Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jason goes to Indiefest--Day 3

Only three movies last Saturday. Which is low for me at a film festival, but I had a wedding to attend (Congratulations Chris and Vanessa, you crazy kids have a wonderful journey in front of you!)

Now for a horrible journey (but a great movie) - LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY'S ISLAND OF DR MOREAU. I've never actually seen the critically reviled and mocked Marlon Brando/Val Kilmer version of THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU. Having seen this documentary, I kinda want to see the movie now...in the same way that I'd kinda like to see a train wreck (for any authorities reading this, I don't.) Richard Stanley was a highly regarded up-and-coming indie genre director, with two hits under his belt with HARDWARE and DUST DEVIL (which I actually do want to see now.) THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU was to be his welcome into Hollywood and really launch his career. And for a while things seem to be going fine. The studio is throwing money into it. Stan Winston studios was making some wonderfully bizarre and grotesque prosthetics. And best of all, he took a meeting with Brando and Brando insisted he would do this only if Stanley was involved. Then...things go off the rails. Some of it is tragic bad luck (Brando's daughter committed suicide) some a combination of bad planning and luck (the sets are washed out in a flood...but they did choose the rainiest part of Australia--Cairns--to shoot in.) And some of it seems to be the pains of a young filmmaker who had never dealt with anything that big. And some of it is that Val Kilmer is just a colossal prick. Seriously, for all the talk about how difficult Brando was, this movie makes him seem playful while Kilmer is a straight-up junior high bully. Anyway, the upshot is that Stanley gets fired and then things get crazy. Fairuza Balk gets into her car and tells the driver to take her to Sydney (she does not know the geography of Australia.) They can't cast different actors as the creatures because all the prosthetics were made based on their life casts. So the cast hotel becomes a drug-fueled party as they're all paid to wait for the studio to bring in a new director. Brando finally shows up and goes typically Brando-batshit on them. Eventually Stanley is found living in the jungle nearby and sneaks onto set as an extra in a dog-man costume. It's weird, very weird. And my favorite part is how everybody seems to have a different memory of how weird it was and whose fault it is. And that continued into the Q&A, where Stanley was there to defend himself. Which was even more interesting. Details like how he didn't show up to meetings because he didn't know how to drive a car (didn't need to living in London) and they wouldn't either meet at his hotel or send a driver. Or how he wasn't actually living in the jungle, he had flown to Sydney, contacted a lawyer, and was returning to spy out what was happening with the people he cared about who he left behind there. And so as much as I loved the documentary, and as much as I know this could have gone on forever with different stories, I kind of wanted to see more of Stanley's defense of himself in there, if for no other reason than to offer more conflicting stories.

So...I've identified a theme early in the festival. Developmentally disabled (or differently-abled) people (and yes, when I've had a beer or two in me, I start joking about it being tard-fest.) THE ISLAND OF DR MOREAU featured Nelson De La Rosa, the smallest man in the world (there's more in that vein the next day with a Weng Weng double bill.) Now CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA features at least a mildly challenged ice cream vendor as the lead (and he definitely has a developmentally disabled best friend.) It's a slow burn film, as he obsesses over his favorite soap opera star, and tries to avoid conflict with a drug dealer selling right across the street from him. Heavy in voice-over, in one early scene he describes how he snapped and savagely beat a kid in school as revenge against all his bullies. So that just hangs over the film and gives it somehow more tension while tipping exactly how it will end. And that ending...brilliant. It's also broken up with fantasy scenes of himself as the hero of either the TV show starring his favorite actress, or other heroic roles (the western showdown is pretty great.) A clever, well acted, ingenious film.

And then I ended the night with a short and a feature about the internal lives of young women. In INSIDE VOICES two best friends have a sleepover while one's uncle is out of town. They drink, they sing, they talk about sex, there's a bit of a lesbian vibe to it all...and that's it. Oh, one cuts her foot on broken glass. It was mercifully short.

The same cannot be said of NO LAND WITHOUT EVIL, the first feature from Argentinian director Belen Bianco. And she made the journey all the way here for the first screening of her film outside of Argentina. I wish I liked it more, because she seems like a very nice person. And I can't say it was bad, I can only say that I was bored. I can tell there's an internal emotional journey going on in the young heroine on the cusp of womanhood, and the next-to-last scene where several of them finally openly talk about their opinions about sex, it gets interesting. It's just...I don't know. A long day, late at night, I'd been drinking...it was hard for me to focus on the rest of it.

Total Running Time: 255 minutes
My Total Minutes: 381,980

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