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DIRECTED BY: Nick Gatsby
FEATURING: Eric Willis, Scott Mitchell
PLOT: A hapless tenant finds himself dying at the hands of his neighbor over and over again.
COMMENTS: There’s a grandeur that kicks off Nick Gatsby’s first feature film that is both beautiful and disorienting. Haunting choral music, haunting wind sounds, and a haunting, burning moon (?) behind scraggly, leafless branches. The moon turns green, and there is a cut—appropriately—to psychedelically-lit puzzle pieces. This abstraction crops up throughout the rest of the film: interesting shots cut up by post-production static, over-exposure, jump cuts, and—my favorite—hilarious intertitles. With what seems like zero dollars on hand, but plenty of focus for fastidious editing and micro-effects, Gatsby has put together a creative anomaly; I wouldn’t describe it as a movie, per se, but it would hold its own among the video installations I’ve enjoyed at various modern art museums.
The story, such as it is, remains basic: a man mysteriously appears in a chair, slumped over. He awakens and is quickly menaced by a (largely) unseen neighbor. He’s about to be killed, and on a very short timer. Looming butterflies act as harbingers. Skulls appear, tiki bars are disregarded, and only in the fifth iteration do things seemingly fall into place.
Watching My Neighbor Wants Me Dead with a group was apt, as the chatter (pleasant though it was) acted as something of a distraction. And wouldn’t you know, the film’s tagline is “A film about distractions.” More than most (more straight-forward) narratives, My Neighbor lends itself to multiple interpretations. I saw it as a meditation on depression: the protagonist continually tries and fails to survive and get out of his door. Distractions subsume him: the promise of a “Tiki Bar,” threats from his neighbor, and even idly wandering through his barren apartment. Knowing a thing or two about depression myself, I know that one of the main challenges it presents the sufferer with is distraction: a simple, but driving distraction from being able to just face the day.
Gatsby earns plenty of bonus points for style, and several more for the oddball humor sprinkled throughout. There’s a cartoon intermission, plenty of ragtime music, and obscenely pictographed phrases during the intertitles. The ending did elicit a bit of, “Well, I should have seen that coming…”; but seeing as how I didn’t, I can’t complain. I am glad to say that I look forward to Gatsby’s next (great?) outing.
BONUS INTERVIEW: In the final minutes of the screening, filmmaker Nick Gatsby mysteriously appeared, telecommuting from his bunker in Colorado. The 366 crew all chipped in questions for him about his film. Continue reading 366 UNDERGROUND: MY NEIGHBOR WANTS ME DEAD (2019) WITH BONUS INTERVIEW
In 2016 I interviewed and about their debut film, the dog-grooming video art fantasia She’s Allergic to Cats, which has since been released on video-on-demand and named an Apocryphally Weird selection. Four years later, we follow up to see how an alphabetization controversy impeded the film’s distribution prospects, Reich’s pooch Martin’s new career as a video star, and whether a gory marionette anti-marijuana film will be the duo’s next project.
In the summer of 2019, Why Don’t You Just Die! wowed Fantasia at a jam-packed screening. Chronicling the vengeful efforts of Matvey against a father who dun wronged his girlfriend, WDYJD! is a Chekovian chamber drama doused with a bucketful of comedy and filled with as much violence as can be crammed into a three-room apartment.
Maintaining a healthy social distance of 4,200 miles, Giles Edwards spoke with Kirill Sokolov, the director of Fantasia’s “New Flesh Award“-winning feature debut, Why Don’t You Just Die! (For the Russian title, give the interview a listen; we won’t be using such foul language on this website… not in writing, anyway.) Rest assured that Mr Sokolov is alive, well, writing, and eager to start his next project. Audio interview is embedded below.
As a bonus, here is the first scene of Why Don’t You Just Die?
Note: The following interview may contain slight spoilers for Koko-di, Koko-da.
Koko-di debuted at Sundance, won the “Camera Lucida” prize at Fantasia, and is currently playing at Austin’s Fantastic Fest (catch the final screening on September 26). Dark Star Pictures has acquired the movie for a November 15 U.S. theatrical release.
The title comes from a macabre children’s nursery rhyme (“my rooster is dead, he will never sing koko-di koko-da”). The story involves a married couple—once loving, now squabbling—who go on a camping trip in the woods four years after a tragedy ripped their lives apart. Once there, they wake in the middle of the night to find the same events repeating themselves. Three figures trudge out of the woods: an old man dressed in white, a tall female leading a vicious dog, and a unibrowed giant with a dead dog slung over his shoulder. The trio terrorize the campers; then, they wake up in their tent, as if from a dream, and the cycle repeats itself. The man becomes conscious of what is happening and futilely tries new strategies to avoid their fate. All the while there is also a mysterious white cat running around in the woods, and scenes from a bizarre shadow play where animal puppets reenact a peculiar fable that seems relevant to the couple’s personal history. Will they escape this treadmill of horror and recrimination?
366 Weird Movies’ Gregory J. Smalley spoke with Mr. Nyholm via telephone.
366: Would you consider this a Swedish or a Danish film? According to IMDB both languages are spoken in the film.
Johaness Nyholm: Mostly Swedish. We shot most parts in Sweden, and most of the team was Swedish as well. But I have a Danish co-producer who helped a lot on the film, and there is quite a lot of Danish spoken, especially from one character in the film.
366: I think it’s fair to say that this is a mysterious movie, in many ways, and I wanted to know if you thought there were any cultural references that Scandinavian audiences might pick up on that people in other countries might not get.
JN: No, I don’t think so, actually… the music is a French lullaby.
366: I was wondering if the “Koko-di Koko-da” song was written specifically for the movie or if it’s a traditional folk song.
JN: No, it’s a traditional folk song. Of course, we made many different versions of it.
366: Peter Belli is a well-known Danish singer. Did you have him in Continue reading BEHIND THE REAL WORLD: JOHANESS NYHOLM ON KOKO-DI, KOKO-DA
Listener beware: this interview may contain mild spoilers for the upcoming sci-fi movie Freaks (in U.S. theaters September 13).
Giles Edwards sat down to talk with co-writers/co-directors Zach Lipovsky and Adam Stein about Freaks, their indie science fiction collaboration about a 10-year-old girl whose father keeps her locked inside and warns her never to leave the house. But the ice cream man outside the door really wants to sell her a cone. Featuring a remarkably assured performance by young Lexy Kolker, co-starring Emile Hirsch as her paranoid father and a creepy Bruce Dern as “Mr. Snowcone.”
Perhaps my Japanese hand-writing is better than my Korean. When I presented my altered business card to Takahiro Umehara I saw a look of understanding instead of one of confusion.
366: My name is Giles Edwards and I am sitting down with Takahiro Umehara, and his translator Yoko, for some questions about the movie screening yesterday, The Moon in the Hidden Woods. Thank you very much. I was curious as to how a Japanese director got involved with a South Korean animation studio.
TU: First of all, I want to state that I am incredibly honored to have gotten the position of director for a South Korean production. I’ve been in Korea for almost eighteen years. And while I’m not representing the whole animation industry in South Korea, I wanted to return the favor that I’ve received in regards to my experiences in Korean film. So I’m hoping that this project will show my gratitude to the Korean people I’ve been working with.
366: I looked a bit at your earlier career, and you’ve been credited as “Art Director” on IMDb for your previous projects. This looks like it’s your first job as director. I was wondering how you made that jump and what interesting you in this particular project.
TU: I feel I am very good when it comes to drawing, so I was always interested in drawing and designing. I’ve generally wanted to be the “hands” of storytellers, but there was some good timing in that someone with whom I’d been working offered me the chance to be a director. I had thought that some day I would want to be in charge of direction, so I jumped on this chance. It was also a great chance to create a real Korean film; before that I’d always been working with Korean people for Japanese productions. This time I wanted to make an animated story based on Korean culture.
366: In regards to the film in particular, there is a whole lot of story—a lot of narrative—fit into this hour-and-a-half-long movie. I was curious as to what that was based on, and if you might explore this world again in the future.
TU: First, I want to see the reaction of screening in Korea, and then perhaps think about exploring more of this world in the future. I believe, however, that the kind of themes found in the movie are universal, and can be found in almost any country’s cultural background, especially as this focuses on the music, songs, and dance.
366: That leads nicely to my next question. The music in the feature—could you talk about your focus on the drums and drumming found in the picture?
TU: I was quite impressed when I first listened to the drums found in Korean music, so I’m glad to know that others have questions about this, as I had. And I look forward to letting my Korean counterparts know about this reaction. Korean music has a special energy, like when something is pressured, you can bounce back. It is quite free, this type of music, like the free jazz in the United States. In particular, the final scene, there’s a really strong beat, and at the end there’s a release.
366: In regards to that final scene, and a preceding scene about mid-way through in the “Hidden Woods”, there are some very astounding Continue reading THE MAN BEHIND “THE MOON”: A CONVERSATION WITH TAKAHIRO UMEHARA