In March, I spent three weeks at the Offscreen Film Festival in Brussels, which is known for its screenings of both old and new cutting edge movies. This year, they put the focus on Czech fairy tales, Indonesian action cinema, and the films of Stephen Sayadian (Rinse Dream) and Walerian Borowczyk.
The opening night of the Offscreen film festival saw the premiere of the teenage cannibal movie Grave which I thought was too soft and on-the-nose but almost everyone else loved because of its gruesomeness and unpredictability.
On Saturday, Director Stephen Sayadian (Rinse Dream) presented his artistic adult movie Café Flesh (1982), a dystopian science fiction story set in a world where 99% of humanity is incapable of having intercourse at the risk of becoming violently ill. In the Café Flesh they force the healthy minority to perform bizarre sex acts on stage while the unhealthy ones look on with both shock and desire. My friend Kurt was bored, but Café Flesh turned out to be one of my favorites of this year's Offscreen.
The Czech film The Cat Who Wore Sunglasses (1963) made for a charming Sunday matinee movie. I already dedicated an entire post to this cat movie here.
On Wednesday, Piet and I went to see the latest Kiyoshi Kurosawa movie Creepy. With Pulse (2001), Kurosowa made one of the creepiest movies ever, but he never managed to intrigue me since. I was having high hopes for Creepy (2016), but it turned out to be forgettable, unbelievable, and not suspenseful at all. Stylish, yes. But that's about it.
On March 17th, I was lucky to be able to do a book signing at Offscreen. I not only brought along copies of When Animals Attack: The 70 Best Horror Movies with Killer Animals but also my co-authors Maxime Stollenwerk and Sven Daems and my cover designer Gilles Vranckx, so they have been signing copies as well.
On March 23rd, director Bastian Meiresonne presented his feature-length documentary Garuda Power: The Spirit Within (2014), an informative and amusing documentary on the Indonesian action film, spanning a period from the first martial arts films in the 1930s, over the peak of the 1980s (Lady Terminator, The Devil's Sword, The Warrior) to the recent success of The Raid. “By watching Garuda Power, you will know more about Indonesian action cinema than 99% of the population,” Bastian says, although he adds that he doesn't know if this would ever serve us. While I did learn a lot about Indonesian action cinema, I missed the fun facts that Bastian told us during a chat after his film. Seems, for example, that Indonesian movies aren't well-preserved. While a film museum exists, problems with the electricity have caused a mold to form on the movies which are now on the point of non-repair, and no one is putting in the effort nor the money to do anything about it. During the making of Garuda Power, one of the films burnt and so the extracts in the documentary are the only ones you'll ever see. However, even that isn't guaranteed. There have been problems with the rights of Garuda Power, so chances that this will ever become wildly available are slim.
The following day, I went to a screening of Prevenge (2016). The interesting thing about this film is that writer/director Alice Lowe (who also plays the main part) wrote the script in two weeks and filmed it immediately thereafter. The reason it all had to go so fast is that Alice got the news about the financing of her film while she was pregnant, and as Prevenge is about a pregnant woman who thinks her unborn baby is instructing her to kill bad people, it all had to be done before the real baby was born. While there are many things I didn't like about Prevenge, especially the ending that got me like “Duh. I already got that from the synopsis,” it was a ride I definitely enjoyed. Expect an entertaining mix between Evil Baby and Ms. 45.
I started the following day with an early night screening of Safari (2016), Ulrich Seidl's feature-length documentary about safari hunters and their disturbed way of thinking. While it's “interesting” to see how these people justify killing and pose with their trophy, the film is too long as it's repeating the same type of scenes ad infinitum (the hunt, the obligatory photo shoot, the compliments, and the skinning and dismembering of animals in preparation for the head getting mounted on the wall). The most disturbing thing about this movie, however, were the audience's reactions after the film: “I have a lot of respect for people who kill their own meat,” or “This film makes me want to eat lots of non-vegetarian delicacies for my birthday.”
Next came Samurai Rauni (2016), a samurai movie from Finland. Apparently, everyone in the Offscreen team was unanimous about this movie (which is rare) and I can understand why. While the budget is low, Samurai Rauni excels in originality and style. It's unlike anything you've seen before. Imagine a mix between Japanese samurai cinema, sailor romance and Finnish dipsomania filmed like a music video with Jodorowsky-style surrealism.
The Offscreen Film Festival ended with Mexican cocktails and a screening of La Region Salvaje (2016), a drawn-out but interesting social drama about a pleasure-giving tentacle monster and the effect it has on families.
Photos by Wim Castermans
P.S. It's with much sadness that I heard about the passing of Radley Metzger whom I met at Offscreen in 2014. Such an adorable man. Many wonderful memories are attached to this meeting, from our urbex trip together to our visits to Brussels and Bruges. John from the Erotic Film Society sent me a few pictures from our time in Brussels, so I thought I'd share them with you.