Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Calibre 9 (dir. Jean-Christian Tassy, 2011, France)
Jean-Christian Tassy seems to subscribe to the Luc Besson/Pierre Morel school of ultra high-octane French crime-thriller, in his directorial debut Calibre 9. And I gotta hand it to him for crafting a unique love story outta the arterial spray and near-future dystopian backdrop. Namely, that of government hound Yann (Laurent Collombert, lanky exuding discomfit) and Sarah (Nathalie Hauwelle), the latter of whom spends most of the film as a disembodied voice coming from Yann's 9mm handgun. Yep, that's the twist, boys and girls: Sarah's an ex-prostitute murdered by her pimp/dealer and resurrected into the piece by her Senegalese client. Said puissant handgun leaps into Yann's hands and steers him on course to take on the hyperbolized corrupt government, led by his boss and devil incarnate, The Mayor, who pisses on his secretary, just for starters. While I never got too deep of emotion coming from Yann, placed hesitantly into this role as assassin renegade, he's at least a total opposite from his violent, misogynistic colleagues. Plus there's some sweet humor in his exchanges with Sarah the 9, enough that we can imagine what it would've been like had they met somewhere else, Sarah still alive and Yann somehow rid of his government occupation.

Beyond the Black Rainbow (dir. Panos Cosmatos, 2011, USA)
I'd been aching to see Beyond the Black Rainbow since missing it at Tribeca Film Festival due to a personal scheduling error. Damn it! Thankfully for me, Panos Cosmatos' intense head trip of a throwback sci-fi thriller was more than worth the wait. I can't wait to see it again and own it on DVD, but seeing it in the theatre was truly the way to go. Bit of caution: Cosmatos' film is foggily linear, super slo-mo, high on psychedelic visuals and immersive Moog-driven soundtrack (courtesy Black Mountain's Jeremy Schmidt), and low on dialogue (besides cryptic exchanges) and clues. Let yourself fall deep into it, though, and you're in for a sensorially mesmerizing two-hour voyage.
We're in the year 1983, steeped in Reagan-era paranoia, in the "happy reality" lent by Arboria, a clandestine research complex with good vibes drugs and a secret garden. Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) speaks in measured tones to the camera and to his lead subject, Elena (first-timer Eva Allan — ineffably incredible!). Nyle keeps Elena ensconced in a mirrored white room, apparently keeping her awesome psionic powers in check via a glowing pyramid structure in the center of the institute. Who is she to him, and who is her mother to him? What would happen if she escapes captivity — would Elena be in danger, or Nyle…and therefore the greater world? Cosmatos breaks up long-take shots with orange juice-box colored dissolves and white-noise static (the color palette on Beyond the Black Rainbow is singularly bold and eerie). Subjects are mostly show in cropped close-up, off-center from the action, or far in the distance (like Nyle's many views of Elena via CCTV). A sci-fi chiller that strongly follows in Tarkovsky's footsteps, straight out of Metal Hurlant's enthralling world. It's one huge breath of fresh air to the sci-fi genre, even horror in general, and I await more from this cinematic alchemist. With Black Rainbow, I was a junkie from the start.

The Day (dir. Doug Aarniokoski, 2011, USA)
Lots of awesome directorial debuts at the fest this year. The Day comes from Robert Rodriguez protege Doug Aarniokoski, and though I went into it w/ little expectations beyond 1) Shannyn Sossamon and 2) post-apocalyptic, consider me GREATLY impressed. After a brief and jarring opening sequence, half- home invasion and half- zombie-esque, we're thrown straight into "present day", a ruined landscape of forest and fields, bleakly desaturated in color, and a band of five heavily-armed young people. Rick (Dominic Monaghan) appears the apropos leader as he guides his team of Henson (Cory Hardrict, playing a sickly yet courageous big guy), Shannon (Sossamon, passionately evil), Adam (Shawn Ashmore, tough and untrusting) and Mary (Ashley Bell, which I think is my first time seeing her post- The Last Exorcism, and does she ever shine in The Day!) to an abandoned farmhouse for shelter. They're partially fleeing the elements (for Henson's recover and their own mutual comfort), plus they need to stock up on supplies. They're also being trailed by something…first one black-clad guy running wildly at Mary as she bathes by the riverbed (she dispatches him with vicious swiftness), then bands of them like ravenous bloodhounds, ostensibly attuned to the quintet's scent and pulse. Fleeting moments of bliss, like Shannon and Rick bathing together upstairs in a sun-glinting rainshower, all the guys wisecracking on their shared high-school memories, all this quickly segues into hulking shards of visceral violence. The antagonists, led by a mohawked Mike Ecklund and armed with spears and blades, aim to storm the farmhouse by any means necessary. The quintet bears down with firing weapons and a finite number of bullets — plus Mary's various accoutrements — and is that a defector in their midst, someone playing both sides? In the realm of post-apocalyptic films, I'd sooner compare this to Michael Haneke's harrowing Time of the Wolf, over any American production (definitely NOT The Road). And if this is truly one chapter of Aarniokoski's chaotic near-future world, I can't wait to see what follows next, or what precedes it that leaves people killing others for a shot at survival.

Zombie Ass (dir. Noboru Iguchi, 2011, Japan)
The world premiere of Zombie Ass, Noboru Iguchi's opus to perversion particulars and prodigious posteriors, was, for me, absolutely unmissable. In fact, I dug it so much I saw it twice, as anal alien parasites and scat-covered zombies aren't exactly a marketable option, stateside or otherwise. But from the title sequence, with cutie Cay Izumi dancing in her jean cutoffs in psychedelic soap bubbles, I was a helpless case, willingly drawn in to Iguchi's deliciously deviant world. The plot in brief involves a road-trip to the woods, with karate-equipped school-girl Megumi (Arisa Nakamura) still guilt-riddled over the death of her younger sister, and older friends Aya (cutie Mayu Sugano), her druggie BF Tak (Kentaro Kishi, totally lapping up the stereotypical tough guy role), snobby Maki (AV idol Asana Mamoru, signature Iguchi casting!) and nebbish Naoi (the mop-topped musician Danny). Maki's keen to find a trout infected with a tapeworm so she can maintain her skinniness and get more acting gigs. Seriously. One of her lines when Tak comes onto her, unbeknownst to Aya (seriously, why is she with that guy?!) is "I don't want drugs! I want tapeworms!" Her mission is a success, but it leaves Maki with horrific indigestion, farting away — as Iguchi's camera lovingly trains on her ass — whilst seeking bathroom relief in an adjacent farmhouse. You think it's weird yet? Just wait: Maki's suffering stems from said "tapeworm", actually an alien parasite growing within her that's been carefully bred by the farmhouse's crazy doctor (Kentaro Shimazu, restrained here if you can believe that) to help cure his sickly and ultraviolent daughter Sachi (Yuki, and never has a laughing girl wielding twin yanagi-ba knives been so sinister). Plus there are zombies, like the shit-covered one portrayed by renaissance man and Iguchi regular Demo Tanaka, emerging from an outhouse to slap at Maki's ass before leading a legion of trudging undead, each controlled by matured anal alien parasites to attack her friends. Iguchi tosses in classic Iguchi moments — particularly Aya and Megumi's sweetly curious shower scene, plus lots of bonkers one-liners like "cut the cheese, bitch!" and "I killed him with my butt!" — whilst throwing curveballs at the zombie genre. Like the pack of anal-affected advancing ass-first in a scuttling crab-walk towards our heroes. Like Megumi, armed with a parasite-nullifying enema and jet-powered flatulence, taking on the mutant dragon-esque alien queen and slasheriffic Sachi simultaneously in a midair battle. Yes, that really just happened. I truly hope this cheeky (pun intentional) gem from Iguchi's overactive imagination returns, sharing the love of derrieres and the walking dead with the greater world.