98 minutes, 2019
With the world in an ongoing crisis that shows no signs of easing up anytime soon, who could resist a film that promises (in the title) an “art film” with copious amounts of nudity.
Lifting off with an unabashedly hot coupling, the plot shifts immediately—even as the positions and moaning intensify—when we realize that the hot couple are not performing for the cameras, but for a couple of voyeurs (Evan Daves as the amenable, curly topped Abe, alongside wonderfully redheaded Alan Saperstein’s Todd, who, in many ways carries much of the film, whether being “regular” Todd or “demon” Todd).
The hope for sex soon moves into the background as the scene shifts to a movie house where an alluring succubus (Katelyn Pearce soars through the role with an alluring physique, and body language that speaks volumes) is re-unleashed in an hidden-away second movie theatre as her archival film is unwittingly replayed for the first time in eons.
The pair of “window-lookers” are part of a team of five who keep the small town, local cinema running on time. Their boss, ably done up by Bill Phillips as the Bible-thumping Mr. Pike, can’t help but convince avid moviegoers that he can’t possibly be what he seems to be.
The rest of the crew: tobacco-free, born-again projectionist “Heavy Metal” Jeff (Robbie Tann), in-charge-for-the-fateful-night Chaz (Jillian Muller) and baseball wannabe with more than a touch of lavender, Ricky (Glenn Stott will have admirers of all persuasions).
Lurking in the devilish background is Peter Reznikoff’s wide-ranging take on Phantom of the Movie House, Lord Beekman.
Racela’s first feature (with a script from Matt Black and Laurence Vannicelli) has many admirable moments, but can’t really decide which genre to dwell on. With so many “flashlights into the dark” scenes, the film loses forward pace and dramatic power. The unusual narrative, er, insertion of “exploding balls” (no, Virginia, not the ones you eat, but the ones that hang largely out of sight…) adds a bit of grisly variety.
By journey’s end, no one is really what they have professed to be (save and except of the succubus—true to character with every encounter), the war between good and evil is just as unresolved as ever, whether straight, gay, or beyond the grave. JWR
The Family Tree
139 minutes, 2020
Different kinds of love
No stranger to these pages (cross-references below), Ameer’s latest film zeros in on a love triangle (two men and a woman) as the means for exploring the many shades of love, commitment and devotion (the latter human and animal) that make relationships at once rich and challenging.
For some, the pace may be a tad slow. Setting his scenes largely in Christmas/New Year’s celebrations over a few years, the sets, lighting and music reinforce the notion of festive times that should bring everyone together: “’Tis the season, after all.”
Nearly all of the plot points can be seen, heard (including the dialogue that is often short on originality) and felt miles away—with one notable exception that, nonetheless, brings the credibility factor to the narrative abyss with an incredible coincidence.
However, it is the extended “unspoken” scenes that provide this production’s finest moments. With only music as background, the actors must use their bodies, visages and movements to reinforce what has just transpired and/or what to make of it. They are ably assisted by James Brown’s inventive cinematography and Ameer’s adept editing.
Keith Roenke as Victor does a fine job, serving as the catalyst that will bring the three “more than friends” into a unified whole. Working at an animal shelter by day (and enduring a homophobic father—Freddy d’Elia), the honest-to-a-fault man does everything asked of him.
When undocumented Roy (Michael Joseph Nelson, uses his sultry good looks to effect) turns up on Victor’s door step, he solves the legal problem by proposing a civil union. Not entirely gay (it’s akin to being a little bit pregnant), the deal is made.
That leaves the artistic Alina (Anaïs Lucia readily convincing with all bed partners) to, at first cheer on the suddenly queer couple before—in a wonderful movie-watching couch scene—causing Victor to fade away, even as she opens her bed to Roy, and, eventually all comers.
Quibbles above aside, Ameer is steadily improving his ability to drill down into the human experience with honesty, candour and a sense of hope for us all.
Cheers to more. JWR
92 minutes, 2020
What price, death?
Banke’s first feature shows much promise, even if the budget was tight (witness the sea crossing segments…). The writing (Michael Wright, Tom George) is generally well-balanced, with the women falling with the men, or, in one marvellous scene, despatching a resistance do-gooder who sends the wrong message to a child,-still in shock after witnessing her mother’s murder—old beyond her years.
At issue is the “rescue” of a nuclear scientist being held in Poland by the Nazis in 1943. Pawel Delag plays the fictional Dr. Fabien with appropriate stoicism. If his research turns out, it will be the Germans to drop “the bomb” not the Americans.
And so it falls to a joint U.S.-British operation to cobble together an élite commando team headed by an American, Ed Westwick, who, conveniently speaks Polish, to infiltrate enemy lines, and bring the beleaguered scientist back to the welcoming arms of the Manhattan Project.
The film plays out with predictability, even as the Russians (who also want Herr Professeur) realize, on balance, it’s better that the Yanks than the Krauts relocate this fountain of deadly knowledge stateside.
A final, chilling image, is the prototype of the bomb that would end World War II, even at the expense of the lives ~70,000 innocent victims—OK, a few were probably soldiers... What a wonderful world. JWR