WEIRD AMAZON PRIME JANUARY WATCH PARTY, “THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE,” STARTS IN 15 MINUTES

This month’s Amazon Prime Watch Party—The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)—starts in fifteen minutes.

You’ll need to be an Amazon Prime member in the US to participate.

There will be no pausing or rewinding except for technical reasons.

We are offering no technical support, so help each other out if needed.

Here is the link to join: https://amz.onl/9JqrA2q

See you soon!

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/22/2021

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

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

FILM FESTIVALS – Sundance Film Festival (Park City, UT and online, 12/28-2/3):

We’ve already previewed this year’s fest, but here’s a reminder that it’s arriving next week. The half-dozen or so titles of potential weird interest are highlighted by Prisoners of the Ghostland (bank robber fights ghosts and samurai—in a film by ).

This year, you don’t have to travel to Utah in the depths of winter to enjoy Sundance: you can watch from the comfort of your own living room (with some restrictions), or catch a flick on the big screen at satellite venues possibly near you. We can’t be certain whether these changes are for this year only, or a sign that the festival industry is catching up with these digital times for good—but if this setup is a financial and logistical success, expect to see fest features play these new channels in the future.

Sundance Film Festival home page.

IN DEVELOPMENT:

Wonka (2023): A prequel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (or—a distressing possibility—to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) exploring eccentric chocalatier Wonka’s early years. With Paddington‘s Paul King at the helm, this is highly unlikely to explore the character’s weirdness, but we’ll keep an open mind for the time being. More info at The Hollywood Reporter.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

The Batwoman (1968)/ The Panther Women (1967): A double feature of Mexican superhero/wrestling movies featuring scantily-clad heroines, both from the strange mind of . Batwoman, which involves pineal glands, gill-men, and copyright violation, seems to be the better known and weirder of the two. Buy The Batwoman/The Panther Women.

Prince of Darkness (1987): Read Gregory J. Smalley’s review. A “Collector’s Edition” 4K Ultra/Blu-ray combo pack of ‘s screwy quantum Satan horror. Buy Prince of Darkness.

A Serbian Film (2010): Read Pamela de Graff’s review. This most offensive, sadistic horror-porn movie is advertised as uncut, and we presume it’s so (although previous releases advertised as uncut were actually missing a few disturbing frames.) Buyer beware: this is not Blu-ray for an impulse purchase, but something you only want to own if you are searching for the most morally repugnant film of all time. Buy A Serbian Film.

CANONICALLY WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

Screenings remain sparse in a Covid world, but here are a few. As always, it’s up to you to decide whether you think it’s safe to visit theaters at this time. By the end of the year we should be back to normal.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Amazon Prime subscribers: please join us tomorrow night at 10:15 PM for a wonderfully weird screening of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). As always, the link will drop here, on our Facebook page, and our Twitter page about 15 minutes before showtime.

Next week the Online Film Critics Society will reveal its winners for the 2020 awards season (see the nominees here), and as usual will reveal his ballot and complain about the lack of weird movies to pick from. We’ll also add a couple of older movie reviews (though both are relatively new to home video), as Pete Trbovich takes on Seven Women for Satan (1976) and Giles Edwards goes way back to look at the fake (and kinda racist) exploitation documentary Ingagi (1930). Onward and weirdward!

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.

CAPSULE: HAPPINESS (1998)

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DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Dylan Baker, , Cynthia Stevenson, , , , Louise Lasser

PLOT: An examination of the lives of three sisters, their extended families, and their neighbors reveals an elaborate network of secrets, sickness, perversion, and chronic unhappiness.

Still from Happiness (1998)

COMMENTS: Happiness presents a challenge to reviewers, but as difficult as is to write about, it’s not half as hard as it is to watch. Filled with reference to rape and pedophilia, along with near-constant mental cruelty and depression, the movie is one long trigger warning. Happiness doesn’t hold back; it always “goes there.” Side characters who initially seem like they might be oases of sanity and kindness turn out to be just as rotten inside as the principals. It is, technically, a black comedy, but the few grim jokes only highlight the nightmarishness of the character’s existence. The ironies only start with the title, a main character named “Joy,” and a soundtrack of schmaltzy soft-rock including Barry Manilow, Air Supply, and a version of “You Light Up My Life” performed by a Russian cabbie on the make. This is one dark movie.

With those warnings out of the way, the “must see” rating is warranted, for those with just a little bit of courage. Happiness is masterfully manipulative, totally assured in its execution, and totally ruthless in its worldview. The script is wicked and nuanced, the actors expert in nailing the difficult tone. It is a triumph of fearless cynicism; and yet, while it clearly hates its characters, it also oddly empathizes with them. They are allowed to feel guilt, suffering for their sins, while simultaneously being powerless to change their own destructive behaviors. This makes the movie as sad as it is scathing.

Happiness‘ alchemical majesty comes from successfully mixing strong emotions that should be incompatible. It’s not just the paring of comedy with dark situations. In truth, the movie isn’t all that funny, although it has a couple of conventional comedy moments (such as the psychiatrist zoning out while his patient complains that people find him boring, or Joy becoming a “scab” at an ESL program). Happiness‘ brand of bone-dry humor is really a precursor to contemporary anti-comedy, exemplified by an exchange between sisters Helen (Boyle) and Joy (Adams) that could be the movie’s comic manifesto. After Joy makes an innocent comment that Helen thinks is stupid, the elder sister bursts out in mock laughter, then consoles the younger: “Don’t worry,” she hisses, “I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing with you.” Her sister’s confused response: “But I’m not laughing.”

Even more than its juxtaposition of humor and horror, the film succeeds by mixing its meanness with sorrow: Dylan Baker’s climactic tear-stained confession is simultaneously bone-chilling and heartrending. (The performances are uniformly excellent, but it seems odd that standout Baker never landed another major role: playing a child molester must be career suicide in Hollywood.) Happiness is, as noted, a very sad movie.

Is it a weird movie? I’d say no, although it is a unique one. Its unflinchingly downbeat, relentlessly derisive tone puts it well outside of mainstream entertainment. To the extent that we might claim it for the weird, it’s only due to its often exaggerated nature. Scenes play as the tiniest bit unreal: Bill’s conversations with his pre-adolescent son are perverted parodies of “Leave it to Beaver” chats. Catty conversations between the sisters are franker and more biting than they would be in reality. Horrible things are said in deadpan, and received with ambiguous expressions suggesting a mixture of alarm and bamboozlement. Detached artifice is pierced by real human emotion. That is not, in my mind, enough to get Happiness all the way to “weird” (though it certainly passes the “offbeat” marker); but at least I can see what the movie’s proponents are talking about.

Strangely, although it’s remembered by everyone who saw it and critically acclaimed, at the present time Happiness is nearly unobtainable. No streamer seems brave enough to take it on, the DVD has gone out of print, and it has never been issued on Blu-ray. I wouldn’t expect this sad situation to last forever.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… funny, sad, sincere, ugly, tough, weird, occasionally horrifying.”–Matt Zoller Seitz, New York Magazine, 2016 reassessment

(This movie was nominated for review by “CheapSwillBill” who commented “A list of weird movies that doesn’t mention Happiness? That’s weird.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: SOLVE ET COAGULA (2020)

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Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

FEATURING: Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule

PLOT: Orpheus’ disembodied head is rediscovered after years of contemplative solitude.

Still from Solve et Coagula (2020)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE APOCRYPHA LIST: An often dazzling combination of text, primal music, stylized vocalization, and surreal imagery, Solve et Coagula defies any conventional standards of cinema.

COMMENTS: A funny thing happened to me as I approached Solve et Coagula. I mentally began my review before even seeing it, planning on flippantly diving into a sea of glib remarks about Europeans, pornography, and art-house. About an hour into my viewing, this urge had morphed into the apologetically dismissive. However, once Orpheus’ head began lecturing a group of followers (and us) about human senses, something changed. My journey to tentative enlightenment only took two hours, but was a handy parallel to Orpheus’ journey. A third journey also took place, on the part of the director.

By any measure, “Defenestrate-Bascule” is a ridiculous name. I can’t believe it’s real, as its approximate meaning is the command, “throw the counter-balance out the window”. Experimental filmmakers are necessarily an eccentric breed, and in his own moniker Orryelle asks us to toss away our calibrated perspective. The request has merit: Solve et Coagula must be viewed unmoored from convention. Some elements are window-dressing (for example, the combination of stop-motion with live action, or the special effects that feel oh-so-very-1990s). What rips his movie from the canvass is the almost palpable energy—with two kinetic climaxes—that emerges from its Homeric narration and stylized repetition.

The first half, preceded by a sexually explicit proem to the goddess Erotica, is told cyclically, with lines expanding upon each other. The sentences are built visually on the screen in the form of the written word, while Orpheus (Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule) wanders through woodlands, Hades, and a Maenad-infested riverside, speaking the words we see. This section ends with a nebulous cliffhanger: Orpheus’ head, chant-storytelling, floating disembodied along the water. There is some good to be found in this long introduction, but a lack of “punch” and the unwelcome anchoring of obviously real-life camera shots diminish the effect. This was the point that I became “apologetically dismissive.”

Sticking with this guide, however, proved well worth my while. Solve et Coagula is as inspired as it is flawed. Having endured the latter, I was able to soak up the former during the second half. Somehow, a headless Orpheus relating his woe of lacking a body, while demanding of his followers (and us) to use our bodies to make one for him, felt eminently more real somehow. Cinematically, Solve et Coagula hits its stride when it casts the trappings of a narrative framework aside and focuses on the physicality of the human form. In all my years I cannot recall witnessing video as palpably erotic as the long montage of bodies coalescing into one giant body for Orpheus; and the editing for the closing dance is the best job I’ve seen capturing what must have been a truly visceral experience for those filmed. When thinking on my front porch after the screening (a habit of mine), I found my brain bursting with things to talk about–and if that’s not a sign of a worthy work of art, I don’t know what is.

Solve et Coagula can currently be rented on Vimeo (adults only). More information, including details on an upcoming DVD/book release, can be found at the official site.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/15/2021

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Sátántangó (1994): Read Alfred Eaker’s review. ‘s “seven-and-a-half hour long, glacially paced, acerbic adaptation of László Krasznahorkai’s novel” (this description is meant as a compliment) is spread out over 12 Blu-rays (just kidding: Arbelos fit it on two discs, with space left over for extra features). Buy Sátántangó.

CANONICALLY WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

Theaters across North America still mostly shuttered, but we saw a few screenings listed this week. As always, it’s up to you to decide whether you think it’s safe to visit theaters at this time. By the end of the year we should be back to normal.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Barring some kind of miracle comeback, it looks like our January Weird Amazon party (scheduled for the 23rd) will be The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). You still have a day to vote, though.

For next week’s reviews, Giles Edwards will direct your attention to a low budget experimental flick—Solve et Coagula—a sort of mythological poem on film, but with explicit sex. Then,

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.

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