It’s turning out to be a pretty good year for unexpected international co-productions — check out the MMP ep on the superb Israeli/Australian stop-motion animated film $9.99 if you don’t believe me. Now Germany and Taiwan have joined forces, not for the exquisitely designed yet affordable home entertainment system you might expect, but for German director Monika Treut’s mystery/fantasy/romantic hybrid, GHOSTED.
Over the years, Treut has built a reputation for work that dared to venture into the more esoteric realms of human sexuality. Her SEDUCTION: THE CRUEL WOMAN was based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, while GENDERNAUTS was a documentary that focused on people who challenged conventional notions of sexual identity. But with GHOSTED, she backs away from the cutting edge for a more conventional love story — albeit one from a lesbian perspective — about a German artist (Inga Busch), her grief over a lost lover (Ke Huan-Ru), and how an encounter with a Taiwanese journalist (Ting-Ting Hu) may be more than just two people reaching out to each other in the tangible world. Filming on-location in both Hamburg and Taipei, and tapping her knowledge of the international art scene and Taiwanese spirituality, Treut uses the rawness of independent production to create a tale of cross-cultural misunderstandings, tragic loss, and the tentative hope that — maybe, possibly — some loves are strong enough to extend beyond the grave. (She also offers up some beautifully sensuous scenes of women making love, which is never a bad thing.)
Treut took a pause in her globe-hopping to speak to us by phone from Germany. Click the player below to hear the interview:
Wow, midnight movies. I know they still happen, I just hadn’t recently heard of anyone basing a distribution pattern solely around the phenomenon. Nevertheless, the producers of DEADGIRL are rolling the dice on it, debuting their film at midnight this weekend (July 24 & 25, 2009), and dispatching the filmmakers and cast to screening cities across the country to get the audiences into the theaters.
Granted, they’ve got the right material for the hour: DEADGIRL is about two teenagers who, while exploring an abandoned hospital, find a naked woman chained to a table and barricaded away in the deepest, darkest regions of the building. Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez), as much of a moral center as this film will have to offer, wants to report the find to the proper authorities. J.T. (Noah Segan) — seeing that the woman is too feral and dangerous to be unchained, that in fact she’s undead and essentially indestructible, and that, anyhoo, who the hell is going to know what goes on in a long-forgotten, makeshift prison? — wants to have some… let’s call it, “fun,” first.
Directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel suggest that this be looked at as a kind of twisted coming-of-age story. I suspect midnight audiences will be too busy having their buttons pushed to get too far down to the subtext. In any case, it’s obvious that Sarmiento and Harel (working from a script by Trent Haaga) can mount a stylish, daring nightmare, whatever the theme. It’s a helluva way to greet the new day.
Click on the player to hear the interview:
Listening to this episode, you might get the impression that I’m really hooked on the phrase, “zombie Nazis.” I am. I really am. Look at it this way: Two of my favorite film titles of all time belong to the Troma releases SURF NAZIS MUST DIE and CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIE TOWN (although, to pronounce the latter correctly, it needs to come out as, “CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMMMMMBIE TOWNNNNN!”). So if you take Nazis and zombies and bang ‘em together into one movie, from where I stand you’ve whipped up an amalgamation as irresistible as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. (”Hey, you’ve got Nazis in my zombies!” “Well, you’ve got zombies in my Nazis!” “It’s two great atrocities that go great together!”)
So to strip this down to its basics, Tommy Wirkola’s DEAD SNOW is about a bunch of ski vacationers in an isolated cabin being assaulted by, you guessed it, zombie Nazis. Violence, gore, and flying body parts ensue, not to mention entrails being used as bungee cords. If you’re of a particular dispostion, it’s horror comedy at its most infectious. (Neither Ben Lyons nor Ben Mankiewicz were of that disposition. Your loss, guys.)
Wirkola is breaking out of his native Norway to direct — with Will Ferrell’s backing — an adaptation of Hansel and Gretel that envisions the siblings as grown-up witch hunters. I’m in love already. In the meantime, here’s my interview with the director, as well as the continuation of the great S-Horror/D-Horror debate!
What with all the “family-oriented” animation that we’re going to be saddled with over the next few months, Tatia Rosenthal’s debut stop-motion animated feature, $9.99, comes as a welcome change. Based on the stories of Etgar Keret — who for the indie film crowd is probably best known for writing the seed story that became WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY — the film is a tart, funny, and ultimately moving examination of people’s quest for meaning in their lives. And since those people include a widowed retiree being hounded by a singularly surly guardian angel (played fantastically by Geoffrey Rush), a commitment-phobe who spends his days entertaining a trio of two-inch tall frat boys, and a guy who falls in love with a model with some rather extreme preferences in her beaus, Rosenthal has more than enough opportunity to let her animation process spin some weird ‘n’ wonderful visuals.
Direct from MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST, here’s my interview with Rosental.
Just for the record, I have nothing against Michael Bay as a matter of principle. I find some of his films fun, if almost always aggressively ADD. But particularly in the summer season, even under the best of conditions, one can begin to long for genre films that deliver a little something more than just the big-bang-boom.
Director Duncan Jones has sought to deliver an alternative in MOON. Reaching back to the more idea-powered films of the seventies and eighties, he tells the tale of a lone caretaker of an automated, industrial moonbase whose countdown to the day when he’ll return to Earth is thrown off-course by a sudden accident and an abrupt encounter with his own clone. Featuring Sam Rockwell as the only significant on-screen actor and Kevin Spacey as the voice of moonbase’s ambivalent computer Gerty, MOON does deliver the occasional boom, but leavens it with intriguing ideas and one of the better fade-outs I’ve seen this year.
Jones — the son of David Bowie (more on that in the episode) — was great fun to talk with. Direct from MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST, here’s the interview.
Flat-out, rip yer guts out, splatter the gore against the lens horror is just fine with me. I dug HOSTEL, liked Carpenter’s THE THING and, of course, HALLOWEEN. (All those teen-stalker and NIGHTMARE ripoffs, though, don’t really do it for me — too much winking at the audience.)
PONTYPOOL takes a more subtle tack to freaking its audience out: Set mostly in a lonely, Canadian radio station, most of the horror is not in what you see, but what you hear, in panicked phone calls to the morning shock jock (Stephen McHattie) and in the growing thrum of an irrational, flesh-hungry mob outside. That the cause of the panic has everything to do with what is heard and what can be said only gives the setting a nice, meta feel.
In a MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST exclusive, I got to speak with director McDonald about building dread within a confined setting and on a limited budget.
In which we consider how an increasingly formidable animation studio is like a certain, humble but beneficial insect, and I — inveterate cat person — confess to an irrational love for a non-existant, talking dog. Hey, whaddya want? It’s Friday.
From MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST, a review of Disney/Pixar’s UP
Okay, here’s a bit of something new for CFQ: Whenever my internet series, MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST, covers a film that would be of interest to the Cinefantastique audience, I’ll be posting a link to the show. First up: My review of NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN.