Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Portuguese team of filmmakers "The Clones" is spreading wings; wings soaked in blood

 "The Clones exist officially since 2008. Our headquarters are based in Lisbon, Portugal and we specialize in small productions, mainly low budget, of the comedy/horror/sci-fi genres"

The Clones is a Portuguese team of filmmakers, friends who got together to make a short film and ended up founding one of the freshest, most interesting projects the country has known film-wise. Papa Wrestling (2009), BLARGHAAARHGARG (2010) and Banana Motherfucker (2011), three extremely low budget productions of pure trash-gore, an energized revitalization of the genre that weaves between the politically incorrect and passionate homages and references to horror classic movies. Uncompromised, funny and bloody messy, let it not deceive you in that they're not serious. They are. You can visit their website at ClonesPT, check trailers and videos from masterclasses and order copies of the DVDs. Enjoy the launching promotion of "Banana Motherfucker", 3€ as a preposterous low price for an edition with a batshit crazy cover plus extras. I had my chance and got myself the complete pack at MOTELx'12. Now I'm just sitting here waiting for their next projects.

Maybe you're a follower of Twitch, whose creator and editor Todd Brown did the coolest review on "Banana", which you can read here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

MOTELx'12: a close-up on the best moments

Not only but also - will make sure I will be back next year. 
Hope you too.

Suspiria (1977), written by Dario Argento e Dario Nicolodi; directed by Dario Argento. Probably the greatest masterpiece of the Giallo legend and one of the most remarkable horror movies ever made. A unique experience to re-watch it on the big screen.

Dario Argento himself, in a masterclass that took place on the last day of the festival, with right to the screening of a few scenes and a sympathetic autograph session in the end. From the inspiration he draws from painting, architecture, opera and music in general, to the embrace his films have always given to technical features (the "reinvention" of the technicolor in Deep Red (1975) or the first Italian 3D movie with Dracula 3D (2012)), to how his films cope with his dreams, how did he learn to make films, and his future projects.

Babycall (2012), written and directed by Pål Sletaune.This is a rare case of appraisal for me. Why, because I hated the ending. I mean, what happened to "write a great third act because that's the only thing the audience will remember"? Happened that such one-sided aphorisms shrivel at the hands of craftsmen like the Norwegian filmmaker. A slow paced, realistic thriller that blends gelid paranoia, silent and undetectable violence with three real-life-like characters that might as well have been extracted from a good family drama. Main plot of delusion and subplots of character exploration are tied seamlessly together, instead of connecting here and there, pretending to puzzle up a major complexity of storytelling. You never get the impression that Anna's relationship with her son is loose from the babycall issue or from her relationship with Helge. It's almost unattainably organic. Details after details (the drawing of the building, the blood, the poster), this is no castle of cards. Noomi Rapace makes you mad along with her because you'll believe anything she says, any look she throws. The resolution casts a whole new light upon the rest of the film and I felt I lost so much of what I had to ground these characters and their actions on. I am still fighting with some logical holes but it is remarkable anyway.

Red State (2012), written and directed by Kevin Smith. Sardonic at times, scary at others, might be an interesting case study on how to carry the audience between two heroes and yet the global situation as a third character, mostly the antagonist, without leaving room for complete identification with anything unless the moral pending issues it lifts. We are with Travis in the setup and the religious lunatics in the first half and we suffer for him and his friends. Then we're with Keenen in the second half and visit both Travis and the progressively dissolved antagonists, but now we're not simply pinched by the one hero's pain but also the other's ethical and political ungrateful decision. The shaky camerawork waves a story between ritualistic torture and paranoic institutional evaluation, two magnifying glasses for the same situation. Still, I would've wanted a more traditional approach to the relationship between Travis and Cheyenne, which provided some of the best conflict of the movie. I don't think you can call it Manichean, because while yes it has a clear target for conviction (extremists even ultra-conservatives and neo-nazis pull away), never trying to hide it ("red" state), the doubts it poses upon the characters are sharp human examination. And yes, the epilogue is a fucking spit on those people's face. Great performances by the whole cast, chiefly Melissa Leo and Michael Parks.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

MOTELx'12: day four with "Suspiria", "Midnight Son", "Crawl" and "Emergo"; highlights of day five with Dario Argento Masterclass

After last night's short intervention by one of the Masters of Horror, a full house of fans and admirers of the genre and his work were locked down in red cushioned chairs and assisted to a masterful assembling of colors, lights, sound, music and gore that though grounded on a little sloppy narrative (not pure trash cinema, like Inferno (1980) or Mother of Tears (2007)), produced a psychedelic paralyzing of my senses of lucidity and serenity. Unforgettable experience of devastating fright, where contrarily to the rest of the trilogy magic and witches loom so close and real you might sometimes be alone in the room, sitting on a fluctuating recliner, your perception driven by their powers and your attention guided by their muffled footsteps. Suspiria (1977) is not the last Dario Argento playing in the festival, as today screens Demons (1985), written by himself and directed by Lamberto Bava.

Midnight Son (2012) features interesting notes on the vampire genre and tracks the course of their complete humanization. The atmosphere of uncanniness was never completely lifted and so it takes wrong steps like the healing skin by the end. We followed a character progressively discovering his symptoms which helped the narrative to move forward, but it was constantly stalling due to lack of new and subtler ideas, fresher decisions, and a determined arc. The relationship with Mary needed a little bit more time and better acting and the one with the brothers was simply awful, in a movie where you feel like you're watching the first fifteen minutes over and over again.  

Crawl (2012) reminded me of the title of a fine tv show canceled by HBO last year, Bored to Death. When the host of the session felt the necessity to state that this was a film in which the duration of the scenes was appropriate for the genre of suspense, I smelled something burning. Like so many others, this film could've been told in twelve to fifteen minutes. The scenes were made of everlasting intercuts between a hand and a door knob, a hand and a gun, a footstep and a door. That shatters suspense, romps with it. That's Gerry (2000) with guns, man. It pays homage to Blood Simple (1984) and No Country for Old Man (2008) but it lacks purpose. A pint of what makes the Coen brothers great storytellers is their conveying of profound themelines bellow their drop-dead-and-laugh bloodshedding dumb crime scenes - the morality of stealing and killing; a contemporary nihilistic America; a paranoid modern society; the meaning of life actually. China brothers characters were void, roaming, aimless, despite their grasps for some odd funny moments.

I am not a fan of found footage films, but I loved REC (2008) and kind of liked Chronicle (2011). And I wished Emergo (2012) had been produced before me and the world watched all the other spin-offs, except the first Paranormal Activity, from 2007. It was written by Buried (2010) and Red Lights (2012) director Rodrigo Cortés back in 2009, and I believe it would've known more praise for originality than it did three years later. Much more tell than show, developed an interesting drama-genre relationship between father and daughter but the rest wasn't more than predictable moments. Great aesthetics and camerawork though.


Masterclass "Os Clones", a Portuguese team of filmmakers dedicated to serie B trash gore short films. Stupidly funny and trashly out of the box, you can watch their work on Youtube - Papa Wrestling (2009), Blarghaaahrgarg (2010) and Banana Motherfucker (2011).


Masterclass Dario Argento, on his career, his films and his methods. The lecture of a legend. Unmissable.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

MOTELx: "Excision" on day three

Excision (2012), written and directed by Richard Bates Jr. is one of those cases that proves if you've made a short film than that's how it was supposed to be made. Let it live and move on. Paul Thomas Anderson expanded Cigarettes and Coffee (1994) into Sydney/Hard Eight (1996); Wes Anderson did the same with Bottle Rockett (1994), into Bottle Rockett (1996); Andres Muschietti is doing it with his three-minute Mama (2008). Though I'm sure hundreds of other attempts fail sharply. I haven't seen the 2008 Excision, eighteen minutes that converted horror followers all around the world, but after last night's screening I won't wait much longer. For both good and bad reasons. Praises first, "Excision"'s ending is absolutely bizarre and gut-freezing, attending to wrap a mash of very disturbed human emotions. The tension of the editing drove the theater dead-shut for the first time since the beginning of the film. I just wished the rest of the film hadn't been a constant repetition of the same beats, shots and reactions (dinner scenes), surreal and nerve-rackingly loathsome images of sex, blood and...praying? The main character had a very interesting psychology, until halfway in you realized you would never know what the hell was going on inside her mind and, bear with me, even crazy people have utter motivations and goals. What was she doing there? Why was she doing those things? It wasn't developed as  mystery. It was loose confusion, allegedly created on purpose, something I'd rather call false-complexity.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

MOTELx'12 day two: Highlights

An improbable film by Clerks (1994) writer/director Kevin Smith, with a great cast and premise. "Set in Middle America, a group of teens receive an online invitation for sex, though they soon encounter fundamentalists with a much more sinister agenda." 

New film from Pascal Laugier, writer/director of the straight-to-DVD brutally violent and cruelly existentialist Martyrs (2008), one of the best horror movies I've seen.

In the section Cult of the Living Masters, the third film of the Three Mothers Trilogy, by Dario Argento. The other two, Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) will also play at the festival.

MOTELx'12, day one: "Vampire", "The Butterfly Room" and "REC 3: Genesis"

I opened my viewership on MOTELx 2012 with what promised to be a vampire drama with a unique touch of sociological background - the modern online relationships and the sadly timeless suicide. Vampire (2012), by Shunji Iwai, navigates those seas and unfolds the story of a human being apparently obsessed with drinking human blood - he's no vegan like the Cullens. It feels somewhere between a ritualistic experience and a vice. He goes into an online discussion group, Side by Cide, arranges a suicide pact, preferably with a girl, and convinces her to die first by draining her to a corpse. Any supernatural moments vaporized  at twilight while the camera work and the art department did a good job on keeping it interestingly realistic. But that's when the piano didn't go on a loop, or the minimalist transcendental slow motions stalled the pace even more than many boring dialogues, or incomprehensible slanted shots threw globules of randomness on this often anemic movie. Although it pushed up really dark-funny moments and even grasped a worthy gloomy sweetness between Simon and Ladybird, there were too many underexplored characters and angles, certainly because it tried to cover way too much than its 120 minutes could afford. It never had a proper focus, never picked up something small to try to convey something bigger, and thus never foresighted the land of moral I felt it wanted to come ashore at. The Japanese girl provided a very intense scene from which new dramatic questions could have been raised (they sparkled) on the value of life, death and assisted suicide. But it never took off organically and had to force its way in with cheesy moments defining the character arcs and evoking a sloppy irony in the end (being caught for giving blood).

The evening went by with The Butterfly Room (2012), written by Jonathan Zarantonello, Paolo Guerrieri and Luigi Sardielli, directed by the first. The thriller began by setting a fine tone with its geometrical capturing of the apartments, the mysterious assassin vibe from an amazing Barbara Steele and the dead delicacy of dozens of colorful butterflies hanging on a wall of a forbidden room. Then the plot takes two ways: present and flashbacks covering the last days before the beginning of the film. They mirror each other and rhyme with the wicked backstory of the main character. Aesthetically amateur and structurally dispensable, the storyline of the flashback turned out to be miles more interesting than the main one. Steele's character was more genuinely flawed, the girl Alice was absolutely fascinating and intriguing, their relationship and the surprising state of global affairs evolved into a bizarre contrivance of love, obsession, paranoia and blackmail. The present didn't care for no subtlety and relied on overdramatic exposition and scenes that balanced between tense and stupid (I hated the way music was handled). When the two stories came together in the butterfly room, it was visually great but no sooner did the resolution destroy everything with a forced fatality just like "Vampire".

I shall go to bed claiming REC 3: Genesis (2012) was the surprise of the day. I loved the first movie and didn't watch the second one - I rarely trust unplanned sequels. But this was the opening ceremony and I had a scratch behind my hear wanting to know the origins of the virus. I was expecting the usual dim found-footage visuals, the religious mystique that bubbled by the end of the first part and supposedly strengthened during the second one and answers for who the Medeiros girl was. A prequel, with all it takes. Well, turn around and bon voyage. Not only "Genesis" stands for the biblical event the priest evokes to justify the zombie apocalypse happening during a marriage, as the story happens at the same time as that of the first movie (the dog is the link), as there's seldom found footage aesthetics and as this is a pure horror-comedy where scary slow paced shadows shifts turns with gory action. Despite the uncountable cheesy love moments, how can you not laugh when a newly-wedded groom, wearing a stolen third century army of St. George, crunches the face of a drunk zombie with all sorts of kitchen cookware? Or when Beatrix Kiddo finally gets a teammate, a short-haired, pale, pissed bride on her white dress, walking on heels and carrying a yellow chainsaw?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

MOTELx day one: I'll be watching

Starting tomorrow.

16h45, Room 3 (S. Jorge Cinema)
Vampire (2012). written and directed by Shunji Iwai

 18h45, Room Manoel de Oliveira (S. Jorge Cinema)
The Butterfly Room (2012), written and directed by Jonathan Zarantonello (w/ Q&A)

21h45, Room Manoel  de Oliveira (S. Jorge Cinema) - Opening Ceremony
 REC 3: Genesis (2012), written by Paco Blaza and Luiso Berdejo; directed by Paco Blaza

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Triple Crown for P. T. "The Master" Anderson

Best Director, Cannes'02 (Punch-Drunk Love)
Silver Bear (Best Director), Berlin'08 (There Will Be Blood)
Silver Lion (Best Director), Venice'12 (The Master)

Besides, this is the kind of achievement only a magnanimous filmmaker can fuel:

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquim Phoenix, ex-aequo winners of the Volpi Cup (Best Actor), fifteen minutes ago, in Venice.

MOTELx: the best of horror movies in Lisbon (12-16 September)

"(...) aims at stimulating the production of Portuguese genre films, displaying the best horror works internationally produced in the last years, contributing to the education of younger audiences and frame recent productions through the scheduling of selected retrospectives. (...) exhibits of recent and classic films, of various styles and genres, promotes the coming of international guests and gives primacy to the only competitive section of the festival, MotelX Award - Best Portuguese Horror Short, impelling dozens of participant to make their horror shorts every year (...)."

After the masterclasses with George Romero, Eric Roth, John Landis and Mick Garris, this year's major highlight is the upcoming of giallo legend director Dario Argento (Sunday 16th Sep., 16h30, free entrance). That's where I dip my first focus of the 6th Edition the festival: Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), Demons (1985) and Mother of Tears (1987), in the section Cult of the Living Masters: Dario Argento. The filmmaker premiered his recentest film, Dracula 3D, in Cannes'12.

You may also want to gather some questions for Jonathan Zarantonello, Julien Maury and Alex Chandon whose newest films will be served in the section Room Service - respectively, The Butterfly Room (2012), Livid (2011) and Inbred (2011). For such breakfast I shall not miss those three plus Emergo (2011), written by Buried (2010) and Red Lights (2012) writer/director Rodrigo Cortés, Excision (2012), The King of Pigs (2011). I think Rec (2008) should've ended right there but I can't say I am not curious to peek on the national premiere of Rec 3: Genesis (2012).

There's also Pal Sletaune, writer/director of Babycall, staring new-Hollywood star Noomi Rapace, and one of my strongest picks, Pascal Laugier, writer/director of the undervalued but outstanding french horror movie Martyrs (2008) and of the upcoming The Tall Man (2012), staring Jessica Biel.

Nobuo Nakagawa gets a special homage section with his Black Cat Mansion (1958), Ghost Story of Yotsua (1958) and The Lady Vampire (1959). There's no deceiving in my words: I had no idea who this gentleman was but I am curious now. Another parallel section, Lost Room, brings us two sole films: The Territory (1981), a Portuguese production directed by Raoul Ruiz, and The State of Things (1982), a Portuguese, German and American production directed by Wim Wenders.

Never forget the good old short films: Aconteceu no Interior (Ricardo Machado), Até Quando (Jorge Cramez), A Bruxa de Arroios (Manuel Pureza), The Headless Nun (Nuno Sá Pessoa), Leito de Maldição (Paulo Teixeira Rebelo), Mutter (Tony Costa and Rafael Antunes), O Princípio do Fim (Joel Rodrigues and André Agostinho), O Reino (Paulo Castilho), Silêncio (Hélio Valentim and Ricardo Ferreira), Tormenta (Francisco Carvalho).

For more, you can check MotelX official website.