Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Sun Still Shines For Cloudburst

Cloudburst is a low-budget indie offering (there really aren't that many high-budget independents, are there?) from Thom Fitzgerald of The Hanging Garden fame. The film is a kind of geriatric version of Thelma and Louise, centering on the domestic dilemmas of an aging lesbian couple portrayed by Oscar winning actresses Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) and Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot).

Fricker's Dot character, a woman robbed of most of her sight and relying on her live-in lover Stella (who knocks back tequila like it's Evian) for the basics, has resided in a small town Maine locale for years but clueless granddaughter Molly (Kristin Booth) has new plans for her - a placement in the local nursing home. Stella decides there is an obvious solution - kidnap Dot from the long-term care facility and make a beeline to Nova Scotia to get hitched in a country that allows gay marriage. Along the way they encounter a hustler/dancer (newcomer Ryan Doucette) trying to get back for a visit to his ailing mother - his circumstances correspond enough to theirs to allow for an odd but fruitful partnership to ensue.

Sure, Cloudburst suffers a few faults - the arrangement between Doucette's Prentice character and the two women falls a little too conveniently into place. Also, stretching the suspension of disbelief boundaries is the almost complete lack of homophobia that the women encounter after crossing the border - Fitzgerald's Canada is like Michael Moore's in Sicko ("Canadians don't have a problem with their health care") or Bowling For Columbine ("Canadians are so safe they don't have to lock their doors"). There's also a little too much corniness leaking out of the character's mouths now and's unfortunate that they don't always sound like very real people but rather like ideas...

...but the virtues of Cloudburst outweigh the weaknesses by a large margin and nothing emerges more powerfully than the talents of the three leads. Dukakis and Fricker are in first-rate form, having a grand old time playing off each other. Doucette is someone to watch re: serious cinema charisma. (He displays a screen presence that reminded me a bit of Mel Gibson in his earlier times...the camera adores him.) There is also no doubt that for all the vulgarities (Stella is way too fond of using the four letter C-word) there is a genuinely sweet, affectionate love story being told.

Playing a powerful supporting role is the Nova Scotia landscape, breathtaking in beauty and respectfully worshiped through the talents of cinematographer Tom Harting. But what seems to really come through is the gutsiness of the whole effort. Films about senior women are rare enough - name the last one you saw following the chronicles of two aging lesbians. The raunchiness and grit in the film comes across as earnest and Cloudburst emerges as a crowd pleaser that allows you to enjoy most of the cinematic forest even when a few of the trees seem misplaced.

Side note: Cloudburst opened in Toronto in early March at the downtown Carlton Cinemas and, at this time of writing at the end of April, still unspools for two screenings a day there. Some of this can be attributed to the proximity of the theatre to the Toronto gay village area around the corner and up the street. There is also a straight mature moving-going audience that waits to see the rare offerings portraying their peers with similar concerns regarding ageism and all the rest. In it's quiet way, Cloudburst has managed to successfully find a deserved following from two rather distinct camps - no easy feat at all.  If you come across it, I suggest you give it a chance. (Update: Into the last week of May and Cloudburst is still playing twice daily at the Carlton - a significant accomplishment for a small indie flic of this kind.)

I say this film tastes - GUTSY.

Monday, 8 April 2013

There's No Business Like Horror Business

A quick mention of something I came across.
"I've spent too much energy on things that have nothing to do with making a movie. It's about two-percent movie making and ninety-eight percent hustling. It's no way to spend a life"
- Orson Welles.
And Orson would know.

So begins the narration of a documentary film I recently viewed that serves as a quick way to help  raise understanding (if not appreciation) for the horror B-movies of the twenty-first century.

(I wonder if there's more people who wonder how others can be "wasting" their time watching low-budget schlock films then there are people who watch low budget schlock films that wonder how others could be "wasting" their time (still?) watching Glee...hmm.)

Horror Business is a feature documentary, itself put together in true guerrilla film fashion by director Christopher P. Garetano. A bit like a multi-player version of American Movie (including the presence of Marc "my-mother-doesn't-want-to-admit-it-but-she's-the-executive-producer-of-my-film" Borcharot of AM fame), Garetano's doc certainly conveys the exuberance (if few new craft insights) of the low/no budget end of the cinematic scale. (To the best of my knowledge a promised sequel entitled Son Of Horror Business was worked on but apparently not released as of yet.)

From the thoughtful reflections of David Stagnari ("...we have to re-educate ourselves...there's a lot of dumbing down that's occured") to the in-your-face brashness of Ron Atkins ("a lot of people think I'm fucking trash"), one sees the passion and energy (if not always craft and skill) that goes with this genre.

Perhaps more than anything, Horror Business acts as a primer for those who wish to be introduced to a few of the more recent players in the micro-budget film biz. (I'll admit it's sometimes painful to refer to these works as "film" when they are not only shot on video but REALLY AWFUL looking video with amateur porn-flic lighting to boot.  However...)

Among the  films covered by Garetano...

David Gebroe's Zombie Honeymoon, described by John Landis as "the first truly romantic flesh-eating corpse movie!"

And also David Stagnari's quasi-experimental Catharsis...


I recommend the documentary as entertainment for those who would never bother watching one of these actual features...and may end up being a little more open minded after seeing it. The pacing is quick and the interviews handled very well. The end message - money can buy superior production values but when it comes to the freedom to cut to the chase in a manner Welles would have been envious of, well...

Godard said film is over and the auteur is dead.

Tell it to the folks you meet in this film.

I say this film tastes - FAST FOOD FRIENDLY.