FADED REFLECTIONS AND CONTEMPORARY PROJECTIONS: THE 57TH ANNUAL EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

“THE LAST HORROR MOVIE” ^ ENGLAND, 2003 – TOO LONG – UN-RATED – NO STARS
This hogwash wasn’t actually a programmed part of the festival. I saw it in the Videotheque, which is a room where you can see many of the festival films on video, sitting on an uncomfortable chair wearing headphones and getting annoyed at insensitive journalists and film buyers who sit and jabber away on their mobile phones even though there are plenty of signs asking you to turn them off when in the place.
And while we’re on the subject. Many of the films weren’t available at the Videotheque, so if you missed the screening, you couldn’t see them afterwards. I was told this was because people who were meant to copy tapes for display…simply hadn’t. Screenings were called off or re-scheduled all over the place too, so you hardly knew whether you were coming or going sometimes. The festival was a badly organized shambles, and somebody working behind the scenes confirmed this.
But back to the film front. First off: don’t confuse this rubbish with the old Joe Spinelli/Caroline Munro splatter flick “The Last Horror Film.” It’s shot on video, for a start. And it doesn’t star either Spinelli (be difficult – he’s dead) or Munro. So that clears that up then. You can sleep at night now. And Joe can stop turning in his grave. If he wasn’t cremated, that is. In which case, his ashes can rest in the bottom of his urn undisturbed.
This starts off as an American shot-on-film splatter flick but – suddenly unexpectedly wackily! – an annoying upper-middle class English guy cuts in with video footage. He’s a killer, y’see, and he’s taped over the film you rented from the video store with videotaped real footage of his murders. Can you say high concept, kiddies?
This bad-acting bad-hair bad-attitude poncey Englishman rambles on trying to force us to understand our inner beasts and why we want to see people being murdered and other done-to-death concepts. Owing more than a small debt to Belgian art-splatter effort Man Bites Dog from many moons ago (Remember that one? Whatever happened to those guys?), this film outstays its welcome from about five minutes in.
Films where the filmmakers try to take a morally superior stance to their audience and force them to evaluate their supposedly sick bestial viewing habits whilst simultaneously exploiting these exact same twisted impulses are doomed to failure from the word go. Cos they’re no better than their viewers, and indeed worse – at least their viewers aren’t trying to present themselves as being holier-than-thou. I mean, what makes the filmmakers think that they’ve been any less affected by decades of exposure to violent filmed material than the rest of us mere debased mortals? It’s like some kind of Christian preaching or something. And I never was a religious man.
The main killer in this film works shooting wedding videos when he’s not out slaughtering people. With any luck the filmmakers will soon be vanquished back to this exact same place. It’s entirely possible. And I (don’t) look extremely forward to an expose about the hypocrisy of the wedding world, cos we all know how terrifying and evil and hypocritical nuptials can be. However, the fact I want to see it obviously means that I am a sick sordid sleazy sonofagunofabitch, so…I doubt very much I’ll be watching the next ‘film’ from these filmmakers.
Reviewers. We suffer so you don’t have to. You owe us more than you know.
“ECHELON – THE SECRET POWER” ^ FRANCE 2003 – 82 MINUTES – 5 STARS
Man, what a depressing documentary this is. It shows how any supposedly private phone calls or emails we make or send are basically nothing of the kind, because they can at any time be intercepted by a huge, unanswerable-to-all secret network called Echelon. Several countries – the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – run this network and the information they gather is used for anything from industrial espionage to keeping watch over politicians. And everybody’s at it, so nobody’s morally superior here.
Jello Biafra conspiracy theorist-types will love this one, confirming as it does all their worst fever-fears about the shady international agencies that can invade our lives whenever and wherever they please. After watching this thing you will never make a phone call or send an email in quite the same way again. There is no such thing as private electronic communication: ECHELON KNOWS ALL!!! And I’m gonna start sending messages by carrier pigeon now…just hope they don’t have interceptor falcons or hawks…damn them…bird-of-prey-using scumbags…now they know all my plans for world domination…may have to put them on hold for a week or two…avian informers…flying swine…I’m not paranoid…I know you all think I am but I’m not…STAY AWAY FROM ME WITH THAT STRAITJACKET!!!!! NNNNNOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“PARTY MONSTER” ^ USA, 2002 – 99 MINUTES – UN-RATED – 5 STARS
Okay, I hafta admit, this was a bit of a freakshow, and I was a bit skeptical. Macaulay Culkin as a gay drug addict sociopath murderer? Homo Alone? Seemed like a bridge too far(ce) for me, unless his last few wilderness years had held sexual revelations and chemical experiences that the general public don’t know about. Maybe he was an archetypal messed-up child star and this would inform his performance. So I sat down…and waited…and was pleasantly surprised.
This was my fave film of the festival, and I couldn’t believe how good Culkin was in his role. I wouldn’t have thought that he had a role of this complexity and campiness in him (I wouldn’t have thought about Culkin at all, mind you), and he was a revelation. You may know that this film is based on a true story. It concerns Michael Alig, brilliantly essayed by the ex-child-star here, who is a troubled gay man who was abused as a child and beaten up at school. He makes his way to New York and decides he wants to hold lavish vaudeville spectacle gay drug parties, and sets up home in the Limelight nightclub to do so.
With the help of rich kitsch bitch James St James (author of the real-life book Disco Bloodbath – great title – sounds like a Village People film by HG Lewis – and played brilliantly here by Seth Green) he sets up a series of theme parties (gory soiree Blood Feast; a rollerskate party in the back of a truck where the driver is on drugs and which looks like it would have been one of the most excellent party experiences of all time had it gotten off the ground; numerous other aesthetic atrocity exhibitions) and establishes himself as king of the Club Kids. But he gets too deeply into drugs and eventually goes off the deep end, killing and dissecting a drug dealer called Angel.
While this doesn’t sound exactly like a role Culkin was born to play…he simply is. He’s amazing. I’ve always had a kinda faghag love of homo waspish Wildean wit, cruel and caustic and cutting and cantankerous as it can be, and the interplay between Culkin and Green here is priceless. The parties look like incredible fun and must have been amazing to attend in real life, even if the scenesters are hollow horrible damaged individuals.
At the heart of this film is actually a fairly depressing indictment of child abuse and school bullying. Alig and James constantly slash each other to ribbons with their acid tongues, saying and doing things to each other (especially Alig to James) that you wouldn’t do to your worst enemy. Damage cases trying to escape the pain of their pasts through drugs and dance and disco dementia, the owner of the Limelight’s wife nails Alig when she says to him: “You know what I see when I look at you? I see a terrified little boy too frightened to face reality,” or words to that effect. He may be too frightened to face reality, but after all the gaudy nude rude rowdy kitsch glitz and glamour of his parties and nightlife…who would want to?
Fabulous. And the six-foot talking rat was great too. Just see it. You won’t regret it. After all, you know you’ve always wanted to see Macaulay Culkin smoking crack or lying about out of his head on heroin…just admit it, come out of yer closet. You’ll certainly be in good company if you do, that’s for sure…
More reviews in part seven of FADED REFLECTIONS AND CONTEMPORARY PROJECTIONS: THE 57TH ANNUAL EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL>>>

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Posted on August 29, 2003 in Festivals by
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