DECONSTRUCTING SHOWGIRLS

Posted in Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2013 by Toi Brownstone

SHOWGIRLS, Paul Verhoeven (1995).

Showgirls

When we refer to guilty pleasures we tend to focus only on music. You know, bands or songs you regard them as crap but for some reason you just can’t stop listening to them. I have some hits crushes, but I don’t even consider them worth mentioning, first because I talked about some long time ago, and second because they’re not as shocking as to highlight them.

This time I’m gonna talk about a film, which it’s absolute crap but it’s got me completely hooked: Showgirls, probably Paul Verhoeven’s most epic failure. After his 3 main blockbusters, ultra violent Robocop, the great Total Recall, the film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story and Basic Instinct, the film which mean the explosion of success for Sharon Stone, the guy sure had lots of investors ready to support any of his projects, among them Mario Kassar was executive producer of the film, and completely lost his mind.

I watched Showgirls at the theater because Joe asked me to go with him. Yes, sad but true, I had to watch a movie about BITCHES (not hookers) in Vegas as an act of love. Every time I think of it, it’s followed by a face palm. You can imagine I didn’t like it at all and got quite pissed off. Now I remember it as a funny story, one of those weird things to be included in my CV of Toi’s madness.

For no reason throughout the years I’ve developed some short of addiction to Showgirls. It’s not that I regard it as a great movie, and I don’t have folders with captures wrapped on it. No, no way. The truth is that every time I see it on a TV channel, the world stops and I quit whatever I’m doing in that moment just to see Nomi Malone licking the pole, lap dancing, and fucking in a swimming pool. It’s fascinating on one hand, and on the other, kind of therapeutic. I always feel great and have great laugh. In fact I consider it one of the greatest comedy films in the 1990s.

According to Wikipedia:

The term “Showgirls-bad” has been adopted by film critics and fans to refer to films considered guilty pleasures, or “so-bad-they’re-good”.

Seems like I’m not alone in this.

It’s being broadcast on a channel almost twice a week lately. Fortunately I don’t watch much TV otherwise that’d be my mental ruin, but in the last few months I must admit I’ve been wasting my time with it.

Nomi Malone

I HATE Elizabeth Berkley. Perhaps Hate is an excessive feeling, but you know what I mean, I don’t sympathize with her at all. Poor girl, I never liked it either when she was Jessie Spano, the “intelligent” and smart girl in Saved By The Bell. I think her role as Nomi Malone ended with the slight respect someone could feel towards her. Probably she’s done interesting things after showing tits and pussy for 2 hours, but really, who cares? She’s finally become the heiress of the kingdom of trash. Her performance is so bad, so histrionic and exaggerated, you can’t stop laughing. Every time she’s called, or she understands it’s implied, a whore, she gets angry, grabs her stuff and leaves the scene. This happens at least 5-6 times. When dancing, her movements are three times more remarked than the rest of the dancers, and as for the “sexy” scenes, hats off!

rehearsing

When you’re watching a private lap dance scene which intends to be hot and sexy, and you end up giggling, it means Verhoeven stepped out of line. I’ve tried to see this film with more people, and it’s always the same. Everybody ends up laughing, we comment about her pussy in Agent Copper’s face (what the fuck were you doing there? Had you already spent all the Twin Peaks dough or what?), and the thought of the smell of the set of Showgirls comes to my head: pussy, sweet and cheap perfume. Good I wasn’t there considering I’m super sensitive to smells. As for the shag in the swimming pool, that crazy horse riding seemed more like an epileptic stroke.

As for the relationship between Cristal and Nomi…ah! It’s so funny the way Cristal, whose artistic name was chosen after the classy champagne brand, as if it was granted class would come afterwards, is fucking her over, with the nails, the dancing, the hooking thing…but thank God she was there to a craving for the reckless girl, otherwise, she would have remained at Cheetah’s with her boss Robert Davi (the other Agent Johnson)  trying to sneak an occasional  blowjob every once in a while, and we wouldn’t have been provided such amusing moments in the film history. Right after Showgirls, Gina Gershon was hired for playing the role of a lesbian in Bound, and I remember a hilarious chapter of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David was especially out of line on this regard.

nomi and cristal

Showgirls is the story of an outlaw chick who arrives to the promised land in search for fame and fortune, no matter how. From rags to riches topic, but instead of being a mafia story, Verhoeven tried to find gold and glamour diving in the world of the strippers and showgirls, but in a very sordid and shabby way. Ridiculous dialogues, awful performances, shitty soundtrack, terrible choreographies, lots of glossy makeup, tits beyond a limit, pussy smell all over, yet memorable scenes. An irresistible cocktail of crap, and a definite MUST SEE.

AL PACINO ON FIRE

Posted in Actors, Uncategorized with tags , on April 5, 2013 by Toi Brownstone

(Originally published on Since My Baby Left Me)

Some weeks ago I re-watched Glengarry Glen Ross after many years and I really enjoyed it, highly recommendable, with a very outstanding cast: Jack Lemon, Ed HarrisAlec BaldwinKevin Spacey…and Al Pacino.

pacino thoughtful

I’ve always loved this guy. At high school my best friend there, Ana, and I, used to refer to the guys we fancied as Al Pacino’s, as a code name. Why? Not very sure, especially considering it was in the early 1990’s and Pacino was too old for us already. Guess it had to do with his manly appearance. It’s true, though, that 20 years later and looking back to 1970′s, I must admit Al Pacino was a very attractive man.

The more I’ve been into movies, the more I’ve appreciated and respected Pacino’s work. He’s one of my favorite actors no doubt. Everybody immediately thinks of Michael Corleone and Antonio Montana, but actually he won my heart with Dog Day Afternoon and Cruising, not to mention Donnie Brasco, Serpico or Carlito’s Way.

The decision to write about this actor had to do with the final scene of the film I told you I was watching,  right after Kevin Spacey has ruined an important operation he had been handling. Al Pacino’s speach humilliating Spacey is simply brilliant. Terrific!

This scene reminded me that I’ve always felt fascination for his outbursts. He really gets hysterical, spitting while yelling totally out of control. To achieve such state, being conscious you are acting, is simply impressive.

After giving this post a thought I finally decided to highlight  5 scenes. Hope you like them.

** I suggest you turn down the volume a bit.

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS

Ricky Roma’s a top seller of worthless land. His convincing skills are enhanced by his speeches, but this time, due to the incompetence and stupidity of John Williamson (Kevin Spacey), an important operation slips right in front of his eyes. Roma explodes.

You just cost me 6 thousand dollars and one Cadillac

DOG DAY AFTERNOON

Sonny Wortzik had planned an easy bank robbery which finally turns into a hostage situation. He’s not ready to cope with such pressure, and doesn’t know how to deal with the cops, the hostages and his partner in crime Sal.

This film is full of outbursts, Pacino’s interpretation is intensely overwhelming.

Attica, Attica!

SCARFACE

Scarface is just excess from the beginning to the end. The story of Antonio Montana, a political refugee from Cuba who will get to the king of cocaine in Miami. Just a tiny detail which gets out of control, will mean his own decline and fall, the first rule of the drug dealer: don’t get high on your own supply.

His common sense is numb due to his addiction and thirst of power, which will take him to the graveyard.

This is probably one of the most excessive scenes in the history of cinema.

You wanna play rough? You want more? How you like that you little maricon?

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL

Arthur Kirkland has to defend a judge he doesn’t get on well with, in a rape case, otherwise this judge will ban him from court. When the lawyer finds out the truth, he will get crazy.

The son of a bitch is guilty!

THE GODFATHER

There are many memorable scenes on The Godfather which could be remarked, but this is the moment when Kate confesses hers was an abortion and that she can’t cope with such living anymore. Michael, the head of the family, cold and calculating, eventually loses control.

THE MASTER, Paul Thomas Anderson (2012)

Posted in Drama, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 10, 2013 by Toi Brownstone

the master

Last night I went to the movies for the first time this year 2013. There’s a lot of upcoming film releases which have already caught my attention, so seems that there’s gonna be a pretty busy season ahead, which I like, because my foursquare application reminded me I hadn’t gone to a movie theatre for almost 3 months, this is, since I attended some sessions at Sitges Film Festival. My bad!

After almost two months bombed by billboards exposing perfumes, beautiful women in bras, and Xmas season films addressed to kids, the new year brought the invasion of promo posters of the film The Master. How could it be ignored with Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Thomas Anderson right in front of my eyes? Impossible, I had to see that.

It’s been long time since I assumed Joaquin Phoenix to be one of the greatest actors of his generation, able to transmit deep feelings, and always enveloping his characters in a dark halo, somehow tortured and frustrated.

People always remember him for Gladiator or his stunning interpretation of Johnny Cash in Walk The Line, but it was first with Shyamalan‘s weak The Village, and then interpreting himself in the mockumentary I’m Still Here directed by his brother in law Cassey Affleck, when I realized I really digged this guy. For Phoenix, playing the role of Cash was easy, he seemed comfortable in the role of this legend, and I loved him right away. However his performances in Shyamalan’s failure and when offering an unseen (fake) side of the actor risking too much in his personal experiment, made me think of a hard gambler and an adventurer.

Regarding PTA, I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of blind faith, but since I was charmed with the overwhelming film Magnolia, I’ve been always following his steps.

quell

Frank Quell, who’s been sailing for long time serving the US Navy as a mechanic taking part in World War II against the Japanese, is finally dismissed from service, better said, retired, due to a long record of mental disorder episodes and sex obsessive behavior which make him unfit for war times. Now it’s time to rehabilitate into society but his mental issues and his heavy alcoholism bringing out aggressive behavior only cause him problems and do not allow him to adapt. From a photographer at a mall, to cabbage collector in the country, sooner or later he ruins something and has to get away pursued by people.

One freezing night he sneaks into a private yacht, whose commander happens to be Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of The Cause, a philosophical movement, based on the concept of the soul living many lives in different bodies throughout the existence of the human kind on Earth, and the regression therapies recovering the past traumas to wake up and heal.

Dodd will adopt Quell as his protégée and will start using him as a guinea pig, starting with a very revealing informal processing which justifies in some way why the sailor has become a drifter and a misfit. In exchange, on his command, Quell will prepare his secret alcoholic poison, Dodd is so enthusiastic with.

From this moment, he will become part of the family even though Dodd’s wife, the manipulative Peggy (Amy Adams), his son and other members, do not feel comfortable with the stranger’s odd behavior.

As for The Cause, the movement will become more prominent among high society, no matter the ideas and values transmitted are weak and lack of rational sense, as sympathizers find it attractive enough as to adopt it as their guide to happiness and mental awakening, contributing through donation to the support of the movement.

the cause

The Master deals with several different aspects to take into account: first, the decline and evolution of Quell, second his relationship with Dodd, The Cause inspired in Scientologist movement, the relationship of Dodd and Peggy…and so on.

 Also the film, resembling There Will Be Blood, is clearly marked by different stages. First, the mental disorder episodes of Quell while on a mission, and the elaboration of its poisonous beverage, second the attempt of an insane man to rehabilitate into society with no supervision nor care received, the encounter and adoption of Dodd and his family, the adaptation and rehabilitation, the final enlightenment and the separation of Quell and the family.

John Quell is the most remarkable character, and his journey, the main plot in the history. His mental scars from war have turned him into a sick man, unable to adapt into society. He is, in essence, pure white trash, a scoundrel with no goals in life, no interests of any kind, and no feelings towards anyone. His only motivation in life is to prepare his poisonous booze and fuck whenever it’s possible. He used to be with that beautiful girl in his hometown, Doris, but considering his condition, unable to behave normal, he knows it’s not possible to get back to her.

When he meets Dodd and becomes his protégée, all of a sudden he’s granted access to privileges and luxuries he couldn’t dream of earlier: clothes, food, wealth, “happiness”…He just have to be part of the experiments the master improvises, even though they don’t make much sense most of times. A simple mind crippled guy as he is, can only feel grateful to the man who gave him a hand, thus, whenever contrary voices rise criticizing and accusing Dodd of being a liar, Quell will always act as the physical force responsible to defend his master. Submission and gratitude develop into comradeship, dependence and sort of friendship, however, once the poor man finally comes to terms with himself, finding some piece of mind which allows him to put himself together, Quell realizes Dodd is working on a big lie, and will leave The Cause.

Joaquin Phoenix

Some reviews have been too hard on Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of Quell as too exaggerated and affected. I particularly think he manages to transmit all the troubles and insanity this guy oozes. It’s necessary and I think he’s realistic. Outbursts and violent attacks are overwhelming, and those intense scenes of processing and confrontation with Lancaster Dodd are impressive.

Regarding Dodd, the more prominent his Cause becomes, and the more renown he gets, the more we see it’s actually Peggy the one who commands, decides and addresses the movement. As soon as she concludes Quell is hard to tame, she’s not longer interested in him and thinks of him as a threat, capable of ruining what she and her husband have been hard achieving for so long time.

It’s interesting the issue of the philosophical movement, and the ability of manipulating weak people charming them as to influence their minds to believe what you want them to believe.

We’ve always been warned of these associations seeking for our dependence and momeny, offering the ultimate truth about life, or about death, the justification to our sufferings, and whatever a hopeless soul would require. Weak people can be easily abducted for their purposes, living in a state of denial and mind induced lethargy. But what is really the turning point which make some of these adapts to suddenly realize the reality they’re living in such environment is not real?

It’d be interesting to dive into the origin of sects, their motivations to be created, and when was the first time one person discovered that creating a movement based on something attractive to some potential victims could be profitable. At the end of the day, if carried out in a harmless way, the idea of providing this mind and soul shelter to someone in need shouldn’t be bad, leaving all the religious issues aside. In The Master, even though everything Lancaster Dodd preaches about is pure fake and nonsense, the truth is that, regardless the stupid experiments performed, Quell improves and manages to keep his anxiety and obsessions under control.

All these sects gather interesting psychologic, philosophic and anthropologic points of view in my opinion. Truth is that, since I was a kid and heard of them I’ve always felt fascinated for them.

WC9V2014.CR2

The Master is not an easy film. I think none of Paul Thomas Anderson are, because of all the side plots and aspects involved, the slow development of the stories, and the excessive length of his films. Many people are not able to focus on stories with so many details to assimilate and get easily tired and bored. The Master is impressive in terms of interpretation, flashbacks are very graphic, and the main story, even though can be confusing at some points and could be dealt with in a different way, it’s definitely worth it. It is one of these films likely to improve every time you review it being able to differ among stories, understand unnoticed details, and focus on the characters in the film. It won’t take me too long before I repeat.

And yes, it smells like some Oscar awards and others to come.

MARFA GIRL, Larry Clark (2012)

Posted in Directors, Drama with tags , , , on December 11, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

marfa girl poster

My attention was diverted towards Larry Clark at the end of 2011, when visiting Moderna Museet in Stockholm, I discovered some photographs which belonged to his famous Tulsa series. I got shocked by its realism, the portrait of a white trash American generation, echoing all the decadence coming from poverty, drugs and sex becoming something nasty and filthy. His extreme style was really appealing, and felt in love with his photos right away.

When looking for more information, I discovered that this photographer, Larry Clark, was the same guy who conceived and delivered one of the most shocking films I watched when I was a teenager, Kids, which shared lots of identifiable resemblances with Tulsa series images, in fact, the film made me think of sequence of captures put into motion.

Since I related his photography to Kids and Ken Park, I decided not to miss any update and started following his movements quite close. His last movement has been Marfa Girl, a film which is not being released in movie theaters nor DVD, and instead, at a quite reasonable price, USD 6, it’s available to be watched online on the director’s site.

Seemed like a perfect plan for Sunday evening.

Marfa is a small shitty town in the middle of nowhere  in Texas, 69 miles far from the border, where there’s nothing much to do.  There’s a curfew for teenagers to be on the streets at night, physical punishment is not only valid but also compulsory at the high school, and people feel threatened and harassed by the Border Patrol  units.

Adam (Adam Mediano) is 16, half white half Mexican, still attending high school, who’s always moving around with his skate board. His mum, Mary (Mary Farley),  is  bird obsessed who treats her pets as if they were human. She’s a genuine hippie. Adam’s got a younger girlfriend name Inez, truly in love with him, however Adam’s also having sex with his 23 year-old single mom friend, named Donna (Indigo Rael), after he surrendered to her seducting skills.

adam

One of the Border patrol agents, Tom (Jeremy St James), is constantly harassing Adam and his mother, being obsessed with both them and trying to get closer using any excuse. He’s apparently concerned with the lack of education and discipline the kid receives, and aims to be kind of a role model for him, and a respectful man to Mary. Tom is constantly acting out of line, treating Mexican residents as if they were shit, in a very racist manner, and always bothering people around him, feeling superior thanks to his badge.

A young and beautiful super hippie artist (Drake Burnette)sponsored by a company, is staying in town for a while, looking for inspiration in the naked bodies of the guys she ends up hanging out with, mostly Mexicans. In this way, we’ll be introduced to the stories of their lives, realizing how their roots and earlier stages have marked their paths and personalities forever.

Marfa is depicted as a town where nothing happens, poor, decadent, with less than 2,000 inhabitants. Local teenagers try to find some source of entertainment by skating, playing some weird music and smoking pot.

Adam is at this turning point at which he’s still childish innocent, however he’s becoming a man, getting in trouble for cheating his girlfriend, and screwing Donna. As not many guys were available in town, seems like young women are interested in new flesh, and Adam is a white and empty book perfect to fill in with the wisdom of the experience he hasn’t yet lived through.

Many isolated stories coming from people take part of a net, Marfa Girl is sewing in order to find the inspiration she needs to keep on working. Thus Rodrigo and Ulysses share with her their own personal points of view about life and sex.   She acts as the link among all the men in town, both young and adult.

marfa1

On the other hand Adam is the connection among the female side of the story. Sooner or later he deals with all of them: his teacher who spanks him before letting him feel the kicks of the baby in her belly, her mother who loves him but is more concerned about her birds, Inez, Donna…

Marfa girl and Adam are quite alike, with the difference of age and experience. At some point she gives him tips, and likely they’d eventually end up in bed together.

They’ve been raised up in freedom, against the violent discipline Tom, the border patrol, received, which caused him deep traumas and damaged him for good.

The feeling of emptiness, the absence of morality, the lack of values and a prominent sense of despair are easily noticeable. The only possible future involves getting away from that shithole, but the problem is that the boredom itself drags you down, and you end up swallowed by the town regardless.

Clark’s films are characterized by being too real. Unknown and inexperienced  actors who keep their own names for their roles in the film, they don’t seem to be acting but living their own lives caught by Clark for a while. As if part of their vulgar intimacy was stolen and recorded. Performances are, for this reason, appallingly convincible. Plots are not strong at all, there are certain peaks at the end of the story, but Marfa Girl is as visual as a documentary, avoiding all the narrating parts.

I’ve always felt amazed by the ability of the director of turning trash into something beautiful. Environments he choose are rough, extreme and very excessive, too alien for average audience, born and raised in what we’d call normal circumstances. It doesn’t matter whether the location of his stories is Manhattan or a remote town, there’s trash and dirt everywhere. Clark digs and finds his treasures.

From Tulsa to Marfa, years have gone by, but society has been decaying, and new generations we like to relate to Our Future, are more and more fucked up.

marfa 2

There was also a reference to one of my favorite novels, which also made an impact on me when I was a teenager. I’m talking about Ulysses’ tattooed arm related to the Lord of the Flies, which is actually the story of the evil in childhood and youth, the practical example of how kids are not as good and innocent as per common belief.

Adam is not a bad kid, he’s just trying to survive without harming nobody on purpose. However stop thinking for a while. He’s got a girlfriend he trust 200%, but he’s cheating on her with a single mom. And he’s aware eventually their affair will be discovered, putting his relationship with Inez into risk, but he just doesn’t care.

The older generations aren’t much better, and all of them are now suffering the consequences of events or mistakes in the past, when they are same age as Adam. It’s as if karma was directly ruling Marfa.

I enjoyed Clark’s new work, seriously. Photography is excellent, performances are too real, and even though the plot is not appealing, the final result is excellent, leaving at your own will the kind of conclusion you might get from it. Don’t expect a love story, jokes or a bunch of stunning actors. What Clark aims to share goes beyond anything physical. He just wants us to see places like Marfa exist, involving much drama.

In case you’re still interested, remember Marfa Girl is not being released in theaters nor DVD. You can watch it online on Larry Clark’s website. Hope you like it.

SITGES PT. VI: AND THE WINNER IS… ANTIVIRAL, Brandon Cronenberg (2012)

Posted in Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

And this is the last chapter of my Sitges experience 2012. Not bad, huh? I’ve left the final touch to talk about Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg’s full-length debut film. Whay can I say? The family ties attract me too much as to miss the screenings in Sitges. I didn’t want anyone to tell me about the film, I had to see for myself and judge. I tried to ease down my expectations, clinging to the idea that despite who his father is, it doesn’t mean that he receives the baton and is able to go on with the tradition. No matter how I tried to deny myself, I knew I wanted Brandon Cronenberg to succeed as the new baron of blood.

Those who are in regular contact with me, and also because the title of the post is quite self explanatory,  you already know my verdict: EPIC WIN.

As soon as I left the room after the screening, I immediately wrote this tweet:

One thing is for sure. Taste for blood and twisted stories is hereditary. Long Live The New Flesh! Hail to the Young Cronenberg!

In a not so remote future time, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for the Lucas Clinic, a company specializing in inoculating its patients with virus samples taken from the hottest celebrities they adore. This is the ultimate fan experience, to develop and pass through the same illness as their idols.

As security is so strong, the only way to smuggle some of these virus to develop into another sub-products to be sold in the black market, Syd shoots himself with leftovers, in order to sell blood samples.

Things get rough when after visiting the super gorgeous Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) for some samples of an unknown disease she probably caught in China, news announce her sudden death, and he find himself in danger infected by the same disease. March’s body will be pursued as if gold, for many parties will be interested in taking as much advantage as possible from him.

If at this point you don’t think this plot is twisted enough as to be worthy of admiration and recognition as the extension of David Cronenberg’s legacy, now that he’s evolving to more conventional stories, then I’m making you waste your time, because from here you’re only going to read praise to this son’s work.

This is a critic exercise against the fan phenomena happening lately, with the massive media coverage, the narrow line separating fans from stalkers, the pursue of trespassing the intimacy of popular people… women dress like their idols, soccer players are the inspiration for many men, kids named after actors, sportsmen or just yellow press characters… Right now, as in the film, celebrities don’t have to earn it. If they become popular for no reason and people worship them, they go on doing nothing, getting richer and being just famous.

Antiviral goes one step beyond, turning the screw another time: now a guy wants the cold-sore of Hannah Geist, a woman wants to experience the genital herpes of an actress, the man who wants the flu of his idol… and so on. The client pays for suffering, and both the company and the celebrity make profit out of an illness. Could you imagine if that was for real considering what some people are capable of doing for money? Getting rewarded for catching illnesses… it would get out of control, I’m sure.

The film is very aseptic and minimalist, so much it’s disturbing. Blinding white locations are very present, thus any element in contrast, is highlighted. Blood is very intense in the film, for example.

The recruitment of Caleb Landry Jones to play Syd was a great choice, the perfect candidate for that role. His physical features provide the character of more personality. Ginger, freckled, super pale, skinny, and androgynous, with this cold expression as if insensitive… he behaves like a robot, dresses in the same way everyday, sandwich and orange juice are his daily meal, no hobbies, no personal items in his flat but the hidden virus processor, he’s also an aseptic character, only worried for his health as if he was hypochondriac, even though he’s actually monitoring the illnesses he’s submitting to in order to get extra money. The progressive decline, accelerated by this last lethal virus is noticeable: he’s weak, his physical appearance is severely affected, he suffers from paranoia episodes… and cannot get proper help.

Sarah Gadon means perfection in this film. The Cronenbergs’ muse, this time is the celebrity everybody worships. Blonde, perfect, warm and close in the eyes of her fans, adorable… but if you think of it, she’s a rat making money of her illness.

Visually speaking, there are very Cronenberg elements. At some points I thought of Videodrome, eXistenZ and Dead Ringers. Antiviral is suffocating, and those moments when reality conveys with insanity are a clear example.

It has to be hard for Brandon to be constantly related to his father, but the truth is that David Cronenberg is one of the greatest influences in horror sci-fi films, and no matter how hard you try, you’ll always be compared. Beside, Brandon had taken part of the cast of some of his dad’s projects. You’ve learnt from the master in first line, and we the fans love you’ve been so diligent, because the results have been outstanding, surprising everybody with a remarkable debut film. The future of young Cronenberg is promising, and Antiviral has opened the doors to another mad scientist into the business. We only have to wait and see, and hopefully Brandon will be delivering interesting projects which won’t leave us indifferent.

Again, Antiviral is an excellent job, and I just can shout:  LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!

SITGES PT. V: REMAKE TIME! MANIAC, Franck Khalfoun (2012)

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

The main reason why I attended the marathon on Sunday was Maniac. I had to see with my own eyes, swallow and then try to be as objective as possible and deliver a fair verdict.

To be honest when I heard of the project, involving Alexandre Aja and Grégory Lavasseur, my feelings were conflicting. On one hand, as a true fan of William Lustig’s original Maniac with Joe Spinell as Frank Zito, and considering the disappointments I’m experiencing regarding remakes, I thought it was completely unnecessary and risky. On the other hand, knowing that  the two French pals were in charge of the script, although I don’t like much Aja’s last projects behind the cameras, it was something quite attractive, enough as to give it a try. The response to the first screenings was surprisingly positive, with both the critics and the audience agreeing this new Maniac was spectacular.

Frank (Elijah Wood) is an attractive guy in his 30’s who works restoring old mannequins. He’s also a mentally disturbed serial killer moved by his main target: collecting scalps from young beautiful women, to bring out his favorite mannequins into life, personalizing them as his victims, in order to keep them as company.

Despite his detachment from society, mainly due to his obsessions and schizophrenic paranoia episodes in which his dead mother (America Olivo), a vicious and very promiscuous woman, is the main protagonist, he’s still able to become friends with a beautiful French photographer named Anna (Nora Arnazeder), who happened to discover the restored mannequins exposed in his shop window. Her fascination for Frank’s work closely related to her portfolio, will be decisive for the killer having an obsessive crush on her which he’ll be disguising as friendship so he can get close to her. Anna means what the others can’t be, she’s pure, humble, friendly… and is interested in Frank in an innocent and honest way.

It’s inevitable to compare this remake with the original. There are many things in common, but there are enormous changes.

I like the fact that Frank’s surname is not abused of in the whole movie, as a tribute to the great character Lustig created. The serial killers are completely different. Joe Spinell’s Zito was disgusting in his appearance, fat, old, sweaty, very insane and disturbing. Wood’s Frank is a skinny pale guy with intense blue eyes, considered cute and attractive by some women, isolated at the store, restoring the mannequins, yet contacting with society for achieving his purposes.

There are several things related to this Frank I enjoyed lots. On one hand his physical deterioration evolves according to his mental breakage. His hallucinations happen more often and get worse every time, up to unbearable limits. From the very beginning we see he takes medication which seems to work, but as the story goes on, the effect diminishes. Wood is really convincing in his role, very well done.

Anna is the symbol of purity and innocence embodied in a beautiful woman. For the first time, she’s the one who approaches Frank, enthusiastic about his restoration work. The sensibility towards the mannequins, considering them as living creatures, moves the killer. They meet and spend time together, and he stalks her in the distance, not in a hunting mood, but in love.

The executions are rad! The opening scene gave me the goose bumps, super explicit, mean and brutal, perfect to please the splatter lovers. I thought of early Aja’s films, with those brutal murders that affected you right in the belly, if you know what I mean.

The use of the subjective camera technique from Frank’s perspective, and the situations created with mirrors, to see the killer reflected, are fabulous. Classic horror had this idea before of course, you just have to remember little Mike Myers in Halloween, or The Boston Strangler. But the effect achieved here, helps the viewer to be Frank for a while, creating this suffocating and claustrophobic feeling.

The city is not as filthy as Lustig’s, but it recovers the essence of the 80s. Dark and wet streets, those built-to-be-rape-alleys, the scent of danger… it’s fantastic. It’s also remarkable the soundtrack, very 80s too. Both outdoors locations and the soundtrack have lots in common with Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Aesthetics does matter, and  it’s meticulously handled.

It’s compulsory to congratulate the director, Franck Khalfoun, for a great job done, of course, but I have Alexandre Aja and Grégory Lavasseur in my head, as the script writers, and I’m convinced the influence and participation in the project was very prominent, because while watching the film, Aja was present there.

The Maniac experience was quite worthy, and the result was surprisingly positive. This is an example of how a good remake can be decently delivered, without insulting the original one, yet keeping its own identity.

One of the peak moments of the festival definitely.

SITGES PT. IV: CHAINED, Jennifer Lynch (2012)

Posted in Drama, Horror, Serial Murders, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , on October 18, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

After the previous posts talking about films I didn’t feel passionate for, now it’s time to focus on those which fully earned my respect and recognition. Not only mine by the jury at different categories, which make me feel better meaning my taste and judgment is not so crappy as I might have thought.

Chained was one of the main movies I wanted to watch badly for many reasons. On one hand because Jennifer Lynch is David’s daughter, second because I had recently revisited Surveillance, the film which also awarded in Sitges 4 years ago, and I still enjoyed it, and because disturbing Vincent D’Onofrio was the main actor.

In the era of downloadings and streaming, and because Spain is at the back of the queue in screening speaking terms, there were people who had already watched. A wide range of opinions was floating, and I decided not to take them for granted.

Chained was the first movie in Sitges, and was also the first time I attended a screening with the director introducing the film to the audience. Jennifer Lynch explained the film was about how real monsters are made, and finished asking people to medidate on how we raise our kids nowadays, implying the importance of behavior and discipline, and other concepts she left open to our thinking.

On any random Saturday evening, Sarah (Julia Ormond) and his 9 year-old son Tim, take a cab to get back from the mall, after her husband insists them not to take the bus for not being safe. At some point Sarah panics when trying to stop the cab driver, who’s completely diverted from the route and is taking them to a house in the middle of nowhere.

Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) tortures and brutally kills her, and adopts Tim, renamed as Rabbit, as his slave, after apologizing for not being part of the plan. He will have to do the cleaning, serve him the food, update the newspaper clippings album with stuff related to his victims, and many other terrible things. One word, one forbidden action, and he’ll be fucked up. The servant is watched and recorded by hidden cameras so Bob knows what he does all the time. in a moment of desperation, Rabbit tries to get away but his master is waiting for him, and his punishment will mean carrying a long and heavy chain round his ankle for many years.

Rabbit (Eamon Farren) grows up, and Bob, who is keeping his routine of abducting young girls for his feast of sex, torture and murder, starts thinking of the teenager as his successor, and starts educating him and giving him more privileges. Should he follow the steps of his master? Should he rebel against evil? Raised in an environment of horror, murder and insanity, there aren’t many options.

Disturbing, claustrophobic, insane, terrifying… Lynch was right about the making of monsters. A kid raised cleaning blood puddles, burying corpses of the young victims, being conscious of being locked up while his dad is looking for him, and serving the serial killer who killed his mother… He’s to be stigmatized for life, probably developing all kind of mental issues, and the question of following the pattern he’s been witnessing for so long time, well, seems hard to escape from that fate.

Regarding the reflection on how to raise children, you’ll see and understand what she meant. At the end of the day, children are information sponges, and everything they see, especially if impressive, remains in their memories forever.

The basis of Chained is the relationship between the serial killer and the kid. There are brief characters, which end up buried under the house. It’s outstanding the tension between them, the evolution of both characters after so many years, and the final kind of tenderness Bob feels towards Rabbit, thinking of him as part of him.

Vincent D’Onofrio is disturbing. It’s impossible not to remember him as Pvt. Gome Pyle in Full Metal Jacket, the agony of being bullied and fucked up by his instructor till he blows his head. I can’t forget his face. This time he’s this cab driver, who abducts girls, tortures them and finally kills them. Why? As usual it has to be with childhood trauma. Growing in certain conditions can be mind overwhelming and he just became a serial killer, with the perfect system, starting with his job and the car, to fulfill his needs with total impunity. Bob’s personality and life is absolutely plain except for his secret. Doesn’t talk to much, doesn’t have vices, it’s a very square and monotonous, and hasn’t any passions or hobbies. He’s a grey guy.

What about Rabbit? He’s deprived of any self-thinking, he’s locked down and chained, he cannot talk unless asked, he cannot eat until Bob has finished his meal, and once he’s done he will have the leftovers…when his Master gives him anatomy books to study, he just devours them. He doesn’t want to end as his “stepfather”, but it’s difficult to rebel against the one who’s got the power. How long will he manage to stand firm?

I’m sure Chained is the kind of film which will not leave you indifferent, it’s impossible. It reflects this type of horror which could be real, or at least its origin is too common nowadays. The conclusion of the film left me speechless too. I was in shock.

If you watch it, be in the mood for feeling uneasy, because you will for sure. Still, Chained is a good film supported with great performances and the suffocating atmosphere created. Jennifer Lynch, well done!

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