Tag Archives: 2008

42.* VINYAN (2008)

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DIRECTED BY: Fabrice du Welz

FEATURING: Emmanuelle Béart, , Petch Osathanugrah, Julie Dreyfus

PLOT: Months after their son was lost in the tsunami that devastated Phuket, Jeanne and Paul see a video that suggests the boy might be alive deep in the Burmese jungle. They undertake a perilous voyage into Myanmar to find him, but encounter increasing danger and incomprehensible conditions. As their guides continue to make demands and lead them deeper into unfamiliar territory, Paul becomes more and more skeptical, but Jeanne remains resolved to find her child.

Still from Vinyan (2008)

BACKGROUND

  • The title is a term defined within the film as a spirit that has died a horrible death, becoming confused and angry and haunting the living world. The word may have been invented for this movie.
  • Du Welz’s second feature film, following Calvaire.
  • Filmed on location in Thailand, where in 2004 the Boxing Day tsunami killed nearly 5,400 people, including 2,000 foreign tourists.
  • Petch Osathanugrah passed away in August 2023 after living a remarkably varied life. Vinyan is his only credited acting role, but he was also a pop singer, art collector, president of Bangkok University, and CEO of the Osotspa beverage company, which manufactures the M-150 energy drink.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The final shot of the movie features despairing mother Jeanne giving herself over to the angry spirits of the region’s lost children, smiling deliriously while the white-painted boys caress and smear mud on her naked body. Immediately following a shocking burst of violence, the scene is a potent vision of both her psychological state and the primal landscape that has subsumed her.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Hungry old white people are funny; an ancient temple appears

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: An unexpected blend of Don’t Look Now and Apocalypse Now, Vinyan builds horror out of unrelenting grief in a violently hostile world. The deeper we go into both the wilds of the Burmese coast and into the heroine’s desperation, the more disturbing the setting becomes, and the more inevitably tragic the characters’ fate.

Original trailer for Vinyan

COMMENTS: Vinyan begins as a horror story that has already concluded: a child has been lost in a terrible cataclysm. This would be Continue reading 42.* VINYAN (2008)

CAPSULE: I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW (2008)

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DIRECTED BY: Sean Donnelly

FEATURING: Jeff Turner, Kelly McCormick,

PLOT: A documentary profiling two fans of the pop singer Tiffany who have come to believe that they are involved in an intense and personal relationship with the celebrity.

Still from I Think We're Alone Now (2018)

COMMENTS: A woman named Christina Grimmie found when she was very young that she had a real talent for singing. She created a YouTube channel to showcase her performances, which drew hundreds of millions of views and eventually brought her into the orbit of Selena Gomez, who mentored the teenager and brought her along as a backup singer and opener on her tours. At the age of 20, she dazzled the judges of the reality competition show “The Voice,” where she ultimately placed third. Still seeking professional success, she recorded singles and EPs and continued to tour. After a show in Orlando, she met with some concertgoers outside the venue. One of them, an obsessed fan who took advantage of the easy access, shot her dead.

I’m not sure what brings Christina Grimmie to my mind first, considering the number of famous people murdered and attacked by their deranged fans. But there’s something haunting about her youth, about how her potential was still largely unrealized, how her level of fame could best be described as “barely.” She had hardly done enough to inspire the kind of dangerous obsession that would lead to such a tragic end. So I suppose the career of Tiffany, purveyor of such late-80s monster hits as “I Think We’re Alone Now” and “Could’ve Been,” stands as a notable contrast. Given that her biggest achievements were like long-ago fireworks, captivating moments now 30 years in the past, she seems equally unlikely to be well-remembered at all, let alone talked about in the kind of messianic terms that mark the truly obsessed. Such, then, is the curious nature of some kinds of mental illness.   

I Think We’re Alone Now follows two individuals whose adoration of Tiffany goes beyond mere rabid fanaticism to become genuinely disturbing. Jeff, a middle-aged man with a readily apparent case of autism spectrum disorder, believes that he has been a crucial part of the singer’s life for years and happily spouts deep-cut trivia and fabulist tales of his relationship to anyone who wanders into his path. He is surrounded by people whose kindnesses and selfish aims only encourage his behaviors. We also meet Kelly, an anguished intersex woman who has struggled with society’s cruelties and her own confused sense of her abilities and situations. She has lined the walls of her home with photo after photo of Tiffany, and while she also seems to believe that she is pledged to the star with the deepest of connections, those feelings seem more aspirational, as if validation of her belief is the only thing that anchors her in a world where she feels utterly at sea.

The movie seems to sympathize with its subjects by virtue of spending so much time taking in their points of view, but while they never confront them directly, the filmmakers present plenty of evidence Continue reading CAPSULE: I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW (2008)

13*. PROMETHEUS’ GARDEN (1988)

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“I guess danger and weirdness have always been the main features in most of my stories.”–Bruce Bickford

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY: Bruce Bickford

FEATURING: Bruce Bickford’s handmade clay models

PLOT: A man discovers a garden and figures oozing out of a hole, who he fashions into miniature people who then begin multiplying on their own. The man is then sucked into a planet which he has created, and chased first by vikings, then centurions. There is no coherent start-to-end plot, but some segments of the film enact mini-stories.

Still from Prometheus' Garden (1988) 

BACKGROUND:

  • Animator Brice Bickford gained modest underground fame when his animations graced ‘s concert film Baby Snakes (1979) and The Dub Room Special (1982). Prometheus’ Garden is the only film Bickford made over which he had complete control, however.
  • Prometheus’ Garden was completed in 1988, but rarely seen until a 2008 DVD release.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: We’ll go with the gang of newly-minted werewolves enjoying slices of pizza; an octopus lies on the pie along with the other toppings. Don’t like that pick? Skip to any random point in the movie and you’ll see something just as weird.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Werewolf paint; monster pizza

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Human heads grow in a field. Imps and demons spontaneously generate from the soil. Clay figures disembowel each other. Nude Viking women slather themselves with Vaseline in the sauna. Every element of the movie is in constant motion for thirty minutes. Weird hardly even begins to cover it.


Original trailer for Prometheus’ Garden

COMMENTS: Flesh-colored flowers grow out of a green field, turning into big-headed monsters as cotton ball smoke wafts across the Continue reading 13*. PROMETHEUS’ GARDEN (1988)