WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/1/2017

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 at the official site links.

FILM FESTIVALS – Venice International Film Festival (Venice, IT, 8/30-9/9):

The world’s oldest film festival, Venice is still one of the most prestigious movie events of the year, although it has been losing ground in late years as many producers who miss the chance to debut at Cannes choose to premiere at the better-attended Toronto Film Festival instead. Like Cannes, its tastes tend towards the vino e formaggio crowd, but there’s always some adventurous and/or interesting  stuff to be found in the catalog, and some high-profile debuts, as seen in our list below:

  • Controfigura – French film about a small crew trying to remake The Swimmer in Marrakesh. Screening Sep. 8 &9.
  • Dangerous but Necessary – Documentary about two-time Certified Weird director (Dillinger is Dead, La Grande Bouffe). Screens Sep. 3 & 4.
  •  Il Signor Rotpeter – Italian Kafka adaptation about a monkey who becomes a man. Screening Sep. 8.
  • Mother‘s psychothriller starring Jennifer Lawrence is one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the year. First peek comes on Sep. 5.
  • The Shape of Water – ‘s adult fairy tale about a cleaning woman who falls in love with a merman; some critics are calling it the equal of Pan’s Labyrinth. The opening night screening has already passed but you can catch it in wide release in December.
  • Woodshock – Looks like a grieving woman () smokes synthetic cannabinoids in the woods and hallucinates a lot. Debuts Sep. 4, also playing Sep. 5.

Venice International Film Festival official site.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

The Manster (1959): Read our review. Not sure this campy low-budget B&W creature feature merits a hi-def release, but B-Blu collectors may be interested. Buy The Manster [Blu-ray].

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

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.

298. PERFECT BLUE (1997)

Pafekuto buru

“When you are watching the film, you sometimes feel like losing yourself in whichever world you are watching, real or virtual. But after going back and forth between the real and the virtual world you eventually find your own identity through your own powers. Nobody can help you do this. You are ultimately the only person who can truly find a place where you know you belong. That in essence is the whole concept. It is rather hard to explain.”– on Perfect Blue

Must See

DIRECTED BY: Satoshi Kon

CAST: Voices of Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Masaaki Ōkura; Ruby Marlowe (English dub), Wendee Lee (English dub), Bob Maex (English dub)

PLOT: Japanese pop idol Mima Kirigoe decides to retire from her group CHAM in to become an actress and change her image. She joins a soap opera where the storyline mysteriously reflects her own experiences, endures a stalker who posts intimate details from her life in a fake online diary, and finds several of her co-workers murdered. These events launch her into a psychotic identity crisis.

Still from Perfect Blue (1997)

BACKGROUND:

  • A protégé of , Perfect Blue was the first full-length film Satoshi Kon directed after working as a writer and layout animator.
  • Perfect Blue was based on the novel “Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis” by Yoshikazu Takeuchi. After a failed attempt at a live-action adaptation, Kon was approached to direct an animated version. The screenplay, however, didn’t interest Kon, who was eventually allowed to make any changes he wished as long as he kept three of the story’s elements: “idol”, “horror” and “stalker.” Kon said “the idea of a blurred border between the real world and imagination” was one of his contributions.
  • Sadly, Kon died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at only 46 years old, with only four feature films to his name.
  • One of Kon’s notable disciples, , wrote a eulogy for that was published in the retrospective “Satoshi Kon’s Animated Works.” Kon’s work has influenced Aronofsky, with the harshest calling Black Swan (2010) a “rip-off” of Perfect Blue. Rumors suggest that Aronofsky bought the rights for a live-action remake of Blue; once the plans didn’t work out, he used them instead to emulate the film’s “bathtub sequence” in Requiem for a Dream.
  • Another of Kon’s western admirers, , placed Perfect Blue among his fifty favorite animated movies. Additionally, it was ranked #97 in Time Out’s list of best animated films of all time and #25 on Total Film’s similar list.
  • Perfect Blue won the Best Asian Film award at the 1997 Fantasia Film Festival (tied with The Legend of Drunken Master) and the Best Animated Film at 1998’s Fantasporto festival.
  • A live action version, Perfect Blue: Yume Nara Samete, which was more closer to the novel, was finally released in 2002. It was quickly forgotten.
  • Rafael Moreira’s Staff Pick for the Certified Weird list.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Mima’s doppelganger jumping between lampposts provides the most striking of many memorable compositions.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Lamppost-leaping phantasm; ghost emailing stalker; middle-aged idol

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Though it takes its time, Perfect Blue is an effective psychodrama taking place in the mind of a despairing protagonist. By the time fiction, reality, fears and projections start to cross, and the psychosexual and horror elements enter the scene, you will know for sure that you’re watching an unconventional film, with an atmosphere likely to remind you of both a giallo and a ian psychic labyrinth.


UK trailer for Perfect Blue

COMMENTS: For the first half of its (short) running time, Perfect Continue reading 298. PERFECT BLUE (1997)

CAPSULE: THE EVIL WITHIN (2017)

DIRECTED BY: Andrew Getty

FEATURING: Frederick Koehler, ,

PLOT: A demon who appears in a mirror tries to turn a mentally handicapped man into a serial killer by threatening him with nightmares.

Still from The Evil Within (2017)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The Evil Within is an interesting curiosity, with parts that are authentically creepy bumping up against parts that are genuinely scatterbrained. It doesn’t go quite far enough into dementia to earn a spot on the List of the Weirdest Movies Ever—maybe it would have if its director had lived to fiddle with it for another fifteen years—but fans of fruitcake horror films won’t be disappointed.

COMMENTS: “I could never know for sure what was a dream and what wasn’t,” says our protagonist at one point. The Evil Within is as disjointed as a bad dream, but there are also dreams within dreams, including a remarkable and long-extended opening sequence that lectures us on the differences between dreams and stories while showing us surreal visions of a burning key in a light switch, a woman with lips for eyeballs, and Michael Berryman unzipping a boy’s body.

It gets weirder from there, in ways that are sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional. It turns out that in the waking world our protagonist, Dennis, is mentally handicapped, despite the fact that in the opening narration he described a haunted house ride as “the snow-capped summit in the topography of juvenile taste.” Frederick Koehler’s performance as Dennis isn’t terrible, although at times it does uncomfortably approach Donald Trump playing a disabled reporter. The plot is set into motion when Dennis’ reflection begins talking back to him, and gradually talks him into becoming a serial killer. The steps by which the alter ego accomplishes this—by convincing poor, slow Dennis that people will respect his newfound intelligence if he follows his increasingly horrifying instructions—are legitimately chilling. Meanwhile, Dennis suffers more Michael Berryman boogeyman nightmares, which are what the film does best, until a final “reveal” that explains (to some degree) his condition. The conclusion is also fairly bonkers, with animatronic monsters deployed as study aids to help decode the plot.

in many ways The Evil Within is a standard horror film, with serial killer tropes and impressive hallucinatory monsters. It also at times seems like the work of an outsider, one who doesn’t always grasp normal human motivations (why is the social worker so hell-bound on rescuing Dennis from his loving family? Why does the outrageously hot ice cream girl say “Of course it’s nice to see me, I’m outrageously hot?”) Overall, it’s an interesting and brutal, if raw, trip through the mirror: a unique blend of Nightmare on Elm Street, Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, and Rainman. It shows a promise that suggests that, had he lived, Andrew Getty might have developed into a distinctive horror voice; if he’d been able to tame his own demons and channel his weird impulses, he might have become a genre maverick like .

The story behind The Evil Within is actually odder than the movie itself. The writer/director, who was a grandson of J. Paul Getty and heir to his oil fortune, self-financed the project, spending an estimated $5 million of his inheritance and endlessly tinkering with it in post-production for 13 years, all while battling a methamphetamine addiction. He died in 2015 at 47 years of age, before completing his work. His editor finally compiled the version we now see before us.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…it’s already garnering a reputation as one of most singularly strange films to come along in a good while. And rightly so.”–Travis Johnson, Film Ink (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by “Russ,” who called it “A flawed film, to be sure, but even moreso: an absolutely fascinating film, a grand example of uncomfortable, outsider art.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

TEN OF THE MOST UNCOMMON AND WEIRDEST MOVIE SCORES

We here at 366 Weird Movies appreciate the contribution of music to the tone and impact of a weird movie, and try to highlight it whenever we can, but we’re not musicologists. We had long hoped to publish some kind of feature on bizarre movie scores, but when a pair of actual experts approached us with a similar idea, we jumped at the chance. Here are Butler University composer/professors Michael Schelle and Frank Felice’s choices for ten strange movie scores:

Over the course of film’s history, the styles and indeed the function of a film’s musical score has changed frequently, from the earliest silent film’s “pianist-in-the-pit” to today’s “anti-score” sound design of Hans Zimmer. Most of the time, however, the musical score for each movie serves to intensify the emotional core, underscore/buttress the plot, or some cases, function like an unseen character. For nearly its entire history, this musical underscore has been fairly conservative, with quite accessible classical music providing the basic music for most films, augmented (or replaced at times) by the pop music of the day. However, sometimes directors and producers asked their composers to go further, or more likely, the composers themselves took the risk or writing something unique, and their bosses accepted it. Here are ten scores (well, a few more) that are weird, either in their techniques, or their instrumentation, or how they interact with the images and dialogue.

Body Parts (1991) – directed by Eric Red, score by Loek Dikker

Much of the score by Dikker uses a typical horror music aesthetic and language, but what makes this film unique is one instrument’s frequent use  a bowed musical saw. Just about perfect for a film about lost limbs and their replacements…


(listen for the saw doubling the violins at about the three minute mark)

Crash (1996) – directed by , score by Howard Shore

Howard Shore may derive much of his fame as a composer from his work on Lord of the Rings, but it’s scores like this that show his range—most of the music is derived from the sounds and a few chords played by the opening guitar parts. Other instruments augment this essential music, but the guitar is nearly always there lurking in the texture, certainly adding to the creepiness of this very bizarre film.

The Third Man (1949) – directed by Carol Reed, score by Anton Karas

This is so utterly bizarre! In what is surely one of the best suspense films of all time, wonderfully written, paced, and filmed, the music throughout the WHOLE of the film is performed largely by a ZITHER. Happy and cheerful. Even through the crazy chase scenes. Of course, some of the most intensely acted scenes have no music. Making the return of the zither each time it happens a lot less trustworthy…

Forbidden Planet (1956) – directed by Fred McLeod Wilcox, “electronic tonalities” by Louis and Bebe Barron

The first score to be produced completely by electronic means, Continue reading TEN OF THE MOST UNCOMMON AND WEIRDEST MOVIE SCORES

ARIA (1987)

It’s no  revelation to say that supporters and patrons of the arts mantle an attitude of progressiveness and promote themselves as such. For the most part, in the contemporary West at least, that’s a fallacy. A spirit of ultra-conservatism has hijacked virtually every art form. One finds it even in the least expected places. Impressionism can be found in bland texture-less prints  at Corproate Christendom’s Hobby Lobby, who even have their own dead hypocritical hack pseudo-impressionist: Thomas Kinkade. Abstract expressionism has gone the way of J.C. Penny office decor. Surrealism has been relegated to melting-clock stickers on the folders of angsty teenaged boys. Horror and sci-fi film aficionados subscribe to formula expectations, often reacting with hostility to anything that contains an ounce of originality, style, or challenge (i.e. A.I., Prometheus, The Babadook, The Witch). With damned few exceptions, rock and roll is dead, as is jazz, which has been sabotaged by the self-appointed tradition preservationists (i.e. Wynton Marsalis) and devolved into the oxymoronic smooth jazz (Kenny G). Nowhere is orthodox contagion more in evidence than in that Queen Mother of all art forms: Opera. American opera fans are about the only demographic that can actually render comic book fanboys a comparatively innovative lot. Who would have thunk it?

Yet, the tradition of opera, ballet, art music hardly paved the way for such conservativism. As both conductor and opera director, Richard Wagner found no one’s music or ideas sacred, not even his own, and complained that younger conductors were playing his music too reverentially. Gustav Mahler took an equally innovative approach to stage direction. His own body of work took the art form (the symphony) into an astoundingly elastic direction, even influencing the Second Vienesse School (which makes the sanctification of both his and their music rather baffling).

When that uncouth Leopold Stokowski and  teamed up for Fantasia (1940) and dared to suggest that art music could be both dangerous and kitsch fodder for transcription and animation, the purists were outraged. The outcome was an unparalleled flop for Disney; it took decades to recoup his investment and earn critical reevaluation (Stoki, par for the course, weathered everything). Financiers took note, and nothing on this scale was really attempted again until Continue reading ARIA (1987)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Only 69 more titles left to Certify Weird!

Next week 366 Weird Movies gets musical, as Alfred Eaker sings the praises of the avant-garde opera anthology Aria (with some of ‘s best work); then, we invite a pair of experts to discuss a topic we’ve been meaning to address for some time: weird movie soundtracks. G. Smalley breaks the rhythm with a look at The Evil Within, the odd 2017 horror film bankrolled, written and directed by trust fund baby/methamphetamine addict Andrew Getty (it does have a soundtrack, naturally, but it won’t stretch to fit the theme). Rafael Moreira tries to bring things back on point with coverage of Perfect Blue, ‘s 1997 anime that at least centers on a former Japanese pop idol. Be sure to play something strange in the background next week as you browse these curious recommendations.

It’s once again time for us to survey the weirdest search terms that brought users to the site last week. First up, one for the “I think your keyboard might be drunk” file: “vintag sesso maturefilm prno gold.” Next we have the questionably coherent “shaven movie songs” (if it turns out there’s a movie musical out there called Shaven!, we’ll retract our assessment). But our official winner of this installment of the Weirdest Search Term of the Week was also one of our longest entries: “movie semi asia one guy took his girlfriend to a lot of ladies island and there was a sex show and it turns out the man was sleeping with her mother.” So much to unpack there: we’ll simply leave it wondering what a “semi-Asia” movie is.

Here’s how our ridiculously-long reader-suggested review queue stands: Perfect Blue (next week!); Beauty and the Beast [Panna a Netvor] (1978); 1 Day; Vermilion Souls (depending on availability); Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 8/25/2017

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 at the official site links.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Barton Fink (1991): Read the Certified Weird review! This Kino Lorber special edition disc of the ‘ surreal writer’s block classic contains interviews and deleted scenes and fills a gaping hole in the Blu-ray market (and the Barton Fink market). Buy Barton Fink [Blu-ray].

Jezebeth (2011): A young woman “at war with God” invokes a demon. Looks like a feature-length goth-metal video, and one Amazon reviewer wondered “I have scratched my head until it bled trying to figure out what the heck I just watched?” Buy Jezebeth [Blu-ray].

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CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

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.

297. MEET THE FEEBLES (1989)

Braindead and Meet the Feebles…were wisely overlooked by the Academy…”– Peter Jackson, accepting his Best Picture Oscar for Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2004 

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Voices of Mark Hadlow, Donna Akersten, Peter Vere-Jones, Stuart Devenie, Bryan Sergent

PLOT: A group of puppets, “the Feebles,” prepare for their first live TV broadcast. Unfortunately fragile egos, double-dealings, accidental killings, pornographic sidelines, rohypnol-aided assault, and drug and sex addictions plague their rehearsals. This ain’t no kid’s film.

Still from Meet the Feebles (1989)

BACKGROUND:

  • Jackson’s second film after 1987’s surprise low-budget hit Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles was originally conceived as a TV series until Japanese investors convinced Jackson to transform it into a feature. It was then hastily re-written and shot in twelve weeks.
  • The dialogue was recorded before filming began.
  • The film went over budget and over-schedule, forcing Jackson and crew to submit what they had so far to satisfy the New Zealand Film Commission, and then film a remaining scene (the Vietnam flashback) by breaking into the Studio at night. This sequence was then submitted as a separate film to the NZFC entitled “The Frogs of War.”
  • Won Best Contribution to Design for Cameron Chittock, for the puppets at the 1990 New Zealand Film Awards.
  • Bryan Pike’s Staff Pick for the Certified Weird list.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The big finale where Heidi massacres fellow cast members with a machine gun.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Chicken/elephant baby; heroin-injecting flashback frog; “Sodomy” massacre

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: There are no human beings in front of the camera whatsoever (with the exception of Abi, a human-esque contortionist puppet), only a lusty rabble of puppet misfits all clamoring for television stardom. Somewhere between “Avenue Q” and “The Muppets” lies this unseemly purgatory of puppet scheming, murder and mayhem.


Meet the Feebles opening theme song

COMMENTS: Like Dead Alive (1992), Meet the Feebles is another Continue reading 297. MEET THE FEEBLES (1989)

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