…when Safari no longer knows how to autocomplete the URL for your blog. So here we are.
SXSW was great, and the city of Austin even better. I’m not sure I could live there, but I want to visit. Often.
I spent most of my time attending Interactive Panels and Interactive Parties, but the parts of SXSW that rocked my world were the midnight movies at the The Alamo Drafthouse. It’s a helluva place to see a film, probably second in my heart only to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on a warm summer night, but minus the hassle of a car queue on Santa Monica Blvd.
Let’s talk movies.
Amer was hypnotic, subjective, almost without words, driven by dream logic and an almost brutal passion for repetition. It tells the story (sort of) of a woman at three ages - child, teen, adult - menaced by (mostly) unseen forces and slowly coming to grips with her evolving sexuality.
The first part was just brilliant - think Dario Argento meets Pan’s Labyrinth, replacing the fantastical creatures with half-glimpsed shadows, subjective primary colors and primal scene trauma. Part two was more whimsical and less satisfying, but the camera lingered over pulchritudinous flesh, so there was that. The bouncing ball remind me of something - Don’t Look Now, maybe? The final part, adulthood, had some beautiful moments and terrifying ones. I may have to make Drew Daywalt see it just so we can talk about it.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a good role-reversal splatter comedy elevated to occasional brilliance by the performances of titular leads Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk. Someone needs to greenlight 2 more sequels, post haste.
The Loved Ones is a smart, nasty ride, more twisted than you expect but not more than you can handle, that leaves you breathless and giddy at the end. I never realized how dark hot pink can be. Easily my favorite horror film of the year so far.
And then there’s A Serbian Film (Srpski Film). Where to begin? Let’s start in the projection booth: I doubt there’s city in a America where projecting this couldn’t get you thrown in jail. It’s likely the most transgressive thing ever put on film by highly skilled professionals. Whatever you imagine to be the limit of cinematic transgression, it goes there, steps boldly over the line and the laughs as it sprints off into the land of “oh my god I didn’t just see that.” The viewer is left shaken, disturbed, stunned. Breathless maybe, but not at all in a way that leaves you giddy.
Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t “I dare ya” shock cinema. It’s not some contest of wills or an empty test of your movie watching mettle. It’s a slap in the face. It’s a primal scream. It’s a knife in the eye in a world where sharpened steel is your only word and pain your sole sensation. Sure, it’s utterly nihilistic, but it comes from a people and place that by all accounts have earned their nihilism.
Yet beneath it all, there’s a point - not just a point but a political message, a condemnation, and a cry for help. I can’t quite say I enjoyed A Serbian Film, but I feel enormously privileged to have seen it. NO ONE should watch this film…unless they feel absolutely compelled to. (But not compelled in a sexual way - if this film turns you on, seek help.)
It’s not coming to a theater near you, ever, and you won’t see it on VOD or Netflix, or buy it on Amazon. If you want this one, you’re going to have to hunt it down and see it in the shadows, on the margins, as it should be.
In the meantime, if you intend to see it do NOT read any reviews, don’t watch the trailer. Try to go in as unspoiled as you can in order to take the film’s brutality head on, without the armor of anticipation. If you’re intensely curious and you must read something, read only this amazing essay penned by @DrewAtHitFix. Somehow he found the words to describe the indescribable without giving away anything.
The other two films I saw - Electra Lux and All My Friends are Funeral Singers - had their charms, but the four above are the ones that defined my SXSW, at least between the hours of midnight and 3am. I can’t wait to go back next year for more.