Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2013 - Marc Edward Heuck ""

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Film Discoveries of 2013 - Marc Edward Heuck

Marc Edward Heuck runs the venerable blog, The Projector Has Been Drinking which gets a high recommend from me. Marc is a truly excellent writer in regards to cinema(& anything else he writes about) and I am very pleased to have his contribution yet again. Marc's been with this series since it started in 2010, so please check out his other lists as he always brings the good stuff:

It's the fourth go-round for this superb invite to share my cinematic catch-ups with you all. No real new insights I can make about this enterprise, so let's just get to the movies. Brian asked me for five choices, I gave seven. But then, what can you expect from someone who does a Top 13 when the rest of the critical world seems to operate in base 10?

Back in 2010, when I wrote my first list of underrated horror films for this blog, I cited the last half hour of Richard Loncraine's adaptation of Peter Straub's novel with Mia Farrow, hoping I could see the entire film in its proper Panavision ratio. This year I was finally lucky enough to get that wish, and I was not disappointed. An elegant and unnervering tale of parental paranoia and survivor's guilt layered with a score by Colin Towns that draws chills without cheap shock notes. There's sadly still no DVD or Blu-Ray release on the horizon, though apparently there have been some cable airings of this remastered print, so here's my first wish for 2014.

A modern example of a story that has permeated the popular consciousness while few people have seen the actual film in question, this groundbreaking documentary finally became available again this year. Watching these diverse competitors trying to literally keep touching the symbol of a better life the longest may have played mostly funny in its original release, but in the current economic climate, it is now much more sadly prescient about the extremes struggling folks will endure to get a boost. In its own way, it flips the script on the infamous ending of Terry Southern's THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, telling you the backgrounds on the people who would be willing to wade in crap for an extra dollar.

I decided to go in blind on this extremely rare screening that the bold programmers at CineFamily presented, knowing only that it was bad boy French director Bertrand Blier's followup to his '74 smash GOING PLACES, and I was so knocked out by the craziness I balk at spoiling any of the surprises for anyone else. It's a wild, unfiltered lampoon of middle-aged men fed up with sexual libertinism, building from mild ranting discourse into feverish surrealist anarchy, as if every irrational nightmare of Men's Rights Activists was brought to life, and I laughed dumbfoundedly at every escalation. And you thought John Carradine threatening Woody Allen with a giant tit was brazen. Again, not easily seen in any fashion, let alone in both its Panavision framing and English friendly, but once found, impossible to forget.

I missed seeing this innovative animated fantasy when it was one of those ubiquitous staples of the glory days of subscription movie channels, when it first gained legendary status, but getting to see it in a sold-out screening with one of its directors in person more than made up for it. Part Jay Ward, part YELLOW SUBMARINE, part SOUTH PARK, this witty fable of least-likely-heroes mucking about in our dreamscapes may not be An Awfully Big Adventure, but it was completely charming, demonstrating that animation is not just limited to being cute or outrageous. Getting to hear the immortal Lorenzo Music without the constraints of being Garfield the cat or Carlton the doorman was alone worth the admission.

One of the long list of bonafide classics that were either my shame of not having previously seen, or, as Edgar Wright would say, my privilege of being able to enjoy for the first time, I was able to cross Peter Weir's haunting mystery about a disappearance unsolved and a social order unraveled off that roster. It's arguably the movie that put him on the world map, and you can easily see why, as he creates stately appearances that get undermined by cracks within.

And speaking of Mr. Wright, in almost all homophonic readings of the name, I have him to thank for getting to see this really beautiful drama of ultimate closure on the big screen. It's the last night of the universe, and in a section of Canada, people try to make the best of it, be it through keeping up their work, reenacting ritual, indulging long-suppressed fantasies, or trying to stave off the heavy impact as long as possible. There's a wonderful ensemble at work here, from Don McKellar's ascerbic loner, to David Cronenberg's peculiarly personal gas company representative, to Genevieve Bujold's calmly resigned matriculator, it's a movie where it's understatement helps to bring about an overwhelming rush of emotion in the viewer. 

When I first began to really pay attention to "underground" filmmaking, this was talked about in the manner that I imagine the previous generations talked about the Jodorowsky or Anger films when they weren't easily obtainable. "You mean, this guy filmed a dude who did a weird Olivia Newton-John impression, and then reenacted it with Sean Penn, and then did it again with Crispin Glover?" Yes, back in the '80's, budding filmmaker Trent Harris found an overly exuberant local star-in-his-own-mind named "Groovin' Gary" in a Beaver, Colorado parking lot and decided to follow his story of mounting a talent show where he could do his thing. Then after moving to California, he took the raw video footage and recut it with scenes involving Penn playing his surrogate, to explore the darker possibilities in the moments where he didn't have real-life access, seeing what the fallout might be like when people saw the act. A few years later, Harris decided to completely dramatize all of this in a film short, with Glover taking over, and turned it into a testament about quiet defiance in the midst of small-town narrow-mindedness. All three of these pieces strung together run the length of a feature, and are best seen in this fashion, because this way, you get a taste of how what seems innocuous in real life can be filtered and reinterpreted through art, how a filmmaker can inadvertently do more harm than good to his subject (Harris does not go easy on himself in the subsequent fictionalizations), and that yes, sometimes, watching a tone-deaf cover of "Please Don't Keep Me Waiting" can be one of the most touching experiences a movie lover can have. 

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