undefinable

Slučajna Raskoš Prozirnog Vodenog Rebusa – Dalibor Barić (2020)

The international title is already weird, but in Croatian it sounds even stranger. I saw “Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus” though the streaming service of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. It is an extremely experimental Croatian film.

Throwing in many different techniques, Barić created a kaleidoscopic film with low contrast, bright colours and a if there was a storyline, it eluded me. You get different types of animation, but also ‘normal film’, but with so man filters that it still looks like animation. Picture in picture, pictures in picture, perhaps the result reminds a bit of the cut-up style that William Burroughs came up with. What also reminds a bit of Burroughs are the lengthy surrealistic, intellectualistic monologues that can be found in many parts of the film. Other elements remind me a bit of Jodorowski. Unfortunately the subtitles were sometimes hard to read, so I missed quite a lot of these monologues.

The film has “noir” elements in the sense of a (or an apparent) murder investigation and the way certain scenes were shot. Like I said, everything is so much cut-up, that it did not really come across to me a a story (or stories).

Filmographically there are several amazing elements. The way the director lets one element go over in another amazed me on several occasions. The film is mostly interesting for reasons of visuals and montage. It is surprising, confusing and fascinating. I hope I can watch it again some time to see if I can make more of it.

When you are up for something really really weird you wil have to find another way than the IFFR as the screenings have stopped by the time I write this.

Fat Chance – Stephen Broomer (2021)

I saw “Fat Chance” through the streaming service of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. I have no idea if before Covid-19 IFFR also had online screenings, but if not, at least this positive thing came from the pandemic.

“Fat Chance” is a very difficult film. Is it actually a film?

Laird Cregar (1914–1944) was a filmstar in his days, but being of giant size and homosxual, things were not always too easy for him. Broomer took it upon himself to compile clippings from films that featured Cregar. When all that had been montaged, Broomer threw the reel into an acid bath. The result is an extremely vague, very high contrast, flickering, silent film with cracking classical music for score.

“Fat Chance” is a tough watch. There is not a story. Sometimes the images are hardly recognisable. It is epileptic attack inducing and that for a little over an hour.

If you feel like watching something experimental, maybe this (and as I understand also other) Broomer film could be an option. The question is, where to see it though, as the IFFR only screened it for a few days. Until 7 June that is!

L’Étrange Couleur Des Larmes De Ton Corps * Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani (2013)

I thought it was about time for a strange film. Well, this is a strange film, even more so than I expected.

“The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears” is an extremely experimental film with caleidoscopic scenes, picture-in-picture montage, weird scenes, not much of a story, S&M, … Actually, it reminds of the previous full-length of Cattet/Forzani Amer!

A man comes home to find out that is wife is lost. He starts to wander through his appartment building looking for his life. He meets strange neighbours in his hallucinating journey, hearing their dark stories and the disturbing past of the builing.

This film sure is not an easy watch. It is a film to watch when you are in the mood for something completely different. I have better memories about Amer though.

Bad Boy Bubby * Rolf de Heer (1993)

A Dutch director made an Australian film. It was not easy to see “Bad Boy Bubby”, I guess it is not a very famous film. It is not a very easy film either. It starts with Bubby living in some cellar under a factory with his mother. It looks like Bubby has not been out of this cellar since he was born, while he has reached the age of 35. This first part is a bit of a mix between Scandinavian absurdity and an “Eraserhead” bleak atmosphere (but not that industrial). When Bubby gets out of the cellar, he sets out to discover the world. As strange as Bubby is, as strange the world is to him. Still he mostly runs into people who are friendly to him, but not always.
“Bad Boy Bubby” is slow, minimalistic and weird and may therefor not be for everybody. If you like this type of film and you have not yet seen it, “Bad Boy Bubby” maybe an oldie to look out for.

Un Lac * Philippe Grandrieux (2008)

At the DVD rental my eye fell on another Grandrieux. Strange that they do not have “La Vie Nouvelle“, the (I think) better (known) film of Grandrieux. “Un Lac” is by far no “La Vie Nouvelle” or “Sombre“. It is a very minimalistic and slow film, but not dark or disturbing. “Un Lac” reminds more of “Winterstilte” or perhaps of some scenes of “Calvaire“.
A family lives in a remote house in a wintery mountain landscape, near a lake and a forest. The only occupation of Alexi (the ‘main character’) seems to be cutting trees. Alexi suffers a rising number of epileptic seizures. Slowly we get to know other family members. There are hardly any conversations, the filming is of the shaky handheld kind, nothing much happens and Grandrieux uses very long shots. When a stranger arrives, something of a story unfolds.
Yep, this is one of those films only for people who enjoy slow, experimental dramas without much of a story. The atmosphere is alright, but I personally prefer Grandrieux’ darker films.

Sombre * Philippe Grandrieux (1998)

This film has been on my wishlist for a while, but I did not know (or realise) that it is of the same director as “La Vie Nouvelle”. Knowing that, I can say that the films are quite similar. Dark, shaky handheld filming, underlighted and out-of-focus images, sex and violence. Yep, also “Sombre” is a dark, filmographic experience, my kind of film. It might not be brilliant, but there are not a whole lot of such films available (perhaps for the better too), so it is alway nice to run into one. We follow Jean, a puppeteer (the film opens with an extremely dark Lynchian scene with children watching his show) who follows the route of the Tour de France during which he picks up hitchhikers, but more often prostitutes, to live out his weird sexual preferences. The women usually end up dead. Then Jean meets the sisters Claire (an introvert virgin) and Christine (quite the opposite) and for a while Jean’s good side seems to take over. A roadtrip starts that can only end in one way, or not?

The Holy Mountain * Alejandro Jodorowsky (1973)

Another very strange, Jodorowsky film in which he again seems to do his utmost to shock/provoke. The film is presented as a spiritual journey with a mishmash of alchemical, Kabbalistic, Eastern (Tantric?) and astrological symbolism, sexuality and taboos and with a relatively large role for Gurdjieff’s enneagram (the film appears to be based on a book of a student of Gurdjieff). Jodorowsky created some elaborate stages with rotating rooms with surrealistic, spiritual imaginary. The constant referral to yet another spiritual system tends to become weary after a while, but especially the Kabbalah part looks nice. In the beginning of the film, we are presented with Christ-like figure. Later he appears to be one of nine persons (the others are introduced in a shorter way) who are recruited by “the alchemist” (played by Jodorowsky himself) for a journey to the holy mountain where the nine immortals live. Again there is a massive amount of scenes that do or do not seem to have much to do with eachother and one scene is even weirder than the next. “The Holy Mountain” is another weird trip, interesting, especially for its time, and more enjoyable than “Sante Sangre” in my opinion.

Amer * Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani (2009)

I have been looking for a film like this and now I run into one accidentally. The box made it appear as if “Amer” is some kind of psychological thriller, which would have been enough for a quick-choice. On the contrary, “Amer” is a very strange, experimental and dark film. It brings memories of ‘that other weird French film’ “La Vie Nouvelle“. “Amer” does not seem to have much of a story. We see Ana in three phases in her life; as a child, as an adolescent and as an adult. The the first third Ana lives with her parents in a gigantic house and she is haunted by her dead (?) grandparents, or is Ana the ‘haunter’? This part is very dark and the directors use unconventional camera work, cut-up images, out-of-focus images, colour filters and a minimalistic, threating soundtrack. It does not get really clear what is going on exactly and the viewer is kept pretty much in the dark. Suddenly the tone seems to lighten up and we see Ana in a light summer dress walking near the coast with her mother. Mother has her hair done and Ana wanders off in the tiny village. Inspite of the bright sunlight and Ana’s summer-look, the directors managed to give this part a dark undertone that suddenly ends. The last part Ana has grown up and she returns to the house of her childhood. The house is in an advanced state of decay and as soon as she walk in, Ana feels a presence. This last part gets more of a thriller twist with Saw-like elements.
The directors casted some beautiful actresses for Ana and her mother. They use a lot of extreme close ups; many of eyes, but also of different body parts; a part of an arm or a leg, an ear, the pubic area that is exposed when the skirt is lifted by the wind, a breast, etc. The slow and minimalistic filming with these close-ups give “Amer” a sensual atmosphere. Indeed, “Amer” definately is an interesting watch. When you like “La Vie Nouvelle” you will here find something of about the same breed. If you like David Lynch’s darker films, you want to watch both these French films too. Like I wrote in my review of “La Vie Nouvelle”: “not as good as Lynch, but a nice film to search for of you like this style.” I find “Amer” better than “La Vie Nouvelle” though.

The Limits Of Control * Jim Jarmusch (2009)

The new Jarmusch is a very slow, minimalistic film in which we follow a pokerface “lone man” who is sent back and forth through Spain receiving all kinds of instructions, the purpose of which eludes the viewer. The “lone man” meets a range of strange people starting (semi-)intellectual monologues about a variety of subjects. These short talks are about the only talking you will hear in this film. The “lone man” seems to have his way to work out the clues he gets, but also here the viewer remains in the dark. You get it, “The Limits Of Control” is not your average film. Much in it does not seem to make any sense and until the end it is completely unclear what the goal of it all is. Jarmusch uses some quite obvious symbolism to give more (non-)clues, perhaps only to further confuse you. All in all an interesting film, with a typical ‘guitarscapes’ soundtrack, but not really a great one.

Valhalla Rising * Nicolas Winding Refn (2009)

The first time I heard of this film I asumed that it would be yet another Viking spectacle with a thin story making a bad history lesson. Later I heard that this is not the case. Indeed, “Valhalla Rising” is far from being a Viking epic, in fact, I wonder why this film is so well-known. Is it because the director (Nicholas “Bronson” Refn) or did the director manage to get a big promotion budget or a large distributor? In any case, “Valhalla Rising” is an extremely slow, very minimalistic and a pretty dark film. There are almost no conversations, nothing much really happens, but when something does happen, Refn created pretty damn violent (but not very explicit) scenes. Especially the first chapter may cause some people to refrain from continue to watch. We follow a one-eyed traveller (a reference to Odin?) who eventually sets out with a group of Christian converts to find the Holy Land. Some overly popular ideas about Vikings (actually the people concerned seem to have been Saxons, or at least, inhabitents of the British isle) and whatever there is of a story is not too strong, but the film has a nice, dark atmosphere. Unfortunately also in that perspective it is not entirely convincing which overall makes the film just nice. Something different for sure, especially when you (also) expect a Viking spectacle.