Tuesday, July 16, 2024

COREYS

 


If you’ve been reading my thoughts on this blog recently then you know that I absolutely despise movies made with ironic film twitter/cynical letterboxd people in mind. But Conner O’malley’s short film Coreys is an exception. I love this film so much that I don’t care who likes it even if it’s for disingenuous reasons. And to be fair, I don’t even believe he made this movie with that audience in mind. Coreys is just the kind of thing that will draw that type of crowd no matter what. It’s a surreal existential "body horror"/comedy made by someone associated with stuff like Joe Pera & I Think You Should Leave. This is something that would absolutely appeal to short attention span adult swim folks (like myself), people that make liking “bad movies” a part of their personality, or people that love modern classics made by the likes of Cronenberg, Lynch & Carpenter. This is a short film made by someone who loves The Thing, Alien, Scanners, etc – but doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Instead of writing lengthy think-pieces on the existentialism of the body horror genre, they’d rather just enjoy the images in front of them and appreciate the craft that goes in to the visual effects.

Is Coreys a film about the pressures of being a good father & husband? Or is it some kind of commentary on wanting to escape from the monotony of small town life? It’s probably a mix of those things and more. Personally, I’m more fascinated by the humor that’s catered to my very specific taste (again – fans of Joe Pera, I Think You Should Leave, Adult Swim, etc will absolutely love this), and all of the movie references (some are clearly intentional while others are coincidental). It makes sense that Conner O’Malley shows up in Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw The Tv Glow. Coreys feels like a like side-quest birthed from that movie.

O’malley clearly has some type of ironic fascination with The Mask (or maybe he just genuinely likes the movie, I dunno…)
The Mask / Coreys

 
But he also pulls from a lot of other recognizable sources…

The Shining / Coreys

2001: A Space Odyssey / Coreys

2001: A Space Odyssey /
Coreys


Scanners / Coreys

Scanners / Coreys

Lost Highway / Coreys

Lost Highway / Coreys

Lost Highway / Coreys

Eraserhead / Coreys

And like most things labeled "Lynchian", you can trace things back to filmmakers like Maya Deren who predates a lot of the imagery in Lynch's films...
Meshes Of The Afternoon / Coreys

At Land / Coreys 


Shivers / Coreys

Alien / Coreys

The Thing/ Coreys


Half of Coreys revolves around our lead character hypnotized by weird videos on his phone. I found myself watching this nonstop on my phone for the last 48 hours. And, like our lead character/Corey – I have a fair amount of self-induced pressure to be a good husband and father, and I don't like spending time in places like Target (the film opens in Target and the ambiance is more scary & uneasy than it is calming).

This is the first thing I’ve seen since Lisandro Alonso’s Eureka (2023) that has reignited my love for seeking out new movies. I’ll probably have more to say on this towards the end of the year but for now I just wanted to share my initial thoughts.


It's only 11 minutes long so you can check it out right here:
 

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

A FEW (MORE) WORDS ON IN A VIOLENT NATURE



The older I get the more I like to talk about and dissect interesting films that I feel are a mixed bag of qualities that I love, dislike and am indifferent towards. Unfortunately the term “interesting” is commonly associated with something negative. Nowadays when someone says something is “interesting” it feels like an insult. It’s the kind of term someone uses when they have nothing of substance to describe something that's remotely different. It didn’t used to be like that. Interesting used to be a positive descriptor. We need to remove the negativity surrounding it. Chris Nash’s In A Violent Nature fits my description of interesting to a tee. On a surface level – the film is a somewhat deconstructed slasher story told from the killer’s perspective. There’s no conventional score or soundtrack, there’s stretches of the movie that have no dialogue, and the movie pulls from a lot of non-horror movies for inspiration. There are just as many if not more movie references & homages than a Tarantino film. The difference here is that Nash pulls from very specific sources that hold a special place in my heart (Terrence Malick, Alan Clarke, Gus Van Sant, etc). Ironically, part of my issue with this movie is it feels like it was made just for me. The first time I watched it I kept thinking to myself; “who else was this made for besides me??” I say that as a negative because a lot of films & directors I appreciate aren’t often associated with each other. There isn’t much of a Venn diagram that combines low budget Slashers, contemplative-era Terrence Malick and the realistic documentary-style of Alan Clarke.

I looked at a lot of the key movie references in a previous post from earlier this year (CLIK HERE TO READ) but the one thing I didn’t really get in to is that the references are a bit layered. 
Yes – Nash was influenced by Gus Van Sant’s 2002-2007 run, but those Van Sant films were influenced by Bela Tarr.

Well, I came to the idea just inspired a lot by Gus Van Sant's trilogy, of GERRY, ELEPHANT, and LAST DAYS. I just love those films - Chris Nash, dreadcentral

Scott Macaulay, who works at Forensic Films, was over at my house and told me that Sátántangó was playing at BAM that weekend. It was exactly what I needed to see at that exact moment in my life. It also summed up some things that I’d been thinking about for a long time and been influenced by but never put to use – Gus Van Sant, slant magazine
Satantango / Elephant / In A Violent Nature


Nash mentions Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible as another influence but Noe was influenced by the 1983 film; Angst (another film Nash shouts out). Specifically the overhead shots...

They showed me Gerald Kargl's 'Angst' - Ry Barrett, Indiewire

For me, I was thinking of Irréversible too, just the way the viewer is an onlooker for the whole thing - Ry Barrett, Indiewire
Angst / Irreversible / In A Violent Nature


The same layered influence goes back to Van Sant. This time by way of Alan Clarke...

Also Alan Clarke’s tv film ELEPHANT. That definitely had an influence on Van Sant as well - Chris Nash, Movieweb.com
Elephant / Elephant / In A Violent Nature


The movie references are actually my favorite aspect of In A Violent Nature. I love a good “movie mixtape”.


Earlier I used the term “deconstructed” but that doesn’t mean Chris Nash is trying to reinvent the genre or play in to the that “elevated horror” label. Quite the opposite. The problem is - no matter how many times Nash spoke out against the idea of “reinventing the genre”, critics still continue to use that tagline in their reviews. In A Violent Nature certainly has its fans and I think the movie’s run has been positive overall, but I think certain specific critics are doing the film a disservice by constantly saying the movie is “subverting the genre” or “reinventing the genre”. I think it’s setting up some audiences to be disappointed. In A Violent Nature doesn’t fit in with those NEON/A24-aesthtic horror films. And while it definitely leans in to the classics like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the movie is also very slow and meditative at times. When you take away the gore elements, In A Violent Nature fits in more with the films of James Benning.

Personally, I think the film falls short when it comes to the supporting characters. I found their performances flat & distracting. Considering the movie is told from the killer’s perspective, it would’ve made more sense if the supporting characters/victims had no direct/clear dialogue at all. Almost like background noise. There was also no need to give any backstory on the killer. It would have also been nice if the movie leaned even more in to the “slow cinema” that it tried to emulate. Imagine a three hour long movie with even less kills and more nature. But I understand that would alienate even more potential viewers. Most folks don’t want to sit through a three hour slow slasher film with almost no direct dialogue. And that’s not the movie Chris Nash wanted to make. Going back to what I said earlier – I think because this movie was so coincidentally catered to my specific taste, I feel I have the right to say what could have made it better even though that’s a very selfish & insane claim to make. 
At the end of the day – this is just one man’s opinion. What do I know? The movie has made a profit and I’m rooting for Chris Nash to succeed at the end of the day. Even though I haven’t given this movie a glowing review, I’ve still dedicated two separate posts and a podcast appearance on it. Anyone with any common sense or nuance can tell that I have respect for Nash and his film. No matter what criticisms I have – I look forward to what he does next.

Monday, July 1, 2024

L’EMPIRE


Bruno Dumont’s latest film is another example of a bored filmmaker throwing something against the wall and seeing what sticks. Everyone from Harmony Korine (Aggro Dr1ft) to Steven Soderbergh (Bubble) has made their “bored movie” where they don’t feel challenged and still want to do something “different” but you can tell their heart isn’t all the way in it (this is all just my own speculation). L’empire is certainly Bruno Dumont doing something random & unexpected but it (mostly) works because, in my opinion, his heart is in it. At least I think it is…
L’empire is Dumont’s take on Star Wars. Yes - Bruno Dumont’s latest feature is a very loose reimagining of George Lucas’ sci-fi franchise. In the film - two opposing space factions battle it out in a rural French town. And instead of 9 films, 2 side movies and multiple television shows - Dumont manages to tell his space story in under 2 hours with just one movie.

Putting the Star Wars stuff aside, L’empire still fits in with the rest of Bruno’s body of work no matter how out of left field it seems (random dry humor, boats, fishing, seaside towns, unconventional-looking non-professional actors, etc). The film also takes place in the same cinematic universe as the L’il Quinquin series (the detectives from Quinquin & Coincoin et les z'inhumains make an appearance).


Some reviews have described this as a full-on parody of Star Wars but I don’t think it’s that simple. There are certainly plenty scenes of lightsabers, spaceships & holographic messages that we’re supposed to smirk at and not take completely seriously. But there are other aspects of the film that are absolutely genuine and filled with beauty. Normally I hate cheesy taglines to try and describe a movie in an effort to go on the front of the Blu-Ray case, but L’empire is like Robert Bresson doing Empire Strikes back (after almost 30 years of filmmaking it appears Dumont will never shake the Bresson comparisons).

Lancelot Du Lac / The Empire Strikes Back / L'Empire

The strongest connection that L’empire has with the rest of Dumont’s films is the ongoing references to Jean Epstein. When you remove the (intentionally goofy) science fiction aspects, you’ve essentially got a modern day Jean Epstein film with sound.

Finis Terrae / L'Empire

he [Jean Epstein] took himself off one day to Brittany to film exclusively there, with Bretons. Film a region, whichever it is, and the door is opened to filming the whole world - Bruno Dumont, filmmaker magazine
Le Tempestaire / L'Empire

I am simply doing the same thing that Pharaon de Winter did by including in my film people from northeast France, as [Jean] Epstein also did - Bruno Dumont, Cineaction Issue 51, Feb. 2000
 Mor'vran / L'Empire

In L'OR DES MERS there is a non professional actress chosen by Epstein who is truly exceptional. She manages to express infinite emotion - Bruno Dumont, thehotcorn.com
L'or Des Mers / L'Empire


If you’ve been following my “reviews” of this year’s new releases you may have noticed the common tread of: “I like it but I wouldn’t recommend this to most people”. L’empire is no exception. The difference here is that you don’t just randomly watch a Bruno Dumont movie. This is a movie strictly for his hardcore fans. I’m also still not sure if Dumont was trying to make an unnecessarily mean-spirited cynical commentary on modern cinema or if he was truly being experimental and trying his hand at a new genre (I honestly hope not because making fun of Star Wars in 2024 as an arthouse filmmaker is very lazy & predictable). This excerpt from a recent interview in film comment does indicate that his intentions are genuine. But you never know with a filmmaker like Dumont…



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