Category Archives: Surreal

Sleep Has Her House (2017)

Director/Producer/Writer/Music/Cinematography: Scott Barley
UK 1h 30m

It’s not often I get so excited to write about a movie wanting to say so much about it what most would see as being so little.

The cover alone of Sleep Has Her House (2017) was enough to tweak me into signing up to Kinoscope and taking quality time out to submerge myself into this advantageous one man project. The experience was deep and moving, this totally experimental adventure really crawls under the skin. Continue reading Sleep Has Her House (2017)

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Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988)

Director: Guy Maddin
Starring: Kyle McCulloch, Michael Gotti, Angela Heck . Canada . 1h 12m

With a lot of surreal movies, I don’t assume to fully understand them, but I do find their unpredictability evocative. While this film is visually different there’s a lot to puzzle over with the linear but a bashitcrazy story.

Seemly inspired by the Directors childhood memories heightened by a DMT trip, there’s a lose connection. Madden does have Icelandic heritage and a lot of vocal history does get tainted over the years but for part it’s a realistic situation at first..

While their mother lays dying in a hospital bed, a pair of siblings are being confronted in the modern Gimli, Manitoba hospital by their grandmother. She tells the children a long and convoluted story about the Gimli of old, a tale about Einar the Lonely and his best friend Gunnar and the angelic Jofridur.

Einar (McCulloch) has contracted smallpox and is resting in the old Gimli Hospital when he makes friends with Gunnar (Gotti), the pair really appreciate the company in their time of sickness and the bond grows between them, but only for  a short time.

While divulging personal information with each other their tales start to get weirder and the men’s testosterone really gets them going once a sexy nurse catches their eye and they really start to outdo each other to gain her adoration.

Independent movies with a surreal flaire are fairly popular but none of them quite have the same creepy and yet riveting atmosphere as the Gimli Hospital. It’s dark and at times intensely creepy but at times it has a bit of razzmatazz slapstick.

Some scenes are filled with characters babaliese with a gentle overture and smooth poetic voice overs. Juxtaposed with the harsh black and white shadowy photography that flickers as if lit by candle, the film “feels” scary but nothing will jump out at you.. Apart from some of the most bizarre but engaging cinema you’ve ever seen.

It’s impossible to guess what’s coming next and there’s no sense in trying to look for themes, it’s erratic but yet at the same time you begin to expect the unexpected. The imagery is pretty powerful, from buttock bloody manly wrestling (not like that you fiend) and milk dripping from the ceiling of the hospital, there’s a deep motherly aspect that runs throughout the film but if you didn’t guess it’s in the strangest way.

Guy Maddin seems like a pretty laid back normal guy, and has a very fine tuned appreciation of film and the arts.It really shows in his works, the detailed attention and courageous scenes are out of bounds with what it usually attempted to be shown on film. Definitely not something easily forgotten and certainly something new, no matter what you’ve seen in the past.

Rating: 7/10

R: Eraserhead (1977), Archangel (1990), the Heart of the World (2000)

A: Where’s the fish a short and incomplete guide to surrealist cinema Vol. 1

 

Eraserhead (1977)

Director: David Lynch
Starring: John Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Judith Anna Roberts. USA . 1h 49m

A cult classic surreal black and white masterpiece… to some.. But not for me! I’m not going to bullshit, I’ve never been really into Eraserhead, I adore black and white movies and I really love surreal art (something I paint myself) and films. I’ve never been heavily into Lynch and for me this film is creepy, unusual but nothing all that special. I feel that there are two types of surreal movies, the first is a movie which is all out surreal, no easy to follow story line and completely wacky, for argument sake Dali’s Un Chien Andalou (1929), and there are other films which have a pretty liner storyline but just go about it in random ways.. Much like this one. Continue reading Eraserhead (1977)

Naked Lunch (1991)

Director: David Cronenberg
Based on – Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs
Starring: Peter Welller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands, Roy Scheider. Canada, Japan, UK. 1h 55m

This bold, Kafkaesque putrid remake of the legendary novel by William S Burroughs, is possibly as vivid and imaginative as the original book, but if you’ve read the book you’ll realise that no film could ever really be a true adaptation, so the screenplay is a metatextual adaption. Detailing characters and scenes from a complex novel and other works from Burroughs, both fictional and from his journal and the events which lead to the 1951 death of Joan Vollmer, Burroughs’s common law wife.  So while it’s not entirely Naked Lunch, it should at least FEEL like Naked lunch and at times it feels a lot like Burroughs but slightly more coherent.

As a surreal autobiographic piece the film follows the life of William Lee, who is basically Burroughs, a bug exterminator who discovers his wife is stealing his insecticide and using it to get high. Lee is arrested and starts hallucinating because of his exposure to the powder. Believing that he’s a secret agent  he beings a strange relationship with two handlers, one is a insect typewriter and an alien “Mugwump“. The typewriter assigns him a mission of killing Joan, she’s allegedly an agent of an organization called “Interzone”, Lee dismisses this notion but on returning home he finds Joan having sex with a friend and kills her, inadvertently carrying out the mission, he flees to interzone, a city in North Africa where he spends his time writing reports to his handlers, this slowly becomes the Naked Lunch book and after taking more mind altering drugs and getting a new typewriter, a Clark Nova, this insect  stresses that he needs to find Dr Benway by seducing Joan Frost who’s a doppelganger of his dead wife and then things get really weird, and with the addition of a drug that is made from a centipede. Continue reading Naked Lunch (1991)

Possum (2018)

Director: Matthew Holness
Starring: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong  .UK. 1h 25m

There’s a place that some dark artist like to go, it often involves gloomy and eerie aspects from a fuzzy past that are easily recognised but often pushed back to those obscure corners of our minds, like a suppressed memory Possum manages from slither its way out of the dank interior of an old English home, and hides itself in the brown bag carried by a disgraced children’s puppeteer as he embarks on a journey to confront his stepfather and his own inner demons.

The film opens with Philip (Harris) wandering aimlessly around a remote area of Norfolk with his bag clutched tightly to him, after some atmospheric art house scenes backed by a heavy Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack. He spys a few teenage boys on a train he tries to talk with one but he runs away from the creepy man, Philip returns to his home, a dank rundown home with a disheveled garden, here he opens his bag and chucks the contents into a metal barrel with the promise to destroy the leggy creature, eventually we are made aware of Maurice (Armstrong), a sly and controlling character who seems to want to encourage Philip to keep his puppet, while constantly keeps asking if he’s going to burn it, which Philip agrees to but then never does. Little by little Maurice exerts control over Philip and suggests different places for him to visit, while the puppet is slowly revealed  and each time the effects on Philip get more disastrous. As a news story about a missing school boy flourish in the news, questions are raised over Philips possible involvement. Continue reading Possum (2018)

Mandy (2018)

Director: Panos Cosmatos
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy Olwen Fouere, Richard Brake, Bill Duke. USA. 2h 1m

Cosmastos seems obsessed with 1983, where his previous movie was also set, is there a parallel here? Same year with possible answers to Professor Arboria’s mystic drug… but nothing is laid out in a straightforward way, he keeps the viewer guessing about what is real and what might just be fantasy, eventually your not sure what you believe in anymore, questions are raised especially about the drugs involved and at times this film really pushes the envelope. Continue reading Mandy (2018)

Alps (2012)

Director: Giorgos Lanthimos.

Starring.  Aggeliki Papoulia, Aris Servetalis, Johnny Verkis, Ariane Labed, Maria Kirozi. Greece. 1h 33m.

After the amazing Dogtooth (2009) project, Lanthimos was a closely watched director, but his next project seemed like an amazing idea on paper but even with his surreal approach to film, personally I felt as if he missed his own target by being too realistic and not fantastical enough, or maybe the hype train mutated my anticipations to a level that not even a great director could reach.

ALPS is part is about a group of therapists who set up a business to allow families to get through the grieving process by supplying them with “trained” actors to play the roles of their loved ones, so they can have those precious last moments with them, say goodbye or to just have the feeling that they are still around for a few days. The drawbacks are that the actors don’t look like the people they are impersonating and they have to improvise on details the families give to them, hand written scripts and a few left over clothes but they make do, as method actors are especially adapted to do. Continue reading Alps (2012)

Repulsion (1965)

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser and Yvonne Furneaux. UK. 1h 45m

In Polanski’s highly thrilling black and white drama that kick started his tenant trilogy (which consists of  two other classic films  The Tenant (1976)  starring Polanski himself,  and the Cult classic Rosemary’s Baby (1968) ,  and this dark thriller, a young beautician drops deep in a claustrophobic insanity possibly spurred on by a suppressed family trauma as her feline sexuality sparks great interest from many suitors.

Repulsion is strangely enjoyable, and is a deep internal  nightmare that transpires through any age, and is easily relatable to. Adapted by Gérard Brach it is fantastically brought to life by Polanski and on a meager budget of £65,000, this debut  English film the budding director lost his footing at first, but as the dialogue vanishes he turns up the atmospherics and the results are quite dark and bold.

A beautiful timid girl Carole (Deneuve) is left alone in an apartment shared by her sister and her sisters husband, they are off to Europe for their holiday, leaving her some outstanding rent money for an angry landlord they skip town. Instantly the first cracks start to show in the relationship with her boyfriend  and soon she starts making mistakes at work. Very slowly we see the layers of Carole’s psyche peel away leaving a vulnerable kitten and murderous vixen.

It’s quite easy to write off Carole in the early throes of the films, you hardly notice the little mouse in contrast of her sisters sultry boldness overwhelms her and she spends a lot of the time hiding behind her bleached blonde 60’s bouffant hair, but as her character changes, she starts to give up the goods and her performance is tremendous, her charisma teamed with the reclusive scenes of the apartment and shocking effects persuades the

viewer to miss the realities of what’s going on. Blending themes from Dementia 13 (1963) and Persona (1966).

The ingenuity of the effects are really beautiful not only do you literally see the cracks appearing in Carole life but her fears are coming out of the walls and dark shadows of her apartment. Polanski plays the art house card now and again, there are silent shots of rotten vegetables and dirty plates that co exist with the knife wielding madwoman episodes, but

these are short and frantic, but cause as many ripples as any Hitchcock Psycho scene and emphasis her meltdown and the effects it’s having on the real world.

It’s hauntingly stark at times but a real tour de force once it gains momentum, the horrific faces of the returning couple finding their apartment in disarray reflects the faces of any avid viewer. It’s very unusual for this style of horror/ thriller to have a knife welding psychotic serial killer but with several hints at previous sexual abuse and possible incest it’s no real shocker that this girl is this fucked up.. Her next step would be Haute Tension (2003)

Rating 8/10

R: Haute Tension (2003) , Dementia 13 (1963), Persona (1966), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Tenant (1976)

L: Black and White Thrillers, Femme Fatals
5s : Roman Polanski

Post Discussion.

 

Hausu / House (1977)

Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi.
Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Kumiko Ohba, Kumiko Oba, Mitshtoshi Ishigami, Miki Jinbo, Reiko Sato. Japan. 1h 27m.

Every now and then I have the urge to watch something completely off the wall, and I’ve seen and heard so much about House over the years and deemed that most of it couldn’t be true..  but finally managed to find a copy at a semi reasonable price so I relaxed into it a few nights ago… then panicked a lot, but there is a lot going on in this cartoon style fairy story. Continue reading Hausu / House (1977)

Upstream colour (2015)

upstream-colour

Director: Shane Carruth.
Starring: Shane Carruth, Amy Seimetz, Andrew Sensenig, Thiago Martins. USA. 1h 36m

So after the success of Primer (2004) Shane Carruth is back with even more bizarro Lo fi sci fi that he refuses to explain to deeply and again no one questions why they just sit back and let the story take them away.

The story is unusual but is more linear but remains open for interpretation, which can be annoying sometimes but Shane Carruth manages to make it more enthralling by giving the viewer more opportunities to accept his dream like story… that starts out as a nightmare. Continue reading Upstream colour (2015)