Everyone should be disgusted by Hollywood, but New York, New York has the most right to be. Held up as the shining star of America’s cities, its diversity, hard edge and peculiar insanity still manages to get misplayed on the silver screen despite L.A.’s honest worship. The New York Underground Film Festival is a perfectly reasonable response, flamboyantly defying the safe middle ground. Here’s the up to-the-minute hooplah from the Anthology Film Archives in the big old apple. The festival ends Sunday but this twisted, hard-core City will go right on rocking, I presume, in the underground fashion that these films depict, for quite some time.
SHUCKING THE CURVE ^ * * * * ^ (Dir. Todd Verow) ^ (http://www.bangorfilms.com) ^ Wow. If you’d like to know what it’s like to move to the East Village, have lots of sex, score drugs, find an apartment, and pull in some questionable income, this film is your step-by-step guide. Of course, this presumes you are already a somewhat hard-core party chick. Bonnie Dickinson does a great job as Suzanne, the couch-surfer protagonist, especially when she and friend Kathy (Leanne Whitney) tweak out about their OD’ed playmate with aggravatingly realistic panic. There’s a rollicking bit about a psycho performance artist and his hungry, drug-addled roommate, and Titania (or Tight for short, played by Philly) is a riot as the would-be landlord. With one hair-raising shenanigan after another, lots of loud, improvising, stoned actors (boy, it sure looks like they’re really doing the drugs, but I’m not asking) and some pretty funky sex scenes (e.g. sex in the tub with the dirty dishes), it’s too bad nobody threw a couple of hundred G’s Verow’s way for film and processing. They should do so now, before Verow commits another of these fine snapshots of New York City’s club-kid grind to the magnet.
HEAVY BLACK SMOKE STACK ^ * * ^ (Dir. Jimmy Mazzullo) ^ This movie is hipster madness, I tell you. But it falls just short of the mark. The pretty people who populate the surreal New York landscape are meant to be preying on Taimie and Jarrid, our innocent young couple. But the buxom and luscious Taimie (Tiffany Shepis) is acting bad-a*s even before she meets the first character, her sheepish boyfriend. For his part, he doesn’t change much more than his clothes, though that seems reasonable since the status quo got him into Shepis’ pleasant pants in act one. I wish we’d been taken on more of a character trip, instead of just understanding innately that when you meet people who do drugs you start doing more drugs, turn against your loved ones and then bad things happen (like very hot sex, but with the wrong people). And really, the robbery scenes meant to establish Trance and Estrogen as the evil menace couple are somewhat silly.
WASTED ^ * * * ^ (Dir. Ian Kerkhof) ^ Wasted is a joyride through ravesville, Amsterdam, which covers all the bases — extortive E dealers, big foolish debts, pounding music, a*****e bouncers… the works. The threats are real, the deals gritty, and the people are beautiful. The color palette has somehow been limited to the sci-fi rave flyer, and this makes it look very, very, very cool. The words “eye candy” come to mind, especially owing to the gorgeous nudity and the dreamlike digital effects. In fact, I was often thrown out of the moment by such distractions as a multicoloured toilet bowl during a hard-core puking scene. “Wasted” is the first film I’ve seen which attempts to prove how cool your sex life would be if you were a rave DJ, but which at the same time fails to prove that there’s anything more to DJ’ing than having other people who everyone thinks are cool think you’re cool so they give you the official cool records of the week. But maybe that’s a Hollywood-style simplification they’re making?!
CANNIBAL THE MUSICAL ^ * * * ^ (Dir. Trey Parker) ^ (http://www.troma.com) ^ According to Troma Entertainment president Lloyd Kaufman, Showtime once called this film unwatchable, listing the number of atrocities in the opening scene. Well, ha, ha to the mainstream (including Sundance: “They didn’t even get a rejection letter from those f—s!”), because the director is none other than South Park’s Trey Parker, and you now have another anecdote in your Beatles-got-turned-down-a-million-times archive. Sure, if I had to put this on a scale between Monty Python’s Meaning of Life and the Xena musical episode, it would probably be closer to the latter, but it definitely butchers its TV status. CTM is the story of Alfred Packer (as in, “Fudge, Packer?”), on trial in 1893 for cannibalism. As he recounts his jailhouse tale to a seductive reporter, we are transported back to the trail he led his fellow gold-miners on, occasionally broken up by singing, dancing, and dismemberment. I think the highest comedy in here is the Indian “tribe” who are actually Japanese in disguise, though I never quite figured out what they were doing hiding in America… BTW, this film was performed live at Slamdance, a la Rocky Horror!