Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cheese and Dumplings

Psycho Beach Party - 2000 - Dir: Robert Lee King
Location: The Comfort of My House

Another one of the film I've heard about for years now, but somehow managed to not see. This is a fun, campy murder mystery set in the world of the 60s surf flicks. Florence (Lauren Ambrose) is not lucky in the ways of love but tries to find her way into the cool group and become the first female surfer in their area. What the guys don't know is she has a personality disorder and at times the sweet girl turns into Ann Bowman, a foulmouthed over-sexual woman. Around the same time that she hits the waves strange murders begin happening around the beach and you are stuck trying to figure out if she's the culprit or one of the others in the odd cast.

This is a very fun film that really nails the beach movie look and vibe. Originally it was a play and the part of Florence was performed by the man who wrote it, Charles Busch, in drag. When they got around to making the film version he was too old to reprise his role so he wrote himself a part as the female police captain. Busch also threw in a couple of surfer guy characters who seem to enjoy the company of each other more than any woman who comes by. There are also plenty of lovely ladies for the straight guys, like myself, to gaze upon including the beautiful Amy Adams and Kimberley Davies playing a B-horror actress.

This is suggested viewing for fans of fun indie cinema and tongue-in-cheek spoof films. You can pick up the DVD here.

Three... Extremes (Sam gang yi) - 2004 - Dir: Fruit Chan, Chan-wook Park & Takashi Miike
Location: The Comfort of My Home

This film has three shorts, around forty minutes each, from three different Asian horror directors. Nothing really binds the three together story wise, except for maybe a weird tongue thing in a couple of them, but they do run the gamut of extremes and styles.

Dumplings - Fruit Chan - China - This tale has Bai Ling as Aunt Mei, a woman who makes the best dumplings around. The food is very expensive due to the nature of their main ingredient - aborted fetuses. According to Mei this will help you stay young looking and she uses herself as an example because she's much older than she looks. I have never really found Bai Ling attractive but here in this short film dressed down she is quite hot in my opinion. Of course you really don't care about how good looking I think someone looks, you want to know about the "ick" factor. Thing gets a little stomach turning when you see the tiny unborn babies being chopped up and many people have had their stomachs turned. Me, I craved dumplings and even ate them the next day when out having lunch. I guess I'm just a weirdo.

Cut - Chan-wook Park - Korea - From the director the awesome revenge trilogy (including Oldboy) comes another tale of vengeance about an extra getting back at a nice guy film director who seems to have it all. He kidnaps the director and his piano player wife and binds them on set and will cut off one of her fingers unless the director will kill a child who is also tied up. Out of the three this is the most kooky with the extra's wacky approach and monologues he spouts off to the hostages. This one also plays into more of the standard slasher gore with some wonderful bouts of bloodshed.

The Box - Takashi Miike - Japan - The infamous director takes his turn at a tale of a writer who has dreams of when she and her twin sister were performers in a circus with a magician where they would end up folding into a small box before disappearing. Something horrible happened in those boxes and you follow along through her recollections of the events. This is definitely the most stylish out of the three, but also the most "out there." Things move a bit slower in this entry and there is much less dialog but if you let yourself follow along you will get just as wrapped up in the story and find its merits.

It's hard to pick which is my favorite out of the three. All of them are great, but such different styles that it makes them hard to compare. I did really enjoy the film and look forward to watching it again. My only real complaint is with Dumplings and how it seems to move a bit fast and just kind of end. Chan also made a feature length version of this short, which is on the second disc of the DVD, and I will be watching it soon. I hear it's much better, and I still loved the forty minute version.

Pick up the two-disc DVD here.

Mau Mau Sex Sex - 2001 - Dir: Ted Bonnitt
Location: The Comfort of My House

This brief documentary is about the wonders of exploitation films. Everyone loves them, whether they want to admit it or not, but you should be proud of the sleaze and gratuitous violence. While quite a few clips are shown throughout the film the primary focus in on two producers from the good ol' days. Dan Sonney had a hand in many films (like working on the infamous Maniac from 1934) and his father traveled around in the silent days with exploitative films of how he caught criminals as a cop. Then there's Sonney's friend and colleague David F. Friedman. Anyone with the slightest interest in exploitation should know this name. He has been an actor/writer/director/producer on numerous films like She Freak (1967), The Defilers (1965) and many H.G. Lewis films including the highly influential Blood Feast (1963).

Between their tales from the old days are the thoughts of film historian, exploitation enthusiast and filmmaker Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Frankenhooker). This is a must see for fans of the genre. The stories these guys tell are full of laughs, though it really makes you wish you could go back in time to see these films first run in the grindhouses and drive-ins around the country.

For those of us who love and collect films you will really enjoy a few screenshots. I drooled over these.

Henelotter's wall o' exploitation!

This is in Friedman's detached garage turned museum. I wonder what films are in the boxes and reels behind him?

This is from the warehouse of film archivist and owner/operator of Something Weird Video Mike Vraney. And this is just one of the aisles!

Unfortunately this DVD is out-of-print but it is available for rent on Netflix.


Beth said...

We actually have Psycho Beach Party waiting on the DVR right now, partly due to my Nicky Brendan fetish. Mmmmm...

Three Extremes was definitely an interesting one. I had no idea there was a longer version of Dumplings, so I will now seek that out. Rockin'! I admit that while I really enjoyed Cut, I did get a little lost there at the end. I need to rewatch and see if my brain was just running slow that night. heh

Brian said...

Dumplings is one of the most beautifully disturbing films. The music, the cinematography. SOOOO awesome. And yes, the full length is WELL worth watching in addition to the short. They differ in a few key ways, both are excellent.

Anonymous said...

New copies of the Mau Mau Sex Sex DVD is for sale on Amazon, directly from the filmmaker. Look for the seller that offers: Brand New in Wrapper from the Filmmaker.

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