Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Made for Midnight: Roar and Reality

Potential secondary theme for this pairing: Movies with basically the same title released in close succession. Although the Italian Reality was released a little longer ago than I remembered (about two years), it's only been about six months since I last saw a movie named "Roar" about idiots who antagonized feline carnivores much larger than they were.

These two played the same room a week apart - although mainly because Roar got held over a second week, presumably so that those of us busy at IFFBoston the previous week could see it (why yes, I do think about the Coolidge's schedule as being made for my convenience - don't you?). It was apparently a full moon, or at least that was one explanation, because some guy in the downstairs theater got really unruly, was kicked out, kept trying to come back in, spat on someone... Eventually the police were called, and let me tell you the 66 bus does not stop when there are six Brookline PD cars dealing with a guy on the other side of the road. Apparently the guy actually was worth not messing with so me having to walk home was no big deal, but that was a reminder that for all I would probably open a theater if I ever came into the appropriate amount of money, there are a lot of good reasons why I don't miss working at one at all.

What's kind of interesting to me is that they are both pretty midnight-specific releases. Roar will be playing the Brattle at regular hours this week, but it will still be a midnight movie in spirit, with audiences kind of coming to look at the trainwreck. Reality comes from a guy who has made a few oddball niche movies and by now the distributor pretty much knows what they're getting.

I do have to say, though, that it's kind of a weird good news/bad news situation that IFC Midnight saw the new Dupieux movie as the sort of known commodity that it wanted to snap up right away. It looks to have only played a couple of festivals, which meant that nobody was really talking about it or building up any sort of buzz for a pretty good movie; it showed up on the Coolidge's website a couple of weeks before release, and only those of us who check that pretty regularly knew it was coming. Everyone else is looking at VOD, and I bag on that a lot, but how does anyone know what's available on that? Does this make it easier for movies like Reality to just disappear down a hole?

I harp on this a lot, I suppose, but I hate missing stuff, and barring the old "choose a new title that starts with 'A'" trick, how does something like this get attention, especially if Reality or Maggie isn't going to hit the specialty festival circuit?

Roar (1981)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 2 May 2015 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (@fter Midnite, DCP)

That Roar never got much of a theatrical release when it was new may be for the best. It means that very few have ever approached it expecting something conventional and been disappointed on that count. Instead, just about everyone who buys a ticket or sends it to their television knows that they're getting the insane movie made with semi-cooperative big cats, and will basically accept it for what it is.

After all, the behind-the-scenes story of this thing is far more interesting than the movie's plot. In some ways, though, they're kind of the same: An animal-loving American (writer/director/star Noel Marshall) goes to Africa and spends a lot of time at a an animal preserve, eventually bringing his family (wife Tippi Hedren, stepdaughter Melanie Griffith, sons John & Jerry Marshall), and having chaos ensue as they arrive at a house where the local animals have more or less free reign. In reality, Marshall's family also got to know the animal cast, while in the film there's some business with poachers that keeps "Hank" from meeting "Madelaine" and the kids on time. How much the alpha lion of the local pack was actually having issues with a nearby rogue in real life is unclear.

I like to imagine that the phrase "you insane American dilettante" was cut from the end of every line Kyalo Mativo spoke; he spends most of his screen time paired with Noel Marshall and that's what the incredulous look on his face seems to be saying. Everything about this movie seems to be barely controlled madness, and the distributor is certainly using that as a selling point, highlighting how seventy members of the cast and crew are injured in some way while the animals were completely unharmed. Perhaps a more telling (and less vicious) way of pointing out how chaotic this project was is that the animals are described as co-writers, because they just did what they wanted, no matter what the script says.

Full review on EFC.

Réalité (Reality)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 9 May 2015 in the Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (@fter Midnite, DCP)

A sad thing about how peculiar movies like those made by Quentin Dupieux are likely to be more readily available to a larger audience via the various on-demand services is that I'm certain that, at some point while making this film, he smiled upon imagining people going to a cinema box office and asking for "a ticket to reality". Or "un billet à réalité", since he's French. I suppose selecting "Reality" from a set-top box's menu works too, although it's not the same as saying it out loud. Either way, you'll wind up with something else entirely, as entertaining and odd as his previous features.

"Reality", in this case, is a girl of about ten (Kyla Kenedy), who is very curious about the VHS tapes she saw come out of the stomach of a goat her father was butchering. That's not the whole of the movie, of course - over in Los Angeles, Jason Tantra (Alain Chabat) is a cameraman for a talk show hosted by a man in a rat costume (Jon Heder), although he aims to make a film of his own. Producer and fellow French expatriate Bob Marshall (Jonathan Lambert) would produce, although he becomes very fixated on the sound people will make when dying, giving Jason forty-eight hours to find the perfect scream in order to secure funding. He's also frustrated by the work of Zog (John Glover), usually a director of documentaries who is approaching his current film about a little girl named Reality in a similarly verité manner.

If you are expecting a simple film-within-a-film, you probably haven't seen Rubber in a while. This time around, Dupieux aims less to break the fourth wall than to take the whole lot out and replace them with a Moebius strip. Some viewers will play close attention, hoping to find patterns which indicate what level of reality the characters are currently occupying, and maybe they will succeed. I suspect it's a fool's errand, though - there's a pretty good joke or two that suggests he's not all that impressed with movies that key on that sort of gimmick. It's naturally self-deprecating, an indication that he's out to have fun more than blow minds.

Full review on EFC.

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