A director reveals his most recent Fandor film adventures.
When you want to change your life, change your diet. I make films, but for a filmmaker, I don’t watch many. Now, I’m watching three or four Fandor films every week from now until I shoot my next film or fail to pay the internet bill, whichever comes first. I’m doing this to make myself a better artist, and to help guide you across the vast Fandor buffet. This is the re-education of one independent filmmaker.
Fandorians! It’s been WAY too long. I wish I could tell you that I’ve had time to watch a thousand Fandor movies since my last post, but as usual the number is three. Always three.
So what was I doing when I wasn’t entertaining you here on the Fandor blog? I was writing! Yes, it’s true: When I set out on this mission to Fandor-ize my brain, the goal was always to improve on my last feature (the nonetheless glorious Homemakers which you CAN AND SHOULD WATCH ON FANDOR). Anyway, I’ll confirm that it’s working. The trick is, I just write every character like Gena Rowlands is gonna play them.
I also want to thank our commenter from last time for the recommendations! Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is coming up in my next post. What else should I watch?
Here’s what I’ve watched lately:
THE NINTH CONFIGURATION (1980), directed by William Peter Blatty
“Infinite goodness means creating a being that you know in advance is going to complain.”
First off, this one’s so good it’s got two titles: The Ninth Configuration and Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane. Second (off), there’s a twist in the middle so big that I had to throw out all of my notes for the first half. I don’t want to spoil anything here – it’s a legitimately great twist, although it’s a little confusing when it happens. The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty directed this himself, based on his own book, and it feels like it was made by someone who just didn’t give a crap about anyone’s expectations. Consequently, it’s had a bunch of different distributors and I’d never even heard of it before Fandor.
Not long after the Vietnam War, Kane (from the title, you see) becomes the new Marine psychiatrist at an experimental Marine mental hospital. For some reason, this hospital is in a castle, in Oregon (never mind that Pepsi paid for this decidedly un-Pepsi-like movie to be made, but they demanded it be shot in Hungary for what I assume are corporate synergy reasons). His most notable patient is not actually a Marine, but rather a NASA astronaut named Cutshaw, who bailed on a space mission right before liftoff. Cutshaw refers to God as “Foot”. It’s a great movie for armchair philosophers, especially ones who are high, which I kinda wish I had been.
When it comes down to it, the story is about two men — both of whom have attained an undesirable kind of fame — who save each other. And it’s a testament to the actors that a film full of so many bad attitudes, and so much violence and discussion of violence and so much rain manages to feel so bright in the end.
SHOULD I WATCH IT THO? I have to admit: Two-thirds of the way through, I still wasn’t sure. But by the end, its murky charm snuck into me and I think it’s the biggest surprise of my Fandor feast so far. I really loved this movie, and I’m so glad I went to this strange, dark world that’s so rooted in love. So yeah, watch it.
BUT DOES IT PASS THE BECHDEL TEST? Maybe if there was something like the opposite of the Bechdel Test? That told you if a movie was for men, by men, about men and featuring only men? It would definitely pass that. There is a lady, near the end, who saves the day, kind of. But she’s saving men. By talking about them. To a man.
FUN FACT: This is a hard movie to pull a quote from. BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY GOOD ONES, all from Cutshaw the astronaut. The runners up were: “I say it’s spinach and to hell with it”, “I know my rights. I demand to see my urologist” and “I believe in the devil, all right. Because the prick keeps doing commercials!”
“Your brain is now as smooth as a little boy’s bottom.”
In case you didn’t know, Guy Maddin movies are dark, flickery affairs. I don’t really know who Evan Johnson is, but apparently Evan Johnson movies are dark, flickery affairs, too. UPDATE: I looked Evan up. He was Maddin’s student, once upon a time. He looks like a nice enough fellow. Evan, get your agent to gin up a gushy Wikipedia page for you.
This is not a traditional movie with one story where you root for one character to win the boxing match, big account and girl next door. It is more of a collection of short stories full of demented magic, very loosely woven together and flitting between one another. The most compelling for me, maybe because the movie starts with them, are two stories: the story of a crew of submariners eating flapjacks with air pockets in them to survive, and the story of a “saplingjack” rescuing a damsel who doesn’t seem to care that much about being rescued. Many of the stories are inspired by snippets or descriptions of silent or early “talkie” movies. I like that.
Now and then, visuals in The Forbidden Room will take your breath out back and shoot it, especially where the sentient volcano is involved. Maddin movies call back to the aesthetic of early American and Soviet films, which were made in an era where classic 1800’s-style romanticism still gripped the imaginations of the masses. I’m not sure this romanticism is sincere anymore, but it’s nice to see it used as a weapon for world-class 21st century absurdity.
SHOULD I WATCH IT THO? Yes, especially if you are unacquainted with Maddin, Canadian national treasure. I should say this is not a good movie to watch if you are a distractible viewer or planning on knitting through the film, but frankly, why are you watching movies if you’re not going to look at them? You have to fully commit to this world and its magic. It doesn’t come to you.
WHO ARE THESE WEIRDOS? IS ANYONE FAMOUS IN IT? Yeah! It’s got some “fameys”. Like underrated James Bond villain Mathieu Amalric, and Udo Kier, who is probably best known among film nerds for being in everything, but best known to me as the rich guy who owns a shark in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Also Geraldine Chaplin, who I hadn’t heard of but who has a full and impressive Wikipedia page and apparently her father was some kind of silent movie star with a moustache.
FUN FACT: This movie was filmed in front of a live studio audience! Also, set building is a lost art and I wish we saw more of it. If you like the dreamlike, built-set look and disconnected storytelling vibe, I highly recommend the gorgeous Go Down Death, which, lucky you, you can also watch on Fandor.
KLOWN (2012), directed by Mikkel Nørgaard
“With guys like us who have a little excess weight, the willie can appear smaller. And there are fat reserves around it. So if you have a lot of fat, the willie can sort get lost in it a little.”
Okay, it’s a TV show from Denmark, which is where Danish-Americans originally come from. The show is called Klovn which is Danish for “Klown”. This is their special feature-length effort. I get the feeling that Klovn is Denmark’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. You could almost slot the Curb music into Klown… or the other way around. I haven’t seen the original show, but I’m perfectly happy with the movie despite that. You will be, too.
Klown is a lot dirtier than its American counterpart. It’s also a bit sadder and more heartfelt than Curb Your Enthusiasm ever gets, and that’s all because of lead Frank Hvam. This man’s pathetic deadpan face yearns so badly for dignity. In this film, he wants to be taken seriously as a potential father… so he kidnaps his nephew and takes him on a canoe trip with his pervy friend Caspar. Caspar and Frank are the real names of the comedians who wrote the thing. I hope their lives are really like this.
Structurally, it’s a pretty traditional story: Character wants something, it’s hard for them to get it, but they manage a small change and they eventually find what they need, even if it’s not exactly what they want. But it’s the petulance and stubbornness of the two leads, Caspar and Frank, that make this such a brilliant and hilarious ride.
SHOULD I WATCH IT THO? Yes! Yes. Are you one of those people who can’t handle Curb Your Enthusiasm? Then definitely no. Are you one of those people who doesn’t want to see adults sexually embarrass a child on purpose? Then it’s not for you, either. It’s for the rest of us!
WHAT? A CHILD? NO. This will resonate if your uncle and his friend ever made fun of your wang when you were younger.
FUN FACT: Klown’s sequel and remake were announced around the same time. How’s that for a trick? Only the sequel has been made, though. It’s called Klown Forever, which reminds me of Batman Forever, which is an excuse for us to end with the “Kiss from a Rose” music video.
That’s all of my favorites for the moment. All of these movies depend on creating a convincing universe that, in turn, forms these characters into the weirdos they are. The Ninth Configuration and The Forbidden Room are murky, stormy and strange, but when you sit in that space for long enough, characters you love start to distinguish themselves, even though you thought you’d never reach that level of comfort. Klown accomplishes a different kind of feat — creating a relatively permissive and pleasant but overly judgemental Denmark that somehow both encourages and punishes Caspar and Frank’s bad behavior. The film’s bourgeois Denmark seems a lot more pleasant than a dreary asylum or a cramped submarine, but it’s a uniquely appropriate torture chamber for Frank Hvam.
Bye! I’ll write again, and soon! Hope the kids are doing great, and — say, tell your Aunt Harriet thank you for the pies.
Colin “Killer” Kane Healey
You should follow Colin @realColinHealey because it would help him feel nice. Colin’s first feature film, Homemakers, is available on Fandor. If you think Colin would like a movie, tell him in the comments and he’ll watch the hell out of it.