This month I’ve gone with “What’s Goin’ On?” as a title – and no it’s not Marvin Gaye biopics, its films that have so many crazy things going on at once that you’re never quite sure what’s the hell is happening, or put simply, they’re just plain bizarre.
Directed by Errol Morris – ★★★★
Tabloid recounts the story of Joyce McKinney, an American who in the seventies was accused and charged with kidnapping a Mormon missionary while in the UK, a charge which she denied and everything unbelievably gets weirder from there.
The story of course had everything that the UK tabloids love (attractive woman, sex, religion, scandal) and was dubbed “The Manacled Mormon in Chains” and caused a tabloid war to break out between the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror in particular. Morris lets McKinney and others involved, including the tabloid journalists, give their series of events.
In a way Morris kind of has his cake and eats it, he shows up the tabloid culture but also lets us see most of what they dug up, which is voyeuristically appealing but makes you feel a little seedy, like all tabloid stories really. As for McKinney, well let’s just say her life story is eventful.
Directed by Shane Carruth – ★★★★
This is a film that’s pretty nearly impossible to categorise, Carruth who previously made Primer (also on Netflix) stretches his low budget to amazing lengths; the film looks incredible, has amazing editing, sublime foley work and sound design, but what about the plot… well, that’s where it gets tricky. The plot manages to involve worms, flowers, kidnapping, brainwashing, pigs, a very odd romance, identity and lots more, which at first seems unconnected.
While a great film, it does however need you to fill in the blanks and is very much open to interpretation, so if you feel cheated by movies like that, be warned.
Leos Carax – ★★★★
Holy Moly more like. Well where to begin, the “plot” is based around Monsieur Oscar (played by Denis Lavant) who gets in a limo and drives around Paris to his various “appointments” where he plays different characters and roles, we presume for someone’s entertainment other than our own.
So basically the film is made up of vignettes where Lavant, the limo and his driver are the only link. These vignettes which range from the dramatic to comedic to the downright insane, manage to reference touchstones in modern and classic cinema (in particular French cinema) but also the director’s own films (pretentious? sure) so, while definitely one for film buffs, there is plenty to enjoy anyway if you’re not, Kylie Minogue turns up and sings a Neil Hannon song, Eva Mendes as a model at a photo-shoot and the film even has an accordion interval.
Intrigued? Hope so, there’s not much else like it.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th Dimension
W.D. Richter – ★★★
Buckaroo Banzai (Peter Weller) is no ordinary renaissance man, we learn fairly early on that he’s a neuro-surgeon, a brave adventurer and shreds a mean guitar in his rock band made up of his loyal cohorts who follow him everywhere. He starts the film by breaking the barrier into the 8th Dimension and later finds out that there are aliens on Earth.
That’s about the only “straight-forward” thing about the movie, everything else is completely off the wall. For instance Jeff Goldblum plays a neuro-surgeon who wears a Cowboy outfit throughout the movie and it’s never explained why, John Lithgow plays the main villain and has an almost impenetrable Italian accent, Ellen Barkin seems to be there just to have a woman in the cast by the looks of it. Then there’s also that nearly every scene seems to be setting up a prequel or sequel, there’s Rasta aliens, some really dodgy acting and special effects, but overall it’s captivating.
I’ve watched it at least 3 or 4 times at this stage and just smile my way through the whole thing. Be warned though, if you’re not in the mood for it and you don’t enjoy films that are built for cultish audiences, you might hate it. Wes Anderson nods to this film in Life Aquatic, borrowing Goldblum and also one scene in particular, hell you could even argue a loyal gang following a genius may have come from this, doubt it though.