Tofifest 2016 – Alojzy

Szwajcarski dramat spróbował zdefiniować siłę autosugestii, zarysowując równocześnie cienką granicę oddzielającą szaleństwo od jawy. Chociaż ambitny był to cel, ostatecznie forma przerosła treść – w efekcie, film Tobiasa Nölle pozostawia niesmak niespełnionej obietnicy głębokiego, filozoficznego kina.

Tytułowy bohater traci ojca, z którym wspólnie prowadzi biuro detektywistyczne. Jego sposób na życie definiuje także specyficzną percepcję świata – Alojzy odcina się od rzeczywistości, wsłuchując i wpatrując się w nagrania z pracy. Zderzenie z brutalnością otaczającego go świata następuje, gdy budzi się w autobusie i orientuje się, że jego kamera zostaje skradziona – a w niej wiele prywatnych nagrań.

Świetnym punktem wyjściowym Tobiasa Nölle było powolne zamazywanie granicy między onirycznymi wizjami wyidealizowanego świata, widzianego oczami paranoicznego Alojzego, a tym, co dzieje się na jawie. Reżyser bawi się swoim głównym bohaterem, nadając mu wręcz karykaturalny wyraz, bowiem Alojzy nie potrafi nawiązywać nawet najbardziej elementarnych tematów w rozmowie, jest także całkowicie pozbawiony empatii. Budowaniu psychologii postaci towarzyszy też specyficzna narracja – przeplatanie wątku głównego przebitkami z lasu, czy też stoicka obserwacja natury w wydaniu jaszczurki z terrarium.

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Niestety, ten wizualny galimatias jest bardzo atrakcyjny i pociągający jedynie z początku, jednak im bardziej historia meandruje, tym ciężej jest znieść specyfikę Alojzego, zaś reżyser używa ich by przysłowiowo owijać w bawełnę banał swojego filmu. Psychiczna rozsypka traci na wiarygodności, gdy zbyt wiele powodów podsuwa się widzowi –  śmierć ojca, brak empatii, zawodowe porażki. Introwertyczny protagonista staje się nużący, nieatrakcyjny, a potęguje to właśnie brak akcji. Filozoficzne rozmyślania stają się płaskie, gdyż Tobias Nölle dochodzi do jednego wniosku – samotność jest chorobą. Domek z kart Szwajcara rozsypuje się zaś, gdy Alojzy na dobre oddaje się uronionej relacji z głosem z telefonu – swoją sąsiadką, z którą nie łączy go żadna fizyczna bliskość, a która także wydaje się nieco „odcięta” od rzeczywistości. Tym gwoździem do trumny jest zatem idea połączenia dwóch zamkniętych w sobie jednostek na jednym ekranie.

Ostatecznie, Alojzy jest długo dmuchanym balonem, z którego zbyt szybko ulatuje powietrze. Awangarda wizualna ustępuje miejsca psychologicznemu chaosowi, zaś ekscentryzm samej historii traci na swojej sile, gdy zostaje zestawiony z płytkim wnioskiem wieńczącym film. Alojzy jest niczym tytułowy bohater – intrygujący, ale zbyt nieprzystępny i niewart wymaganego od widza wysiłku.

Reminiscing the Forgotten – The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

One of the most hated films of all time, but is there really a plethora of reasons to hate it? I did some digging into the topic and well… see for yourself!

It was a dark night, parents were already asleep and I was still craving to watch something before taking a nap. I was a kid, but I remember the film from this particular evening – The Island of Dr. Moreau. Gave me creeps all over my spine and it took me some time to sit to it again – more than 10 years actually. Even though the film is widely regarded to as one of the worst films ever directed, I shall become its ardent defendant. And if you belong to the vast majority of people criticizing Frankenheimer’s flick, you better prepare yourself properly before reading this text.

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The Island of Dr. Moreau is based on a book from 1896, written by H.G. Wells. This English, multi-talented artist, was a very fruitful writer too – he is the author of The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man. Bearing this in mind, one may get the picture of the source material that the filmmakers were dealing with here – this ain’t no Shakespeare, but still a man with overwhelming imagination, whose ideas could be hard to show on a screen. The Island of Dr. Moreau from 1996, directed by John Frankenheimer, was the third time the book was approached and transformed into a film script. The story was quite simple –  Edward (David Thewlis), a lone survivor from a wretched ship, is rescued by a former scientist Montgomery (Val Kilmer) and moved to a tropical island. It’s inhabited by Dr. Moreau (Marlon Brando) and his horrid creations, genetic variations made from human and animal DNA.

The film had its definitive downs even before it landed on the big screens. The first director on board, Richard Stanley, abandoned the crew due to “lack of proper cooperation” and this was the first huge problem. John Frankenheimer took over the production, but later on – he did regret this decision. The cast he worked with may be described as the two most ridiculous cockalorums he could get – Marlon Brando, playing the role of Dr. Moreau, was widely known for his bossy behavior on set, whilst Val Kilmer was simply a simpleton, also quite known in Hollywood for rudeness. So, as one can imagine, Brando was indeed truly irritating, but Kilmer was the real nail to the coffin – allegedly, Frankenheimer said after shooting the last scene with the latter “Cut! Now get that bastard off my set”. Paints the picture, huh?

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The critics bashed the film, the audiences also didn’t like the over-the-top acting by Brando, calling him cheesy, whilst the entire plot to be lacking the proper approach to the book. So, why on Earth, would anyone try to defend this film? First of all, let’s be honest – Brando’s acting was always like that. Whether it was The Godfather, Apocalypse Now or Ultimo Tango a Parigi, he was always on the edge of kitsch. Nevertheless, we loved him for this mannerism and there was no exception to this way of acting in The Island of Dr. Moreau. Kilmer, no matter how difficult he was to work with, he surely knew the drill too and the only pitiful actor on the set was actually David Thewlis. Who, reportedly, felt so miserable he wanted to abandon the project several times and never watched the final cut.

The crew was completely torn apart and the set seemed to be hell to work there. Yet, the film was still kept consistent in terms of its nightmarish graphics and the terrible atmosphere could actually leverage it a bit. Many critics pointed out the terrible make-up and CGI too. It does ring a bell, because nowadays, everyone complain about the usage of CGI (guess why Mad Max: Fury Road was given so much credit…). Therefore, I’d rather applause to Frankenheimer for, at least, trying to make use of CGI, when it was still crawling and not going early-Planet-of-Apes-like entirely, with the utterly ludicrous make-up. And to be fair – The Island of Dr. Moreau is nowhere near any good in terms of the special effects , but just imagine the possibilities back in those days…

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Finally, the script. At this point, Itotally agree that there is a great deal of corner-cutting. Many lines, especially those delivered by Thewlis, sound artificial and unconvincing. Yet, Frankenheimer’s film, using the direful scenery and Dr. Moreau’s eerie creations, works as a nasty, oldie-horror, finding a way out from the dull writing. Some of the scenes, like the birth in the laboratory or first encounter with Lomai, are quite memorable. Humans playing the game of God are destined to become the preys of their own creations, even though we treat ourselves as the kings of the Earth. The Island of Dr. Moreau, although taking the road of a horror film, delivers this message. And considering this, Frankenheimer ddin’t fail so miserably as we comfortably assume today.

One may say that there are film’s that – no matter what happens – they will be hated. Sometimes the expectations are too high, sometimes it’s bad luck, the star-studded cast or the huge budget. Or sometimes, it’s Brando and Kilmer on one set. And obviously, I’m not trying to convince anyone to immediately love The Island of Dr. Moreau. Maybe it’s the childhood memories, maybe it’s the respect for my favorite actor of all time that made me root for this film. Either way, you should see it for yourself.

Reminiscing the Forgotten – Matango (1963)

An insane trip into a world of people, who slowly become fungus after landing on a desolate island.

There should be a completely separate genre in cinema known as “disturbing”, where only the most bizarre, unrealistic movies would find their place. This is the case of Japanese film “Matango”, which more than causing sudden trepidation and jump-scares, offers a constant level of unease, surpassing a vast majority of up-to-date horrors in being terrifying. 

A variety of characters including a hired captain, a writer and a university’s professor, gathers for a sea voyage on a luxurious yacht. Due to harsh weather circumstances, their boat crushes, but the group luckily survives and lands on an uninhabitated island. Ransacking the harrowing isle, the survivors find out more about its mysterious environment.

Ishiro Honda’s “Matango” opens with a short monologue of a man, who’s telling a story about his haunting journey into a desolate island, depicting terror he went through there. The director then winds back the clock and exhibits in details what has exactly happened on this lurid island. Don’t get distraught by the vague beginnings and slapstick cruising scenes, because Honda knew exactly when to push the action. Just as his characters find themselves surrounded by water up to the horizon – the real film starts. Honda digs into the unease and fear, which sprawls among the crew faster than the killing fungus.

Honda’s main interest in “Matango” is exploring the extent to which humans can work together when death’s upon them. Although it’s not anything particularly new, it works fine in this Japanese “horror” – the progressive paranoia of the characters, caused by unbearable fear and hunger, pushes them to no longer act like human beings. What is fascinating, is how Honda portrays this self-interest of an individual pushed to the wall – these people never really wanted to leave this island together, but it’s hard to say why. And surprisingly, it’s not a drawback of “Matango” at all – on the contrary, we observe those several people, who are fully aware of the inevitability of their end. They all praise the same idea: work on your own, it might pay off. There is no trust among them, but what is present, is the prejudice that it’s impossible for them to survive as a whole.

“Matango” is fun to watch mainly thanks to this psychedelic atmosphere and ubiquitous weirdness. The fungus people are awaited till the very end of the film, but the make-up makes up for this late appearance – the last half an hour of the film is a brilliantly nightmarish vision, especially with regard to the fact it was directed in the 60s! The tension is dozed accurately as well, which is a reward for rather tedious beginnings of the film. I admit I was expecting a funny, B-class horror – eventually, “Matango” gives the creeps, I was certainly not prepared for.

What’s also interesting, “Matango” was banned in Japan upon its release. The fungus people reminisced people suffering from post-nuke radiation and that was the reason for Honda’s film to be suspended from national distribution. It has never reached US as well, but despite those stumbling blocks, the film turned itself into a subject of a cinematic cult. A duo of director Ishiro Honda and special-effects artist Eiji Tsuburaya, responsible for “Matango”, is also the crew responsible for the iconic “Godzilla” from 1954. Now one can get the picture of the fungus people creators.

It’s not Kubrick’s psychedelic cinema, it’s not Jodorowsky or more up-to-date von Trier. Nevertheless, Ishiro Honda’s “Matango” found its glorious place among the most disturbing, unusual films I have ever seen. Those, who like their minds being blown – lay your hands on the copy of “Matango”.

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Reminiscing the Forgotten – Octaman (1971)

He is made from rubber, he’s clumsy and unspeakably hilarious – Octaman everybody!

Someone once told me, that it’s crucial to watch an utterly terrible film from time to time – it provides you with a different point of view the next time you spread your criticism. Following this brilliant advice, I occasionally turn myself into a cinematic masochist and rummage through hundreds of weird and low-rated movies. These uncommon journeys usually end up with some remarkable discoveries. Hence, I’d like to introduce you to “Octaman”, directed in 1971 by Harry Essex.

https://i0.wp.com/forgottenflix.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/octaman-poster.jpgA group of scientists conduct research of a contaminated lake in Mexico. Their unprecedented findings suggest, that the studied region is inhabited by a genetically modified, strange mutation of an octopus. The strange creatures are only a beginning to a horrifying discovery of a much more dangerous monster, which treats the scientists as its enemies.

“Octaman” is definitely one of the most hilarious flicks from 70s I have watched so far. It follows the well-known patterns – a group of devoted scientists or scavengers encounter a horrendous creature, which terrorizes them, only to remain safe in its own habitat. What makes Harry Essex’s flick so extremely exceptional is the monster itself and its behavior or, more specifically, a nonsense in its behavior. The titular Octaman is a guy in a rubber costume, with tentacles so immobile, that the actor was forced to swing them around to actually make a punch (!). If I didn’t watch “Octaman” I would never know, that a genetically redesigned, humanoid octopus, could jab someone like a professional boxer. But I don’t want to remain groundless – check this scene below to see how this beauty shakes its body:

Octaman shows up every time one of his smaller, gummy friends is being caught and cut by the scientists – Essex is taking his time to fully exhibit the perfectly crafted, dull face of the monster and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. Actually, there is an issue going on throughout the entire movie with perception of day and night – there were moments, when I lost it completely. When Octaman is not throwing his rubber tentacles in a random direction, grunting and panting in the meantime, we observe him slowly wandering around with no exact purpose or hiding in the bush.

On the other hand, there is the group of main characters a.k.a. scatterbrained scientists. Henry Essex managed to make a movie, where each of the character is only a part of the shapeless pulp – it’s hard to distinguish any particular personality in this bunch of people. It is amazing what ways this meaningless group finds to deal with poor Octaman, among which the most ludicrous seems to be pointing flashlights at him for good couple of minutes.

https://monsterminions.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/showdown_octaman.jpg?w=820In the entire chaos, which is streamed straight into our heads, “Octaman” manages to bore in the first twenty minutes to make the first screening in the audience – only the toughest remain to witness the rest of the movie, which delivers pure fun. No matter how hard I tried to find anything particularly good about this flick – the only thing were the credits. Especially taking into consideration the final scene – “Octaman” left me with open jaw and huge WTF in my mind. And eyes swollen due to laughter.

If you want to talk about “Octaman” or have an offer of cooperation, contact me on FB (link here) or write me an email: unusualmotionpicturesblog@gmail.com