Category Archives: Capsules

THE SEVEN FACES OF JANE (2022)

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The Seven faces of Jane is currently available for VOD rental or purchase.

DIRECTED BY: Julian Acosta, Xan Cassavetes, Gia Coppola, Ryan Heffington, Boma Iluma, , Ken Jeong, Alex Takacs

FEATURING: Gillian Jacobs, Joel McHale, , Emanuela Postacchini, Chido Nwokocha

PLOT: Jane experiences love, loss, joy, and bewilderment on a road trip mapped by eight different directors.

Scene from The Seven Faces of Jane (2022)

COMMENTS: To stimulate creativity, the early Surrealists created a game where one artist would build on a previous artist’s work without seeing it. They called the game “exquisite corpse” after a sentence born of this process, a sentence which is also the first thing the viewer sees in The Seven Faces of Jane: “Le cadaver equis boira le vin nouveau.” “The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.”

Jane is an exquisite corpse, a surrealist experiment. There are overtly surreal moments, such as the garishly eccentric diner patrons laughing at Jane (Gillian Jacobs) fighting her doppelganger. But the very design—8 directors contributing to the same story blind to what the other directors are doing—leads to Jane being the same but different in each segment, highlighting the nature of character as the collaborative product of writer, director, actor, and so on. With eight different directors, there are actually eight different Janes. (Seven segments plus bookends = eight.)

Jane drops her daughter off at camp and finds herself on a bizarre and unplanned road trip. The southern California backdrop ties the film together visually. Each director showcases it differently, but from the beach to the desert to mountain trails, from Mexican street vendors to early 20th century bungalow neighborhoods, So Cal is the mainstay in this ever-fluctuating movie.

Each segment explores someone Jane could be, or could have been. Most tell stories of love and loss and identity in straightforward or dreamy ways. But the last one, “The Audition,” directed by Alex Takács (AKA “Young Replicant”), takes the story right off the rails in the best kind of way. Set in a mausoleum and a sedan on the back of a car hauler, “The Audition” uses the absurd and the surreal to prod its character’s consciousness.

Jacobs, who is a steady force throughout, continues to deliver as someone on the brink of coming undone. Seemingly no longer able to sustain all the different versions of herself, she fights, gives up, regresses, and disappears, only to become who she needs to be when it’s time to pick her daughter up from camp.

Jane has some shortcomings. The quality of the segments is uneven, and because of the brevity of each piece, there’s no time to build sympathy for any character besides Jane. It is also a disconcerting juxtaposition to have such an ordinary subject for such an experimental movie. The Seven Faces of Jane has been called a “failed experiment.” And by the standards of a mainstream movie, maybe it is. But as an experiment, at least for the Surrealists (and this is a surrealist experiment), if the exquisite corpse stimulates creativity in the artists, it’s a success.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The problem is that most of the segments are too tied to a bland realism and narrative cliche to create the collective sense of unease and/or delightful disorientation that the surrealists prize.”–Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader (contemporaneous)

 

YOUR VOTE DETERMINES THE WINNER OF THE 13TH ANNUAL WEIRDCADEMY AWARDS

The big news in the (weird) movie world is that this year, there’s an actual overlap between the Weirdcademy Awards and the Most Conventional Movie Awards dog-and-pony show Hollywood throws together every awards season. Everything Everywhere all at Once (and its star, Michelle Yeoh) was nominated by both august bodies. Does this development speak well for the Academy’s taste? Probably not, if you look their omissions. ‘s Mad God got snubbed, despite him being an industry insider (the man worked on Star Wars, for heaven’s sake!) Hungary’s microbudgeted black and white existential quandry Cybersatan Apocalypse Nightmares doesn’t get a sniff for International Feature Film, just because it was never released and played exclusively on Vimeo for free—what snobbery! And Neptune Frost doesn’t even merit a “Best Original Song” nomination for its crowd-pleasing hit, “Fuck Mr. Google”?

Instead, we get to choose between Stephen Spielberg’s touching story about how he came to be Stephen Spielberg, more blue people from , an 80s money grab nostalgia piece where they try to switch the love interest on us and think we won’t notice, and movies about Women Talking—I mean, movies about women literally doing nothing but talking for the first 80 minutes! At least this year we can be happy if take everything.

The Oscars are a joke, and everyone knows it. But you, my friend, you aren’t content with the same-old same-old. You want weird in your movies. The Weirdcademy Awards are for you, the moviegoer whose friends roll their eyes and sigh loudly when you suggest movie night should feature a flick about a lesbian planet terrorized by a monster known only as “Kate Bush.”

Although the editors of 366 Weird Movies select the nominees from the pool of available movies, the Awards themselves are a naked popularity contest, and do not necessarily reflect either the artistic merit or intrinsic weirdness of the films involved. The Weirdcademy Awards are tongue-in-cheek and for fun only. Ballot-stuffing is a frequent occurrence. Please, no wagering.

The Weirdcademy Awards are given to the Weirdest Movie, Actor, Actress and Scene of the previous year, as voted by the members of the Weirdcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Weirdness.

Who makes up the Weirdcademy? Membership is open to all readers of 366 Weird Movies. If you can figure out how to vote in the poll, you are qualified to join. You can not be turned down because of your age, sex, religious affiliation, pronouns, vaccination status, or the fact that you once bought a Marilyn Manson album when you were 15. There is no requirement that you’ve have to actually see any of the movies listed before voting. You can vote for any or all categories.

Unlike previous years, this year, you can only vote once—so choose carefully. We’ll keep voting open until March 11  at 12:00 Noon EST, so we can announce our results before the Academy Awards and steal their thunder.

Be sure to also vote for Weirdest Short Film of the Year. To watch all five nominees and to cast your vote, please click here.

Without further delay, we unveil the nominees for the 2022 Weirdcademy Awards:





SLAMDANCE 2023: NEW RELIGION (2022)

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DIRECTED BY: Keishi Kondo

FEATURING: Kaho Seto, Satoshi Oka, Saionji Ryuseigun

PLOT: Still grieving from the accidental death of her daughter years ago, escort Miyabi’s dreary routine is shaken up when she meets a strange client who only wants to take pictures of her individual body parts.

Still from New Religion (2022)

COMMENTS: New Religion arrives at Slamdance with an assured style and polished look that belies its low budget. Using little more than colored filters, an evocative soundtrack, and some remarkable microphotography, Keishi Kondo delivers a crowdfunded wonder, shot mostly on weekends with a first-time cast, that most of the time looks like it could have come from a major Japanese studio.

New Religion relies heavily on atmosphere: its full of slow, portentous glances scored to ominous drones, hinting at horrors unseen. The sound design is a key element, so see the film with a good stereo system, if possible. The opening credits set a tone of mystery: scritching strings accompany a pan over a blood-red cityscape, which merges into a tinted tour of moth anatomy. This is followed by shots of abstract organ-like structures and a possible fetus that forms and melts before our eyes, as the music swells and resolves into a desperate drone. This moody experimental-film opening deserves comparison to the disquieting prologue of Under the Skin. We emerge from that brief storm into a quiet drama, with main character Miyabi recalling the loss of her daughter and remembering a photograph taken with the child on a beach. A scene of her and the girl staring out to sea, then slowly turning to face the camera, will recur a couple of times; its significance is eventually revealed—perhaps, although as her strange client Oka says, “memories can’t be trusted.” Miyabi moves through her life in a sad daze, obsessively watering the plants on her balcony or sitting in near silence in a grungy basement with two other prostitutes, waiting to be called up for a date. For most of the movie no one expresses much visible emotion, even when angry or frightened, which makes Seto’s desperation as her mind breaks down in the film’s second half stand out: her grief is set free, along with an irrational hope.

The film works as a melancholy drama, but contains eerie notes which are not fully expressed, haunting the story like fleeting memories. Oka, a purported survivor of throat cancer, speaks only through an otherworldly electrolarynx. He is obsessed with moths, and might be indirectly linked to a series of homicidal rampages and terrorist bombings. Who Oka actually is isn’t made completely clear, but he is a catalyst for an inhuman transformation, and he feeds on women like Miyabi whose deep emotional traumas make them receptive to whatever voodoo he performs through his photographic project. Oka’s motives are as murky as Miyabi’s grief is vivid. In the end, what he offers seems to be voluntarily entanglement in a web of dreams: dreams where the dreamer dreams of another dreamer, while simultaneously being dreamed themselves.

Kondo’s curious concoction will mesmerize and enthrall many art-horror fans. Others will find the deliberate pacing more of a chore—while still being intermittently mesmerized and enthralled. But there’s no doubt that this is a promising debut, and we salivate thinking what Kondo could do with a bigger budget—if he is able to maintain his independent sensibilities. It would not shock us to look back years from now and realize that New Religion founded a cult of Kondo.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“One of the strangest, most refreshing edge-of-genre films in recent years.”–Kim Newman, The Kim Newman Website (festival screening)

SLAMDANCE 2023: A PERFECT DAY FOR CARIBOU (2022)

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Jeff Rutherford

FEATURING: Charlie Plummer, Jeb Berrier, Oellis Levine

PLOT: Before committing suicide, Herman gets a call from his estranged son Nathaniel; meeting at a cemetery, Nathaniel brings his own son—who goes missing.

Still from A Perfect Day for Caribou (2022)

COMMENTSMuch as the film’s father and son teeter along the edge between acquiescence and despair in this ambling dialogue of a movie, Jeff Rutherford teeters along the edge between “indie” and “weird” with A Perfect Day for Caribou, his feature debut. While we generally prefer to bring attention to stranger films, if we can take the time to highlight slow-core tedium, we can take a moment here to talk about something melancholy, oddly humorous, and quietly hopeful.

Against the back-drop of close-knit upholstery, the movie begins with Herman (Jeb Berrier) dictating a final message to his son Nate (Charlie Plummer). From his scattershot remarks, it’s clear Herman’s anecdotes, pre-apologies, and side notes seem much like his life: unfocused, lacking purpose, and a bit sad. He’s prepared for his final moment, much as he’s prepared for his son to not care much what he has to say; despite this, he’s recording this rambling confession of sorts because even though he’s grasping at straws, “…the straws you grasp at—you should grasp them.” His would-be final words are interrupted when Nate calls him on his mobile phone, and the father and son meet up at a nearby cemetery, Nate’s autistic son Ralph in tow.

Thoreau said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”; and Herman and Nate quietly face the mindless and unavoidable sadness they have endured throughout their lives, with ample cigarettes. We watch two men travel the Oregonian countryside in search of young Ralph, interrupted only be surreal memories and hopeful imaginings. Herman spends most of the film carrying a sealed parcel his ex-wife, Nate’s mother, left behind. The men meet another lonely soul on their hushed, unhurried quest: a woman who accidentally shoots at Nate followed by the immediate heartfelt shout of, “Sorry!” No big deal. They all chat, share some water, and part ways.

As a general rule, I eschew anything so overtly art-house, but there is an odd satisfaction in watching these two broken men attempt to makes peace with themselves and each other. The sweeping vistas contrast their tiny existence. Nate is wise, either in the face of or because of his fractured background. His anguish is captured by his wish for his own son: “I don’t know if these type of people exist,” he says, “but I want Ralph to feel very limited hurt.” The best he can imagine is less pain.

Nate and Herman pursue the lost boy, who leaves clues behind for them to follow: a soccer ball, a toy truck, a plastic bag; the strange—and defiant—undercurrent is underscored by Herman’s closing scene. He’s opened the box, donned a pair of novelty reindeer antlers, and can’t quite find the right position for the gun barrel on his body. Everything’s wrong, nothing fits into place, so you’ve got to keep trying, I suppose, and maybe something will eventually click.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…in its best moments, [Rutherford’s] debut reaches for the mournful everyday poetry of Wim Wenders’ ‘Paris, Texas’ or Kelly Reichardt’s ‘Old Joy.’ Elsewhere, the film feels a little determined in its minimalism, a little too cute in its brushes of absurdism. Still, it promises significant things from its young writer-director, who shows more formal nous and rigor than many neophyte directors of comparable U.S. indies.”–Guy Lodge, Variety (festival screening)

CAPSULE: BEAUTIFUL BEINGS (2022)

Berdreymi

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Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson

FEATURING: Birgir Dagur Bjarkason, Áskell Einar Pálmason, Viktor Benóný Benediktsson, Anita Briem, Snorri Rafn Frímannsson

PLOT: A pack of violent misfits take a bullied boy into their gang on the rough streets of Reykjavik.

Still from Beautiful Beings (2022)

COMMENTS: When you grow old and think back on your childhood bullies, you realize that they were bullied themselves, most likely by their own parents or siblings. The hate and scorn was nothing personal; they were only transferring their own pain onto someone conveniently weaker than them. Of course, that idea never crosses your mind when you’re a victim of bullying, and wouldn’t comfort you if it did. Because the foursome in Beautiful Beings are, for the most part, both bullies and victims, we can sympathize with them and forgive them as they indulge in childish cruelties.

Iceland consistently ranks in the top ten in the World Happiness Report, but even paradise has an underclass. Violence is ever-present in the lives of these working-class children from broken families. The film begins by following the misadventures of pimply 14-year old Balli, much-abused by his peers and living with neglectful single mom in a what his friend calls “a bum house.” But the story soon changes focus to Addi, who has a modestly better life. He’s a member of a three-member gang under the erratic but benevolent leadership of Konni, nicknamed “the Animal” due to his fighting prowess and uncontrolled ferocity. Although he’s also from a single parent home, Addi’s mother is caring and stable, if a little embarrassing in her devotion to mystical rituals, yoga, and dream-interpretation. After Balli is beaten so badly he makes a local hand-wringing news broadcast about teen violence, Addi’s empathy is slowly and slyly roused. He convinces the others to let Balli into their clique—helped by the fact that they can use Balli’s half-abandoned home as a club house when the boy’s mother is away for days on end. The others gradually come to accept Balli, but their individual troubles start to pile up, all brought to a boil by the reappearances of absent (and unwanted) family members.

As the film progresses it flirts with the supernatural. Addi discovers that his mother’s precognitive gifts may not be all in her head—and that he’s inherited them as well. At about the midpoint of the film (with a push from magic mushrooms) his powers manifest themselves: he sees demonic shadows, finds his fingers drilling holes in his torso, and dreams of racing down a skyscraper with Konni. The visions are scarce, but set up the idea that Addi can see into the future, creating third act suspense whenever he gets a “bad feeling.” His precognitive abilities symbolize his superior intuition, setting him apart as the character who is in this world but not of it… the one who’s able to see what’s wrong with this picture and thus, perhaps, able to glimpse a different path. That’s not much to grasp onto as far as the film’s weird credentials go, but it’s just enough to get it into 366’s sights. (The movie also flirts with teenage homoeroticism—e.g. some casual sensuous hair caressing—without really exploring those feelings, making it  LGBTQ-adjacent as well as weird-adjacent).

Other critics have pointed out—and I can’t really argue—that Beautiful Beings breaks no new ground in the “coming of age” genre, and that its visionary aspect is mostly just window dressing. Nevertheless, I think the movie’s ample strengths outweigh a certain lack of originality. Technically, it’s nearly flawless. (It was Iceland’s submission to this year’s Oscars, although it was not shortlisted.) All the performances, especially from the young central quartet but including the extended families and the surrounding teenagers, are excellent. The cinematography plays with yellow sunlight and sepia shadows; perversely, the camera focuses on dirty fingernails, the dusty corners of Balli’s hovel, or an industrially bleak warehouse rooftop overlooking the harbor, only occasionally emerging onto a majestic beach to remind us of the beauty of the wider world these boys rarely have the chance to appreciate. The bottom line is I found myself engaged with these characters and empathizing with them through their travails, which is all you ask of a film of this sort.

Beautiful Beings is currently in theaters; we’ll update you when it’s more widely available.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Here, with a combination of drifty realism and jolts of the fantastic — Addi has strange dreams and visions, which add unfruitful mystery to the narrative — he persuasively conveys the feverish intimacy of adolescent friendship, with its vulnerabilities and inchoate desires.”–Manohla Dargis, The New York Times (contemporaneous)