PUFF 2018: Braid, Derelicts and more!
Braid (dir. Mitzi Perone)
I don’t know if this is a first, but it’s certainly the first I’ve heard of it: Braid was funded entirely through cryptocurrency. Honestly, I don’t understand bitcoin or anything like that (although I do own a little bit - just a little since I am a sucker for such things), but I’m glad these filmmakers were savvy, because Braid is a truly unique experience. How does one even begin to describe it? On the surface, it appears to be a piece of high fantasy. In practice it’s anything but. If anything, one could say that Braid, while fully rooted in the real world, is about fantasy. Alternating from candy colored fancy to stark, grimy, real world tones, Peirone’s dark comedic drama is an exploration of the stories we tell ourselves in order to get by.
Tilda and Petula (Sarah Hay & Imogen Waterhouse) are two “starving” artists who have taken to a life of drug dealing in order to escape the working world. They are all set for one big score when suddenly their apartment is raided by the cops. The girls pack what they can and get out of dodge quickly, choosing a life on the run as opposed to one behind bars. Unfortunately, now that they’ve lost their stash, they have to come up with the financial equivalent within 48 hours, or the man they owe it to will have them killed. Their plan? Enter the home of Daphne (Madeline Brewer), their rich, deeply disturbed childhood friend and clean out her undoubtedly overflowing safe. But there’s a catch, this friend of theirs has been stuck in a shared “playing doctor” fantasy the trio had as children. If Tilda and Petula want to get to the money, they’re going to have to play along, no matter how painful doing so might prove to be.
Peirone shows a strong command of tone, jumping effortlessly from the unforgiving world of junkies and their ilk into the realm of someone so shut off from outside influences that she’s become unstuck in time, and then further into a world of drug-induced fantasmagoria. Each layer deeper into the unreal brings a new palette of color into the frame, making it easy for us in the audience to know what’s tangible, even if our on screen surrogates do not. From the costuming to the set design, everything is intensely detailed, all with an eye toward drawing the viewer into what should be an unwelcoming story. Naturally, this is one of those “the less you know, the better” kind of movies, that teaches you how to watch it during the act, and rewards the vigilant viewer for doing so. A little bit Thoroughbreds, a little bit Tale of Tales, and a whole lot of The Duke of Burgundy, Braid has me hoping that cryptocurrency is on the rise, and Mitzi Peirone finds herself a bigger budget (and maybe by $100 worth of bitcoin will turn into $115!). As evidenced by Braid, there’s no end to what she can manifest from her incredible imagination.
Derelicts (dir. BC Glassberg)
Featured as a late-night entry at this year’s PUFF, Derelicts certainly fits the bill of “midnight movie.” This purposefully tasteless, wonderfully crass riff on Fight for Your Life is not terribly interested in copping to good taste. Nor is it interested in being an empty experiment in shock. For a film that’s ostensibly about a ragtag group of disgusting hillbillies busting up an innocent Thanksgiving dinner just for gruesome kicks, Derelicts actually has something to say.
As a big fan of John Waters and even the lowest common denominator grindhouse fare, I will be the first to say that pure cinematic anarchy is certainly enough for me to go on, but when that anarchy grows pointed, the disgusting can become transcendent. And make no mistake, Derelicts is absolutely disgusting. The movie literally opens with a family distraught to be woken by the sounds of their grandfather having very loud sex with his girlfriend, which we in the audience get to see (to a degree). And it gets crazier from there.
What makes Derelicts so singular is that right off the bat we don’t necessarily care for the family of potential victims. They’re a bunch of narcissistic assholes who are only putting up with one another for the sake of the Thanksgiving holiday. As it stands, a tip in the wrong direction could easily cause this family to fall apart. What they get is much more than a tip. Cap and his gang of mangy, sore-ridden lunatics bust in and force the family to play a series of sick mind games in order to stay alive. By the end we’re left to wonder who the real derelicts are, and whether or not we could be categorized similarly. I mean, the audience is watching an old man’s fingers get picked off one by one, complete with blood spray, so it’s not like we’re the most normal people in the world...
There’s also probably the best riff on Leatherface’s famous skin mask I’ve ever seen. I won’t look at a teddy bear the same way ever again.
Glassberg is a smart director in the way he is able to dip into camp without going so far as to make the rape/murder/torture weightless. It’s exploitation that doesn’t feel exploitative, if that makes any sense. Think You’re Next, but with a little less class. And really, who wants class any way? It’s called Derelicts! Maybe eat before this one starts.
Bizarre Block - Two short films that’ll surely make you appreciate the twisted potential of cinema...
The Longneck Goodbye (dir. Creighton Satterfield)
Shot entirely on black and white 16mm film, with elements painstakingly rotoscoped into gaudy color, this almost silent film tells an unconventional story of a man who finds peace in caring for a pet. No, he’s not the owner of a dog or cat, but of a brontosaurus (apatosaurus?) named Baby. One part papier-mâché, and two parts schlubby human in spandex, Baby somehow manages to carry the same emotional weight as some of cinema’s greatest animal companions, like Flipper, Benji, or Jar Jar Binks. Or maybe I was just high. Maybe both. At any rate, The Longneck Goodbye is very much at home in the Bizarre Block, because it is very, very bizarre. Much respect to the filmmakers for putting so much effort into something so strange and silly.
The Most Beautiful Railway (dir. Christopher Tauber)
Patience is a virtue, and it’s through patience that an audience is forced to appreciate this masterful riff on “Slow TV.” What is “Slow TV”? Well, think of Bob Ross or that one channel that used to just show a fish tank for hours on end. Remember on Sundays back in the 80s when you could just turn on the local broadcast station and watch peaceful nothings for a while? That’s what German filmmaker, Christopher Tauber is using as the basis for his odd, effective film. Frankly, I don’t want to say too much. I went into this one blind, and you absolutely should do the same. Here’s most basic rundown:
Take a trip on the one of Germany’s most beautiful railways. A camera has been affixed to each side of the slow moving rail car so that the viewer can take in all of the sights and sounds of the region, all at the deliberate pace of a fine piece of machinery. Just make sure you look closely at the surroundings, because there are many stories to be told in passing...
So yeah, make of that what you will, but be advised that the idyllic feeling of leisurely tourism won’t last for long.
I truly have never seen anything quite like this. And honestly, had it just been bland train footage, it would’ve been pretty entertaining anyway. Shit’s relaxing.