Late, but actually available a month earlier than last year’s edition. As always, the recycled ad copy speaks for itself:
Covering everything weird, from art house surrealism to next-generation cult movies to so-bad-they’re-weird B-movie atrocities, 366 Weird Movies has been meeting all of your weird movie needs since 2009 with a combination of sly humor and serious insight. This is our annual Yearbook covering all the weird movies released and re-released in 2018, from “All You Can Eat Buddha” to “Zen Dog”, with 40+ full-length reviews, extensive capsules and supplemental listings, and exclusive interviews with director Panos Cosmatos (“Mandy”) and others. If it’s weird, it’s a movie, it’s from 2018, and 366 Weird Movies covered it, you’ll find it here.
The print version of the Yearbook requires additional formatting and proofing and should be available for sale in a couple of weeks.
The Burial of Kojo (2019): A Ghanaian girl recalls her childhood, focusing on a conflict between her father and uncle. Visually experimental magical realism that’s making an awards-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles this week; the rest of his will likely have to catch it when it debuts on Netflix on the 31st of March. The Burial of Kojo official site.
Sister Tempest (est. 2019): The next project from Joe Badon (confessed 366 fan) describes itself as Mulholland Drive meets The Holy Mountain meets Zardoz (!) It’s the story of an art teacher who’s abducted by aliens and forced to confront her relationship with her sister (who’s also mysteriously missing). There’s also a giant astronaut stomping around. The producers are looking for $25,000 and have raised at this writing a little over $7,000. (Badon made TheGod Inside My Ear for under $10,000). Check out the Kickstarter for rewards.
NEW ON HOME VIDEO:
Against the Clock (2019): A CIA agent in a coma dreams while his wife fights with the agency to learn the truth. Among the one-star audience reviews, one simply titled “So so so bad and weird” caught our eye, and further investigation suggests this might be a bona fide strange film. Buy Against the Clock.
MFKZ (2017): In the urban dystopia of “Dead Meat City,” meek Angelino and his roommate (a flaming skull) uncover a conspiracy that brings them into contact with tentacled aliens and a secret society of luchadores. This gritty and absurd adaptation of a French graphic novel has an anime-meets-postmodern-hip-hop-wannabe-underground-comic feel; now on DVD, Blu-ray, limited VOD platforms. Buy MFKZ.
Perfect Blue (1997): Read the Canonically Weird entry! Shout! Factory’s new edition of Satoshi Kon‘s animated psychological thriller about a J-pop idol losing her sense of self is newly remastered for HD and comes with a few new featurettes (lectures by the late Kon and new interviews from others) along with some extras recycled from previous editions. In a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack (we gather the DVD hosts an SD version of the film). Buy Perfect Blue.
The Best Psychedelic Movies Ever Made – Cinema Dailies compiled a meta-list of movies considered “psychedelic,” using us as one of the input sources. Obviously, you are going to see a good number of familiar titles pop up. Light up a “J” (IF IT IS LEGAL IN YOUR JURISDICTION!) and pop on over to check it out.
WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Next week we continue our March Mad Movie Madness tournament (yes, we know we’ll be out of March) with the announcement of the round of 32 and the official Strange Sixteen. We’ll also announce a giveaway contest to disgorge a few of the promotional DVDs we’ve got lying around. And we’re hoping to have another exciting administrative announcement very soon…
In terms of new reviews, we will have something, but we’re not going to say exactly what just yet (this is getting to be a trend, we know).
The big news will be the return of cranky Alfred Eaker, who’s back to these pages after a long post-#366 sabbatical. Welcome back Al! Onward and weirdward!
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.
PLOT: A chauffeur falls in love with his boss’ daughter, who is secretly a prostitute, and confesses a terrible secret to her.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Battle in Heaven really only gets “weird” in its final act; up until then, it qualifies more as “insufferable.”
COMMENTS: Battle in Heaven begins with a paunchy nude middle aged man standing against a blank background as an equally naked young woman kneels before him, her blonde dreadlocks bobbing ever so slightly. The camera pans teasingly, blocking the action for as long as possible as it slowly pans around to reveal the “money” shot.
Daring? Sure, especially for a Mexican film of the period. But like this shot, Battle in Heaven lacks any sort of discernible moral or purpose. The movie is technically accomplished, but as empty as the featureless room where the contextless oral sex takes place. The movie is not about sex—although there is a good deal of sex in it—or about the relationship between the two mismatched characters in the opening (which never becomes convincing). The best one might be able to say about it is that it’s about a man, Marcos, and his working class ennui—although the tragedy that follows is driven not so much by existential angst or sociopolitical oppression as by a series of perversely stupid choices.
Battle in Heaven is one of those self-important “quiet” films with lots of lingering shots of expressionless faces, where evoking boredom is seen as a brand of authenticity. There are long, drawn-out scenes of people we don’t particularly know or care about driving through Mexico City, talking on cell phones to characters we’ll never meet about nothing in particular. One can only imagine the director starting each scene by calling out “lights, camera, inaction!” And while that would normally be cause to assign a Beware rating, the truth is that the technical qualities of Battle are too advanced for us to slam the film. Although most people in the audience will not care, the camerawork is excellent, featuring one 360 pan that abandons a lovemaking couple and travels outside their apartment window to survey the local neighborhood in a long unbroken shot before peeking back in to find them spent. There is no real purpose behind the virtuoso shot, but it will be appreciated by some. Even better is a scene where Marcos stops at a gas station which is blasting Bach’s Harpsichord Concerto No. 1 over its loudspeakers (!); as the driver wanders towards the street, that music is overlaid with, then yields to, the sound of a parade where the marchers sing a patriotic anthem. That crossfade is the aural equivalent of the camera’s 360 pan. These moments remind us that Carlos Reygadas has real filmmaking talent—it’s just that this script has no direction.
As far as weirdness goes, there’s not much, up until Marcos starts masturbating while watching a futbol match (for some reason, Reygadas spares us the explicit details, although this seems to be exactly the kind of taboo he generally gets keyed up to commit to film). The protagonist then wanders off onto a hilltop, performs an unspeakable act, and joins a band of Catholic pilgrims in repentance. Some guys ring the cathedral bell that makes no sound, and then a bunch of soldiers take down and fold up a Mexican flag that’s as large as a house to signal the end of the film.
If watching a middle-aged man’s penis detumesce in real time is what you look for in a movie, then Battle in Heaven has got you covered. If you’re looking for any of the other things we normally seek out in movies—a story, an emotional connection, thought-provoking developments—then you may find it more of a hellish experience.
FEATURING: Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Jörgen Thorsson, Ann Petrén, Sten Ljunggren
PLOT: Tina is a Swedish customs officer with a super-human ability to detect when travelers are hiding something; her monotonous existence is upended when she meets Vore, who is hiding something far stranger than mere contraband.
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Ali Abbasi’s film unflinchingly depicts “the other” in a low-key manner that forces the viewer to constantly question how well they can handle those who are very different from them. The mounting discomfort breaks mid-way through a reveal that is as surprising as it is relieving.
COMMENTS: Working for a site such as this, one often (and, indeed, hopefully) stumbles across strange and unsettling things that one cannot un-see. The carnage of Greenaway’s chamber drama; the nightmare of Lynch’s take on parenthood; or the sheer unpleasantness of von Trier’s rumination on couples going through a rough patch: all grab the viewer with an aural and visual assault through a strange, strange lens. With Border, director Ali Abbasi joins this crew of unrelenting visionaries. For its first half, his film defies categorization; for its second half, it pulls the viewer into a fairy-tale macabre whose supernatural elements are belied by their matter-of-fact depiction.
Tina (Eva Melander) is ugly, anti-social, awkward, but undeniably skilled at her job. With an almost feral sniff at passersby, she is able to determine if they are carrying something dangerous or illegal across the border into Sweden. Being able to sense shame, guilt, and a gamut of other emotions, she spots underage boozers, would-be traffickers, and even a well-heeled traveler with something dreadful on a hidden memory card. When a comparably ugly, antisocial, and awkward man (Eero Milonoff) passes her post, she knows something is “wrong” about him, but a thorough search of his luggage (and his person) reveals nothing. She’s never failed before, and feels compelled to learn more about this mysterious man. While aiding the authorities in breaking up a child pornography ring, she bonds with this stranger and ultimately learns two unsettling truths.
Without giving much more away, I felt a very strange sense of relief after the big reveal. The first hour of Border goes by without any explanation for the uncomfortable goings-on: uncomfortable for someone like me, at least. The continuous kind of “normalcy” on display became very trying, and my sense of comparative ease when Abbasi finally showed his hand made me wonder: would this movie have been better without that release valve? As it stands, it is a very good, and very strange, viewing experience. Had he gone completely without explanation, it would have been a much more difficult movie to watch, but perhaps a much more salient one. Having been pushed to the edge of an uncomfortable frisson, the pull-back allowed me to think of it more cinematically; and I was able to then better view it for its narrative and thematic merits. In the end, Border‘s greatest achievement is providing the viewer with a believable, optimistic finish to its strange tale of deformity, love, and human cruelty.