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    IndieFest 2012

    By | February 8, 2012

    The 14th San Francisco Independent Film Festival (IndieFest) features 78 genre-bending independent films from around the world. Running February 9th thru 23rd at the Roxie Theaters (3117 16th St.), IndieFest 2012 will open with Abel Ferrara’s much anticipated 4:44 Last Day On Earth (Ferrara will on hand afterwards for a Q&A). Other must see screenings at IndieFest 2012 include Bad Fever, Bullhead, Clown: The Movie, The Color Wheel, Finisterrae, Green, Snowtown and Without.

    IndieFest 2012 also offers a plethora of truly inspired parties — including the Big Lebowski Party, the Roller Disco Party, and the Love Bites: 80s Power Ballad Sing A Long Party — at venues such as CELLspace (2050 Bryant St.), Sub-Mission (2183 Mission St.), 518 Gallery (518 Valencia St.), and Public Works (161 Erie). February 9th is the Spinal Tap Tribute Opening Night Party; closing night, on February 19th, features the GIRL WALK // ALL DAY Party.

    Film tickets are $11 for each regular screening and $20 for Opening Night (which includes the film plus the after-party). 5-film vouchers are $50, 10-film vouchers are $90; and FilmFestPass (good for all films and parties) are $160. (Note: passholders are always admitted first.) For advance tickets or more information, go to

    Smells Like Screen Spirit loves San Francisco almost as much as we love cinema, so we are proud to have this opportunity to provide our readers with our thoughts on eight fantastic (in more ways that one) films screening at IndieFest 2012. And, stay tuned as many more IndieFest 2012 reviews will be coming your way during the next two weeks!!!


    Bad Fever

    What truly makes Bad Fever special is Kentucker Audley’s performance as Eddie. Audley carefully flirts with adjectives such as creepy and deranged, yet he always seems deserving of our sympathy and affection; occasionally he hints of a slight mental handicap, but refrains from using such a “burden” to tug at our heartstrings. Imagine a toned-down mash-up of Crispin Glover and Jason Schwartzman with bumbling speech patterns and various ticks and idiosyncrasies, that is Eddie. It often becomes difficult to comprehend that this is an actor portraying a character. There is never any doubt about it — Audley is Eddie. The result is mind-blowing. Amazingly enough, Eleonore Hendricks matches Audley’s thespian skills beat for beat and watching Hendricks and Audley play off of each other is reason enough to watch Bad Fever. That is unless you do not like uncomfortable films — which Bad Fever certainly is.


    Beside My Brother

    Beside My Brother questions whether or not genes define people or if environmental influences do — for example, can the manner in which people are raised influence who they grow up to become? Genetically, the twins are two distinctly different people; and the brothers fight to remain two separate individuals maintaining their fundamentally different personalities. The father of the twins is obviously psychologically damaged from a past traumatic event, for that reason he has convinced himself that he only has one son. The father’s authoritative personality is powerful enough to control the twins well into adulthood. The twins have become so used to their lifestyles, that it seems they might never be able to break out of their routines. Even when they break free and move into their own home, the twins still maintain their charade of sharing one name and being only one person. What would happen to them if they try to do otherwise?



    Matthias Schoenaerts’ transcendental performance in Bullhead as Jacky — with drearily absent stare, imposing physical presence and violent bursts of rage — is so morally complex that we never know whether we should sympathize with his character or not. Thanks to writer-director Michael R. Roskam’s use of flashbacks, we see that Jacky (Robin Valvekens) was once a weak little boy who became irrevocably damaged. Jacky’s recklessly out-of-control overcompensation from his childhood trauma has caused him to de-evolve into an animal of a man (hence his titular nickname) fueled by inhumane rations of hormones and steroids. The only similarity between present-day Jacky and young Jacky is in name alone; every other aspect of Jacky has been drowned and altered by chemicals. When placed in this context, it is difficult to not feel really damn sorry for Jacky.


    The Casserole Club

    In the technicolor scenery of Palm Springs in 1969, The Casserole Club follows a group of aimless couples that occupy themselves with country club delights and indulge in parties that make college parties look tame. The pack of pastel wearing Stepford wives determine to spice up their lives by creating a casserole competition, but the inaugural dinner party quickly disintegrates into a giddy bacchanalia where the couples exchange sexual partners in a bubblegum suburban orgy.



    Troma Entertainment has by now established an impressive reputation for heedless gore, nudity, and tackiness in the horror genre, so it is no surprise that when Troma royalty like Trent Haaga makes a film, the expectations are high. Sadly, Haaga’s Chop is a lackluster try at the horror comedy trend that fails both to amuse and terrify.


    Clown: The Movie

    Rather than spoil any of their insane hijinks, I will just say that Casper Christensen and Frank Hvam’s episodic humor is absurd, crude, inappropriate, immature, disgusting, and unbelievably wrong on so many levels…but it is abso-fucking-lutely hilarious. Equal parts “comedy of embarrassments” (ala The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm) and “buffoonish man-child comedy” (ala Adam Sandler’s oeuvre), Clown: The Movie is the first theatrical adaptation of Christensen and Hvam’s popular Danish television series Klovn. If the Klovn television series is even 1/10th as crazy as director Mikkel Nørgaard’s film, then I really, really, really need to see the series now!


    The Color Wheel

    A somewhat sardonic portrayal of modern society, everyone in the world of The Color Wheel seems bigoted, jaded and petty. Whether or not Sean Price Williams’ lusciously framed black and white cinematography compliments this tone or plays in juxtaposition to it is up to the viewer to decide. As Jean-Luc Godard did in the early 1960s, Perry reveals a willingness to utilize certain genre-specific narrative techniques. While J.R. and Colin’s rapid-fire dialogue is delivered with slapstick precision, it is most surprising to see The Color Wheel coddle up with the contemporary rom-com genre; heck, even an occasional lowbrow sight gag is not out of the question — such as a character who wears a “Who Farted?” t-shirt while reading The Bible. Then again, what is not funny about someone wearing a “Who Farted?” t-shirt while reading The Bible?



    The best way to explain Finisterrae is to compare it to an elongated Monty Python sketch, co-written and co-directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ingmar Bergman, Andrey Tarkovsky and Luis Buñuel. The mind-altering result is a purely visual experience that relies heavily upon the painterly HD video cinematography of Eduard Grau (A Single Man, Buried). The story goes that Caballero first assembled the soundtrack, then the film was shot around a vague itinerary-based outline, afterwards he dreamt up the Russian dialog — judging from the resulting film, I have absolutely no reason not to believe that story. I have seen some really strange films in my lifetime, but Finisterrae is certainly in the top ten. It is such a uniquely absurd experience that I predict that Finisterrae will soon be a cult favorite, especially among midnight audiences who might happen to find themselves under the influence of psychotropic drugs.


    The FP

    I still do not know what to think of it all. (Would I have enjoyed it more if I was drunk or stoned or tripping? Maybe a potent cocktail of all three? Or maybe I just need to watch it with a theater full of rowdy fans?) I certainly have to give the Trost brothers and their cast a hell of a lot of credit, because they never once lose sight of their goal. They make every line of dialogue as quotable as humanly possible (The FP is pure Alamo Drafthouse “Quote-Along” gold); as if they toiled away on this script for decades, fine-tuning every word until they were 100% satisfied. (Yeah, and some of the 1980s pop culture references are pretty damn clever as well.) But, for my tastes, there is way too much ridiculous absurdity permeating every single orifice of every single frame. Art Hsu puts so much damn energy into his performance, I can only assume that he was on crank for the entire shoot. The same goes for Lee Valmassey’s Mr. T-inspired bad guy who barks every word like a rabid pit bull that just engulfed a bag of cocaine.


    Girl Walk // All Day

    I had no idea what to expect from Girl Walk // All Day — well, besides its booty-shaking soundtrack. I guess I kind of expected a video mash-up akin to the masterful musical collages created by Girl Talk (a.k.a. Gregg Gillis); but instead, Jacob Krupnick’s film takes a relatively straightforward narrative approach. Girl Walk // All Day is essentially a story about a young female dancer (Anne Marsen) who quits ballet school and gets the sudden urge to hop on a ferry to Manhattan. Inspired by the urban landscapes, the crowds of people, and Girl Talk’s soundtrack, she dances her way across Manhattan. She meets a variety of characters along the way, including a menagerie of other dancers — some of whom are more friendly than others — all of whom have some kind of impact on her. In the end, she just wants people to get off of their Smart Phones, loosen up and dance with her…and in the end, isn’t that what we all want?



    Sophia Takal has cited my favorite Robert Altman film — 3 Women — as an influence on Green, which could explain why I like Green so much. Both films approach female relationships — specifically female jealousy — with a certain level of obliqueness. Atmosphere and environment play an important factor in both films too. Specifically for Green, the densely forested environs are not only suffocating and ostracizing but they also lend Green a spooky and menacing horror film aesthetic. Something always appears to be lurking in the woods. Maybe it is jealousy? Maybe it is something more? Green is a purely psychological horror film — the violence is all in the mind — and one of the best I have seen in ages.


    High (1967)

    Part of the Canadian “angry young man” cinematic cannon of work, High showcases an amoral protagonist with strong anti-social tendencies who will do anything to avoid becoming part of the establishment. Tom and Vicky expect life to be much simpler, for money to be easier to come by. They would have been perfectly content holed up in their flat, having sex and smoking joints for the rest of their lives…if only they could afford to continue living that lifestyle. It is the capitalist establishment that forces Tom and Vicky into a world of crime, but that is only because they refuse to subject themselves to legitimate employment.


    In Organic We Trust

    There is a bit of a kitschy quality to Pastor’s documentary, In Organic We Trust. He’s a young, fit, and slightly goofy narrator. His documentary is peppered with brightly colored moving graphics meant to catch your attention. Yet, he focuses on the right questions, and ultimately concludes that we as consumers need to better educate ourselves about what we put in our bodies. This is not only necessary for the health of future generations, but also for the future sustainability of the environment. It’s a lesson worth repeating.



    It is not without narrative purpose in Sahkanaga that Paul’s (Trevor Neuhoff) father (Chip Jones) just so happens to run the local funeral home, and it is the same guy (Charles Patterson Jr.) his father pays to do the cremations who is dumping the bodies in the woods. Also, Paul has just recently become overwhelmingly smitten with the sheriff’s (Larry Summerour) granddaughter, Lyla (Kristin Rievley). So Paul decides to keep the discovery of the sheriff’s body a secret, not knowing how his family, new girlfriend and the community will react to such news. The secret could very easily destroy his father’s funeral home, ruin his chances with Lyla, and send the tight-knit religious community that surrounds him into utter turmoil. Of course the horrible secret eventually becomes way too much of a burden for a teenager to bear, so Paul finds an anonymous way to reveal the truth…but how will everyone react to this grim news?



    With Sironia, his feature film directorial debut, Brandon Dickerson firmly establishes himself, managing to secure a brilliant acting turn by novice Cunningham (himself a talented and experienced singer/songwriter who provides a strong soundtrack) and the rest of the cast. While the script occasionally falls slightly prey to cliche and the characters at times left me wondering if they weren’t a touch too good-natured (or maybe I’m just too cynical) to be completely believable, I ultimately found myself rooting for, and believing in, Thomas and Molly’s relationship. The sharp script allows Molly the deep philosophical lines that sum up the heart of the story: you’ll never find happiness if you’re looking for something that only exists in your imagination.



    For being about Australia’s most notorious serial killer — John Bunting — Snowtown is a surprisingly restrained and contemplative film. True, it does delve quite graphically into the very darkest recesses of brutality; but rather than showcasing (glorifying) violence in order to merely shock and awe the audience, writer-director Justin Kurzel is much more interested in coercing the audience to relate to Jamie and therefore sympathize with him. We are wooed by John just as Jamie is. It is difficult not to believe, at least at first, that John means well; that he is merely trying to protect Jamie’s family. Early on, his logic almost seems reasonable; but that is only because John gently eases us in.



    There is something incredibly creepy about Without, as Jackson relies upon certain horror film conventions to retain a constant state of tension. (As with Sophia Takal’s Green, we are never quite sure if and when the story is going to disintegrate into a horrific bloodbath.) The sinister atmospheres born of Jessica Dimmock and Diego Garcia’s gorgeous cinematography are complimented rather nicely by Eric Strausser’s sound design — keeping with Jackson’s narrative style, subtlety reigns and the details of the audio and visual design are communicated at nearly subliminal levels. Without is a story that truly revels in the inherent audio and visual qualities of cinema; there is no other medium that could possibly convey the intricate layers of emotional qualities that Jackson is studiously able to unravel.

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