My June 2011 film column for Maximum Rock N Roll. Originally appeared in issue 337.
I was just in Paris. One of the many things I wanted to do while there was to see a movie. I am curious about French film audiences. They certainly have a great reputation of being big fans of cinema. Though I wasn't expecting it to be like hanging out with Henri Langlois at the Cinémathèque in the '60s or anything, I still wanted to experience it. I arrived with a list of possible movie theaters. When I picked up a copy of Pariscope the film listings were as slim as they are here. It was the same shit. Cinémathèque Française was having a Stanley Kubrick exhibit and screenings. So I decided to see the long version of The Shining. I have seen The Shining numerous times so seeing it again did not really excite me. When I arrived at Cinémathèque Française I discovered The Shining was sold out. I went to check out the Le Musée, the film history museum instead, but I still had my heart set on seeing a film in Paris.
A few days later while hanging out at a café with a few friends, one mentioned going to the opening of Le Desperado a movie theater recently purchased by film director Jean-Pierre Mocky. Mocky bought the theater to show his films. According to my friend Mocky figured that promotion for films cost so much these days that it would be less expensive for him to buy a theater and show his films himself. Needless to say I was intrigued.
When I checked the film listings I saw that one of Mocky's latest films Les Insomniaques was scheduled for that night. That sounded good to me. However when I arrived at Le Desperado the film had been switched to La Cité de l'indicible peur a film Mocky made in 1964 which I now know is considered one of his classics. It didn't really matter to me. Either way I was going to see the film. I had no idea how to buy a ticket at the box office, but I tried my best French. The confused woman selling the tickets reminded me that the film was in French. Yeah, I know.
I wish I could say all these years of watching French films suddenly made me understand French perfectly so I could follow the film with ease. That was not the case. La Cité de l'indicible peur is the story of an escaped criminal and the attempt by a bumbling Clouseau-esque cop Inspector Triquet to track him down in a small French town. In the opening scene Triquet is preparing a meal in the police station. The criminal escapes from his beheading when another police officer stupidly puts his head under the stuck guillotine. What do you think happened to that cop? All that was easy enough to follow. It is when Triquet gets to the small town and everyone gets a bit more talky that I completely lose track of what is going on. However, there are still a few sight gags and some other odd stuff to entertain me.
Needless to say it was a really fun thing to do. Le Desperado has a cool atmosphere and unusual looking, but comfortable seats. Maybe I'll be able to track down some of Mocky's films with subtitles. Jean-Pierre Mocky
Should a film replicate reality or should a film fantasize about it? If you're like me you would probably answer that it depends on the film. I like the story to seem plausible, but it doesn't really have to be possible. How's that for being indecisive?
Young Islands is a dramatic film that is filmed as if it possibly might be a documentary. It is a few days in the life of Corey. You walk the streets with him, experiencing what he does. There are some interesting moments, but mostly it is the mundane events of the day.
Corey wakes up at his friend Kenny's house. Kenny's mother prepares breakfast for them, and then Kenny has to head out to work. Corey doesn't want to go to his house so he wanders the streets. He gets recruited to play in a basketball game. He goes shopping at a flea market. He visits the grocery store where Kenny works and drinks milk out of the carton without paying for it. And so it goes.
What eventually comes out in Young Islands is that Corey's father had an affair, which landed him in the hospital. His parents have split up because of it, but still talk on the phone a lot. Corey is having a hard time coming to grips with it so he has avoided going to visit dad at the hospital. Then it all seems to come together. There is an overriding sense of teenage obsession with and alienation from sex in Corey's life. There is his father's affair plus his hospitalization as a result of it as well as his mother's new boyfriend showing up around the house. There is a reoccurring presence of a prostitute on the street that Corey passes frequently. Corey finds naked pictures in Kenny's mother's bedroom. He also finds a photograph of a penis on the ground. Kenny's homosexual boss makes advances at the grocery store. Perhaps Corey even has repressed feelings toward Kenny. Corey's day seems so average because he's got other things on his mind.
While most of this is done organically so that the viewer may not be consciously aware of what is going on, I found it very hard to believe the attitude of the prostitute. At one point she simply seems bored of waiting on the street for her next john that she offers Corey a free blowjob. That doesn't seem likely. Corey seems like a nice guy and all, but I have to wonder if that would ever really happen. Perhaps this is one point where Young Islands blurs the line between reality and fantasy.
One of the DVD extras is a rambling self interview with writer-director Kevin Chenault that gives an interesting insight into what the film is about. It is mostly autobiographical. Chenault was inspired to write the story while watching Hedwig and The Angry Inch. Also the soundtrack features music from The Gizmos, Bon Vivants, Angel Corpus Christi and Hugh Cornwell. Young Islands
We're still fighting to save San Francisco radio station KUSF. Check out savekusf.org for more information and to help out.
I am always looking for films to review. If you made one, send a copy to Carolyn Keddy, PO Box 460402, San Francisco, CA 94146-0402. If your film is playing in the San Francisco Bay Area, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will go see it.