Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Jason goes to Holehead--day 5

Just one feature with one short last night, but the best truly creepy/scary night so far. Don't get me wrong, I love horror-comedy (last chance for "Blood Car" is tomorrow night, June 7 at 9:30 pm), but I've been waiting for one to not just yell "boo! Ha ha!", but to really get under my skin. This was it, so here we go:

First the short, "In the Wall", a creepy, bloody, and funny tale of a pregnant woman, her abusive asshole husband, and the hottest New Year's Eve on record. Excellent.

And then there was the feature, a brilliant movie of sickness (both mental and physical) and British manners, "The Living and the Dead". British aristocrat Donald Brocklebank (Roger Lloyd-Pack) lives with his very ill wife Nancy (Kate Fahy) and his retarded adult son James (Leo Bill, in a brilliant creepy yet sympathetic role). In order to pay for his wife's badly needed operation, he must go to London to raise money--despite the fact that he promised James he wouldn't leave. But when he leaves, James gets the idea that he can prove to his father that he's responsible and can take care of mum himself. So he locks them in, keeps out Nurse Mary (Sarah Ball) and takes care of mum. Problem is, her condition deteriorates, and when James gets the idea of tripling her medication, that just makes it worse. Soon everything deteriorates into madness (and a brilliant dream/hallucination sequence).

As well as a gripping, affecting story, the storytelling techniques themselves are astounding. Nearly all the scenes (especially with sick Nancy) are very static, very formally framed, reflecting aristocratic British reserve. Which makes the frantically active scenes of James alone all the more striking. In fact, the visual language of this movie is very much the language of opposites. Obviously the title sets up the opposite of living vs. dead. I also counted static vs. moving, light vs. dark, night vs. day, sane vs. insane (in a brilliant move, James is perfectly sane in his hallucination/dream state), sick vs. well, past vs. future...and there's probably more. This definitely feels like a movie that greatly rewards multiple viewings. And as luck would have it, it plays again Friday night, June 8 at 9:30.

Seriously, "The Living and the Dead" is the first movie this year (not just in this festival) that totally dropped my jaw to the floor. It's not always pleasant to watch, and some of it is downright nasty, but it's all brilliant.

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