The final say of SUFF saw the temperature drop and Sydney and made me wish that there was a coffee cart at the festival (that’s my #1 wishlist item for next year). However since I had four films back-to-back, there wasn’t a lot of time out of the cinema. After the jump check out my thoughts on A Band Called Death, Unlawful Killing, The Final Member and The Canyons.
A Band Called Death – dir. Mark Christopher Covino & Jeff Howlett
This is one of those stories that is too amazing to be true…except it is. This is the story of three brothers from Detroit, who (at the height of the Motown era) started a punk band, before punk was even a thing. Their Band was called ‘Death’, and it’s largely due to their name that they never made it big at the time. They had the talent, the family backing, their faith and spirituality and most of all, they had the soul; but people’s feelings about death got in the way. I don’t want to spoil any of the experience of watching this incredible story unfold, so I will say no more about the plot. This is the real deal – a story that will evoke every feeling under the sun from you and will make you want to call your family straight afterwards. Aside from the incredible story, there is of course, the music. Wow – these brothers could rock! Their songs are packed with so much charisma and heart, it’s astounding. Do I want the Death record on vinyl now? Hell yes I do. Beautifully constructed and wonderfully edited, this is one of the best films I have seen in 2013. Rating: 4.5/5
Unlawful Killing – dir. Keith Allen
How did Diana, Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul die? Was Henri drunk and driving erratically in the Parisian tunnel? Did the paparazzi get to close and cause the car to go off course? Or is there something altogether more sinister behind it all? Did certain people want the former Princess of Wales dead? In this documentary, Keith Allen follows the inquest into the deaths and, as he calls it “conducts an inquest of the inquest”. While the documentary is heavy-handed, features many woefully acted and unnecessary reenactments and has too much of the director himself, the film does present some rather damning evidence which points to the fact that this was an unlawful killing and not an accident. The inquest is shown to be extremely one-sided and bias from the get-go (it is the Royal court after all), while the complacent and docile media coverage doesn’t fare much better. This documentary may not be enough to convince you of sinister reasons behind the deaths, but it will certainly raise a lot of red flags. Unfortunately many won’t get to see this due to legal issues screening the film. The film is banned from screening in the UK unless it makes 86 cuts. Rating: 3/5
The Final Member – Jonah Bekhor & Zach Math
Sigurdur Hjartarson has devoted four decades to curating the Icelandic Phallogical Museum. His goal? To take away some of the stigma around the organ – put it on display so people can talk about it and learn. However his collection is missing the final member – a human specimen. Without it his museum will be incomplete and Hjartarson feels it wouldn’t really be a true museum without it. Luckily for him there are 2 men interested – one of Iceland’s most famous personalities, a former adventurer, who at the age of 95 might not have long to live; and Tom, an American who calls his penis Elmo and wants the fame associated with it being on display. What I enjoyed about this film was listening to Hjartarson – he really is a fascinating and passionate man, for whom social constraints are a challenge and not a restriction. However I did feel uncomfortable at times with how Tom was portrayed/presented himself. It’s clear he has some mental health issues and it felt wrong to laugh at him. The documentary does drag at times, but overall it’s an interesting watch. Rating: 2.5/5
The Canyons – Paul Schrader
As a closing night film of an underground film festival, this film was a cracker choice. If you’re going to watch a film as awful as this one, the only way to watch it is with a big group of people who are willing to have fun with it. Is The Canyons the greatest unintentional comedy of 2013? It just might be.
Christian (James Deen) is a spoiled and evil trust fund baby who “makes” films to keep his parents happy. Christian is very possessive of his girlfriend Tara (Lindsay Lohan), who spends her days “shopping and fucking”. The pair lives in a lavish Los Angles home where they regularly indulge in drugs and orgies with couples and men that they meet online. When Christian suspects that Tara has been cheating of him, he gets rather angry and sets out to discover what she has been hiding from him. This film is bad. There is no way around that fact, or no way to sugarcoat it. The only reason I was able enjoy it was because I was laughing at it. It’s hard to believe that Bret Easton Ellis wrote dialogue this lifeless and laughable. It certainly feels like a warped story of sex and power that he is known for writing for, but without any of the flair, quality or depth. James Deen should go back to porn, because there was absolutely nothing to his performance aside from showmanship. Lohan is fine, but her obvious cosmetic surgery is extremely distracting. I find it hard to believe that Nolan Gerard Funk is a professional actor. He gives the most unconvincing and overwrought performance in this film, and that’s saying something in a film this bad. What did I like about it? Well there were a couple of impressive long shots and some decent electronic music….yeah, that’s it. Rating: 0.5/5
Thanks for an awesome festival SUFF!
By Sam McCosh