Becks Incredible Film Fest 2002 – My Reviews

Akira
This was the 2001 rerelease with a new English soundtrack. I saw it the afternoon following the Armageddon nerdfest and the Civic was just swarming with chubby guys with long hair and glasses. I was expected greatness but I was a little let down, maybe just because I’m not a huge anime fan. However, sometimes I forgot I was watching an animation, so that’s got to be a good thing.

Asoka
Love really is a battlefield in this epic Bollywood tale. Strict Indian censorship rules prohibit kissing on the mouth, so the main characters got to fall in love and marry with just a lot of meaningful stares. But these restrictions just make the filmmakers get more creative. Asoka might not be very sexual, but it is sexy. It’s also quite unusual to see a film about a mighty warrior pause every now and then to have a musical number, but that’s another joy of Bollywood.

Barking Dogs Never Bite (Flandersui gae)
I really enjoyed this wonderful comedy from Korea. The action takes place around a suburban apartment block and a man who lives there and a woman who works there. He wants to be made a professor and she wants to do something better with her life. As well as plenty o’ laughs, there’s also lots of meaning too. Some audience members freaked out at the fate of some of the canine cast members, but the ending has enough uplifting charm to make up for any nastiness to dogs.

Blowup
I really like “Blowup”, probably because it’s quite arty and I have a thing for arty films. Basically a fashion photographer thinks he may have witnessed a murder – or has he? The best bit is the montage scene where he keeps blowing up photos he’s taken, trying to look for clues. I love the relaxed pace of the film, the long, almost silent scenes. It’s quite a different film from the ones of today. There’s no pop music to underscore the action, it just unfolds at a really natural pace. Sublime!

Bully
This was one of my favourites. Based on a true story about a bunch of Florida teens who kill a guy whom they reckon is a bully. They’re dumb, naive, just like real teenagers often are. There’s lots of nudity, but it’s set in a hot location, so that’s explainable. The one thing that’s not is how sometimes the camera goes into pervy guy mode, lingering on girls’ crotches, almost like a parody of typical “male gaze” camera work. There’s also excellent use of music. On the way to the murder there’s a Cypress Hill song laying on their car radio. They comment on the band, but no one listens to the lyrics: “when the shit goes down, you’d better be ready”.

Dark Side of the Rainbow
“Dark Side of the Rainbow” is “The Wizard of Oz” with Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album played as the soundtrack, revealing a whole lot of eerie coincidences as parts of the film and album mysteriously match up. My favourite occurrence is when Dorothy emerges from her house into Munchkin land, the film bursts into colour and the ch-ching of “Money” starts. The best stuff seems to occur at the beginning of the film. Near the end it gets a little boring as the synchronicities grow thin. It’s probably the kind of movie best experienced stoned.

The Experiment (Das Experiment)
The experiment in questions takes place in mock prison in a German University. A bunch of volunteers are designated as either prisoners or guards. Power corrupts and the guards soon end up dishing out more punishment and discipline than they should. The film’s set-up is based on a real experiment at Stanford University in the 1970, but setting it in Germany, in the shadow of its Nazi history, gives it an extra level of menace. The first 90 minutes of the film was really good, but the film makers took the easy route by ending it with a bloody chase.

The Fuccon Family
The Fuccons were an unexpected delight. Shown before “Akira” and “The Happiness of the Katakuris”, these shorts showed the adventures of an American family who’ve recently moved to Japan. The family, played by mannequins, discuss such things as going to the amusement park. Young master Fuccon catches on fire. Mr and Mrs Fuccon laugh and laugh and laugh.

Gonin
I saw “Gonin” twice, because the first time I was really tired, forgot to read the subtitles and subsequently lost all track of the plot. The second time I was more alert, read all the subtitles but still pieces of plot eluded me. In the end I just decided to stop thinking about it and just sat back and watched the film. Surprisingly enough it started to make sense.

Happiness of the Katakuris (Katakuri-ke no kôfuku)
The Katakuris run a guesthouse. They finally start getting guests, but the guests start dying, so the family bury the bodies to avoid negative publicity. There’s also musical numbers a-plenty. Directed by Takashi Miike, the man behind last year’s “Audition”, the light-hearted “Katakuris” might not seem like it has much in common with the gruesome torture scenes of “Audition,” but I reckon both films have an underlying message that even though bad stuff happens, life is really pretty wonderful.

In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no corrida)
This 1976 Japanese erotic classic was the replacement for the banned “Baise Moi”. I saw it twice, the first time at the Civic, where the audience was in full-on “so bad it’s good” mode. Led by one fellow who laughed at everything and made funny comments, the audience soon giggled at almost everything on screen. The second time I saw it at Chinatown with a well-behaved audience. It was then that I realised just what a beautiful tale of obsessive love it was. There were funny moments (the egg laying, the old man doing the bird dance), but there was also plenty of really beautiful and sometimes sad scenes.

The Isle (Seom)
This was my favourite film in the festival. Both arty and violent, it’s about love and about pain – two bloody fishhooks placed together, making a heart shape. A woman runs a place where men can come and stay on a small hut floating on a lake and fish. She sleeps with them for cash, puts up with their bullshit until one guy comes along whom she takes a liking to. But he’s got about as many troubles as she has. Violent self-mutilation so convincing that it almost made me gag contrasted with the peaceful, misty lake setting makes for a unique cinematic experience.

Joint Security Area (Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA)
It’s not unlike the standard Hollywood military investigation movie, the difference being that it’s set on the border of North and South Korea. An incident has occurred involving men on both sides and the neutral Swiss are investigating. It took a while for me to get into the story, but soon enough I was caught up in the tale of people who are Korean first, Northern or Southern second. (I think it should be noted that this film features a Korean Mexican-standoff – not unlike the Korean Mexican cafe in Hamilton).

Mau Mau Sex Sex
This documentary profiles Dan Sonney and David Friedman, exploitation film pioneers. Discovering early that more people will see a film if it’s retitled from “Maniac” to “Sex Maniac”, these two fellows made a career out of films showing naked ladies doing all sorts of things (for educational purposes, of course). While both the fellows and their films are really entertaining, the documentary seems a little unfocused, like it can’t figure out if it’s a biography of Dan and David, or a history of the films they made.

V Movie Marathon
I was going to do it again. Really, I was. But I had to wuss out and go home after the first film. See, “Blowup” was screening the following afternoon, so I wanted to be awake and alert for that. Fortunately the first film filled me with such happiness that I was ok with missing the rest. For that film was:

Revenge of the Cheerleaders
The slutty, bad-girl cheerleaders are hanging out in the school bathroom. One of them disappears into a stall and is obviously having sex. She emerges a bit later with a shy smile on her face. Then out comes her boyfriend, Boner. Why is this significant? Because Boner is played by David Hasselhoff. Yes! This was his first film role. He dances several times, pulling a magnificent kum fac’e. This film provided endless delights for the V’d-up audience. The best/worst scene is when the cheerleaders spike the cafeteria food. While the school is engaged in a psychedelic food fight, the girls visit their boyfriends in the showers. Things get foamy, but not before a brief glimpse of Hasspenis is revealed.

Musa
I saw this on the smaller screen at Chinatown, but it would have been much better on the giant Civic screen. It’s a big movie and it needs room to move. Somehow it didn’t engage me as much as I would have liked. There were lots of battles scenes but they didn’t have stylised fighting, instead quite raw and rough action. I think I’m going to blame my ambivalence towards this film on just not being a huge fan of war films in general.

Rural Americana
Two documentaries – one short, one longer – about two peculiarities of rural America.

The Dancing Outlaw
Jesco or Jesse or, er, Elvis is this crazy tap dancin’ fellow who aspires to be a star. He’s got a fat, big-haired wife, a young-looking mother and plenty of wild tales to tell. The documentary mostly sits back and lets Jesco take over with his own wild style. Sometimes it’s a little meandering, but there’s more than enough humour and personality to make up for it.

Okie Noodling
Noodling is the time-honoured tradition of catching catfish using ones arm as bait. These catfish are big enough that a human arm can fit inside their mouths. At the beginning of the documentary, noodling, and the men who do it, seems pretty crazy. But as the film takes a closer look, noodling ends up just seeming like any other recreational activity – there are fathers passing it down to their sons, friends going out and doing it on the weekends.

Peter Jackson’s Filler
The much-anticipated opening night entertainment extravaganza, lovingly made by the film fest team. A cross between Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and the hype surrounding “Lord of the Rings”, it all came together like a mutant love child of a teen romance gone horribly wrong. Things got even better when the action moved from on-screen (the twinkling onion ring) to live in the theatre and a bunch of zombies came on stage to kick out the jams.

Plaster Caster
Cynthia Plaster Caster is so choice. I really hope I’m as cool as she is when I’m in my 50s. Since she was 19 she’s been making plaster moulds of rock stars penises. This documentary follows her as she prepares for her first exhibit. Along the way she makes a couple of plaster casts, including one of Danny Doll Rod (possibly her boyfriend, or at least lover at the time) that she casts in the same hotel room that she did Jimi Hendrix in back in the ’60s. It’s a little bit sexy, but also pretty funny.

Possible Worlds
I was a little bit confused at the beginning of this film, but that was due to me not paying attention and missing some information about one of the characters. The rest of the film, with potential parallel universes, brains in jars, a mysterious woman, and a couple of cops investigating a murder, all fell into place by the time the final twist was revealed. Deep, and very meaningful.

Rated X: A Journey Through Porn
Like most porn-themed documentaries, this one had a predominantly male audience. I’m not sure why, because this doco about the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley was both funny and sad, and really well made. People at all sorts of places in the porno industry were observed. The director, Dag Yngvesson, was even asked to help film a low budget porno. It was the little things that stood out, like the woman porn director who said she liked for there to be some sort of emotional connection between the couples in her films.

Seance (Korei)
This film was very scary. I got so scared at one point that I had to close my eyes. I regressed into total girly wuss mode. A kidnapped girl escapes and ends up in the home of a psychic and her husband. The woman decides to delay returning the girl and to give the police “clues” in order to boost her profile as a psychic. Then things go horribly wrong. Deep, menacing bass tones create a feeling of heavy doom. One of the scariest films I’ve seen in a long time.

Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation
Apparently the internet is sucking up all the new animators who’d previously show their stuff with Spike and Mike. There was plenty of entertaining stuff but the one that blew me away was the Betty Boop “Snow White” cartoon from 1933. Betty Boop ends up in an icy underworld where a kind of ghost (the voice of Cab Calloway) sings “St James Infirmary”. I was sitting there, watching, just amazed at what a brilliant cartoon it was.

The Story of Ricky (Riki-Oh)
Brought in as a replacement for the other banned film, “Visitor Q”. I really enjoyed “Ricky”. It was full of cheesy, over-the-top violence. How is it possible to not enjoy a film where one character disembowels himself and strangles his foe with this intestines? Or the corrupt assistant prison warden who keep mints in his false eye? Complete with subtitles that had been translated a bit too literally, and a couple of audience walk-outs, “Ricky” was good, trash fun.

Tex Avery Returns!
The first cartoon that played had no sound until about halfway through, but it audience was laughing along at the merry antics, anyway. One of my favourite cartoons in this selection started with a cutesy squirrel that was taken behind a tree and beaten up because, let’s face it, we didn’t come here for no happy bon bon forest animal adventures. I like how parents take their kids along to this.

Bride of That’s Exploitation!
The premise is simple: hey baby, come over and I’ll show you my trailer collection. This year’s selection had a few technical problems, but there was plenty to entertain. My favourites were “The Jesus Trip” (a beautiful nun runs away with some bikers), “Redneck County” (a black pop singer becomes stranded in a racist town), and the trailer to “Southern Comfort” which played backwards and earned a small applause.

Vampire Hunter D
The title character in this animated feature is a tall, dark gentleman. He is the kind of character that teen Goths aspire to be like. But like the teen goth who curses the embarrassing fast food uniform he has to wear on weekends, D has an embarrassing smart-arse talking hand (“What’s the sound of one hand yapping?”). It’s a very stylish film with a satisfying ending that’s kind of reminiscent of how “Rocky Horror” ends.

Wendigo
This was supposed to be scary, but it wasn’t. An annoying man and woman and their son are planning on spending a weekend in a small town. Before they even get there they’ve had a run-in with some gun-totin’ locals. The boy gets a figurine of a wendigo – a native American mythological creature – and when things start to go wrong (and of course things are going to go wrong), is the wendigo going to make its presence known? It wasn’t scary, but it did have a really bleak feeling to it, contrasting nicely between the wild outdoors and the safety of indoors.

Coming Soon:
Baise Moi
Sex With Strangers
Visitor Q

“Baise Moi” and “Visitor Q” have been temporarily banned, pending some hot court action. I was looking forward to “Baise Moi”, mainly because I dig French movies (silly reason, yeah), and I was really looking forward to “Visitor Q” because I dig Takashi Miike’s films. “Sex With Strangers” is the Wellington replacement for “Visitor Q”. Being the obsessive movie-lovin’ completionist I am, I’m going to have to see it. That might mean driving down to Wellington (choice!), but rumour has it that it may get an Auckland screening later.

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