a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Philadelphia Film Festival: Day Six

Tuesday, 13 April 2004

Ideal Schedule Stormy Weather, 12:15pm; Free Radicals, 2:30pm; No Rest For the Brave, 5pm; Moon Child, 7:15pm; Haute Tension, 10pm.

The Day's Atmosphere Rainy and gross, then humid and gross. The city is draped in a thick fog that makes it all the more ideal to stay indoors, whether by subway or by sitting for hours in a movie theater. The whole day is like this, though I spend most of it in my apartment, skipping the first two (alas) in favor of getting work done -- I'm yet again a casualty of over-sleeping, a result of a sickness that refuses to leave my body.

Quote of the Day "Yeah, France!," said by an anonymous Danger After Dark regular when curator leather-jacketed Travis Crawford described the NC-17-ish "fountains of gore" awaiting us with Haute Tension.

Titles of the Day Struggling to decide between seeing Jehane Noujaim's Control Room and No Rest For the Brave (Alain Guiraudie, France) only hours before the screening, I obviously plumped for the latter. It was distribution reasons -- Room has one -- but I'm thinking I'll be one of the few to see Brave at all, which may grow into my favorite kind of cult film: the cult film that's too impenetrable for most. Like Schizopolis, it's basically a director with a lot of odd ideas dicking around at feature length, no matter what the cost to audience's patience. A young guy decides that he's never going to sleep again, for fear that if he does he will die. Presumably the Canadian A Problem With Fear represents what could have become of this had Guiraudie been a hack, but Guiraudie keeps taking this premise in the least predictable directions possible -- and that's no understatement. Just a couple bits: we follow to tangential characters around for fifteen minutes before, out of nowhere, our previously AWOL protagonist casually guns them down (they'll return in the last two reels, natch); a typical master's long static take of a character's ennui ends with his subject proclaiming, "I can't believe how bored I am!"; a band takes over a cafe playing a honky-tonk version of "Pretty Vacant"; lotsa tomfoolery about what results from our protag actually falling asleep; etc., etc., etc. Guiraudie keeps it largely genial, though, asking us not to untangle it (though some inevitably will -- look for fan sites in the future) but to choog along with it. Many left, predictably. I, however, can't wait to see what he does when he ties his (very excellent) ideas onto something a little less sketch-booky. B-

Basically filling up time before Haute Tension, Moon Child (Takahisi Zeze) is par for course for ultra-violent futuristic Japanese gangland melodramas that inexplicably feature vampires. Largely fun for the first half before its countless leaps in time render it a soggy tale of friendship busted apart. "Please don't show the group photo again," I nearly screamed, hardly realizing Zeze would trot it out three more times. C+

Lastly, I'm glad I waited till the next day to write up Haute Tension (Alexandre Aja, France). That way, I let myself calm down, realizing that while it literally possesses the stupidest ending of all time, it was a pretty sturdy old school splatter flick for its first hour. Appropriate that I Stand Alone Phillipe Nahon plays the blue-collar boogeyman in this one, chopping up an entire family while not realizing that their houseguest is on his tail. Gore levels are indeed very high, with much good use of power tools, though Aja employs too many "boo!" tactics for my taste. For awhile it looked like a horror-maven had finally trusted the material, playing out a simple and bluntly effective scenario without bells and whistles. Two words: plot twist. Naturally, Aja has been recruited to re-do Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes. MD'A nails what's so aggravating about this one, though the crowd ate it up. C.


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