A doctor gives suspect health information in this absurdist medical satire from 366 fave.
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.
IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):
Bikini Moon (2017): When a documentary crew takes a personal interest in their subject—a delusional female African American war vet—both ethical and perceptual boundaries start to blur. Logline: “a documentary about a fairy tale”; as far as we can tell, playing NYC (and smaller late-season film festivals) only. Bikini Moon official site.
MFKZ (2017): In “Dead Meat City,” Angelino starts seeing strange creatures—alien invaders?—after a motorcycle accident. U.S. distributor GKids renamed this French feature from it’s festival title, Mutafukaz, for obvious reasons; two-night-only screenings (Oct. 11 & 16) across the U.S. (check official site for locations). GKids MFKZ official site.
FILM FESTIVALS –Festival of Disruption (Los Angeles, CA, Oct. 13-14):
As much a music festival and symposium as a film festival, this curious assembly was curated by none other than Wild at Heart (1990), chamber music’s Dover Quartet playing the music of ,” and a “Peaks” virtual reality game. Also with bands, lectures, and seminars on Lynch’s beloved Transcendental Meditation. Surely a worthy way for Los Angelinos to spend a weird weekend.. Highlights of particular interest to us include a Q&A with Lynch, a screening of
IN DEVELOPMENT (post-production):
1000 Kings (2019?): An upcoming surrealist feature film debut from Georgian director Bidzina Kanchavel. All we have to go on is this mysterious synopsis—“in an artificial world of colors and shapes a beehive society strives for light”—and some intriguing stills of a robed woman with spheres hovering over her head. If you want to see them, check out their Facebook page.
CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:
- Austin, TX, 10/17 – The Boxer’s Omen [Mo] (1983). At the Alamo Drafthouse (South Lamar).
- Bloomington, IN, 10/13 – Eden and After (1970) (free, but ticketed). At Indiana University Cinema.
- Chicago, IL, 10/13 (midnight) – Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell (1968). The first film in the “Music Box of Horrors” 24-hr horror movie marathon (other titles available at link). At the Music Box Theater.
- Columbus, OH, 10/12-10/14 – Vertigo (1958). At Gateway Film Center.
- Denver, CO, 10/14 – Nosferatu (1922), with live score by Saskatoon. At the Alamo Drafthouse.
- Louisville, KY, 10/13 – The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953). At the Speed Art Museum.
- Nashville, TN, 10/12 & 10/15 – Evil Dead II (1987). At the Belcourt Theater.
- Nashville, TN, 10/13-14 – Carnival of Souls (1962). At the Belcourt Theater.
- New York City, NY, 10/12 – Marquis (1989). At Spectacle Theater.
- New York City, NY, 10/12-13 (midnights) – Blue Velvet (1986). At IFC Center.
- New York City, NY, 10/12-13 (midnights) – The Holy Mountain (1973). At IFC Center.
- New York City, NY, 10/12-14, 10/16 – Suspiria (1977). At IFC Center.
- Oakland, CA, 10/13 – Suspiria (1977). At the New Parkway Theater.
- Pittsburgh, PA, 10/12-15, 10/17-18 – Suspiria (1977). At Row House Cinema.
- Pittsburgh, PA, 10/13 (midnight) – Cube (1997). At Row House Cinema.
- Sitges, Spain, 10/13 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Part of the Sitges Film Festival.
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.
“I have just seen something absolutely disgusting! Pasolini’s latest film, Teorema. The man is mad!”–Maria Callas, soon before accepting the lead role in Pasolini’s Medea
DIRECTED BY: Pier Paolo Pasolini
FEATURING: , Laura Betti, Massimo Girotti, Silvana Mangano, Andrés José Cruz Soublette, Anne Wiazemsky
PLOT: After an introduction in which a worker is interviewed about the factory his boss just gave him as a gift, we see a bourgeois family receive an invitation saying that a visitor will be coming soon. It turns out to be a handsome but unnamed young American man; every member of the family, and even the maid, fall in love with him, and he sleeps with each of them in turn. Another telegram arrives saying that the stranger has been called away, and after he departs the family falls apart.
- Pier Paolo Pasolini originally planned Teorema as a play, but changed it to a screenplay because he believed there was not enough dialogue for it to work on the stage.
- Despite Pasolini’s Marxism, the relatively liberal International Catholic Organization for Cinema awarded a jury prize to Teorema (as it had to his more conventional 1964 film The Gospel According to Matthew). Pope Paul VI personally criticized the award, and it was withdrawn by the organization.
- As happened with many of Pasolini’s films, Italian authorities challenged Teorema as obscene. As always, the Italian courts eventually cleared it for public screenings after a trial.
- Pasolini later adopted Teorema into a novel (which has not, to our knowledge, been translated into English).
- Composer Giorgio Battistelli adapted the movie into an opera in 1992.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The proletarian saint hovering over her village church. The father, naked on the slopes of Mt. Etna, screaming at the heavens, is a close runner-up. We reject the idea that a closeup of Terence Stamp’s crotch in tight white pants is the most important visual symbol in the film, although we can see how someone might come to that conclusion.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Manspreading Stamp; levitating saint; naked, screaming pop
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Simply stated but open to endless interpretation, Pasolini’s Teorema operates on a strange logic of its own, a kind of triangulated synthesis of Marx, Freud, and Jesus Christ. Any movie in which God appears as a bisexual pretty boy has something weird going for it.
British Blu-ray trailer for Teorema
COMMENTS: It’s a happy coincidence that Teorema—the most Continue reading 353. TEOREMA (1968)
DIRECTED BY: Colinda Bongers, Thijs Meuwese
FEATURING: Julia Batelaan, Annelies Appelhof
PLOT: Gifted with supernatural powers, Molly survives as a scavenger in a post-apocalyptic world, while a warlord tries to capture her and force her to become his champion in deadly cage fights.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Molly‘s main—well, only—claim to weirdness is its namesake’s superpowers, and the fact that they’re entirely unexplained. That’s not enough to qualify it as a truly bizarre film, let alone one of the weirdest ever made. Still, although it may have mainstream genre aspirations, normals will never see Molly as one of their own.
COMMENTS: Detailed worldbuilding is not Molly‘s strong suit. It would rather focus on kicking ass. It throws you into its post-apocalyptic milieu without much explanation, trusting you have seen enough Mad Max movies to know what’s going on. Tropes like the lone scavenger, the orphan of the wasteland, the barter-based economy, and a scaled-down Thunderdome-style arena ground you. Other concepts are not fully explored: what exactly are the “supplicants”? They seem to be either an underclass (everyone who is not a warlord), or a nickname for the cage fighters, or simply people who (futilely and foolishly) ask others for food. Most significant of all, Molly’s telekinetic superpowers are not explained, although there are a few obscure hints, and the ending suggests that an (unlikely) sequel might explain more about her origins.
Molly’s magical abilities are important because they level the playing field, helping to explain how this slip of a gal, just barely out of her teenage years and not tipping the scales at much more than a hundred pounds, can slug it out toe-to-toe with the baddest asses the Wasteland has to offer. Make no mistake, fighting is what Molly is all about. She can be shrewd, to be sure—she uses a rope to retrieve her only arrow so she can fire it multiple times—but mostly, she takes on crews of guys almost twice her size with nothing but kicks, punches, and swipes from her wicked handsaw. There are three or four major fights sprinkled throughout the first part, but the final act is basically an extended thirty-minute melee as Molly carves her way through a small army of punk henchmen and drug-crazed zombie fighters on a oil rig turned floating fiefdom. Few of Molly‘s performers, including the lead, are especially athletic or polished; but, as other reviewers have pointed out, the film uses its performer’s clumsiness to its advantage. The battles feel authentic, like messy, stumbling, bone-crunching street brawls rather than precisely choreographed ballets. (At one point, Molly pelts an assailant with tin cans grabbed off a shelf.) Clever editing, including some invisible cuts used to make some of the fights appear to be done in a single take, helps immensely. At times it the camera employs a high shutter speed (the “Saving Private Ryan effect”) which reduces motion blur, making scenes seem choppier but allowing you to see details like water droplets or globs of sand suspended in the air. It’s a technique I find annoying in high budget films, but in a modest effort like this I think it’s a good choice to add some camouflage to the amateur stunt work. Sometimes the filmmakers shoot with a jerky handheld camera to emphasize the chaos, and at other times the camera is stable, allowing the performers to stagger about; they aren’t locked into a particular style, but go with whatever feels right for the scene. The pièce de résistance occurs when Molly finds herself hanging upside down over the fighting pit while supplicants claw at her. Molly—both character and film—survives by pure ingenuity.
Molly is far from perfect, as befits its modest, ramshackle setting. Freckly Batelaan is appealing in the lead—though I kept wondering how she kept her bookworm glasses on through all the fights, when mine fall off my face every time I bend over to pick up my car keys. The rest of the acting is iffy; the main villain is not over-the-top enough, and his top henchwoman, with her cybernetic arm, easily outshines him. The small budget is apparent throughout. But despite these handicaps, Molly manages to assemble an entertaining ninety minutes, and it does it the hard way—by making a fast-paced action film rather than relying on dialogue. Fight scenes are difficult to stage, and if Molly‘s crew can produce reasonable-looking ones on this meager budget, we can only imagine what they’d pull off with significant resources behind them. As a rental, you could do a lot worse than Molly; and, as a filmmaker, you could do a lot worse your first time out than making a movie people could do a lot worse than seeing.
In an earlier age Molly might have graced drive-in screens. Nowadays, Artsploitation releases it straight to home video and video-on-demand. The DVD and Blu-ray come with thirty minutes of behind-the-scenes footage and a director’s commentary from Thijs Meuwese; these featurettes will be inspiring to fellow low budget filmmakers.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.”–Haruki Murakami
DIRECTED BY: Daryush Shokof, Stefan Jonas
PLOT: Wealthy, elderly Archie is visited in his villa by a mysterious woman who sings an aria to him. Realizing that his death is near, he places an ad requesting young male servants. When the first of these arrives, he tells him he will earn ten thousand dollars if he inserts a finger in his ear and leave it there for ten days; he then hires three other men to plug up his other ear and each of his nostrils.
- Born in Iran but living in the U.S. and Europe, Daryush Shokof is a painter and experimental video artist. He co-wrote Seven Servants‘ script with his wife from a dream he had. This was his first feature film.
- Shokof considered cinematographer Stephan Jonas’ contribution so important that the opening credits announce it is a film by “Daryush Shokof & Stefan Jonas.”
- Anthony Quinn said that the finished project was ahead of its time, “a work for the 21st century,” and that release should be delayed. Although it played at two film festivals in 1996, Quinn, who was also an executive producer, decided to delay release after a timid reception. Soon after, the production company went bankrupt, so Seven Servants wasn’t screened again until 2009, and received a DVD release from Pathfinder Entertainment in the same year. Quinn died in 2001, which is why the film’s dedication speaks of him in the past tense.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Nothing less than cinema icon Anthony Quinn surrounded by four shirtless young men of different ethnicities, each with a finger stuck in his ear or nostril, with the whole assembly undulating like a dancing octopus as fruit floats over their heads.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Death sings an aria; Quinn’s plugged orifices; floating fruit
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: One of my favorite species of weird movies is the experiment in taking an absurd premise to its logical conclusion. Seven Servants starts in earnest when a man sticks his finger in Anthony Quinn’s ear and doesn’t let up until every last one of his apertures is closed. It’s end-of-life porn, a smooth jazz fantasy of death as an epicurean celebration of life.
Original trailer for Seven Servants
COMMENTS: So, what do you do if you’re an obscure Iranian expatriate artist and you have a dream about a dying man who hires Continue reading 352. SEVEN SERVANTS (1996)
DIRECTED BY: Ian Lagarde
FEATURING: Ludovic Berthillot, Sylvio Arriola, Yaité Ruiz
PLOT: A vacationing gourmand stays on indefinitely at an all-inclusive resort, performs ambiguous miracles, and is treated as a messiah.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s one of those indie experiments that’s content to hang out in its own strange little surreal corner of the film world, but lacks the sense of purpose or urgency necessary to break into big time weird.
COMMENTS: Director Ian Lagarde is better known as a cinematographer (Vic + Flo Saw a Bear). That background shows in his eye for composition in his debut feature, which contrasts bright tropical travelogue footage of a Cuban resort with moody images from the surrounding ocean, with the film’s color palette growing increasingly shadowy as it progresses. He also finds a surprisingly charismatic lead in chubby Ludovic Berthillot, who, as Mike, looks like a melancholic Quebecois Curly Howard, yet somehow becomes believable as a mystical guru and sex god.
Unfortunately, that’s about all that can be said on a positive note for All You Can Eat Buddha, a surreal slog that’s ultimately less eventful than a day spent dozing and sunbathing at the beach. The credits play over a mini-symphony of crashing waves, whale calls, and discordant strings while a dark sea undulates with a ghostly negative image of Mike’s Buddhistically serene visage superimposed over it. This prologue promises a deep, somber, hypnotic energy, but the subsequent film is more somnolent than dreamy. The frumpy, solitary, and mysterious Mike arrives at the El Palacio, wanders around the beach speaking to no one, dines at the all-you-can-eat buffet, and decides to stay on. The film takes nearly twenty minutes to hit its first real plot point, although it’s a good ‘un: Mike rescues a grateful octopus caught in a net and the eight-legged sea beast grants him enlightenment. He then performs an ambiguous miracle or two, sleeps with a couple of lonely middle-aged women, and grows a small group of followers as he becomes a sort of anti-Buddha, renewing earthly desires rather than renouncing them. But then, like the viewer, the script loses interest in this plot line, and instead focuses on a “change of administration” in the hotel management (a political allegory?) that leads to the place deteriorating, as Mike’s body simultaneously falls apart. A sort-of subplot about a hotel maid and her son has no real resolution, and the movie limps to an ambiguous non-ending that’s neither a satisfactory convergence of themes nor a mystery that lingers; the film simply messes around for a while, then ends. A hard-eating hero, a telepathic octopus, beaches, a reference to Buddhism, adulation, and maybe some politics: it’s a puzzle movie, but one where the pieces all seem to come from different boxes.
All You Can Eat Buddha debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in late 2017, then shuffled off to video-on-demand and a freebie stint on Amazon Prime without ever stopping on physical media—an unfortunate trend that will prevent smaller films from having any sort of extended shelf life.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“The film’s steep turn downward is eventually triggered by its shift from merely bizarre to flat-out abstract, as Lagarde’s script takes a turn akin to 2016’s disastrous High-Rise and becomes an unwatchable portrait of civilization coming undone.”–David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews (festival screening)
Psiconautas, los Niños Olvidados; AKA Psyconauts: The Forgotten Children
“Our passions are the gift of nature, and the main spring of human actions; without them, man would be like a bird without wings, or a ship without sails.”–“The Parlour Companion” (1818)
DIRECTED BY: Pedro Rivero,
FEATURING: Voices of Andrea Alzuri, Félix Arcarazo, Eba Ojanguren. Josu Cubero; Lauren Weintraub, Jake Paque, Sofia Bryant, Dean Flanagan (English dub)
PLOT: This fable takes place on an island inhabited by anthropomorphic animals years after a nuclear disaster has devastated the ecology and economy. Dinky, an adolescent mouse, plans to run away with her friends, hoping to leave the island and find a better life. She desperately wants her boyfriend Birdboy to accompany her, but the feral child is addicted to pills and too absorbed in his own problems to join the small crew.
- Birdboy: The Forgotten Children began life as a graphic novel by Alberto Vázquez. Pedro Rivera, a screenwriter who had directed one animated feature at that time, read the book and got in contact with Vázquez to see if he would be interested in adapting the book into a movie. The two made the short “Birdboy” in 2011 as a proof of concept, then were able to raise funds for the feature film.
- Psiconautas won best animated film at Spain’s 2016 Goya awards but it was not a financial success, grossing a mere $13,000 in Spain and only $52,000 worldwide.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: When Birdboy’s adolescent brain finally breaks and his horde of shadowy bat demons break loose, flocking up his lighthouse lair and coalescing into a dark dragon with glowing red eyes and a vicious pincer beak.
THREE WEIRD THINGS: Abused alarm clock; adopted luchador pup; addicted nose spider
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Birdboy is the story of cute, drug-addicted baby animals stranded on a dystopian, post-apocalyptic island. It’s got talking alarm clocks, piggy banks, and inflatable ducks, all of whom have tragic stories to tell. It’s not afraid to give a puppy a rifle, or put one in a skintight leather mask. But for all of this sarcastic nihilism, it’s not a black comedy, but an empathetic fable and an immersive spectacle, told through beautiful and often psychedelic animation.
Trailer for Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
COMMENTS: Birdboy is, honestly, a pretty easy sell. It’s got cute Continue reading 351. BIRDBOY: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN (2015)