Saturday, April 14, 2018

Boston Underground Film Festival 2018.03: The Queen of Hollywood Blvd & Let the Corpses Tan

Friday night at the festival, and I felt pretty gassed by the end of the week - it was either the week I ran out of patience with something at work or the next, when I was really throwing myself into trying to get the thing I proposed doing instead out. Even if I were a guy who went for the edgy midnight shorts program or parties, I just wasn't going to be up for it this night

I'll bet these guys were, though.

That's Queen of Hollywood Blvd director Orson Oblowitz in the center, and his mother (and star of the movie) Rosemary Hochschild on the right. They aren't really the folks they play in their movie, but you can sort of see where Queen Mary came from in Hochschild, a certain flamboyance that's hard to fake.

Oblowitz also talked a great deal about how excited he was to work with Michael Parks, and that his role in the movie eventually came to reflect his reticence to accept it, that his voice was going and he couldn't really sing anymore. In fact, a chunk of the Q&A had Oblowitz on his phone, trying to bring up the sweet, rambling message he got from Parks saying that he didn't think he could take the job because of it (and to not talk so fast when leaving a message himself).

After that was Let the Corpses Tan, which reminded me that I've got to order a copy of The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears and get through it sometime; I think I saw it at BUFF in a 10pm (or later) slot and wasn't really able to stay awake through much at all, despite having loved the same filmmakers' Amer. There was not much chance of that being the case for this - though I was as fatigued as I've ever been three days into a film festival, the gunshots in this movie are mixed as loud as any I've ever heard, and will jolt you to full alertness any time you're even thinking of drifting off.

The Queen of Hollywood Blvd

* * * (out of four)
Seen 23 March 2018 in the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival, DCP)

The folks who made The Queen of Hollywood Blvd probably don't consider themselves lucky that it wound up being the last thing that Michael Parks worked on before his death, but it probably won't hurt them to be the answer to a trivia question, in either the short or long term. They don't really need to trade off that - the film is just eccentric and singular enough to stand out from a potential sea of modern grindhouse flicks on its own - but it's not as if the title character would pass up that sort of boost to her business.

That would be "Queen Mary" (Rosemary Hochschild), who has been running her strip club, "Mary's Dine & Dance", for decades, although it seems that she's never actually owned it, and loan shark Duke (Roger Guenveur Smith) has decided to repossess it on her 60th birthday. He sends a fellow called Punk Rock Charlie (Matthew Berkowitz) to get the keys and take over as manager, and she does not go quietly so Duke goes to plan B - kidnapping her son and saying she'll maybe get him back if she kills a different thorn in his side.

Star Rosemary Hochschild is the mother of writer/director Orson Oblowitz, and that he wrote this movie with her in mind, flatly refusing to make with anybody else, might make one stare blankly for a moment or two before commenting that this must be an interesting family. It makes more sense once you see the movie; though Oblowitz is not exactly on-screen long enough as Mary's mush-mouthed idiot of a son to serve as much more than a plot device - there's a more obvious maternal bond with Grace (Ana Mulvoy Ten), the teenager a pimp (Jon Sklaroff) is trying to place in the bar - it's not hard to see the admiration that Oblowitz has for her even if he's also written Mary as dangerously impulsive and occasionally walking a fine line between non-judgmentally cosmopolitan and ruthlessly amoral. She's a fighter with a decent core surrounded by rough edges of which she is categorically unashamed, and Oblowitz shoots her larger than life, either pushed to the front of the frame to dominate it or given a wide berth as she walks down the Boulevard in slow motion, one of the many colorful characters that reside in that part of town made the center of attention.

Full review on EFC

Laissez bronzer les cadavres (Let the Corpses Tan)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 March 2018 in the Brattle Theatre (Boston Underground Film Festival, DCP)

Let the Corpses Tan isn't the same sort of ultra-violence as high art as other films you might describe that way - it's more about the striking image than the impeccable choreography, the sort of thing that you can screen-capture and show to someone who doesn't necessarily go for big action rather than the clips you dissect looking for cuts and doubling. Fortunately, it's in the hands of some of the best in the business at creating striking images and just enough to stitch them together, and they're happy to dispense with subtlety.

The story is simple enough - it's July, the sun is pounding down in a sparsely populated area near the Mediterranean, and Luce (Elina Löwensohn) has a couple of guests at her villa - friend-and-likely-lover Max (Marc Barbé) and his lawyer (Michelangelo Marchese) - but doesn't know said lawyer is working with a criminal crew led by Rhino (Stéphane Ferrara) planning to knock over an armored car and lay low at Luce's place with the quarter-ton of gold within. Of course, that's not the sort of crime that goes unnoticed in the best of cases, and things start to get fairly crowded when not just the police, but Max's estranged wife (Dorylia Calmel) shows up with son (Pierre NIsse) and nanny (Marine Sainsily) in tow. And when all hell breaks loose, the timetable for an inevitable double-cross tends to get moved up.

Belgian filmmakers Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani did not go in for complicated stories in their previous two films, and Corpses doesn't exactly break that pattern. But while they still don't supply a lot of detail in the plot, what there is serves to clarify rather than confuse, putting the connections between scenes within reach rather than pushing them just out of reach. They still aren't providing a lot of exposition, and having the whole thing turn into a big shootout doesn't mean they won't occasionally fragment the narrative, but they're serving a different sort of emotional end here, looking for adrenaline-charged thrills rather than mounting unease, which leads them to sometimes be a little more playful.

Full review on EFC

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