WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 5/18/2012

A 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.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

American Animal (2011): Jimmy and James, two twenty-something trust-fund babies, live together in relative luxury, but unbalanced Jimmy becomes increasingly deranged when bookish James explains that he’s decided to grow up and get a job. Over and over, reviewers have used the word “bizarre” to describe it. We prematurely announced this was opening back in March, but this time we really mean it—for New Yorkers, at least. American Animal official site.

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2011): Surrealist sci-fi supposedly in the 2001 vein about a mute woman trying to escape from a mysterious enclave. Despite being handicapped by weirdness, Black Rainbow survived the film festival gauntlet to get an actual theatrical release; we are excited! Debuting this week in Los Angeles and New York City, with scattered showings across the central U.S. to follow. Beyond the Black Rainbow official site.

Elena (2011): Read our capsule review. Distributor Zeitgeist describes this dramatic battle over inheritance of a valuable apartment in Moscow is as a “modern twist on the classic noir thriller.” Playing sporadically across the U.S. over the early summer. Elena US distributor site.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

Farewell to Language [Adieu au Langage]: What may possibly be 82-year old ‘s final movie is reportedly in production. It’s about a husband and wife who no longer speak the same language, and therefore must have their dog translate for them. Oh, and it goes without saying that it’s going to be in 3-D. We really hope this will get the bad taste of Film Socialisme out of our mouths before the Old Wave icon retires for good. Story courtesy of Movieline.

NEW ON DVD:

Being John Malkovich (1999): Read the Certified Weird entry! The Criterion Collection has finally begun stalking the List for new release candidates. Look for a deluxe treatment of Skidoo coming next month. Despite not receiving our finders’ fee, we’re thrilled with this choice. Several of the special features were ported over from the Universal release, but new material includes selected scene commentaries by , a behind-the-scenes mini-doc, and new interviews with director Spike Jonze and the man everyone wants to be, John Malkovich. Buy Being John Malkovich (Criterion Collection).

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Being John Malkovich (1999): See description in DVD above. Buy Being John Malkovich [The Criterion Collection Blu-ray].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009): Read our capsule review! This Terry Gilliam fable about an immortal carnival barker’s various bets with the Devil remains a candidate to make the List—this is a good chance for you to watch it and see what you think. Watch The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus free on YouTube.

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

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933

Gold Diggers Of 1933 is ‘s masterwork, assisted in no small way by the astute direction of , who had previously directed a number of stark, socially conscious films, such as Little Caesar (1931) and I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932). Like Berkeley, Leroy’s best work was at Warner Bothers and, like Berkeley, MGM would buy his contract and essentially neuter him.

This is the second of the Warners/Berkeley backstage 1933 musicals, beginning with 42nd Street and concluding with Footlight Parade. Gold Diggers is a mix of harsh realism and opulent fantasy, more so than any other musical from the Great Depression.  It jump starts in high gear fantasy mode with , dressed only in a skimpy outfit made of silver dollars (with one coin strategically placed over her crotch), singing “We’re in the money.” Rogers’ handling of the lyrics morphs into a glossolalia-styled Pig Latin aria that seems like it would be more at home in a Buñuel movie than a Hollywood musical. Behind her, a chorus of babes holding up undulating coins sings “let’s spend it, send it rolling along.” This is Berkeley’s phantasmagoric “F_ you!” to the Depression. And how would you climax such an opening? With a crash, as debt collectors break up the number, taking with them every prop, every stitch of clothing and everything, leaving only a crumb, a crumb even too small for a mouse.

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)Next we meet up with a foursome of Depression-era women. And these are determined women, bonding together to make it through a man’s world in hard times.  is at her innocent best.  is the wide awake, street-smart wisecracker. Aline MacMahon is the shrewd, conniving skeptic, and Rogers (who is a supporting character here) personifies the word “gold digger.” Although Rogers part is brief, she commands attention, especially in the opening scene, so much so that it is abundantly clear how and why she rose above her co-stars. Rogers could do Continue reading GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933

113. CAREFUL (1992)

“The pandemonium of everyone, everywhere suddenly declaring all at once ‘and I too was molested by my father, or my mother; I too have recovered memories which have basically obliterated my chances of any kind of comfortable adult sexuality’—it seemed at that moment almost unthinkable to slant a movie—even going back into the German romantic past when incest was almost a common theme—to slant it comically and yet still somehow catch the feverish horror of incest in the net… It was only when the idea of the Alpine world, where extreme caution was required for all behavior, where there was a kind of silencer on everyone’s libido and behavior, when that was factored in, then I could see the green light in Guy’s eyes. Once he had the world ‘careful’ it was there all at once.”–George Toles describing genesis of Careful in the documentary Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Guy Maddin

FEATURING: , Gosia Dobrowolska, Sarah Neville, Brent Neale

PLOT: Villagers of the Alpine town of Tolzbad believe that avalanches will bury them if they are not meticulously careful to keep their voices low and their movements measured.  The film follows the adventures of a family of a widowed mother and her three sons: Johann, who is engaged to be married; Grigorss, who is training to be a butler; and Franz, a mute who never leaves his chair in the attic. Presaged by the appearance of the blind ghost of the father, the family’s repressed emotions eventually erupt into suicide, duels, and even the dreaded avalanche.

Still from Careful (1992)

BACKGROUND:

  • This was Guy Maddin’s third film, and his first fully in color (Archangel featured a few tinted scenes). The chromatic process used in the film mimics the so-called “two-strip” Technicolor which was used before 1932.
  • The setting of Careful was inspired by “mountain movies,” a 1920s subgenre popular in the German national cinema, although Maddin admits in the DVD commentary that he had not actually seen any mountain movies when he made the film.
  • Long-time Maddin screenwriting collaborator George Toles appears in Careful as a corpse in drag.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: I am tempted by the vision of the mountain mineworkers—women stripped down to their underwear, wielding pickaxes while wearing candle-bearing diapers on their heads—but the film’s most significant image is Johann gazing manically at his mother sleeping under her goat’s-head headboard while spreading the limbs of his massive garden shears.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: If movies themselves could dream, their dreams would look like Guy Maddin movies: sludgy jumbles of styles, moods, and melodramatic preoccupations, composed of fragmented images made up from bits of misplaced, distressed celluloid. Like Maddin’s other movies, Careful keeps us at two removes from reality: it displaces us once by its narrative dislogic, and then a second time by its archaic stylization. In Careful the technique is particularly appropriate, since the subject matter—repressed incestuous desire—demands to be buried under layers of mystery.


Original trailer for Careful

COMMENTS: Careful begins with what amounts to a pre-Code Public Service Announcement, Continue reading 113. CAREFUL (1992)

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: MEEK’S CUTOFF (2010)

DIRECTED BY:  Kelly Reichardt

FEATURING:  Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, , Shirley Henderson

PLOT: A small group of settlers faces an indefinite fate when they gamble their survival on the veracity of two diametrically opposed guides, each of questionable character.

Still from Meeks Cuttoff (2010)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: On its face, Meek’s Cutoff appears to be a steady, plodding historical-fiction drama, a slow, tense tale about the perils of trust and the tedium of uncertainty. And it is…to an extent. But there’s something going on under the surface. When the film refuses to relinquish it’s heavy, solemn tone by employing a musical score or comic relief as the unrelentingly grim and heavy nature of the characters’ conundrum intensifies and hangs on our conscience like dead weight, and as the subtly surreal nature of the setting and the situation sinks in, the weirdness mounts. The effect combines the absurdist, futile tedium of Beckett’s Waiting For Godot, the eerie sense of a malignant grand design of Yellowbrickroad (2010), and the pensive, serenely surreal atmosphere of Housekeeping (1987). The result is unique and unsettling.

The sudden, quietly shocking ending and the location in the story in which it occurs appalls the viewer with a sickening insight. This epiphany reveals that the movie is not about the drama which has been unfolding up to this point, or about how it is to be resolved, but that it concerns something entirely different. Upon grasping the filmmakers’ message, we realize we have had a genuinely weird viewing experience.

COMMENTS: From the first frame, it’s obvious that Meek’s Cutoff is a serious, authentic, carefully crafted story. As is the case with so many independent art films, a majority of viewers may reject it. Audiences who are pining for a reprise of Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider should skip Meek’s Cutoff and instead opt for something like True Grit. They will find Meek’s Cutoff  boring, and it’s climax confusing, unsatisfying and disturbing.

Viewers who enjoy artfully cerebral movies with ambiguous conclusions however, will like Meek’s Cutoff. The clever ending dramatically drives home the thrust of the film, revealing it to be much Continue reading RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: MEEK’S CUTOFF (2010)

CAPSULE: MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (1929)

Chelovek s kino-apparatom; AKA Living Russia, or the Man With the Movie Camera

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Dziga Vertov

FEATURING: Mikhail Kaufman (cameraman)

PLOT: A plotless record of twenty four hours of life in the Soviet Union of 1929, exhibited

Still from Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

through series of experimental camera tricks.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Man with the Movie Camera is a visually inventive, historically important and formally deep movie that reveals more secrets with each viewing; but, the only quality in it that might be called “weird” are the surreal camera tricks it occasionally employs. It’s a movie that demands space on the shelf of anyone seriously interested in editing techniques or film theory, but as far as weirdness goes, it’s purely supplemental viewing.

COMMENTS: Reviews of Man with a Movie Camera often spend as much, if not more, time discussing the history and philosophy of the production and its influence on future films than they do describing what’s actually in the movie. That’s because the challenge the movie sets for itself—to create a “truly international absolute language of cinema based on its total separation from the language of theater and literature”—is more fascinating than the film’s subject matter (the daily lives of Soviet citizens in 1929). On a technical level, Movie Camera is a catalog of editing techniques and camera tricks, many of which were pioneered in this film but are commonplace or obsolete now. Be on the lookout for double exposures, tricks of perspective, slowing down or speeding up the camera speed, freeze-frames, reversed footage, split screens, and even crude stop-motion animation. One of the most interesting techniques is the amphetaminic editing of Movie Camera‘s climax, which moves almost too fast for the eye or mind to follow (a technique Guy Maddin would fall in love with and use to ultra-weird effect in the Constructivist/Surrealist hybrid The Heart of the World). Structurally, the film flows along as a series of counterpoints, alternating between two sets of scenes to create ironic contrasts (cross-cutting a funeral procession and the birth of a baby), metaphors (scenes of soot-covered workers Continue reading CAPSULE: MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (1929)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Here’s what we’ll be screening next week: every film geek’s favorite avant-garde propaganda documentary, The Man With a Movie Camera (1929); the minimalist Western Meek’s Cutoff (2011); Careful (1992), another Freudian/Expressionist stew from , this one set in a repressed Alpine village plagued by avalanches; and more musical misogynist madness courtesy of Gold Diggers of 1933.

As we begin our review of the candidates for our Weirdest Search Term of the Week contest, we wish to highlight a surprisingly persistent fallacy: many searchers out there believe that Google is psychic. How else to explain searches for “weird movies that i like” and “what was this film about?” To get one more preliminary mention out of the way, we’d like to give special recognition to “onlion saxy grail and hores” for being the only search term we’ve ever seen that does not bring up a porn site in the first page of Google results. That’s some impressive mangling of the English language! On to our standard contestants: we really liked “free longpantys” (for some reason we like to imagine “Longpantys” is the pseudonym of some sort of feminist rabble rouser who’s been imprisoned in Iran, but that’s just us). The judges were also impressed with “hustler sad clown and his love nurse,” which might be the title of an abandoned Larry Flynt video project. But nothing caught our attention like “adult diaper rubber pants made in thailand burnout video,” which gave us a startling mental image while warning us about a potential geriatric health catastrophe, thus earning right to be named 366 Weird Movies’ Weirdest Search Term of the Week.

Here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-ever-growing reader-suggested review queue looks at this moment in history: Careful (next week!); “My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117″; Dellamorte Dellamore [AKA Cemetery Man]; The Hour-glass Sanatorium [Saanatorium pod klepsidra] (out of print in Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

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