Friday, 22 August 2008

Frightfest: Where I Make A Fool Of Myself

Those lovely chaps at Film 4 are currently hosting Frightfest in the West End, which features numerous interesting film choices, including Frank Henenlotter's Bad Biology, the UK premieres of The Strangers and Paul W.S. Anderson's Death Race, and the poorly distributed Midnight Meat Train, which probably won't reach our shores until it's on DVD, thanks to some truly perplexing choices by Lionsgate. It's a crying shame it's been treated so bad, though my condolences go to poor Clive Barker, whose film career never really took off (and yes, I am one of the few who would have loved to see a sequel to Nightbreed). That said, Ryuhei Kitamura is responsible for at least one appalling movie that I wish I had never seen (Versus), and I've not yet seen anything else by him (an attempt at Azumi faltered about twenty minutes in out of sheer boredom), so who knows if it would be any good? Hopefully he has improved a lot. If anyone has any reliable info on that, let me know.

Due to time constraints, I have only managed to get a ticket to see Los Cronocrímenes, aka Time Crimes, written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, the man responsible for the Oscar-nominated short 7:35 de la mañana. Time Crimes revolves (and I mean that in the temporal sense) around Hector (played by an increasingly confused Karra Elejalde), a man whose nosiness is piqued by the sight of a woman (Bárbara Goenaga) undressing in the woods near his new house. Upon investigating Hector is assaulted by a mysterious man in a long coat and a pink bandage around his head. It's an arresting image, but sadly it makes the strange attacker look like a camp Darkman, a realisation that robbed the character of some of his menace.

Chased by this crazed slasher, Hector hides within a nearby complex, and from that point on, "things" happen, "things" I cannot reveal for fear of ruining the film. I will say that while I enjoyed it a lot (and it becomes pleasantly twisty at about the halfway point), it suffers in comparison to Shane Carruth's Primer, easily the most head-bending time-travel movie yet made. That film will confound me forever more, I reckon, and as a result I'm still not sure how much emotional power it has. It's such a perplexing movie, almost alien in its savant-like dedication to its own obscure rules, that it might be really moving behind all of the cognitive dazzle, but it might not. Guess I should watch it again. And again and again and again and again and again.

Time Crimes, while more conventional than Carruth's experimental mindfuck, wears its capacity for emotional manipulation more readily on its sleeve, and yet the final moments, while pleasingly circular, don't convey the shock I think they are meant to, undercutting them with a teeny bit of humour (of which there is quite a bit throughout). Certainly Hector's resignation to the whims of fate struck me as a bit too comical, and I appreciate that is no kind of criteria to judge a film by, but that's how I have to call it this time. It's still an impressive movie, and I recommend it without hesitation, especially as the time twisting plot is presented very clearly and has been thought through with great rigour, but I couldn't help but keep wondering what the rumoured Cronenberg remake will be like. I can imagine he would make it even more clinical, but perhaps the final twist will be more shocking. Who can say? We don't even know that he's making it, after all.

So, to why I made a fool of myself. The festival is partly curated by film critic Alan Jones, whose reviews were hugely important to me when I was a kid. His erudition and enthusiasm for all genres treated by the mainstream as beneath contempt gave me enormous pleasure, and shaped my viewing habits to a great extent. There are innumerable movies that I have chased down as a result of his recommendations, and my love of film can be at least partly attributed to him. After leaving the screening, I saw him deep in conversation with other noted genre critic Kim Newman, and even though I didn't want to be a jerk I still decided to be rude and interrupt. Though I feel bad about that, I had to shake Alan Jones' hand and tell him how much his work had meant to me. Sadly, as I do not react well in situations where I have to think fast while nervous, my speech about his wonderful criticism and support for the horror and sci fi genres ended up sounding like this.

I also feel a bit bad for not saying anything to Kim Newman, but then I'm still pissed at the drubbing he gave Alien 3 on release. Two stars out of five? Looks like it was filmed through a bowl of oxtail soup? Yeah, I still remember that, sonny, and I can hold a real grudge. That grudge does not remove the embarrassment of the encounter though. Blurg.

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