mountain boyfriend Freddie (Bobby Bolinger) stops by to accompany her to Continue reading CHILD BRIDE (1938)

CAPSULE: JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES (1975)

DIRECTED BY: Chantal Akerman

FEATURING:

PLOT: A widow performs chores around her apartment and prostitutes herself in the afternoons.

Still from Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With its belabored 3+ hours (!) of a woman doing dull daily chores in long static real time takes, Jeanne Dielman is an example of how a movie can essentially swallow its own tail, achieving a level of surreality by emphasizing ordinariness and normality to an absurd degree. Like Andy Warhol’s “Sleep,” this deliberate experiment in extended boredom serves a purpose in the film universe; it’s just that that purpose isn’t to be watched by a normal human audience.

COMMENTS: When I read critics rave about Jeanne Dielman, I sometimes feel like I’m scanning reviews from the Bizarro World Times, dispatches from an alternate universe where up is down and audiences are enthralled by watching women shop for buttons and cook meatloaf for hours on end. (Vincent Canby’s claim that the frumped-up Delphine Seyrig “has never looked more beautiful” than in this film doesn’t help counter that impression that every review of the film was written on Opposite Day). It’s not that Akerman’s movie is a fraud or a failure. According to its experimental goal of exploring mundanity to its absolute limit, it’s a success, one that, for obvious reasons, other directors have rarely sought to repeat. But Jeanne Dielman is a formal exercise that no one other than a theoretician could love: we can’t bond with its affectless characters, its punishing three hour running time is a blunt weapon used to hammer home its hopeless message, and frankly, it’s just no fun. Watching this movie isn’t just taking your cultural vegetables, it’s gagging down a spoonful of cultural castor oil. Jeane Dielman‘s high artistic intent and ridiculous integrity of vision are too powerful to give the film a “beware” rating, but this is a movie that’s better read about than watched; heck, even Mlle. Dielman’s son would rather read than act in the movie. On its release the movie was adopted by feminists as a landmark statement on the crushing boredom of “women’s work,” but it’s not (and Akerman herself never claimed it was). That interpretation would require that the men and the working women in the movie—the son, the postal clerk, the waitress—were depicted as living lives of glamor compared to housefrau Jeanne. Rather, the film paints the entire adult world (or at least the “bourgeois” world) as morbidly dull: the only human beings shown enjoying any aspect of life in the film are children briefly seen running and playing in the street. The universal and almost unqualified praise for Akerman’s avant-garde oddity—which bludgeons the concept of “entertainment” with the same subtlety and affection as John Waters did for the concept of “taste” in Pink Flamingos—seems like it might make a great case study for a 20th century edition of “Extraordinary Aesthetic Delusions and the Madness of Critics.” For those who crave such things, a similar modern ennuiscape was sketched earlier, but with greater economy and magic, by in Dillinger is Dead.

After the marketing success of a line of toys based on Star Wars characters, figurines based on popular movies became huge sellers in the late 1970s and 1980s. Obviously not every toy company could afford to license a top-of-the-line property like Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles posable action figure was almost certainly the most ill-advised attempt to cash in on the fad. I can still hear the radio spots created to coincide with the movie’s 1983 U.S. release: “Your Jeanne Dielman action figure makes coffee, entertains ‘gentleman callers,’ eats in stony silence, or just sits and stares at the wall, just like international screen icon Delphine Seyrig! For extra authenticity, the molded plastic face is incapable of expression. WARNING: to avoid risk of catatonia, toy should not be played with for more than three hours at a setting. Potato peeler and scissors sold separately.”

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Miss Seyrig has participated in a number of supposedly experimental films over the years, but in none as original and ambitious as this. ‘Jeanne Dielman’ is not quite like any other film you’ve ever seen…”–Vincent Canby, The New York Times (1983 U.S. theatrical release)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1978)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Peter Frampton, Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb, George Burns

PLOT: Four loveable lads from Heartland, America form a band, overcome the corrupting influences of the music industry, and save their town from the evil forces that want to steal four prized musical instruments which can guarantee peace and love the whole world over.

Still from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is an almost perfect example of a bad idea gone wrong. Attempting to shape a collection of 29 Beatles songs into a narrative seems an iffy prospect, but the resulting story is somehow even more ludicrous than you could expect. Add in dubious casting (the singers can’t act, the actors can’t sing, no one can dance except Billy Preston), garish art direction, many open shirts, tight pants, and the enormous hair of Barry Gibb, and of course some truly awful musical performances. Then, take away all dialogue and replace it with bug-eyed silent film-style reactions and the bored narration of George Burns, and you’ve got yourself a veritable carnival of oddity.

COMMENTS: There is a peculiar subset of motion pictures with musical scores consisting entirely of Beatles songs, including Julie Taymor’s artsy Across the Universe, the peculiar war documentary-rock soundtrack mashup All This and World War Two, and the maudlin Sean Penn drama I Am Sam. As that list indicates, none converted the success of the Beatles into its own artistic or financial triumph. But in terms of jaw-droppingness, all of them take a backseat to the misfire that is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The film is essentially a calculated effort on the part of music mogul Robert Stigwood to sell a boatload of records. He reasoned that combining the perennial popularity of the Beatles with the then-ascendant careers of the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton was like printing the deed to a gold mine. His thinking appears to have ended there. He placed the project in the hands of neophyte screenwriter Henry Edwards, who concocted the tale of a magical bandleader named Sgt. Pepper. Pepper’s magical musical instruments single-handedly ended two World Wars.  His spirit enters a magical weathervane upon his death and his legacy is handed down to his grandson, Billy Shears, and the three Henderson brothers, with town mayor Mr. Kite and Billy’s girlfriend Strawberry Fields on hand to watch their success. And that’s where things start to really get weird.

Why do a defrocked real estate agent and his boxer henchman (Carel Struycken!) want to turn Continue reading RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1978)

READER RECOMMENDATION: CHRONOPOLIS (1982)

Reader review by Morgan Hoyle-Combs.

DIRECTED BY: Piotr Kamler

FEATURING:

PLOT: In a lost city, that may only be found in time, monolithic figures try to break free from

Still from Chronopolis (1982)

their continuous state of immortality by crafting, and destroying, time itself. Two keys to their demise are a curious white sphere and long legged explorer, both of who have no interest in putting an end to the gods of Chronopolis.

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Piotr Kamler created one of the few silent stop-motion arthouse films synched with an electrical atmospheric soundtrack that has yet to take on a cult audience. Made with a 1920’s 35mm Debrie Parvo camera over a five year period, Kamler didn’t hesitate to tell a story though calm visuals and masterful animation which beckons a new face to the pure, dreamlike wonders that surrealist cinema has to offer.

COMMENTS: Everyone has some type of love for the strange, somewhere. When I was a teen, I recall searching for movies set in a dystopian steampunk world. The name Chronopolis popped up, but with very little info, let alone links. I shoved the title on YouTube, desperate to see fancy steampunk. Chronopolis was not that; in fact, the video was so pixelated I could hardly tell what was happening. I wanted more. After researching, I finally found the whole movie; it forever changed my perspective on viewing cinema and the world through an eye piece.

The fact that this stop motion movie is rarely spoken of and had a very little release adds more to it’s strange nature, almost like it was intended to be forgotten by time. In reality I think Kamler did not do a fantastic job of publicizing his work. A VHS edition was released from a now deceased video library in Boston in the mid 80’s. The movie earned it’s fame, however, through its inclusion on a 2007 DVD collection of Kamler’s shorts, although this version was cut by 20 minutes or so. Kamler originally stated that there were some gratuitous scenes when he initially released it to the public. I watched both, and found the 66 minute version to be a little darker Continue reading READER RECOMMENDATION: CHRONOPOLIS (1982)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Next week, we’ll start out get a rare (but always welcome) reader review of the visionary animated film Chronopolis (1982) (a French movie which, despite being very well-received on release, has sadly been unavailable forever on DVD). If it’s so-bad-they’re-weird all-star musical flops that float your bizarre boat, then we’ll have just what the doctor (er, sergeant?) ordered with a review of 1978’s disco-Beatles mashup misfire Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In the “we watched this so you won’t have to” category we’ll offer up our thoughts on Chantal Akerman’s unwatchable 1975 classic Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. And we’ll cap off the week with coverage of the despicably hilarious early exploitationer Child Bride (1938).

It was a terrible, terrible week for weird search terms used to locate the site. There has been a distressing outbreak of normality across the Internet. Nonetheless, we have a few items of note to bring you. First off, we really want to locate the movie this searcher is looking for: “french film from the 60s where a man boards himself up in a room and starts eating french police and everyone starts living the same way.” Although the description is a bit more generic, we also wouldn’t mind checking out a “weird movie with people who are weird.” The search for “grit thai zex,” on the other hand, sounds less appealing (we’d take some great Thai sex, though). In a weak week for weird search terms, though, we can always fall back on the inexhaustible supply of horny Googlers with odd fetishes and poor grammar to find our Weirdest Search Term of the Week. This week’s winner typed out the phrase “concert, the crowd of bus assault video sleep porn” (and, judging by Google’s image results, probably left very disappointed).

Here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-ever-growing-reader-suggested-review-queue stands: “My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117″; The Hour-glass Sanatorium [Saanatorium pod klepsidra] (out of print in Region 1, but we’ll keep looking); Liquid Sky (re-review); 3 Dev Adam; Fantastic Planet; Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!