Pegged by some as "Misery meets Pretty in Pink," Sean Byrne’s instant horror mini-classic is by turns poignant, funny, grotesque, alarming, and finally very, very satisfying. It's sure to be a hit again in the San Francisco International Film Festival's Late Show section. Between festival travels, Byrne was back home in Melbourne when he answered my email queries. Read more »
SFIFF Though there were far starrier, more expensive films debuting in the Midnight Madness section of last year's Toronto Film Festival, the category's prize and foot-stomping audience favor was stolen by a low-budget Australian film that arrived with no fanfare, no name actors, and a writer-director who'd made no prior features.
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CULT DVD Alejandro Jodorowsky and Fernando Arrabal have overlapped their whole lives. The Chilean Jodorowsky and Spanish Arrabal arrived in Paris is the mid-1950s, eventually cofounding (with late, lesser remembered artist French artist Roland Topor) the Mouvement Panique — a post-surreallist group named after the god Pan and dedicated to "terror, humor, simultaneity." The two initially focused on theatrical performance and have in subsequent decades created massive bodies of plays, poetry, novels, visual art (paintings for Arrabal, comic books for Jodorowsky), and more. Read more »
FILM One frontier in which Israel remains politically left-forward is that of gay rights. Civil marriage, military service, foreign-partner naturalization, and job discrimination issues are all much more progressively legislated than in the U.S. let alone the rest of the Middle East, where flogging, prison, or even execution punish homosexual "crimes." Nonetheless, as in much of the world today, fundamentalist religious currents endanger progress already made and still being worked toward.
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FILM The Rizzo family of City Island, N.Y. — a tiny atoll associated historically with fishing and jurisdictionally with the Bronx — have reached a state where their primary interactions consist of sniping, yelling, and storming out of rooms. These storm clouds operate as cover for the secrets they're all busy keeping from one another.Read more »
CULT CINEMA The 2010 Academy Awards ceremony did indeed mark historic
firsts. Oh, not just the fact that a woman finally won Best Director.
I mean somebody (Alec Baldwin? Steve Martin? I forget) saying
"vagina" live to a bazillion people worldwide, some of them no doubt way short of both voting age and bedtime. Of course you can say fuckwad, fuckhole, and fuckety fuckelstein on cable. But this was network, and the Oscars besides. How community standards do change.
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FILM By the time the first of Stieg Larsson's so-called "Millennium" books had been published anywhere, the series already had an unhappy ending. Its author planned 10 volumes total, but only finished three (plus some work on a fourth) before he died in 2004, none printed during his lifetime. The following year The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became a Swedish, then eventually international sensation, its sequels following suit (though the English-translated third won't come out here till May).Read more »
FILM Some of the best documentaries in recent years have been hijacked by their subject — or even by another subject the filmmaker wasn't planning on. Prodigal Sons was supposed to be Kimberly Reed's story about a high-school quarterback, basketball captain, class president, and valedictorian born to a family of Montana farmers, returning for a reunion 20 years later — albeit as a fully transitioned male-to-female transgender person attending with her female lover. Read more »
TOY-NAMATION Denmark has given us so much. In the past few decades alone it has gifted the world with live-sex club acts, Brigitte Nielsen, breakfast pastries, and Lars "Antichrist" von Trier. In 1969 it became the first country to legalize pornography, and two decades later did likewise for same-sex marriage. It is also currently designated the least corrupt nation on earth, with the greatest income equality.Read more »