Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jason goes to Holehead--opening night

Once more (for the 6th time), SF Indiefest's Another Hole in the Head festival kicks off. Two weeks of horror, fantasy, and sci-fi flicks. This year, they've made it trivial to see everything, as everything plays at least twice and most play 3 times. I can see everything without having to escape from work early or even having long marathon days (e.g., today is Saturday and the first show I'm seeing today will be at 7:15 pm). With that said, my strategy is to see as much as I can early in the festival, so I can let you know what to see and what to skip (and so I can see the best movies twice).

So, the festival kicked off (for me at least, since I didn't catch the 5:00 show) with Takashi Miike's CROWS ZERO. I think Miike is slowing down. He made this in 2007 and he only has 5 credits on IMDb since then (including a sequel CROWS ZERO II). He's also back in familiar territory (Yakuza, school violence, loyalty and betrayal, slapstick weirdness etc), and he's telling a more straight-forward story than I've seen from him in a while. It's set in the ultra-violent boys school Suzuran--nominally a high school, but essentially a training ground for future Yakuza. All the young toughs want to conquer Suzuran, something that's easier said than done. Third year Tamao Serizawa is close. But first year Genji Takaya has his eyes on the prize, too, and he's pretty tough. He's also the son of a local Yakuza boss. Genji meets and befriends an older gangster, the "Invincible" Ken, who's really more of a loser with delusions of grandeur. More importantly, he sees Genji as a way to vicariously live out his old dream of conquering Suzuran, and mentors him. There's a lot about alliance building, and quite a bit of Miike-style slaptstick violence (the bowling scene cracked me up), and there's a lot to say about friendship, loyalty, and betrayal (both in building alliances in school and the friendship of Ken and Genji). And an climactic battle that's set against a mutual friend's surgery and a musical performance by the love interest. Pretty weird. And it's a long movie, too, at least by film festival standards. It's 2+ hours, but I never felt the story was dragging along. I was in fact a bit surprised when it ended and we only had 5 minutes to turn the theater around for the next show.

CROWS ZERO plays again Tuesday, June 9 at 7:15 pm and Thursday, June 11 at 9:30 pm.

The next show started with a short, MACHINE GIRL LITE. Last year at Holehead, they played a movie called MACHINE GIRL, about which I wrote:
And then I saw the early winner of the festival so far, and an excellently twisted Japanese splatstick comedy flick, MACHINE GIRL. Ami is a peaceful but athletic girl. Her parents are dead (suicide after being accused of murder) and all she has is her little brother Yu. He's picked on by bullies, led by the son of the local ninja Yakuza gang. They kill him, she gets revenge they get revenge back, she gets more revenge. A good time is had by all. That good time involves tons of blood, ninjas, severed digits, limbs, heads. A machine gun arm, a chainsaw leg, flying guillotine, and tempura. That's just to name a few of the delights. A crowded theater was whooping it up all through the chaos. I think we have a new certified cult classic.
Well, apparently at the same time they shot MACHINE GIRL, they also made this short. (Almost) everyone who dies in the first, is back alive. Ami's best friend becomes the new machine girl, with her powers triggered by her bashfulness. So when the (apparently not quite dead) gangsters attack her, she flashes her undies and the embarrassment causes a machine gun to sprout out her ass, and she uses that to kill them again. Kind of. Actually, it's even stranger than that.

So that short led into a really cool Thai film (and one actually shown on 35 mm film, not video. For you patrons of the Roxie, that means that red dot/dead pixel in the lower right of the screen was not there!), COMING SOON. It's a cool little mindbender about a scary-as-hell (and allegedly based on a true story-within-a-story) ghost movie. It (the movie within the movie) is a story of an old woman/witch who kidnapped children and cut out their eyes so they wouldn't be afraid of her hideous form. And it's sure to be the next big hit when it's released in a couple of weeks. So the projectionist (who's in a bit of financial/drug/girlfriend) trouble decides to make a pirated copy and sell it to a black market distributor to raise a little cash. And then things get weird. The small group of theater workers who've pre-screened the film start seeing the woman/witch/ghost in real life. And some are sucked into the movie (imagine a reverse PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO with eye-gougings. Go ahead, put that on the poster). There are some good attempts at scares, but since the fact that it's a movie is so integral to the plot, it's hard to ever forget that. So they come of as comical and clever cinema, but never real. Which is fine, it is just a movie, and in many ways it's a movie about the act of watching movies. I can say as someone who likes to sit in the front row and be as close to stepping into the movie as possible, it totally tickled my fancy.

That was the US (and anywhere-outside-of-Thailand) premier of COMING SOON, and it plays again Saturday, June 6 (today) at 5 pm, Friday June 12 at 5 pm, and Thursday June 18 at 7:15 pm.

And finally, the midnight show. Back at Indiefest last February, they started playing Pink Eiga (Japanese soft-core smut flicks) at the late night shows. It's a major part of independent Japanese cinema, since as long as you throw a sex scene in every 10 minutes or so, you can make whatever movie you want. Yôjirô Takita, who recently won the Best Foreign Picture Oscar, started in Pinku films (checking IMDb shows, among others, a whole series of MOLESTER TRAIN movies). So that's how a lot of great Japanese directors get their starts.

So to fill out the program (since the Pinku films are about 1 hour), Holehead turned to their SF neighbors, Kink.com, who provided the short THE FUTURE OF FUCKING (from fuckingmachines.com). Apparently the future of fucking involves elaborate masturbation with machines, while lying on a very uncomfortable looking bed (just a metal cot frame with a minimum of mattresses). And I'll never be able to watch SHORT CIRCUIT the same way again.

And then the Pinku film, SILENCE OF THE SUSHI ROLLS (a.k.a SEXY SWAT TEAM 2), a marginal parody of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Claire is a sex crimes investigator who was molested on a train by a man who put a strange paralyzing device on her vagina. Some time later, and unable to feel anything "down there" she's back on the force and assigned a case to investigate a stalker who has been following a prominent politician's girlfriend (for no reason in particular, the politician is named "Sean W. Bush"). Turns out the stalker is connected to the molester back on the train, and connected to the history of scandal surrounding Sean W. Bush. Oh, and Claire gets help from mad (rainbow wigged) scientist Honeybar Nektar, in one of the few references this "parody" makes to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (c'mon, you could've done so much with that famous slurping sound alone). Anyway, it made me laugh more than a few times, although it doesn't really work as a SILENCE OF THE LAMBS parody. But it works by it own weird rules as a bizarre, silly, no-budget comedy with boobies.

Check out more Pinku films at pinkeiga.com, and SILENCE OF THE SUSHI ROLLS (with THE FUTURE OF FUCKING) plays again Wednesday June 10 at 9:30 pm. And check out the other Pinku film in the festival, NINJA PUSSY CAT next Friday, June 12 at 11:45 pm.
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