Saturday, April 29, 2006

Aarhus Film Festival (part 5)


I wake up the next morning at about 8am, groggy but not as severely jet-lagged as usual. In London I’m always a complete mess until the day I leave, when I’ve finally begun to acclimate. I go downstairs for the free breakfast, wondering what Danes have for breakfast. Reindeer omelets?

The answer is....Danish! Really. It may be difficult to tell what *actual* Danes have for breakfast from the hotels' breakfast buffet - it may be more international. It typical scrambled eggs, hardboiled eggs, boiled potatoes, bacon, a pate, "sausage" which ended up being little hot dogs rather than Jimmy Dean, tomatoes, smoked salmon (and other smoked meats), interesting cheeses (stuff in the cheese) and lots of danish pastries. The smell of pastry often drifts down the street, beckoning you to enter a bakery. I load up my plate - again unusual because I typically don’t each breakfast. I just drink about a gallon of coffee (and everyone here drinks gallons of coffee, so I fit in). But for some reason, maybe all of that walking, I’m hungry.

While I eat I study the festival’s program to decide which movies I will be seeing today. The festival is mostly two hour blocks of shorts with categories like: American Hardcore (not porn - violent films), Artists (docs about artists), Believing The Unbelievable (semi-supernatural), Bitter Sweet (love stories), CineBlitz (movies about movies), Faces Of War (docs & fiction with a war background), Gothic Tales (dark fantasy shorts). Inspiration (more artist docs), Journey To The Future, Ladies (shorts about women), Life (slices of life), Little Woman (about girls), Tears (sad films), Memories, Food, Surreal, She & He (romantic issues), Stories for Children, Beggars Stories, Loneliness, Dreams, Twilight Stories. Lots of strange shorts... and most aren’t all that short. Many movies are 40 minutes long, and a couple are a full hour. I try to chart my day, but one of the problems is that everything is a 20-25 minute walk. So if I want to see a program at one cinema and another program at the other cinema, I have to leave early to do that 20-25 minute walk... and maybe miss the very short I most want to see.

One movie I really want to see is a thriller called CAVITE from the Philippines about a man whose mother and sister have been kidnaped and will be killed unless he assassinates a government official. Sounds great! It’s tomorrow night - after my 10 hour class.

I figure out what I’m going to see for the day, which includes one late night feature called B MOVIE, then remember the consultations I have to do. I pull out my list and realize I’m booked from noon until 6pm with consultations! I won’t be seeing any of these shorts! Though I have one free hour in that block, I have to read a script for my last consultation.

Tomorrow I’m teaching my class from 8:30 am until 6:30 pm, then I’m required to go to a party for the film makers - no films tomorrow.

After breakfast I decide to take a walk... but it’s pouring rain. I have a raincoat and hat - no umbrella in my luggage - so I can brave it if I want, but I decide to read the script instead.

Maybe the weather will clear up.

After reading the script, it’s almost time for my first consultation, so I wander over to the Film Festival HQ in the convention center of the hotel... where Marina tells me my 12:00 consultation has just postponed until Sunday. Since everything is a 20-25 minute walk and my next consult is at 12:30, I can’t really do anything except wait... Until my 12:30 cancels... then wait until my 1:00 cancels... then wait until.... What has happened is a transit strike, and buses aren’t running. People from the suburbs can’t get to the city. There’s a point where everyone has cancelled except my 5pm, and I might be able to see a program of shorts (or part of one) but the rain hasn’t let up and the idea of that 20-25 minute walk in pouring rain doesn’t excite me.

The script for my consult is... unusual. An animated feature about an earthworm who doesn’t want to work in the compost heap - he has dreams of going on the backyard insect version of American Idol. It’s funny and well written. When I meet the two writers, first thing they do is whip out their copies of Secrets Of Action and ask for autographs - they are fans. In fact, they’ve taken the train from Copenhagen to take my class tomorrow and will stay in the hotel tonight. They show me the trailer for their film - great 3D animated dancing worms! Very funny stuff.

We talk about their script, where it’s going, the characters, etc. They’re on the right track.

After the consultation, I decide to brave the rain and see a movie. B MOVIE which is playing at a venue called "Slaughterhouse Cinema" (20-25 minutes walk, not a problem) is described as a parody of classic B movies, about a pair of park rangers who discover a mysterious island and a lost world right inside their park! They hook up with a pair of buxom babes from the lost world... all before lunch. Plus, the synopsis promises singing. Okay, sounds fun to me. What does it sound like to you?

My friend Fred over at Retromedia and my arch-enemy Jim co-directed a movie called DINOSAUR ISLAND that’s great silly fun, about some shipwrecked soldiers who end up on a mysterious island inhabited by a tribe of hot amazon-babes and... dinosaurs! Feed & Jim’s movie is played straight, even though it’s obviously silly stuff. The dinosaurs are pretty convincing - maybe more convincing that the amazon babes (all of whom seem to have had boob jobs). I know that DINOSAUR ISLAND was made for pocket change - both Fred and Jim have a talent for stretching a buck to the extreme and making a film that looks much more expensive than it really is. They use creativity because they usually don’t have much cash.

I’m hoping that B MOVIE will be similar.

It wasn’t.

But first, the Slaughterhouse Cinema. I’ve been told it’s easy to miss. I have to look for the street address "50" over an alleyway, then go down the alley until I see the stairs going down into the basement. The cinema is in the basement. All of this is kind of spooky. I climb the stairs down to the basement, where there’s a poster for the film festival on the door. Right place. I enter the basement, and it’s kind of a made-up cinema. There’s a lobby section, and exposed water pipes, and the cinema is a bunch of seats on plywood and a digital projector. We’re warned not to lean back in the seats - they will fall over. By the end of the movie, someone will lean back and a whole row will fall over. The place is spooky and ugly and the kind of place you might expect to see snuff movies or something. I don’t really want the house lights to go down and the movie to start - I don’t want any lights to turn off in this place. But the lights go off and the horror begins.

B MOVIE is in that strange genre of "Bad On Purpose" - bad acting, bad camera work, bad lighting, bad special effects, bad everything. As the writer-director-producer said after the movie, the great thing about making a bad film on purpose is that if anyone notices any actual mistakes, you can just claim you did that on purpose. Except I kind of think the opposite - that it’s just a bad film. When you have a big budget flick like BOFINGER with Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, the film we are watching is actually very well made, and the film they are making is bad. This creates contrast, and that makes the bad stuff look even more bad... because the film we are watching is well made. When you are doing a low budget film and something is bad, you have no idea whether it was planned to be bad or just bad... so you naturally assume the worst. I have never seen a successful Bad On Purpose low budget film.

And BOFINGER is the best example of a big budget version - and it’s not poorly made.

So we have this poorly made film with bad acting and bad-almost-everything-else, but the worst sin is that it doesn’t deliver. The "caveman" they chase is a dude in shorts - they couldn’t even afford basic make up and a loin cloth! The "lost world" has no dinosaurs or animals of any kind - it’s just a cabin.... and you can clearly see other cabins in the background. Nothing mysterious about this island! And the buxom babes are just two girls fully dressed in street clothes who live in the cabin along with scientist guy (in his 20s) who smokes a pipe. The girls don’t get naked, nothing exciting happens, and the biggest threat is that their radios stop working (jammed by the boy-scientist who believes all media is evil).

After the screening the director jumped in front of the screen and started talking and talking and talking and talking. He said he wanted to make a classic B movie like INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS... except nothing in this film resembled that classic. In fact, this film didn’t resemble *any* 50's or 60's B movie - it lacked the imagination and exploitation elements of those films. And I don’t think this guy can plead budget, because Fred & Jim’s movie hardly cost anything and I’ve seen movies made on credit cards that had actual special effects. In fact, if you cruise the offerings over at Brain Damage Entertainment - where the films are all made on credit card budgets and it shows - they have monsters and FX and buxom babes who pop their tops in typical B movie fashion. I had FX in my super 8mm movies! In my parody of 50s B movies, THE MEDIUM SIZED BEHEMOTH, I used these 20 foot long cloth pipes as legs for a creature so tall we never saw it... just the legs. That was the gag. This monster goes on a rampage, destroying a town, and all we see are the legs. BEHEMOTH was a movie that literally cost nothing - made on outdated Super 8mm film. Okay, it cost me to process the film - probably $3 total. The town it destroyed was a bunch of company buildings set for demolition that my friend Vic was guarding - free location. When a film that cost $3 has more production value than this guy’s feature, something is wrong! Zero imagination!

The film was bad (on purpose or not, who cares?) and afterwards the writer-director-producer would not stop talking. I was sitting in the front row, and stood up to leave... then was trapped standing there as he talked until the festival representative told him they needed to start the next movie. Finally, I could walk the 20-25 minutes back to the hotel in the pouring rain and go to sleep.

Tomorrow I have to teach my 10 hour class, starting at 8:30 am.

- Bill


aggiebrett said...

So where does one grab advance full access passes to the 2007 Aarhus Film Festival? I'd love to see you in this scene next year. You're going back, right?


Lord. This entire trip sounds like you were trapped in "Doctor Tongue's House Of 3-D Film Fest Nightmares."

Erik M. said...

Great book, great blog. Look forward to reading more.

A. M. said...

Hanging on cliff. Did you make it out of Slaughterhouse alive?

After this nightmare of a trip Hong Kong can only be better, right? They won't forget to pick you up and you'll have all your contact numbers in your wallet.

Apropos - liked how you worked the nightmares in Base.

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